Then and Now: The 1996 Women’s Gymnastics Team vs. Today’s Squad
With the Rio Olympics just getting underway, we’ve been thinking a lot about some of our favorite Team USA Olympic moments from years gone by. One of our earliest Olympic memories came from the 1996 Games, and the incredible gymnasts the press dubbed “The Magnificent Seven.” The team won loads of medals and became celebrities in their own right. This year’s team looks to be just as exciting, and we wanna talk about the new team members as well as their 1996 counterparts.
Then: Shannon Miller
Miller was the unofficial captain of Team USA, and is still the most decorated gymnast in US history. She helped lead the team to their wins and was the girl-next-door poster girl.
Now: Simone Biles
Biles has been called “The Best Gymnast in History” by former Olympian Mary Lou Retton. She’s strong, graceful and really, really great at her job. She’s def the celebrity of the bunch, and the most well-known. People are predicting that she’ll win five individual medals at these games, given the records she’s already broken and the titles she already holds.
Then: Dominique Dawes
Dawes was a star teammate, winning one medal (Bronze) for her stellar floor routine. She was one of the breakout stars of the Seven and was well-loved by the press at the time.
Now: Gabby Douglas
This isn’t Gabby’s first Olympiad: In 2012, she became the first African American woman to win the all-around competition. Her poise and style will do well for her this games, and we think she’ll bring home a few more medals.
Then: Kerri Strug
Who could forget Kerri Strug? After hyper-rotating her ankle, she went for a second vault, hoping to get a high enough score to beat her competition. She did, but badly injured herself — and the 1996 coach, Bella Karolyi, triumphantly carried her to the podium to accept her medal.
Now: Madison Kocian
Madison is the current world champion on the uneven bars, but earlier this year suffered an ankle injury that could crop back up during the games. We’re crossing our fingers that she doesn’t get injured like Kerri Strug did, but if something does happen, we’re sure she’ll be just as brave.
Then: Dominique Moceanu
Dominique was, in 1996, not only the youngest member of the team (she was 14!), but she was also the last person under age 16 legally allowed to compete on Team USA. She filled in for Kerri Strug after her injury, and while she didn’t get an individual medal, the pint-sized team member did win the team gold medal along with the rest of the Magnificent Seven.
Now: Laurie Hernandez
Laurie is new to the Olympics and the 2016 team’s youngest member. She hasn’t been in competition for very long, but she’ll definitely be one to watch on this year’s team.
Then: Jaycie Phelps
Jaycie was known for her perfect lines and attention to detail during the 1996 games. She’s gone on to become a gymnastics trainer in her own right.
Now: Aly Raisman
This will also be Aly’s second Olympiad (2 Gold and 1 Bronze in London), and she credits her mom’s VHS recording of the 1996 team as her biggest inspiration to compete. She was the fourth runner up with professional partner Marc Ballas on Dancing With the Stars a few years ago, so she’s def multi-talented!
Then: Amanda Borden
Even though Amanda was the *official* team captain of the Magnificent Seven, she didn’t get to win an individual medal at the 1996 Olympics. She was chosen as captain because of her determined and kind personality.
Now: Mykayla Skinner
One of the alternates for this year’s team, Mykayla is a powerhouse who’s four PanAm Games Gold medals make her one to watch during Rio.
Then: Amy Chow
One of the lesser known alternates during the 1996 games, Chow took home an individual medal (Silver) in the uneven bars. She went on to win one more medal during the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
Now: Ragan Smith and Ashton Locklear
These two alternates could sweep in and save the day if any of the major players falter. Like Chow, they have less pressure than the main team and can focus on their individual skills.
What was your favorite memory of The Magnificent Seven? Tell us @Britandco!
(Photos via Mike Powell/Elsa/Ronald Martinez/Doug Pensinger/IanMacNichol/Ezra Shaw/Getty)