LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Mohini Bhardwaj (Altamonte Springs, Fla.) used a pair of solid vaults to claim fifth place in the individual event final at the 1997 World Gymnastics Championships, held at the Malley Sports Center here Saturday evening.
Romania’s Simona Amanar won the event with a 9.712, reclaiming the gold medal that she shared with Ukranian Lilia Podkopayeva in 1995, then lost to teammate Gina Gogean in 1996. Duan Zhou of China took the silver with a 9.606, while Gogean earned the bronze with a 9.600. Bhardwaj posted a score of 9.512.
“I was kind of nervous, but it was fun,” said Bhardwaj, who trains at Brown’s Gymnastics in Longwood, Fla. “It was my first time in a World Championships final, so I was really excited. I could feel the energy from all the people. I’m glad I had the chance to have this experience before I go to college.” She will attend UCLA this fall.
“I want to be the first women’s collegiate gymnast to compete internationally,” she said. “It’s all about competing, and it’s fun to me. I want to try to keep doing it.”
“I was really pleased with her performance,” said Rita Brown (Longwood, Fla.), Bhardwaj’s coach. “That’s how we trained back at the gym. We prepared for vault finals. We knew that she had a very strong first vault, and that if she did well in the first day that we could be in the finals. She did two good vaults, and she stuck her second vault. If she’d had a bit more height, she may have been in medal range.”
The fifth-place finish matches the placement of Kerri Strug at the 1993 Worlds in Birmingham, England, as the highest by an American in the vault individual finals since Brandy Johnson tied for the silver medal at the 1989 World Championships in Stuttgart, West Germany. Johnson also trained under Brown.
While Bhardwaj’s second vault was excellent, its start value was only 9.60. She would have needed a 9.63 on that vault to move into first at that time.
“She can compete a Tsukahara with a one-and-a-half twist (which would have a higher start value), but we thought that would be too risky at this point,” said Brown. “We had a good landing, and if you didn’t have a good landing you weren’t going to get a good score.”
Competition concludes on Sunday with five more individual event finals (three for men and two for women). The USA will be represented by Kristin Maloney (Pen Argyl, Pa.), who will compete on the balance beam.