Kaitlyn O'Nan, not a morning person,
couldn't get out of bed fast enough Saturday.
"OK, I'm ready to go," the Gilbert 7-year-old informed her mom. She was
eager to see the Magnificent Seven minus one in a rare group appearance
supporting one of their own, Amanda Borden, at the formal opening of her
Gold Medal Gymnastics Academy in Tempe.
During an early-morning clinic, Kim O'Nan, pointed her daughter to the
balance beam where 16-time Olympic and World medalist Shannon Miller
offered gentle instruction. And a priceless photo op for Mom with a
still camera and Dad (Kevin), manning the video.
"We've watched the video of the Magnificent Seven and their lives and
what it took for them to get where they are," Kim O'Nan said. "She
knows, but the emotion side of it comes more from us, just being so
excited for her to be out there training with them."
Not only Miller and Borden but Kerri Strug, Jaycie Phelps, Dominique
Moceanu and Amy Chow. They, along with the lone absentee, Dominique
Dawes, dramatically won the women's team gold medal at the 1996
Olympics. That was a first for the United States, which is among the
favorites to win again this summer in Athens.
"Our (U.S.) team has an enormous amount of depth right now," Moceanu
said. "The hard part is going to be choosing them. I hope they did look
up to us because you've got to know where gymnastics was to know where
"It's a good feeling when they're
excited to meet you and they're at the top of their game of the sport
that you love," said Strug, whose parents live in Tucson.
"They should win it all, there should be no problem. . . . It's taken a
long time for us to make it to the top and now I think we're at the top
Phelps has a special perspective on this year's Olympic qualifying,
which will begin with U.S. Nationals on June 2-5 in Nashville. She
trained at Desert Devils Gymnastics in Mesa, and failed to qualify for a
second Olympics in 2000 due to knee surgeries. That club has a strong
Athens contender in Carly Janiga, who was 11 when she worked with Phelps
and the same age as Kaitlyn O'Nan when she tuned in for Strug's
gold-clinching vault on a damaged ankle in Atlanta.
"To see how much she's improved in confidence, it's awesome to see her
doing so well," Phelps said of Janiga, runner-up to 2003 U.S. all-around
champion Courtney Kupets at an international meet on Thursday.
The greater magnificence of the Mag Seven is how they've turned out. Now
ages 22 to 27, their post-gymnastics credentials include medical school
(Chow), law school (Miller), degrees from Stanford (Strug and Chow) and
incoming president of the Women's Sports Foundation (Dawes).
"It's the discipline of the sport," said Mary Lee Tracy, who coached
Borden and Phelps at the Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy and was another
special guest Saturday. "You hear so often these kids give up so much
and they're missing out, and that's so far from the truth. They had
wonderful, incredible experiences as friends, as teammates, traveled the
world. The discipline and time management and commitment that they
learned from gymnastics is why they're all successful women today."
Borden graduated from Arizona State and remained here to open her gym.
The 27-year-old was moved by the turnout of her teammates.
"I'm an emotional person and I went straight over to Mary Lee and said
I'm about to cry," Borden said. "This is more than a dream come true."