1996 Team Final: And She Did It On Two Legs

There’s something in the air on this warm Olympic night. Do you feel it?

Well do ya, punk?

What exactly is in the air is left open to the viewer’s interpretation. But I feel like it’s probably swine flu.

Unless doing a voiceover like a sonorous predator who makes everyone want to take 100 showers and become an arsonist is airborne now, because then it’s definitely that.

Really, who wrote this, and how did it get approved…by a person?

“Little girls dancing. DO YOU SEE?”

dancingforgold

Also, hi.

Amanda Borden – 19
Dominique Dawes – 19
Shannon Miller – 19
Amy Chow – 18
Kerri Strug – 18
Jaycie Phelps – 16
Dominique Moceanu – 14

You know that thing where you refer to a bunch of college freshmen as “little girls”? Like how that happens and isn’t just the creepiest thing anyone has ever done?

Nooners

Hello darkness, my old friend.

Highlights of compulsories include Kerri Strug being so Olympics that Martha surpasses neck-pinch and goes straight for the chokehold. Never seen since. #Simonegoals.

And how can we forget innertube patient zero?
domi

“RUSSIA. No longer the specter of evil.” Christ. Who dredged up Cold War McGullicuddy for the broadcast? No oversimplification of complex geopolitical situations through the use of uncomfortable jingoism here…

USA = HEROES, Russia = EVIL RED COMMIE ARMY OF UNGRATEFUL NON-SMILING SKANKS KHORKINA. Got it.

More importantly,
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…WTF?

Like…how is this even a situation? Why are you getting a calf massage from a medieval peasant draped in a rag toga while posing like the damn Cleopatra? What world is this?

As for Romania, all of their families are super dead or whatever, but “the blade of grief keeps them strong.” Phew. I was worried about how Romania would be shoehorned into this definitely-a-war, but Grief Blades. Got it. ALL THE GRIEF BLADES. SLAYYYYY…?

“Always Romania’s shining stars. Their prayers this evening are to keep the legacy of Nadia forever.”

Womp, womp.

I guess the Romanians just don’t have enough GRIEF BLADES these days.

What’s that I hear? “Simple Gifts” is swelling to 11? That can only mean one thing: the arrival of the Good Guys Team, a.k.a. the fresh-faced, happy-American-little-girl, living-parent-having, non-commie, non-background-smokestacks, non-evil TEAM USA PERFECT.

There’s something in the air this warm Olympic night.

Farts?

“Little girls dancing for gold.”

Dawes

Shannon

I SAID LITTLE GIRLS DANCING FOR GOLD! NOW BE A LITTLE GIRL. DANCE LITTLE GIRL. DANCE!

Welcome to the arena, featuring the cheering of a loud, energetic, and engaged crowd! What a wonderful moment for gymnas…I mean, oh, how dare those ignorant KFC-guzzling blue whales viciously steal the Russians’ rightful gold with their American caterwauling that definitely did it. Yeah. That.

“Marching as to war, these seven little girls.”

Oh, was it not clear that we’re making this into a war? Because it’s a war. Did you think it was a sporting event? That wouldn’t be exciting. SHOOT THE BAD RUSSIANS WITH YOUR BOMB-GUNS, DOMI! DO IT FOR MURICA!

domi

“Little girls” count: 4

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@MLTsSleevelessTurtleneck

And now, the most important topic of the day: skirt or massive 1996 shorts? The world may never know.
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Either way, STYLE ICON.

AHHHHH! IT’S TIME TO INTRODUCE TEAM USA YOU GUYS!!!

“Dominique Moceanu. Kerri Strug. Dominique Dawes. Amy Chow. Shannon Miller. EIGHT-HOUR PAUSE. jayciephelpsamandaborden.”

That was telling.

We finally meet Cold War McGullicuddy in the flesh, joined by a prepubescent Tim Daggett and Elfi Schlegel. Why are their voices so high? Tim is the only boy in the choir who’s still an alto, and Elfi just sounds like a little sparrow.

Tonight’s guest star is Nadia Comaneci, seen here in the role of the woman who goes back to work at the ad agency after having kids and that’s the plot of the movie because of early 90s.

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Nadia thinks the 1100 broken legs might hurt the Romanians. Well I’ll be.

To the meet!

Autobiography: I did not get to see this competition as it happened because I was forced to go to an Angels game with someone from my elementary school and his weird parents because I “needed to try to make friends” or whatever (fat chance, monkeys), and it was awkward and stupid and I hated it. I’m not still bitter about it 20 years later or anything. NEVER.

