Kerri Strug: U.S. gymnastics' conquering hero of the Olympic ideal

"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well." – Baron Pierre de Coubertin, considered the father of the modern Olympic Games."

The irony of Kerri Strug's moment of a lifetime is that it wasn't necessary. As it turned out, the final Russian faltered in her floor exercise, rendering Strug's second vault meaningless in the box score. Thankfully she didn't know it at the time, because what Strug did in Atlanta in 1996 is the most perfect example of the Olympic ideal, and it's why sport will forever be the ultimate reality show.

The moment reads like a Hollywood script: USA vs. Russia, gold medal on the line, one team (the U.S.) about to choke away a lead with just one gymnast left, only she's just sprained her ankle. It was high drama being played out on live television in front of a worldwide audience:  Strug standing at the foot of the runway on one good leg and one gimpy one, the gregarious Bela Karolyi urging her on, telling her she could do it even though no one knew if she could run, spring and land on that injured left ankle.

And then, without hesitation, she was off. She ran, she sprung, she landed, she lifted her tender left ankle in the air as she turned on one leg to salute the judges.


She'd done it – she'd clinched the United States' first Olympic gold medal ever in the women's team competition, and with room to spare.

De Coubertin would have been proud. Strug had taken part and she fought well. That she conquered, too, well, that's why some people will talk about Kerri Strug forever.

Other Summer Olympic Memorable Moments on Yahoo! Sports:
Usain Bolt's wow moment
Nadia Comăneci didn't think she was perfect, even if '10s' proved otherwise
Mark Spitz's seven golds: Part coronation, part redemption