September 17, 2000
show true grit
By BEVERLEY SMITH
Globe and Mail
SYDNEY Nobody knows just
quite how the Canadian women's gymnastics team pulled it off
Sunday at the Superdome.
It's not that they put themselves
in a position to win a medal or anything. It was that they competed
By the time, the team members
showed up for game day Sunday, they were a limping, aching,
hurting, earnest-eyed lot. This was supposed to be their Olympics.
Everything seemed to be a shambles. Except for their hearts.
Things were so bad that Lise
Leveille of Burnaby, B.C., was supposed to compete on only one
apparatus Sunday in the women's qualifying round: the beam.
At the last minute, Canadian
coaches told her they needed her to compete on all four apparatus,
for the team's sake.
Leveille didn't flinch.
She was just raring to
go,'' said coach Carol Angela Orchard. That's unbelievable.''
Troubles started last week during
the only practice on actual competition equipment that gymnasts
are allowed. It's called podium training.
Suddenly, all the plans and the
hopes of the team went down the drain when the team members
suffered injury after injury. First, Emilie Fournier of
Iberville, Que., tore some ligaments in her leg and suffered
some small chip fractures of her ankle during the podium practice.
The injury was so severe, that Fournier was sent home, and spare
Crystal Gilmore of Scarborough, Ont. stepped in to take her
Then team star Yvonne Tousek
of Cambridge, Ont., jammed an ankle, very badly, during practice
on the floor that day, too. She competed yesterday with both
Michelle Conway of Scarborough,
Ont., also tore the meniscus in her left knee during a practice
vault at the podium practice. It swelled to an immense size:
the team had her get an MRI on Friday.
I wasn't even sure I was
going to be able to compete,'' she said. The knee was
so swollen that I couldn't bend it at one point.
Orchard said there was little
doubt that Conway and Tousek were going to compete, if doctors
allowed them to. As it was, Conway had to withdraw from the
beam routine, and when she did, it was a heartbreaker.
She has an unusual move that
she could have had named after her if she could have shown it
off at a world championship or Olympics. Conway had to scale
down some moves, but she was determined.
She was supposed to do a Yurtchenko
1 1/2 vault, but she did only a half rotation. She did vault
because she felt she owed it to the team.
Yvonne was much more sore
than I am, and she did vault, so I had to do vault,'' she said.
She got a 9.143 for her pains.
Julie Beaulieu of Montreal also competed hurt. Head coach Andrei
Rodionenko shook his head sadly.
It was the very hard floor,''
he said. (Gymnastics) floors in Australia and New Zealand
are like a stone. We couldn't use the floor. We didn't do floor
for one week.''
The injured athletes didn't train
the two days before the qualifying event. Rodionenko already
felt as if he was behind the eight-ball coming to the Olympics.
There is no money to send Canadian
gymnasts to major international competitions. While European
gymnasts will compete at five to seven major international events
in a season, the Canadian women competed in no more than one
since the world championships last year, he said.
We've been training our
whole lives for these five minutes of performance,'' Tousek
said. I was happy with our performances under the conditions
we had today. Hoefully, I can make the all-around final, and
compete when it comes around.''
Tousek managed a 9.662 on the
uneven bars, even with a painful hop on the landing. Gilmore,
who had to fill in for Conway on the balance beam, got a 9.437.
Somehow, Tousek stuck her dismount from the beam beautifully,
getting a 9.537. When Tousek competed on the floor, the rest
of her teammates yelled wildly from the side.
The coaches felt our pain
and they knew what we were going through,'' Tousek said. It's
an emotional time for us. We didn't know how we were going to
pull it out today with so many things going against us.''
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