They announced the result in the stadium during the game (spoiler alert…) and everyone gave a standing ovation. That’s what a big deal this was.

In 1996, three of the top six teams are Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.
In other news, Kylie Dickson.

Meanwhile, Bela and Nooners have been corralled behind the barrier, tranquilized, and lashed to a rock with unbreakable chains. For your safety and the safety of others.

Kerri Strug didn’t get an official team scrunchie because she has short hair, like a witch, and I feel like Kerri’s lack of scrunchie fueled all the events of the next six months. Does Kerri Strug need to write a memoir called Are You There Scrunchie, It’s Me Kerri? Maybe.

All the US gymnasts hit their jaegers and overshoots, and that’s the only thing happening in this competition that you need to see. Who’s Ukraine?

Well, except for the vault from SPECTER OF EVIL. “A step on the landing YESSSSSSS. I mean…oh. I see.”

Strug and Phelps both score an America.97awesome.

BUT WAIT. SHANNON MILLER GOT CHALK IN HER EYE.

vron

Cancel the competition. She’s blind. SHE’S BLIND. Oh wait she’s fine because obviously.

Moceanu hits her DLO full, gets a go-go-gadget neck pinch from the other end of the arena (Martha basically cricket-pitched that neck pinch at her), and scores an ISN’T SHE JUST THE CUTEST THING?

Whoever uploaded this, thank you for keeping that Bell South “we’re totally not that racist you guys”-themed commercial in there because it’s GOLD.

Meanwhile, Amy Chow’s bars routine is “just plain old neat.” I agree, Elfi. It’s groovy. It’s the cat’s pajamas.

Amy, however, loses a large chunk of Neat-O Status by not going to hug Bela first, denying him any definitely natural, not-at-all-focus-pulling celebrations.

Bela
“What camera? I didn’t even know a camera was there. I don’t think I’m the star of the team. LOL.”

Other countries for a second? Ugh. I guess.

“Russia’s vaults are like a sucky barf factory, FYI.” Thanks Elf.
Grosheva hops. Straight to the glue factory. Do not pass go. Do not collect your silver.

“I think a lot of what’s happening is the Chinese men came out so strong.”

……..?

Before Chalkeye McScrunchpower even goes, Elfi is already throwing whole crates of panties at the US team for these amazing sticks. 50 gold medals.

“The Romanians are doing very well on beam. We’ll try to show you some of that…but like not that hard because MURICA.”

Important breaking news: Scrunchpower is having a little trouble getting her tape started. Repeat, Scrunchpower is having a little trouble getting her tape started.

We needed to break into regularly scheduled programming for that, which is why we couldn’t see LEEEEEEETLE Roza Galieva hip-checking the mat on vault. Anyway, it was probably Gutsu’s fault.

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Apparently, there were a lot of tears on the Russian side during training. Yeah, in other news, Bela is loud, Ponor’s leo cut makes me uncomfortable, and Nooners has a mustache. Please, if Nabieva hasn’t quarter-assed a floor routine, huffed and puffed at her own bangs, then stormed out of the arena in tears, it doesn’t count as a Russian training session.

“Shannon’s Miller is long.”
…I don’t know either.

To pass the time during a scoring delay, Scrunchpower has decided to make a whole family of snowmen out of tape. She’s been taping for hours!

For some reason, Shannon gets only a 9.787.
auntmartha
Burn the judges.

Dawes is the oldest little girl on the little girl team of little girls.

“They call her Awesome Dawson.” No. They don’t. Disqualified. Awesome Dawson is the name of that James Van Der Beek geocities group you know you started, Tesh.

This was clearly a different era in terms of constant TEAM SISTERS HUGGING. Phelps goes up to hug Dawes after bars and Dawes is like, “What are you doing with your arms there? You want to, like…touch my back with them? That’s weird.”

“I had lost a breast…” Oh, wait, that’s a Dateline commercial. Never mind. I thought for a moment the trio had taken a turn.

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HAIR HELMET KEEPS THE DEVIL OUT.

“The coach, Octavian Belu, has complained about everything.” Strap in, Beth. It gets worse.

“The judging scores.” Oh, the judging scores.

You weren’t interested in seeing any routines, right? Good. Because for the next YOUR ENTIRE LIFETIME, please enjoy several hours of Romania fluff. When the fluff about the country is longer than the time you spend showing routines from that country, it’s a problem.

“Deva, the place where those twirling dreams can come true. Where they can become the princesses of gymnastics.” BARF BARF BARF.

