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Miller Places Second in All-Around : Gymnastics: Kochetkova wins gold in competition fraught with problems.

August 01, 1994|RANDY HARVEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — Two-time world champion gymnast Shannon Miller of Edmond, Okla., did not win an all-around competition for the first time since the 1992 Summer Olympics, but that was all anyone connected with the Goodwill Games seemed to know for sure at the Sport and Concert Complex on Sunday.

When the totals were posted during the medal ceremony, Russia's Dina Kochetkova was the champion with 39.325 points, Miller the runner-up with 39.268 and Russia's Yelena Grosheva the bronze medalist with 38.943.

While no one argued that the majority of judges intended for Kochetkova to win, U.S. team officials and coaches had a number of questions.

Such as:

--Which judges gave what scores for whom in the final discipline?

--What really were the 16 competitors' total scores?

--Can we get a ride back to the hotel?

It has been a long six days since arriving here for U.S. Coach Steve Nunno, whose team consists of five teen-agers he trains at Dynamo Gym in Oklahoma City.

They were scheduled to work out for the first time last Thursday, but Nunno refused to allow them to use the small gym they had been assigned because the apparatuses were so close to the walls that he feared his gymnasts would slam into them. Moving to the Sport and Concert Complex later that day, they trained while the United States was playing Russia in basketball not more than a couple of backflips away.

Over the next two days, Miller skipped two workouts and her teammates missed one because transportation that was supposed to have been arranged for them by the organizers never came.

They had a similar problem after their fourth-place finish in the team competition Saturday night, when the bus scheduled to take them to their hotel was late. A former Soviet gymnast offered them a ride in her Fiat, but because there were nine of them, including assistant coaches, they declined.

By the time the bus got them to their destination, the restaurant was closed. They ate tuna and cereal that they brought from Oklahoma.

"When you can't get a ride home from the meet, maybe you say, 'We're not welcome,' " Nunno said.

Little did he know that the chaos was merely beginning.

When he left the arena late Saturday night, he was informed that Miller, Marianna Webster and Soni Meduna had qualified for the all-around competition.

But Sunday morning, an ABC commentator, former gymnast Bart Conner, was perusing the start list when he discovered that no Chinese were listed. By his calculations, they had earned two berths. He called his bosses, who called the organizers, who had simply forgotten about the Chinese. They corrected the mistake, but that eliminated Meduna and a Spanish gymnast.

Then, moments after the competition began, it was discovered that the computer used to calculate the results would add the gymnasts' two vault scores but would not average them, as required for the all-around. The United States' Jackie Fie, president of the international gymnastics federation women's technical committee, was called upon to average them with a hand-held calculator.

But the worst was saved for last as Kochetkova and Miller entered the final discipline, the floor exercise, in a duel for the gold medal. Kochetkova had 29.400 points after the first three apparatuses to 29.368 for Miller. Kochetkova is the reigning world champion in the floor exercise, but Miller outscored her there in Saturday's team competition.

Miller went first and was brilliant. When her scores were posted, it appeared as if the Romanian judge had awarded her a perfect 10.0. The average of the six judges' scores was 9.912, the highest for any gymnast in any event Sunday night.

Kochetkova, on deck, noted the scores and knew that she would have to be almost as good as Miller to retain her lead. She was, and her scores, including 10.0s from the Russian and Kazakstan judges, reflected it. Her average was 9.9, apparently giving her the victory by two-hundredths of a point.

However, the Romanian judge claimed at some point that she gave Miller a 9.9 instead of a 10.0, and the man responsible for logging the scores into the computer acknowledged that he made a mistake. As a result, Kochetkova actually scored higher on the floor exercise than Miller and won by a more comfortable margin of almost six-hundredths of a point. At least, that was the official explanation.

U.S. officials considered lodging a protest but decided against it because the order of finish would not have changed.

Making things worse for everyone, the television producers who run the event decided that only one gymnast should be on the floor at a time, instead of competing on different apparatuses concurrently, which meant that everyone had to remain in the sweltering gym more than an hour longer than usual.

Nunno said that Miller was "hometowned" by the judges and made a case, but, as her coach, that is what he is supposed to do.

Miller said she made some mistakes on her landings, got the scores she deserved and was happy with her silver medal. She did not even complain about the heat, saying that her gym in Oklahoma City installed air conditioning only last summer. It is hard to imagine Miller ever being anything but cool.

Notes

American Zeke Jones won the gold medal in wrestling at 114.5 pounds by defeating Janali Khosrow of Iran, 11-0. Russia finished with six gold and three silver medals; the Americans had two gold and three each in silver and bronze. . . . In women's cycling, Americans swept the 27-mile criterium with Brooke Blackwelder in first followed by Karen Livingston and Karen Dunne. . . . Russia defeated the United States, 15-3, 15-13, 15-8, in women's volleyball. . . . In archery, South Korean Kim Hyo-Jung won the women's gold and Russian Gennadi Mitrofanov won the men's event. Russia's Olga Sedakova took the lead after the short program in synchronized swimming solo competition with 98.240 points.

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