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2000: Vanessa Atler Left Off the Olympic Team

(The Biggest Controversies in Olympic Gymnastics)


2000: Vanessa Atler Left Off the Olympic Team

Vanessa Atler performs a split leap on beam

© Craig Jones / Getty Images
Vanessa Atler was the undisputed star of the American team in the beginning of the 1997-2000 quadrennium. The co-national champion in 1997, fans, coaches and athletes all marveled at her difficult skill level, especially her world class vaulting and tumbling.

But an inconsistency on the uneven bars soon began to affect her all-around results: She lost both the 1998 and 1999 US Championships because of falls on bars. By the time the Olympic year rolled around, Atler was struggling with coaching changes and injuries, and had fallen to fourth at the 2000 Nationals.

Atler had a disastrous Olympic trials, with a scary fall on beam and mistakes on her best events – vault and floor. Still, she placed sixth all-around, so many were shocked when she was not named to the team, even as an alternate. In past years, the Olympic team had been decided solely on rankings (usually the top six would have qualified), but in 2000, the team was selected by committee – a group that seemed to feel that Atler's inconsistencies were too much of a liability.

Many thought the decision was right, and that because of her mistakes Atler was not mentally prepared to compete in the Games. Others thought she should have been on the squad because her abilities on vault and floor helped offset other team members' weaknesses on those events. Still others felt that the process itself was unfair, and should have been decided based on scores, not based on committee.

Shortly after the Trials, Atler retired from the sport. The selection process that was in place for the Olympic Trials in 2000 is still used today.

Watch It:
Vanessa Atler on beam at the 2000 Olympic Trials, day 1
Atler on vault day two
Atler on floor day two
Atler at her best on vault, at the 1999 American Cup

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