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Sydney Games 2000: Fmr. Olympic Gymnast Joan Moore-Gnat Discusses Vaulting Horse ControversyAired September 22, 2000 - 1:34 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: There was a rare mistake yesterday at the Olympics. Someone set the vaulting horse in women's gymnastics two inches too low. The dangerous error threw off the rhythm of many athletes and caused a number of crashes before it was fixed.
For more about this, we want to talk with a former U.S. gymnastics champion, Joan Moore-Gnat. She joins us now live from Orlando.
Thanks for being with us, Joan.
JOAN MOORE-GNAT, 1972 OLYMPIC GYMNAST: Thank you, Natalie.
ALLEN: Were you watching last night?
MOORE-GNAT: Yes, I was, in horror and dismay, I must say.
ALLEN: What were you thinking when you saw this start to -- this domino effect to these athletes?
MOORE-GNAT: Well, I didn't think of anything initially when Svetlana Khorkina missed on her vault because I've seen her miss. When I saw Elise Ray from the United States miss, I was quite shocked because I've judged her so often this year in various American competitions and she rarely misses on vaults. So I thought that was quite unusual. And when I realized that, after the second rotation, that they had noticed that the horse was at the incorrect height, I could understand what had happened. But I was very concerned about the emotional impact that it would have on the athletes.
ALLEN: Did you think that it somehow affected the outcome?
MOORE-GNAT: Oh, most definitely. I think particularly the Americans' medal hopes were tarnished. When Elise Ray, who ranked eighth in the world a year ago, went into this competition -- in gymnastics, they have for the all-around finals what they call a "new life competition." New life means that the scores from the previous days' competitions are eliminated and they start from fresh.
So I know that coming into this competition her eighth-place finish from a year ago left her with hopes of really being in medal contention. So none of her previous, you know, errors or mistakes counted against her. And to go in on a first event and fall like that on an event that you rarely fall on, and then to look at the leader board and see that you're in last place after the first competition, I'm sure had an emotional effect on her.
ALLEN: And she looked so bamboozled you could just see it on her face. She later said she could do that vault in her sleep. Help those of us who can't imagine running up to that vault and flipping over it -- I couldn't even jump over it -- appreciate the difference in just a few inches as far as the height of the vault and distracting these women who perform such dangerous stunts.
MOORE-GNAT: You know what? They do this vault so often, and the horse is always at the same height. I really think that even a few inches difference makes a big difference in their performance.
ALLEN: And you were in the 1972 Olympics, Joan, just missed a bronze medal. Now we've seen the Americans fall with no medals. As you look back, does that weigh in the fact that you didn't win a medal and you just appreciate the fact that you went at all?
MOORE-GNAT: I look back at 1972 and the fact that politics had a bigger impact than it does nowadays. I think that there is much more fairness in the sport. I think how they handled this situation was also very fair and needs to be commended. They handled the mistake as an equipment failure, and the local management went back and allowed the athletes the opportunity to have a second vault.
Now what that means technically, by the rules, is that if they choose to take the second vault, that they will have to stand by the second score. They will have to accept that. They wouldn't get to pick or choose which score they wanted. And so out of all the competitors -- there were 36 total. There were probably 18 in the first two rotations that were affected by this. And out of those, only five elected to take the second vault and redo it.
ALLEN: One final question: Does it blow you away the level of skills that these women gymnasts have today?
MOORE-GNAT: Oh, absolutely. I'm so glad I competed back in 1972 and I'm glad I don't have to do that today. But they're just unbelievable. I'm appreciative that the equipment has also gotten better as the years go on, too, for the athletes' sake. But they do such an outstanding job. It's just such an unfortunate mistake that has really tarnished our -- America's hopes for a medal at this gymnastics competition.
ALLEN: Joan Moore-Gnat, thanks so much for talking with us.
MOORE-GNAT: Thank you.
ALLEN: Well, as Lou mentioned, the popular track and field competitions are off and running, and CNNSI.com has all the action for you. You can also read bios of the athletes, and there's a section to track the overall medal count.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: That was painful last night. Did you watch that. ALLEN: Yes, I was watching.
WATERS: It was just unbelievable. I couldn't figure out what was going on.
ALLEN: Well, those of us -- they're just...
WATERS: Now we know.
ALLEN: ... way over our heads.
ALLEN: Any of the gymnastics.
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