I was three-years-old. I idolized my older sister, Lisa, and wanted to do whatever she did. She was already pretty involved in gymnastics at that point since she is eight years older than me.
The floor exercise was my favorite. I loved tumbling since it came naturally to me.
I landed short of my first vault and jammed my left ankle. When I was competing, you had two vaults and the best vault counted as your full score. I was the last U.S. team member to compete on the vault– since it was one of my best events– and I knew I needed to land the second vault well in order to feel good about myself and my Olympic performance, secure the team gold medal and also qualify for the all-around finals.
The team that was on the floor exercise, and right behind the American team, was the Russians.
No one made me do the second vault. My coach, Bela Karolyi, encouraged me to do it by yelling positive affirmations to me such as, “Kerri, you can do it!” I was the one that decided that I would and could do the vault again. I wanted to show the world how hard I had worked, that I could do the vault well, and to make sure we would win the team gold.
I did swimming and ballet when I was very young. However, at the age of 7, I decided to pursue gymnastics 100%, so I quit the other sports at that time and put everything into my gymnastics training.
Gymnastics changed my life in many ways. First, I moved away from home when I was 13-years-old in order to train for the Olympics. Training all the time took away from other areas in my life. However, I learned a lot about setting goals, hard work, perseverance, dedication, discipline and focus. I accomplished my dreams at a very young age– making the Olympic Team in 1992 at 14 years-old and then winning a gold medal at the 1996 Olympic Games when I was just 18 years-old. Winning the gold medal made me realize that not only do dreams come true, but it literally changed my life as well. I was able to go on a gymnastics tour, meet celebrities, and partake in various activities and organizations that I would never have come into contact with.
I do some clinics and gymnastics camps. I enjoy helping others in the gym and I love the sport of gymnastics. Nonetheless, I have decided to do it on the side versus making gymnastics or coaching my full-time career. I spent so many years in the gym, so I wanted to try some other things after college.
My sister, Lisa, and Mary Lou Retton inspired me to be a great gymnast.
Yes, I absolutely loved gymnastics when I was little. I could not get enough of the gym and I would practice certain moves at home, school or anyplace I could.
Training 6 days a week for 7 to 8 hours a day was tough. I oftentimes got very tired, frustrated and bored. I had to continually remind myself of my goals and push myself to go the extra mile in the gym every single day.
Yes, I want them to try it out. If they like it, I will support them in whatever they want to do. I would also like my children to try soccer, tennis, golf and swimming. I think sports are a wonderful parallel to life, so they are a wonderful way to encourage youth to grow and develop.