Gymnastics: Strug now heroine of a nation

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Kerri Strug, who injured herself in the process of performing the heroic vault that secured the first Olympic gold medal for the US women's gymnastics team on Tuesday evening, said yesterday that she will miss the all-round competition.

"I'm going to skip the all-round and try to get my ankle healed so maybe I can compete in the individual event finals," she said. "I'm a little down, but I'm still excited that we won the gold." Strug, nursing a sprained left ankle, qualified for Sunday's vault and Monday's floor event finals.

The American women looked certain winners of the gold until their final event, when Dominique Moceanu stumbled on both of her vault landings. Strug, the final US competitor, landed on her heels and fell backward on her first vault.

She said later that she had hurt her left ankle on the first vault, but went ahead and did the second because she thought the gold medal was on the line. She completed her landing, then collapsed in pain on the floor before being carried out of the arena.

Her coach, Bela Karolyi, carried her crying into the Georgia Dome for the ceremony, where the crowd gave her a standing ovation. As it turned out Moceanu's vault would have been enough for the Americans to win the gold medal from the Romanians.

Strug, 18, already wearing a cast, hopped around on one foot as she joined her team-mates before being taken to hospital where X-rays showed no fracture but a sprained ankle.

The Romanian coach, Octavian Belu, whose team has won the last two World Championships, said: "We met here maybe the best American team I ever saw."