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Yep, that’s where they train. The beam is in the turret.

OK, now show me a carbon atom.

carbon
Gooooooooood.

“They’re the country’s biggest celebrities.”
You’re watching NBC Sports. NBC Sports: True? It doesn’t matter.

“Did you think they would be so different from teenagers here?”
No. And also…what? They’re from Romania, not Kepler 22b.

Why are the Romanians teenagers while the Americans are little girls?

“Hey ladies, you’re doing so well. But for the next scene, we’re going to need you to pretend you want to buy these hideous shoes, K?”

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“They share one father.” Gross. Polygamy.

“And they call him by name.”

Uh…yeah. As opposed to…?

“And they call him by color.”
“And they call him by a series of whistles like a Von Trapp child.”

And now introducing the sad parts. This is where the feelings go. Don’t worry. You’re not being emotionally manipulated at all. Dark nights, and the return of sunshine. AND WHAT OF THE DREAMS?????

Also, Lavinia, could you put on an oversized, wildly unflattering flannel shirt and stand in a crypt with the Ark of the Covenant? Thanks, girl.

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Why does Beth keep forcing us to look into Gina Gogean’s eyes? Is this like a Medusa scenario?

Because of hospitals, Romania is competing with only six gymnasts. HOW FEW FOR AN OLYMPIC TEAM. Enjoy having a Romania-memories sad. Bhs+loso+bhs+loso. I know.

Up next, Lilia Podkopayeva on floor.

lilypod

I’ll just wait while you stop being a flock of butterflies and transform back into your corporeal state.

Got it? Good. We’re all safe now. It’s going to be oka…SLOW MOTION NOOOOOOOOOO. “That’s out of bounds.” I quit.

At the end of the first rotation (CHRIST IT’S ONLY BEEN ONE ROTATION??), the heroes have taken the lead from the villains for the first time in history. Good will always prevail! Light! Flowers! Hope is the thing with feathers!

Chow is out of the beam lineup because she love-tapped the beam with her face at Trials. “She basically did that routine with one eye.” SAFE AND HEALTHY.

Borden leads off and absolutely destroys beam. As Jim Watson would say, “Sonya Meraz is becoming a household name.”

SO. MUCH. FOUR. SERIES. HEAVEN.

I know we idealize past eras, which is fine, but also let’s acknowledge…some of these splits, yo.
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That’s as high as it got.

A Russian (apparently named “Elena Dog…glrplovla?”) has fallen on a Def. Oh, remember Defs?

Looks like someone is Kerri Strugglin’ with her leg form on some back handsprings.

“Logarithmically.” Professor Daggett in the house. Trautwig put an end to that racket.

Milosevici is “very cool.” Elfi would totally invite her to each lunch with us every day for the rest of the week.

MILO’S MUSIC IS WRONG. OH GOD THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE TO ANYONE DISASTER.

“Her music is supposed to be ‘Hooked on America.'”
Commencing eye roll in 3…2…

The 1990s just barfed some sparkly flag hats all over the arena, so I’m assuming that means Dawes hit beam.

Dominique Dawes, straddle jumping right into your soul forever.

Red Alert. RED ALERT. It’s time for JUST SHANNON. Settle in.

Shannon

Beth: Hi, Shannon. You’re boring. Tell us why you’re boring.

Shannon: Wait…what?

Beth: YOU’RE NOT CEREAL BOX.  I don’t call you Shannon. Why? You have control over that. TELL ME WHY YOU SUCK IN THE PERSONALITY DEPARTMENT. PLEASE SMILE LIKE MARY LOU OR AT LEAST TAMPON BILLBOARD.

Shannon: [pause]…[pause]…[general FML-you-simple-bitch eyes]

Beth: You got silver and are a horrible disappointment to everyone, especially me. Discuss.

Shannon: Winning silver in Barcelona was good.

Beth: “Oh YEAH??? Then why do I have all these shots of your feet on beam, HUH????”

Shannon: Again…what?

Also at one point there are a bunch of silhouettes of Shannon while the sands of time are blown away around her, and I don’t understand a word of it.

Shannon: Dear Beth, suck on this beam routine.

Thankfully, there’s a mic on Bela for Moceanu’s beam. At least someone showed up to work today. SCHMYOOOOOTH. SCHMYOOOOOTH.

Two rotations down! EVERYONE IS PERFECT. HAMBURGERS. APPLE PIE. JOHN PHILIP SOUSA. FLAG PANTS.

