Saturday, August 21, 2010

Carly Patterson

Carly Patterson is one of the most successful gymnasts in US Gymnastics history, even being named to the US Gymnastics Hall of Fame. From being a leader on the 2003 World Championship US team to becoming the Olympic Champion at the 2004 Athens Olympics, Patterson has made her mark on the US gymnastics community. Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on February 4, 1988, Patterson was first introduced to gymnastics by Israeli Olympian gymnast Johnny Moyal at Elite Gymnastics in Baton Rouge.

Patterson didn’t start out in the gym when she was a toddler like many other gymnasts at the elite level. She was six years old when Moyal spotted her at her cousin’s birthday party. He encouraged Patterson’s mom to sign her up for lessons at the gym after seeing a lot of promise in her while she was playing on the gym equipment, particularly the balance beam which would later become her signature event.

Patterson worked her way up the gymnastics ladder succeeding at the junior level and eventually becoming the 2002 Junior All-Around champion. She started her senior gymnastics career at the age of 15 in 2003 at the American-Cup as the youngest gymnast in the competition. She ended up winning the American-Cup making her eligible for the US National team and one of the front runners to win the 2004 Olympic all-around competition.

Mid 2003 was rough for Patterson. After breaking her elbow she became unable to compete at the 2003 US National Championships. After missing Nationals, Patterson was worried her chances of making the World Team were gone. However, she was able to successfully petition the US National Gymnastics committee and became the final member of the US National team for the 2003 World Gymnastics Championships in Anaheim, California.

The 2003 World Gymnastics Championships were quite a success for Patterson and her team. During the team competition Patterson was a key competitor in assuring the Team Gold for the US women. This was the first World Championship earned by the American women, and the first team gold medal earned against an international field since the 1996 Atlanta Olympics US National Team. Patterson didn’t stop with the team gold medal; she went on to win the silver medal in the Women’s All-Around competition, behind the dominating three-time World Champion Russian gymnast Svetlana Khorkina. It was a very tight competition with Khorkina beating Patterson by a little over one tenth of a point, setting up the possibility of an exciting all-around competition at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. This win also made Patterson the first American woman to win a World Championship all-around medal since Shannon Miller won the gold medal in 1994 World Championships in Brisbane, Australia.

The 2003 World Championships put the US National Team and Patterson in top shape to be very successful and possible gold medal contenders in Athens the following summer. At Patterson’s first major international meet of the 2004 Olympic year, the 2004 American-Cup, Patterson made her mark once more at the international level taking the all-around gold medal and dominating the competition by winning all four events. Later that year she tied with Courtney Kupets at the 2004 US National Championships, with both becoming co-champions. She also competed in the individual event finals on the floor exercise and balance beam, winning the floor exercise and taking second on the balance beam.

After being named to the 2004 US Olympic team following the Olympic trials and later the Olympic training camp, Patterson was ready to take on the international competition for the 2004 Olympics in Athens. She joined fellow co-champion Courtney Kupets and other team members Mohini Bhardwaj, Annia Hatch, Terin Humphrey, and Courtney McCool. After the preliminaries in Athens, Patterson assured her quest for an All-Around Olympic Gold medal by finishing first and qualifying for the balance beam finals as well. The first major competition of the 2004 Olympic Games was the Team Finals, which she would later win an Olympic Silver medal. Patterson and the rest of the US National team were the favorites going into the day of competition. Patterson competed in every event working her hardest to assure another win for the US National team, but a few mistakes put the US in second place behind Romania. In the end Romania just barely beat out the US, winning by a little over half a point.

The real competition was the All-Around. Many expected it to be a rematch of the 2003 World Championships a year earlier between Patterson and Khorkina. Most of the night the two were neck-and-neck. Patterson had an unusually low vault score of 9.375. She knew she had to make up the difference if she was going to beat Khorkina and win the gold medal. She was much stronger on her remaining three events; she even out scored Khorkina on balance beam with a score of 9.725 and the floor exercise with a score of 9.712. At the end of the night, Patterson beat out Khorkina for the Olympic Gold medal winning the all-around with a 38.387. Patterson became the first American woman to become Olympic Champion since Mary Lou Retton at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles and the first American woman to win the all-around at an Olympics with a competing Soviet or Russian national team.

After a very successful Olympics, Patterson learned that she had several bulging disks located in her back. Knowing that competing at an elite level would only make her injury worse, Patterson decided to announce her retirement from the sport in 2006. After achieving her dream of winning an Olympic gold medal, Patterson decided to start new a career in music. She even had the opportunity to compete on the reality show “Celebrity Duets” in 2006. In February of 2008, Patterson signed a recording contract with the Chicago indie label MusicMind Records. Later in 2008 she released her first single “Temporary Life (Ordinary Girl)”. In August of 2009 Patterson released her first full length album “Back to the Beginning”.

Carly Patterson’s successful gymnastics career is quite a remark on her success as a person. She won the highest honor any gymnast can receive, becoming the All-Around Olympic Champion. She led her team to two very successful international competitions, which included a Team Silver medal. After an injury prevented her from continuing with gymnastics, she followed up a great career with another endeavor, singing. All of her successes make Patterson a great role model for young women.