WMU News

U.S. men's gymnastics has medal potential

Sept. 12, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- The U.S. women's gymnastics team generates most of the headlines, but this year's men's team is definitely in contention for a medal, says Dr. Fred C. Orlofsky, a WMU associate professor of health, physical education and recreation and a former Olympic gymnastics athlete and judge.

"This is probably the best team that has been put together since 1984," says Orlofsky, a judge at three key meets preceding the Olympics, which helped determine who qualified for this year's team. "The U.S. men's team won in 1984--which of course was a boycotted year and not all the countries were there--but we did very well in Los Angeles."

The U.S. men have experienced a medal drought since then, but Orlofsky says the 2000 men's team is in the running for a bronze medal.

"The team is strong enough and has enough experience," he says. "But there's always a little luck involved. The Chinese look very strong. I don't think anyone can beat them."

Orlofsky says Russia probably will win the silver, which leaves the U.S. team vying with several other countries for bronze. Those include Belarus, the Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Japan and Korea.

Whatever the outcome, Orlofsky says, the level of performance by gymnasts is much higher than when he competed in the 1960 Olympics in Rome. Some of that has to do with improved equipment, from better mats and spring-mounted floors for floor exercises to high-tech high bars and more advanced ring suspension. But the athletes themselves are much better prepared mentally, Orlofsky says. When he was a competitor, the Olympics might have been an athlete's first international competition.

"Now the people on a team have had three, four, five or more experiences competing internationally," Orlofsky says, "which is what you need. You need that experience to do well in the bigger competitions."

Media contact: Marie Lee, 616 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu

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