NEW YORK – Current national champion Vanessa Atler (Canyon Country, Calif.) grabbed the gold medal in women’s vault as the United States earned four medals in gymnastics individual event competition at the 1998 Goodwill Games Sunday evening at Nassau Coliseum.

“I was mostly just excited,” said Atler, the reigning USA champion in vault. “I really wasn’t that nervous. The vault’s my favorite event and I love doing it, so it was more of just where I would finish.” Atler averaged a 9.662 for her two vaults, surpassing Russia’s Yelena Dogopolova, who took the silver with a 9.600. Current world and Olympic vault champion Simona Amanar of Romania was third with a 9.587.
Atler was not the only American gymnast to enjoy a trip to the podium, however. Elise Ray (Columbia, Md.) and Jay Thornton (Augusta, Ga.) each took home silver medals. In uneven bars, Ray placed second to reigning world, Olympic and Goodwill Games champion Svetlana Khorkina of Russia, while Thornton trailed only current world champion Aleksei Nemov on floor exercise. Rounding out the medal run for the USA was 18-year-old Yewki Tomita (Tucson, Ariz.), who took the bronze medal in pommel horse with a 9.325, trailing Russians Nikolai Kryukov and Aleksei Bondarenko.
In a return to international amateur gymnastics, two-time Olympian Dominique Dawes (Silver Spring, Md.) placed fifth in uneven bars after added as a last-minute substitution on Friday. Dawes was a member of the “Magnificent 7” that won the women’s team gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, where she also won an individual bronze medal in floor exercise. Sean Townsend (Houston, Texas) rounded out the Americans competing Tuesday, placing eighth on floor exercise.
While vault was the site of the USA’s best result of the evening, it also was the backdrop of the most sobering moment of the Games. China’s Sang Lan was injured during warm-ups for the event. She was transported to an area hospital, where examination indicated a fracture and dislocation in her vertebrae. Sang, 17, from Ningbo, China, won the Chinese national championship in vault last year.

Individual Event Finals

Women’s Vault
1, Vanessa Atler, Canyon Country, Calif., 9.662. 2, Yelena Dolgopolova, Russia, 9.600. 3, Simona Amanar, Romania, 9.587. 4, Maria Olaru, Romania, 9.575. 5, Adrienn Varga, Hungary, 9.562. 6, Anna Kovaleva, Russia, 9.537. 7. Alena Polozkova, Belarus, 9.437.

Women’s Uneven Bars

1, Svetlana Khorkina, Russia, 9.825. 2, Elise Ray, Columbia, Md., 9.700. 3, Simona Amanar, Romania, 9.600. 4, Corina Ungureanu, Romania, 9.575. 5, Dominique Dawes, Silver Spring, Md., 9.400. 6, Olga Teslenko, Ukraine, 9.200. 7. Ling Jie, China, 8.925. 8, Meng Fei, China, 8.600.

Men’s Floor Exercise

1, Aleksei Nemov, Russia, 9.725. 2, Jay Thornton, Augusta, Ga., 9.550. 3, Aleksei Bondarenko, Russia, 9.525. 4, Sergei Fedorchenko, Kazakhstan, 9.375. 5. Aleksandr Shostak, Belarus, 9.250. 6, Lu Yufu, China, 9.000. 7, Roman Zozulya, Ukraine, 8.925. 8, Sean Townsend, Houston, Texas, 8.450.

Men’s Pommel Horse

1, Nikolai Kryukov, Russia, 9.650. 2, Aleksei Bondarenko, Russia, 9.625. 3. Yewki Tomita, Tucson, Ariz., 9.375. 4 (tie), Xu Huang, China, and Yoshiaki Hatakeda, Japan, 9.325. 6, Yufu Lu, China, 9.000. 7, Vasile Cioana, Romania, 8.250. 8. Szilveszter Csollany, Hungary, 7.850.