When elite gymnasts train together, is it “two heads are better than one?” Or is it “anything you can do, I can do better?” Our look back at some dynamic duos sheds some light on the training patterns of a few pairs of high-performing teammates in U.S. gym history.
Shannon Miller & Jennie Thompson
This duo trained together at Dynamo Gymnastics leading up to the 1996 Olympics.
Alpha Gymnast: Shannon Miller. She was already an Olympian by the time Jennie arrived.
Notable Routines and Skills: Since most are familiar with Shannon’s career, let’s focus on Jennie.
Here’s a glimpse of a young Jennie performing her floor exercise at U.S. Nationals in 1994, exhibiting great poise and big skills. She seems to be styled exactly like teammate Miller – classical string music and hair braids, complete with puffy scrunchie.
Be sure to check out Jennie’s beam set. She throws a standing full – an amazing skill that is all her own!
TV Memories: When Jennie misses her free hip hecht on bars at the 1996 Olympic Trials, the image of Shannon Miller covering her face was more powerful than any words could have been.
The End: Jennie continued her training at Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy, displaying tears of joy after winning the All-Around at the 1999 American Cup.
If They Were Superheroes: Watch out Batman and Robin! You can’t mess with this dynamic duo on the balance beam. They would leverage their superior balance while fighting any evil-doers.
Vanessa Atler & Jamie Dantzscher
This duo trained at Charter Oak Gliders, peaking during the 1990s.
Alpha Gymnast: Debatable! While Vanessa was the breakout elite gymnast collecting medals and media coverage in their early years, Jamie made the Olympic team and went on to a stellar NCAA career at UCLA.
Notable Routines and Skills: I love to watch this duo on floor. Start with their routines as young gymnasts in 1997, enthusiastic and expressive. Then, study the evolution of their routines as they move into 1999. Vanessa wows with a double layout punch front and Jamie out-dances floor music carbon copy Morgan White. Need more?
Check out Vanessa’s crisp and powerful work on beam!
Any routine from Jamie’s UCLA career is fab but this perfect 10 on floor is not one to miss!
TV Memories: The uncomfortable and bittersweet televised coverage naming the 2000 Olympic Team is where Jamie makes the team and Vanessa is controversially left at home.
The End: Vanessa left for WOGA in the period leading up to the 2000 Olympics.
If They Were Superheroes: In a nod to her early personal website posts, envision Vanessa at the mission control computers dispatching fellow superhero Jamie to fight evil-doers. Jamie would dispatch witty one-liners in a nod to her honest remarks about Bela Karolyi after the 2000 Olympic Games.
Terin Humphrey & Courtney McCool
This duo trained at GAGE leading up to the 2004 Olympics.
Alpha Gymnast: I can see a debate here, but Terin came across as the better-known and more experienced gymnast. However, Courtney surged to an automatic Olympic Team spot at the 2004 Olympic Trials.
Notable Routines and Skills: These two have impeccable form everywhere with great presence on floor exercise. Watch them throw clean skills on the balance beam with two unique mounts, Terin’s signature turn, and Courtney’s handspring.
Courtney’s beautiful twisting on floor made her a fan favorite.
Terin Humphrey’s strong performance on uneven bars earned her the 2004 Olympic silver medal on the event.
TV Memories: While this was not televised, we love the reported image of Armine Barutyan-Fong cheering when Terin gets named to the Olympic team at the Karolyi ranch.
The End: Both gymnasts moved on to NCAA careers at rival SEC giants – Terin chose Alabama and Courtney chose Georgia.
If They Were Superheroes: This duo battles evil-doers with their elegance rendering them completely dizzy trying to keep up with Courtney’s twists and Terin’s turns.
Amanda Borden & Jaycie Phelps
This duo trained at Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy leading up to the 1996 Olympics.
Alpha Gymnast: Again, debatable! Jaycie rocked the results while Amanda’s experience, outgoing personality, and leadership skills shined.
Notable Routines and Skills: Hold your breath as Amanda calms down the U.S. team with her optional beam routine at the 1996 Olympic team finals…
…and cheer through her final floor exercise at the 1996 Olympic Trials, a routine that secured her spot on the team.
Jaycie’s clean lines and unexpected power are fun to watch on all events…
…but they’re especially great here as she competes her bars at the 1996 Olympic Team Optionals.
I would have loved a classical floor exercise for her rather than the music from the movie The Cutting Edge, however.
TV Memories: John Tesh sparked up the drama at the 1996 Olympic Trials asking rhetorically in a voiceover if Jaycie would leave Amanda behind.
The End: Amanda retired after the 1996 Olympics.
If They Were Superheroes: This duo will blind you on two fronts – Amanda’s smile and the shine of their double gold medals!
(After revisiting these dynamic duos, I think a gymnastics-themed superhero comic book is in order.)
Article by Jessica Schaal
Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
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