Here’s what former gymnast Kerri Strug has been up to since she stuck the unforgettable vault that won her team the 1996 Olympic gold

Former gymnast Kerri Strug’s 1996 Olympic feat – landing on an injured ankle to clinch the first ever team gold medal for the US women’s team – has gone down as one of the most memorable moments in the history of the games.

Her bold move came in the final rotation of team competition in the Atlanta Games. The Americans were on the vault, with a commanding lead over the Russians.

That’s when things started to fall apart. The first four American vaulters had sloppy landings. Then, teammate Dominique Moceanu fell twice in a row.

Strug was up last. On her first vault, she fell too, tearing two ligaments in her ankle. She limped back to speak with her coach, Béla Károlyi. According to ESPN, he told her, “Kerri, we need you to go one more time. We need you one more time for the gold.”

Strug sprinted down the runway and made her second jump – landing on both feet. She even managed to salute the judges before she collapsed and had to be carried off. During the medal ceremony, Károlyi famously carried her to podium.

Later on, it turned out that the Russians’ performance on the floor exercise would have led to an American win anyway. Still, Strug’s jump was what the Americans needed to clinch the gold for certain.

The gut-wrenching vault catapulted Strug to sports stardom, as The Washington Post reported – Strug met with then President Bill Clinton, appeared on a Wheaties box, graced a Sports Illustrated cover, and landed plenty of sponsorship deals.

Strug didn’t rest on her Olympic laurels, though. Here’s more about Strug’s life leading up to that unforgettable Olympic moment – and what she’s been up to since.


Strug kicked off her gymnastics career early on — beginning her training at the age of three. She entered her first competition in the sport as an eight-year-old. In 1991, she moved to Houston to train with the notable Romanian gymnastics coach Béla Károlyi.

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SecondSonMedia/Youtube

Source: People


The following year, she competed as the youngest member of the entire US Olympic team in the Barcelona Games. There, she won a team bronze medal. Károlyi retired after the games, but Strug continued on with the Dynamo Gymnastics Club in Edmond, Oklahoma. Her career was put on pause when she suffered a severe injury to her back in 1994, after losing control on the uneven bars and falling to the ground.

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Eric Sparks/Youtube

Source: USA Gymnastics


After intense rehabilitation, Strug recovered in time to compete at the 1994 World Championships. When Károlyi came out of retirement the following year, she teamed up with him once more. Under his coaching, Strug saw her second Olympic berth by making the US Women’s Olympic team — popularly called the Magnificent Seven. The Atlanta Games were her last foray into international competition.

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Mike Blake/Reuters

Source: USA Gymnastics


After healing from her injury, Strug joined “The Magic of MGM, an Ice Capades Production.” She didn’t do any skating herself, but instead performed two gymnastics routines — one inspired by the film “Rocky” and the other in the finale of the show. She told the Los Angeles Times that she appreciated the creative outlet that the ice show provided, saying, “I’m excited to be in a situation where I can have a lot more fun in my sport [and] get the crowd involved.”

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Rich Moffitt/Flickr

Source: Los Angeles Times


Following the 1996 Games, Strug enrolled in UCLA. The transition proved somewhat difficult. “I was used to somebody controlling every move, telling me where to be and what to do and how to do it,” Strug told Sports Illustrated. “The first couple months were sort of tough.” She worked as the gymnastics team manager and joined Kappa Alpha Theta before transferring to Stanford University, where she earned a master’s in social psychology.

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HarshLight/Flickr

Source: Sports Illustrated


After graduating, Strug went to work as an elementary-school teacher at Tom Matsumoto Elementary in San Jose, California. Strug told the Chicago Tribune that going into education was a way of giving back after so many years of focusing on her dream. She said that only a few of her students knew about her past as an Olympian. “They know I like gymnastics, and sometimes they will ask, ‘Can you do a flip for us?'”

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Yusuke Umezawa/Flickr

Source: Chicago Tribune


Eventually, Strug made the decision to switch up her career and continue working with children outside of education. In 2003, she moved to DC to become a staff assistant with the White House Office of Presidential Student Correspondence as a presidential appointee. She went on to appear with fellow former gymnast Mary Lou Retton at the Republican National Convention.

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Alex Wong/Getty Images

Source: Sports Illustrated


Strug eventually moved to the Treasury Department. In 2005, she joined the US Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

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Stephen Lovekin /Getty Images

Source: Reuters


Strug hasn’t returned to the sport of gymnastics, aside from teaching at a handful of clinics and camps. Still, she hasn’t totally left the world of athletics. In her spare time, Strug ran marathons in Boston, Houston, New York City, and Chicago. She also worked as an artistic gymnastics correspondent for Yahoo during the 2004 Athens Games. She told The New York Times that it was quite a change from gymnastics: “I had to not only train my muscles, but also my mind. But it was a new challenge.”

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Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

Source: The New York Times


Today, Strug is a program manager for the US Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. She is married to lawyer Robert Fischer and has two children, Tyler and Alayna. “If you told me I’d be working as a program manager in the OJJDP back when I was in Atlanta, I would’ve laughed,” Strug told Sports Illustrated. “But at the same time I think I also knew I wasn’t going to be a gym coach or owner. It was important for me to prove to myself and to others that I can be successful in other arenas as well.”

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Rob Schumacher/Reuters

Source: Sports Illustrated