Strug considers cashing in on her heroic effort ATLANTA OLYMPICS

July 26, 1996|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA -- Kerri Strug came into the 1996 Olympics as the unsung hero of the U.S. women's gymnastics team, one of the few members who had not renounced her amateur status. Now, as a result of becoming the heroic figure of Tuesday night's gold-medal performance in the team competition, Strug is no longer unsung.

And, it appears, she no longer will go unpaid.

Though she said yesterday that no deals have been struck, the 18-year-old from Tucson, Ariz., said that she will have to consider the endorsement deals being offered after she helped the United States win while completing her final vault on a badly sprained ankle. Strug also said she is a little blinded by the new-found spotlight.

"Everything is really overwhelming," Strug said at a news conference before yesterday's all-around competition, which she missed because of the injury that has put her left foot in a soft cast. "I'm biting my tongue, but it's one of those lifetime chances to get the Mary Lou [Retton] opportunity. It's kind of slapped me in the face."

Strug had planned to go to UCLA , beginning next month, on a gymnastics scholarship. But with talk of a 30-city tour by the U.S. team being expanded to 60 and with her market value skyrocketing, Strug said she'll have to consider altering her plans.

Just as they encouraged her to come out for the medals ceremony, her teammates would like to see Strug join them on the tour. Two others, Amanda Borden and Amy Chow, are contemplating similar decisions.

"For so long, I thought everything was all set," said Strug. "It's very strange. I never thought my Olympic experience would be like this. I never saw myself being injured or being an Olympic hero."

Now, she is both. Though it seems doubtful that Strug would be ready to compete in the event finals Sunday and Monday -- she qualified in the vault and floor exercise -- she is still hoping that her injured ankle will recover sufficiently. Strug suffered a third-degree lateral sprain and two torn ligaments.

Pub Date: 7/26/96

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