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ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS

Strug Says No to Going Pro, Opts for College

July 24, 1996|MIKE PENNER

ATLANTA — Kerri Strug, you've just landed a gold-medal clinching vault on a severely sprained left ankle and been carried to the victory stand in the arms of Bela Karolyi before millions of television viewers worldwide--where are you going now?

To college.

UCLA, to be exact.

Strug's courageous vault already has media observers pronouncing it "the defining moment of these Olympic Games"--these Olympic Games are all of four days old--but the 18-year-old gymnast said Tuesday night she has no plans to cash in because she wants to retain her college eligibility.

"Ever since I was 5 years old, I wanted to do college gymnastics," Strug said. "My early training was with the University of Arizona coach and my father's a physician. Education's always been No. 1.

"I have goals of getting on with my life. But I don't want to give up gymnastics completely. College gymnastics will be a way to let it go gradually."

Two of Strug's U.S. teammates, Shannon Miller and 14-year-old Dominique Moceanu, forfeited their NCAA eligibility long ago when they hired agents. Two others, Dominique Dawes and Amanda Borden, are expected to back out of scholarships to participate in a professional post-Olympics gymnastics tour. Borden had been planning to attend the University of Georgia, Dawes Stanford.

"For a lot of girls, it seems, after the Olympics they feel lost," Strug said. "That's it--it's over for them. If they don't hit it big like Mary Lou [Retton], they feel a little lost.

"I'm going to ease out of it. Go to college, still do it a little, but also prepare for the future."

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