Olympic gymnast Borden continues dream
Jeff Metcalfe
The Arizona Republic
May. 23, 2004 12:00 AM

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 going."

"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 to stay."

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."


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Magnificent 7 today

Amanda Borden: An Arizona State graduate running the Amanda Borden Gold Medal Gymnastics Academy in Tempe.

Amy Chow: In her second year of medical school at Stanford and competing in the pole vault.

Dominique Dawes: Incoming president of the Women's Sports Foundation, which just launched its GoGirlGo campaign aimed at helping girls ages 8-18 become more physically active.

Shannon Miller: Married and in her first year of law school at Boston College.

Jaycie Phelps: Teaching gymnastics in Colorado Springs, where her fiancÚ Brett McClure of the U.S. men's National Team trains.

Dominique Moceanu: Coaching gymnastics in Cleveland.

Kerri Strug: Began a new job last week working for the General Counsel at the Department of Treasury in Washington D.C.