NEW YORK – Vanessa Atler (Canyon Country, Calif.) earned her second gold medal of the Goodwill Games as United States athletes took three of the four golds available in gymnastics competition Wednesday evening at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Joining Atler on the top step of the awards stand were Chris LaMorte (Long Island, N.Y.), who won the still rings in front of a hometown crowd, and Kristen Maloney (Pen Argyl, Pa.), who won the balance beam. The three medals won by the USA Wednesday matched the country’s total gymnastics gold medal output for the first three Goodwill Games combined.
“I haven’t had a meet that family and friends could come to in a long time,” said LaMorte, whose 9.700 withstood challenges from Belarus’ Ivan Ivankov and Russia’s Aleksei Bondarenko, who tied for the silver with a 9.675. “I didn’t know if the score would hold up. Being second up and still having six more competitors to go, some of them pretty highly ranked ring men, I just didn’t know. I knew I had a good set, but I didn’t quite stick my dismount like I would’ve liked, so I wasn’t sure.”
Maloney enjoyed some hometown support as well, as a group of friends made the three-hour drive from Allentown, Pa., to see her take gold in the beam, an event she placed seventh in at the 1997 World Championships last September. Being last up in the rotation generated some jitters for her, but her 9.775 edged Ukraine’s Olga Teslenko by .05.
“It’s really nerve-wracking, especially when everyone hit so well in the beginning,” she said. “I just tried to stay calm and focused and tried not to worry about what the others did. When I first came off, I didn’t think I’d won. It wasn’t as good as I usually do it. I was surprised.”
Atler used her new floor routine to join an elite group of women’s gymnasts who have won two golds in a single Goodwill Games, including American Shannon Miller (beam and floor in 1994) and Vera Kolesnikova (all-around and beam in 1986), Yelena Shushunova (floor, vault and bars in 1986) at Natalya Kalinina (all-around, bars and floor in 1990), all of the former Soviet Union.
“I expected to medal, but I wasn’t sure, especially since Simona (Amanar) did a really great routine,” said Atler. “This is a good confidence builder for the Sydney Olympic Games and the upcoming John Hancock U.S. Championships.” Reigning world champion Svetlana Khorkina stepped out of bounds on one of her final tumbling passes and slipped to seventh place.
Gymnastics competition continues Thursday with the men’s individual event finals in parallel bars and high bar and the rhythmic gymnastics all-around.

Individual Event Finals

Women’s Balance Beam
1, Kristen Maloney, Pen Argyl, Pa., 9.775. 2, Olga Teslenko, Ukraine, 9.725. 3, Corina Ungureanu, Romania, 9.700. 4, Zeena McLaughlin, Australia, 9.675. 5, Yevgenia Kuznetsova, Russia, 9.650. 6, Simona Amanar, Romania, 9.600. 7, Ling Jie, China, 9.250. 8, Anna Kovaleva, Russia, 8.800.

Women’s Floor Exercise

1, Vanessa Atler, Canyon Country, Calif., 9.775. 2, Simona Amanar, Romania, 9.725. 3, Corina Ungureanu, Romania, 9.650. 4, Meng Fei, China, 9.525. 5, Yelena Produnova, Russia, 9.250. 6, Olga Teslenko, Ukraine, 9.075. 7, Svetlana Khorkina, Russia, 8.975. 8, Zeena McLaughlin, Australia, 8.900.

Men’s Still Rings

1, Chris LaMorte, Long Island, N.Y., 9.700. 2 (tie), Ivan Ivankov, Belarus, and Aleksei Bondarenko, Russia, 9.675. 4, Blaine Wilson, Columbus, Ohio, 9.650. 5, Szilveszter Csollany, Hungary, 9.625. 6, Huang Xu, 9.575. 7, Roman Zozulya, Ukraine, 9.525. 8, Dimosthensis Tambakos, Greece, 9.100.

Men’s Vault

1, Sergei Fedorchenko, KAZ, 9.650. 2, Nikolai Kryukov, Russia, 9.600. 3, Eric Lopez Rios, Cuba, 9.575. 4, Vasile Cioana, Romania, 9.562. 5, Aleksei Nemov, Russia, 9.487. 6, Chris Young, Winston-Salem, N.C., 9.450. 7, Lu Yufu, China, 9.387. 8, Sean Townsend, Houston, Texas, 9.075.