While Moceanu was being AMERICA, Khorkina was stroking a white cat with her army of loyal RED COMMIE henchmen. Her shap 1/2 revolution gets a 50.

“She’s very tall on this event.” But just on this event.

Serious question: Have we seen more fluff pieces or more non-American routines?

IT’S A NEWSROOM. TECHNOLOGY.
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THIS WON’T EVER LOOK SILLY.

The US is still winning! That means it’s time for Jaycie Phelps to head to floor to keep getting run over by that car and the concept of taste.

Wait, the name Jaycie is supposed to be a combination of Jack and Cheryl? …….Was there a mix-up at the literacy factory? Oh, you mean like the letter J and the letter C? That is reeeee-ough.

Tugurlan clean Y1/2.
Elfi: “YUCKY POOPOO STEPS.”

“Next for USA will be Amanda.” JUST AMANDA?????

There’s an awful lot of butt-push-butt-push-push-it-out-to-the-world in the US 1996 floor routines. In fact, it’s the whole theme of Just Amanda’s routine.

Arkayev was worried about all the screaming and yelling. Good. Get your narrative set early while we enjoy this commercial for non-alcoholic beer that why would anyone drink?

Get ready. The devil is going down to Georgia. Do you think maybe the devil spends too much time in Georgia? Like, he keeps going down there. Give it a rest, devil!

Baby tantrum choreography! Baby tantrum choreography! Because you know what’s fun? Fourteen-year-old girls acting like three-year-old girls. THIS IS A HEALTHY SPORT. APPROPRIATE.

Moceanu scores a “Nod, I’m cute. Nod, I’m cute. Sell it to the bitch-ass judges,” while apparently every Russian goes full ASac on beam and Elfteshett can barely contain its glee. At least, I assume it was every Russian. For some reason, we only saw the mistakes. Weird how that worked out.

The coronation is already beginning post-Moceanu, which is a terrible mistake because Awesome Dawson hasn’t even gone yet. I mean, does she have a Variations On A Stern Poop Squat-themed routine? Of course she does. Hill’s. That doesn’t make her any less Dawson or important to the cause.

Tesh is getting so excited that he just told us Dawes already has a bronze Memmel.

Which I feel like is a crime.

“There isn’t one person out there who should even criticize or question these scores.” Oh Elfi, is that a challenge?

I love how Tesh keeps saying “Svetlana Khorkina and her Russians” like they’re a seal-based traveling circus act. Presenting Svetlana Khorkina and her Dancing Russians! (I just bought all the tickets.)

Khorkina nails her beam furiously. Nailing It Furiously: The Svetlana Khorkina Story.

Sadly, the coronation must wait for a moment because Just Shannon inevitables her DLO, performing her surrealist interpretation of the unfairness of modern existence.

MLT: Good job
Just Shannon: [&%@!(&%#]

Meanwhile, Nooners is behind the barricade turning into a vampire more by the minute and deciding that something is unfair because of the reasons and also the things.

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Shannon almost falls on floor and somehow scores 9.618. “BOOOOOOOO.” Oh, Atlanta.

Kerri Strug is a dancer you guys. The moves. She’s a total biker chick.

We call this one Celebrating Your Lack of Bladder Control with Kerri Strug. It’s a public service, really.

strug1

It’s really a whole motif, because later we get the piece de resistance

strug2

KERRI STRUG PEES WHERE KERRI STRUG LIKES.

But then we need to slow it down for the elegant “My Wrist Is For Sale” suite. A gloriously artistic interlude.

Kerri2

A special moment in all our lives.

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I will remember you. Will you remember me? Don’t let your life pass you by. Weep not for the memories.

Only three per country can go to the AA final. Such draconian rules.

The United States has a nine-tenth lead over Russia going to the final event. BUT IT MIGHT NOT HOLD UP.

Apparently, it’s very controversial that Bela was not offered the head coaching job. Hmm. Perhaps the person who made that decision had met him before. Good thing they rectified this for 2000. It went so much better.

SO WEIRD that someone thought Martha would be a better leader than Bela. CRAZY.

Amy Chow went for the yurchenko double full! We will never see its equal!

NOTHING CAN STOP THE USA NOW. “It’s almost impossible for Russia to catch up.” Hush, Tim! Hold it until you know what narrative we need. I mean score.

Moceanu needs only a 9.743! She will surely do it.

Oops.

Oops again.

Elfi: That fall doesn’t have anything to do with Dominique’s injury. It has everything to do with her not being able to practice.

