Born in Tucson on November 19, 1977, gymnast Kerri Strug spent six years on the U.S. National Team and competed in two Olympic Games. She began gymnastics at just three years old, following her elder sister Lisa into the sport. In January 1991, Strug left home to join renowned coach Bela Karolyi at his training center in Houston, TX. At age 14, she was the youngest of the American team in Barcelona's 1992 Olympics, and returned to the United States with a bronze medal from the team competition.

Karolyi decided to retire after that Olympiad, and Strug bounced from gym to gym, having three coaches in three years. She returned home to recuperate from a torn stomach muscle, then re-entered competition. In August 1994, Strug fell from the uneven bars during a small meet in California, injuring her neck and back. Doctors warned she may not walk again, but after six months she returned to training. Still in her hometown, she graduated from high school with a 4.0 GPA in 1995. She had been accepted to UCLA but opted instead to rejoin Karolyi, who had come out of retirement to coach former Olympian Kim Zmeskal and rising star Dominique Moceanu.

After being in other gymnasts' shadows for years, Strug was catapulted to international fame during the final rotation of the team competition of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. After uncharacteristically poor performances by the Russian and Romanian teams, the U.S. team was poised to win the gold medal. After Strug's first vault, NBC commentator John Tesh announced that she needed to score a 9.5 on her second vault to secure a gold medal. Athletes cannot hear the commentators and gymnasts are taught not to keep track of scores, so Strug's only distraction was her left ankle - which she had injured during the first vault, yet she managed not only to complete the run and the vault - one and one-half twists from a roundoff entry - but to stick the landing and salute the judges before collapsing to her knees in tears. The average of both vault scores was a 9.712, and the Magnificent Seven became the first Americans to win a team gold medal in women's gymnastics. Strug was later awarded the Olympic Spirit Award alongside track and field athlete Carl Lewis.

After the Olympics, Strug appeared with her teammates on a Wheaties box, and on the cover of several magazines. She made guest appearances on Beverly Hills 90210, Saturday Night Live, and Touched by an Angel, and in November 1997 released an autobiography entitled Landing on My Feet: A Diary of Dreams. She attended Stanford University as a communications major, and joined the campus bowling team and Kappa Alpha Theta sorority.

After the 2000 Presidential election, former Olympic gymnast Kerri Strug developed an interest in politics. The following summer, she obtained an internship in the office of Senator John McCain.

Strug sees parallels between her own Olympic career and the political career of her current boss, McCain. Strug is best known for her gutsy choice to compete with a severely injured ankle at the 1996 Olympics, while McCain is best known for publicly bucking party leaders on high-profile issues. In an interview with Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, Strug said that she thought McCain's struggle was tougher than hers had been: "As a gymnast, I could do it on my own. But for him, he's got to persuade all the others to go along, and that's a little different."

McCain's office treats Strug just like any other intern, including assigning her the typical menial taks like photocopying and faxing. But she also gets to address issues directly by drafting replies to constituents who write the Senator about the issues of the day. She has been focusing on health care issues, working directly with McCain heath care aide, and surely must have been fascinated by the summer's debate on health care reform.

Despite working for a Republican, Strug's politics are still in the formative stage. Although her parents are Republicans, Strug thinks that living in California has moved her politics leftward. Also, Stug says her boyfriend is "liberal" and she helped Bill Clinton celebrate his 50th birthday party - no, not like that. Regardless of where she ends up on the political spectrum, she will find her time on Capitol Hill a summer to remember.

Sources:
http://www.rollcall.com/pages/news/00/2001/08/news0813b.html http://www.girlsgymnastics.com/news/archiveApr2001.html http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/features/1997/weekly/970811/kstrug.html

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