The best part about trying to determine which was the best all-time American gymnastics team is that, when all of the facts are digested, and weighed in the context of gymnastics history, there really is one very clear answer.
And the best part is that it is not a team from 40 or 50 years ago, one which the majority of readers and sports fans would have little or no first hand knowledge of. It is a team from 1996, only 12 years ago. Recent enough for nearly everyone to have some memory of, for the most part. That team is the 1996 US Women's Gymnastics Team.
The 1996 US Women's Gymnastics team, also known by the well known moniker the "Magnificent 7" made history and shocked the world by becoming the first US Women's Gymnastics team to win team gold. The team, which was led by Shannon Miller, consisted of 7 of the best gymnasts to ever wear the red white and blue, and will be hard pressed to be matched in both what was accomplished as well as in the historical impact of those accomplishments.
The legendary Shannon Miller is widely considered to be the finest gymnast in US Gymnastics history. Her performance in the 1996 Olympics was one of the best individual gymnastics performances in US Olympic history, and culminated on an individual level with a gold medal in the balance beam.
The remainder of the 1996 US Olympic team consisted of Dominique Dawes, Dominique Moceanu (the young ingénue considered by many to be the future of the US Women's Gymnastics team - she never panned out completely, with her career tailing off after this 1996 Olympic Games), Jaycie Phelps, Kerri Strug (considered by many to be the hero of the 1996 Games as a result of her infamous vault), Amy Chow, and Amanda Borden, considered by many to be the "forgotten member" of the magnificent 7 because, while she consistently performed at a fairly high level throughout the games, she did so quietly and relatively under the radar.
Borden, however, contributed mightily to the success of the team, particularly behind the scenes. In fact, she was named team captain based on her motivational and outgoing personality.
The highlight of the gymnastics team's performance was undoubtedly the fantastic vault that Kerri Strug accomplished which essentially and literally vaulted the US team to the gold. After Moceanu fell on both of her vaults just prior to Strug's performance, Strug fell on her first vault as well, injuring her ankle in the process.
Moments later, with everyone fully aware that this was the vault on which the Olympic gold medal depended on, Strug courageously battled through the pain and successfully landed her second vault, after which she was in so much pain, she had to be carried off of the podium. This was one of the most heroic moments in sports history.
All in all, in addition to winning the overall team gold medal, the United States also took home 3 individual medals. In addition to Shannon Miller's gold medal in the balance beam, Amy Chow also won a silver medal in the uneven bars, and Dominique Dawes won a bronze in the floor exercise, her best event.
In winning the overall team gold medal for the first time in US Women's Gymnastics history, the American Women's Gymnastics team defeated two perennial powers in the sport: Russia, which won the team silver medal; and, Romania, which won the team bronze medal.
We think the '96 Team's own Shannon Miller, is the best all-time American Gymnast. To find out why visit Best All-Time American Gymnast. Other great olympic stories are at Best All-Time Olympic Track and Field Star and Best All-Time Olympic Swimmer.
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