….? Which has to do with her injury………

Moceanu gets Martha’s frontal-lobe press of disappointment, the neck pinch’s evil, totally Russian sister.

Tesh charitably informs us that Kerri Strug will be anchoring the US on vault and needs to score a she-doesn’t-even-need-to-hit-but-shuuuuuushhh.

struggs

Clap clap clap clap. Slice slice slice slice. To this day, This is what I think of during any instance of sports nerves. Slice slice slice slice.

Imagine if you dressed like Mrs. Strug today. You would be QUEEN OF THE HIPSTERS. The coolest girl in Brooklyn.

OH NO KERRI FELL ON HER FIRST VAULT THE GOLD IS LOST.

She’s limping. Kerri is limping. But like…she’s probably fine right? I feel like she’s fine, and that’s good enough. Dr. Bela assures Kerri that according to his medical opinion, she better vault again otherwise he will prescribe throwing her off Niagara Falls. Got it.

“She knows what to do. She will go when she is ready.” That should have been an inspirational poster. With Kerri Strug checking her pit stains.

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Vault #2 for the gold…

SHE LANDED IT!!!!

AND SHE DID IT ON ONE LEG!!!!!

EXCEPT FOR THE FACT THAT SHE DID IT ON TWO LEGS BECAUSE SHE HAS THE PHYSICAL LIMITS OF A PERSON!!!

ONE LEG!!!

GOLD TO THE UNITED STATES!!

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KERRI IS EXTREMELY INJURED AFTER VAULTING ON AN ALREADY INJURED ANKLE!!

vault

BUT WHO CARES!!!

THE SHOWHORSE WON THE GOLD!!!!

BACK TO HAPPY!!

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WE CAN PUT HER DOWN NOW OR WHATEVER THERE’S PROBABLY A NICE FARM UPSTATE GOLDDDDDDDD!!!!!

“She hurt herself on the first vault. Probably the last thing she should have done is vault again.”

Traitor! Put him in the stocks in the town square! America!

“Standing. On one. Leg.”

Awwww, no matter how many times you see a narrative born, it still takes your breath away. A beautiful miracle.

“We should find out if she’s really…A 9.712!!!! WHAT WAS I SAYING ABOUT HER LEG??? VICTORY IS OURS!!!!”

Ah, the joy of victory.

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SHE GAVE HER BODY FOR THE MURICA!!!!!!!

Correct injury procedure.

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Let’s definitely block the stretcher while we try to get our photos. We’re not vultures.

RUSSIAN TEARS. GET THE RUSSIAN TEARS. YESSSSSSS. SPECTER OF EVIL.

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Oh Sveta. You will have so many DIVA INJUSTICES to look forward to.

And there’s Dina Kochetkova. Good thing we got to see her routines. Oh wait, we didn’t. Any of them.

And we complain about NBC focusing on the Americans these days…

We saw Khorkina and two and a half random falls and that’s it.

Yay! Let’s follow the Strugs as they rush to see if their daughter is seriously injured. AH HA HA HA MY GOLD.

And that, my friends, is the story of how Bela Karolyi finally got on the medal podium. Happily ever after. The end.

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15 thoughts on “1996 Team Final: And She Did It On Two Legs”

  1. Thank you so much for allowing me to relive this. I still remember watching it live as a sullen 12-year-old surrounded by my lame-o family. (Clearly I was not the lame one.)

    What I don’t remember is that we essentially saw NO ONE but ‘MURICA. Yikes.

    Other thoughts:
    OMG. “My wrist is for sale!”

    OF COURSE Chelsea Clinton was there.

    2 vaults for all!

    Like

  2. Thanks for doing elite stuff, I’m only semi interested in college, but I live for this. It completely makes my life!

    Like

  3. This was fffrrreeaking brilliant.

    I’d love to see a recap of the documentary fluff that birthed the original “Balance beam situation”- Under the Lights. It’s available on YouTube 🙏🏼👌

    Like

  4. LITERALLY the greatest thing i have ever read on the internet. I remember these creepy fluff pieces like they were yesterday. Even at 15 years old I knew that “little girls” thing was wrong!! I’m so hooked on your blog now!!

    Like

  5. I believe the answer to your shorts / skirt conundrum is… Massive 1996 culottes GOD BLESS THE NINETIES AND ALL WHO SAIL IN HER

    Like

  6. This blog post cures my ennui. Well I know it’s like shooting fish in a barrel I absolutely love Spencer’s take on choreography. And the Nunno/Bela love fest

    Like

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