Here are two awe-inspiring stories of past Olympian gymnasts who completed their routines in great pain to win for their team. A Japanese man with a broken kneecap continued performing, so that his team would not lose to the Russians wanting gold. An American girl with a torn ankle vaults a second time, so her team can finally win the gold and also keep the Russians in silver.

When I am injured, I rest, take it easy, recuperate. These athletes are like fire fighters going into the burning building to save someone without concern for their own safety. They destroy their careers for the sake of their team. To win the Gold Medal. Recently someone asked me “why these athletes can’t be happy with a Silver, because that’s a pretty good achievement?” Being the best in the world is all that matters and why they train so hard for years. It’s not a goal that we mere mortals can understand. And I wonder what happens to all those who failed at achieving their dream. How badly does that disappointment scar the rest of their lives?

1976: Shun Fujimoto Hits His Ring Set with a Broken Knee

The Japanese built a dynasty in men’s gymnastics in the 1960s and 70s. By 1976, Japan had won the team gold in the last four Olympics. In the team finals in Montreal, however, Japanese team member Shun Fujimoto injured himself on floor. Fearing that the team would not win if he withdrew from the meet, Fujimoto hid the extent of his injury and competed his final two events of the day, pommel horse and rings.

On rings, Fujimoto scored a 9.7, after landing his full-twisting double back dismount onto a broken kneecap. His score helped the Japanese earn their fifth consecutive team gold, and he is still revered in Japan for his selfless commitment to the team.

1996: Kerri Strug Does Her Vault With Torn Ligaments In Her Ankle

Article by Rick Weinberg for ESPN

The U.S. women’s gymnastics team had never won an Olympic team gold medal before, and they declared that this time they—in Atlanta— would be the ones wearing the gold medals around their necks, not the Romanians or the Russians.

There is just one apparatus left for the U.S.—the vault—as it leads second-place Russia by .897, a lead so commanding in the sport that several Russian gymnasts, apparently conceding defeat before the start of the floor exercise, are in tears.

But shockingly, the U.S. lead begins to evaporate after Dominique Moceanu—one of America’s golden girls—falls not once but twice, registering only a 9.20, wiping out a chunk of the U.S. lead and leaving the gold up for grabs.

The gold medal now comes down to Kerri Strug, the quiet gymnast, the understudy to stars Moceanu, Dominique Dawes and Shannon Miller.

Strug, a 4-foot-9 gymnast from Tucson, Ariz., does not possess the fearlessness, the toughness, the aggressiveness, the heart, and the threshold of pain, of her teammates. At least that’s what some people had believed. But as the spotlight in the Georgia Dome focuses on Strug, that perception completely changes. Read the rest of this entry »

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