LAUSANNE, Switzerland — The United States men’s gymnastics squad demonstrated that it belongs among the elite teams in the world by putting up a valiant struggle for the bronze medal before finishing in fifth place in the team finals at the 1997 World Gymnastics Championships, held Thursday evening in the Malley Sports Center.

The USA women’s team, also competing in the team finals, took sixth earlier in the evening.
“This is the best performance I’ve seen from an American men’s team, including the gold medal team in Los Angeles in ‘84,” said head coach Peter Kormann (Columbus, Ohio). “We hit every routine but one, and we didn’t have to use it. That’s nearly unheard of. If you go to the next ten World Championships, you won’t see a team that misses only one set. It’s unbelieveable!”
After the third rotation, the USA was third, a position it held entering the sixth and final rotation. There the lack of more difficult skills caught up with the USA, as it was overtaken by Russia and Belarus.
“We started out four points behind the Russian in start values,” said Kormann. “To come as close as we did to them after starting with that kind of deficit is amazing. We couldn’t have done any better. It was one of the best team performances I’ve ever seen, of any country. We just need to get a little more difficulty, and we’ll be in there.”
“I’m so psyched,” said veteran John Roethlisberger (Minneapolis, Minn.), a member of the 1996 Olympic Team which placed fifth. “It’s tough being that close to a medal again, especially after ‘96, but at the same time, it’s so exciting because you can see a shift in the power of the world. We’ve been in the team finals solidly for the past three years, and now we’re inching closer to that bronze medal. I’m so pumped, I can’t wait to get back to the gym and I can’t wait to be part of another awesome American team.” A two-time Olympian competing in his fourth World Championships, Roethlisberger has matched USA legend Bart Conner for the number of Olympics and World Championships in which he has competed.
The USA was led by two-time national champion Blaine Wilson (Columbus, Ohio). His 9.587 on still rings was the highest score of the evening in the event, and only three other gymnasts (two from China) surpassed his 9.600 on the parallel bars. His all-around score of 56.548 was second only to the 57.385 by China’s Zhang Jinjing.
“Blaine was awesome,” said Kormann, who coached Wilson to back-to-back NCAA individual all-around titles at Ohio State. “He didn’t have one form break. The entire team was awesome. John Macready (Los Angeles, Calif.) was the best he’s been. He’s been hurt all year.”
In women’s competition, the young American squad showed improvement, but ended up in sixth place.
“We finished a little better than we started,” said head coach Mary Lee Tracy (Cincinnati, Ohio). “I thought our performance was good, but not great — similar to Monday (during qualifying competition). I think these girls presented themselves well. They represented their country well. They were a little tired and a little sore today, but they went out there and they tried their best.”
Tracy was pleased with the performance of Kristin Maloney (Pen Argyl, Pa.), who posted the highest USA scores in vault (9.556) and beam (9.537).
“She did a great job for the team,” Tracy noted. “Kristy Powell (Cincinnati, Ohio) also did a great job — she did much better on floor today. Everybody had some really high things and some really low things, so everything averaged out to be pretty good.”
Wilson, Maloney, Powell and 1996 Olympian Dominique Moceanu (Houston, Texas), will compete Friday in the individual all-around finals. Mohini Bhardwaj, Altamonte Springs, Fla., will compete in the vault indiviudal event finals on Saturday, while Maloney competes in the individual finals in balance beam on Sunday.

Men’s Team Final Results

1, China, 226.117. 2, Belarus, 221.568. 3, Russia, 220.682. 4, Japan, 220.643. 5, United States (Mike Dutka, Fairless Hills, Pa.; Jason Gatson, Mesa, Ariz.; John Macready, Los Angeles, Calif.; John Roethlisberger, Minneapolis, Minn.; Jay Thornton, Augusta, Ga.; Blaine Wilson, Columbus, Ohio), 219.806. 6, Germany, 217.834.

USA Men’s Individual Scoring

Floor Exercise — Dutka, 9.187. Gatson, 9.062. Macready, 9.062. Thornton, 9.225. Wilson, 9.112.
Pommel Horse — Dutka, 8.775. Gatson, 8.650. Macready, 8.612. Roethlisberger, 9.050. Wilson, 9.587.
Still Rings — Gatson, 8.775. Roethlisberger, 8.937. Thornton, 8.950. Wilson, 9.525.
Vault — Dutka, 9.512. Gatson, 9.500. Roethlisberger, 9.450. Thornton, 9.175. Wilson, 9.525.
Parallel Bars — Dutka, 8.800. Gatson, 9.375. Roethlisberger, 8.800. Thornton, 9.112. Wilson, 9.600.
High Bars — Gatson, 8.375. Macready, 9.087. Roethlisberger, 9.087. Thornton, 8.637. Wilson, 9.437.

Women’s Team Final Results

1, Romania, 153.720. 2, Russia, 153.197. 3, China, 152.001. 4, Ukraine, 150.803. 5, France, 148.369. 6, United States (Kendall Beck, San Antonio, Texas; Mohini Bhardwaj, Altamonte Springs, Fla.; Kristin Maloney, Pen Argyl, Pa.; Dominique Moceanu, Houston, Texas; Kristy Powell, Cincinnati, Ohio; Jenny Thompson, Wichita Falls, Texas), 147.897.

USA Women’s Individual Scoring

Vault — Beck, 9.450. Bhardwaj, 9.450. Maloney, 9.556. Moceanu, 9.093. Powell, 9.231.
Uneven Bars — Bhardwaj, 8.775. Maloney, 9.287. Moceanu, 8.800. Powell, 9.350. Thompson, 8.175.
Balance Beam — Beck, 9.387. Maloney, 9.537. Moceanu, 8.637. Powell, 9.075. Thompson, 8.000.
Floor Exercise — Beck, 9.225. Maloney, 8.700. Moceanu, 9.512. Powell, 9.125. Thompson, 9.500.