It’s been two decades since the Magnificent Seven made history and won the team gold medal in women’s gymnastics at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Shannon Miller, Dominique Moceanu, Dominique Dawes, Kerri Strug, Amy Chow, Jaycie Phelps and Amanda Borden have all gone on to have careers and lives outside of competitive gymnastics, but for any American girl growing up in the ‘90s, their faces are likely etched into memory.
Here are eight reasons they were ― and still are ― pretty damn awesome:
1. They were the first U.S. women’s gymnastics team to win the gold medal.
The first. Ever. Breaking that Olympic threshold meant nationwide fame: posters, endorsements, talk show appearances and many, many, many photo ops. Only one U.S. women’s gymnastics team has won the team gold since ― the Fierce Five in 2012.
2. Team USA clinched the gold medal in the most impressive (and nail-biting) way ― Kerri Strug landed a vault on one foot.
Kerri Strug was at the center of perhaps one of the most memorable moments of the ‘96 games. Strug fell during her first vault attempt and injured her left ankle. Despite limping back to the vault runway for her second vault, she executed it near-perfectly, winning the gold. (It was seriously impressive.) Watch Strug reflect on the “gold medal moment” below.
3. Dominique Dawes became the first African-American woman to win an individual Olympic medal in gymnastics.
In addition to winning a gold medal with her teammates, Dawes won the bronze medal for her stunning floor routine. Watch her history-making performance below. As the 1996 NBC commentator says, “That was awesome!... She doesn’t just do the skills, she does it with her heart and her soul and it’s beautiful.”
4. Amy Chow became the first Asian-American woman to win an Olympic medal for gymnastics.
She even had not one, but two, moves named after her.
5. They had their own Wheaties box!
Just look at those freakin’ champions.
6. They could do this...
7. And this...
8. And this.
Seeing young women celebrated for their athletic prowess and accomplishments is always inspiring. Here’s hoping Team USA 2016 does their 1996 counterparts proud. We suspect they will.
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