Friday, August 20, 2004

By Cathy Harasta

(KRT) - Carly Patterson, 16, of Allen, Texas, might join the biggest names in U.S. women's gymnastics history if she has a great Games in Athens. Here are some historical highlights and gymnasts whose names come up often when the sport is mentioned:

Mary Lou Retton: She charmed sports fans everywhere when, at 16, she posted 10s in floor exercise and vault on the way to the 1984 Olympic all-around gold medal - the first for an American. She also has thrived as a public speaker and gymnastics ambassador.

Shannon Miller: She remains the most decorated U.S. gymnast with seven Olympic and nine world championship medals. At the 1996 Atlanta Games, she became the first American to win an Olympic balance beam championship.

Dominique Moceanu: At 14, she was the youngest member of the 1996 Olympic champion team in Atlanta. International rules now require a female gymnast to be 16 or older in the Olympic year to be eligible for the Games.

Cathy Rigby: She became the first from the United States to win an individual medal at a world championships when she captured the balance beam silver medal in 1970. She went on to a theater career, with a long run as Peter Pan.

Kim Zmeskal-Burdette: She became the first all-around world champion from the United States in 1991, when she also won a world floor exercise bronze medal. She coaches at her Coppell gym, Texas Dreams at EveryBody Fits. 

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