If the U.S. women's gymnastics team is looking for a mascot, they might consider the Six Million Dollar Man.
Two key athletes were lost to injury and another was left hurting during
the World Championships in Anaheim, Calif., last August. A makeshift squad won
the team gold medal - a first - but the victory was shadowed by concerns that
there might not be enough healing time before the Summer Games.
However, it appears the athletes, doctors and trainers have borrowed the
motto of the TV show from the 1970s: "We have the technology."
After the first training camp of the Olympic year, team officials say they
are pleased with the progress of Courtney Kupets, the 2003 U.S. national
champion and a student at Magruder High School in Montgomery County, and Annia
Hatch, the 2003 U.S. vault champion.
"Their recovery is very much ahead of schedule and gave every indication
that they will be able to recover in sufficient time to be a contender for the
Olympic team," said Martha Karolyi, national team coordinator, during a
Members of the national team worked out at "Camp Bela," the nickname for
the USA Gymnastics Women's National Team Training Center, which is on the
Texas ranch of former U.S. team coordinator Bela Karolyi, husband of Martha.
Kupets, 17, tore her left Achilles' tendon during warm-ups for the floor
exercise and had surgery just days later. Team officials had expected her
recovery to take eight months.
"She is in great physical condition. Her progress is really encouraging,"
said Martha Karolyi. "She is already able to perform on the balance beam,
except her dismount, and able to do all of her skills on uneven bars."
Kupets, the 2002 world champion in the bars, said the hardest part of
rehabilitation was exercising patience.
"I was antsy at first," she acknowledged. "I wanted to start right away
after the surgery."
Hatch, 25, injured her knee at the World Championships and had not
practiced at the training center.
"She can perform all her skills on uneven bars, and her dance on beam and a
back handspring on beam. She needs one more month to be able to complete more
difficult skills," said Karolyi.
Even Carly Patterson, who suffered an elbow stress fracture before the
Worlds but still won the silver medal for all-around performance, is back
working on her vaults.
The next training camp is scheduled for Feb. 20-24 as the lead-up to the
Visa American Cup on Feb. 28 at Madison Square Garden.
"The training camp is the greatest opportunity for the girls and coaches to
be able to come together as a team," said Karolyi. "The atmosphere is better.
The team spirit is built up."
Male gymnasts gearing up
Men gymnasts, who won the team silver medal at the Worlds last August, also
are getting ready for international competition leading up to the Olympics.
Six slots on the men's team will be filled on Feb. 6 and 7 at the Winter
Cup Challenge. The Las Vegas event is considered the first step toward
selection of the Olympics team in June.
Four of the athletes - 2003 World Championship gold medalist Paul Hamm,
Jason Gatson, Morgan Hamm and Blaine Wilson - will be using the Winter Cup to
prepare for the Visa Cup.
Women's gymnasts on the mend for U.S.
Progress of Kupets, Hatch after first training camp pleases team officials
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