Olympic Coach Don Peters wanted to go home and cry; not-Olympic Coach Bela Karolyi says he's going to go home and stay home; and Missy Marlowe, well, she's already home.
Home free.As in 1988 Olympic Team Member.
She made it.
Right there in her home arena, the Salt Palace, before 9,506 gymnastics fans in the U.S. Olympic women's gymnastics trials, Marlowe was the sixth and final qualifier for the Olympic team Saturday afternoon.
She had the second-best all-around score of the optional event Saturday, 39.189.
Only the big winner, Phoebe Mills of Karolyi's club in Houston, did better, 39.651, which she said was probably one of her best ever. Mills added it's what she thinks she might have scored in international competition in another country with the same routines - in other words, it was fair and right and an indicator of what she might be able to score in Seoul.
Mills scored 9.938 in vaulting, 9.90 on bars, 9.963 on floor and ended with a 9.85 on beam in Saturday's optional round.
As for Marlowe, well, "That's my first 39 ever," she said. Marlowe was already beaming up one side and down the other after having bought herself an expense-paid trip to Seoul, South Korea, for next month's Olympics.
The rest of the Olympic women's team will include Kelly Garrison-Steves, Hope Spivey and four more Karolyi Kids - Brandy Johnson, Chelle Stack, Rhonda Faehn and Kristie Phillips. The first six are actual team members and can't be replaced unless there's an injury. Faehn and Phillips are alternates.
Marlowe did it with room to spare. Marlowe's total for the three competitions that made up the Olympic-team qualifying process was 77.046, counting the Houston Championships of the USA score (76.220) as 40 percent of the total score and the Olympic trials (77.597) as 60 percent of the total score, with the compulsory round counting 60 percent and the optional round counting 40 percent of that.
Seventh-place Faehn of Karolyi's finished with a overall factored score of 76.810, .236 point behind Marlowe.
Marlowe, who had jumped from 11th after the Houston meet to sixth following the compulsories Thursday, engaged in a Saturday-afternoon scoring duel with Faehn. In the first event of the day, Faehn scored 9.85 on uneven bars, and Marlowe ripped off a 9.863 vault, usually her poorest event. Feahn came back with a 10.0 vault in the second rotation, and Marlowe scored 9.913 on uneven bars, her favorite event.
Faehn scored 9.588 on beam, not one of her best events, and Marlowe got 9.75 in floor exercise. Marlowe, with her second-poorest event, beam, to finish on, was as steady as she's ever been. She scored 9.663 and leaped into the arms of her coaches, choreographer Tammy Biggs and head coach Mark Lee of Rocky Mountain Gymnastics. She had only to wait for Faehn on floor. Faehn scored 9.675.
And Marlowe took sixth place overall. Marlowe then went into a secluded corner and hugged her mother Jeannine, and both of them cried a long time.
"Missy had the meet of her life," said Lee. "I've never seen her better. She picked the right time to do it.
"Beam has always been her nemesis. Tonight it wasn't," Lee said.
Marlowe said her terrific meet was not so much a product of being at home with so many people supporting her. It was more that, "I knew I couldn't make any mistakes," she said. She said she went all-out on beam and did one of her best-ever floor exercises. The floor total was low enough that Lee made an official inquiry about it. "It could have been a 5.0," Marlowe said, "and I wouldn't have felt any different."
Mills' total factored score was 78.572.
Garrison-Steves, who was second coming out of Houston, remained there solidly throughout the competition in Salt Lake City, which she considers a second home since she's performed for the University of Oklahoma in so many collegiate meets here. She totaled 78.891 with a 38.739 Saturday after a 39.401 in Thursday's compulsories.
Third-place Spivey totaled 77.520, and Johnson scored 77.491. Stack beat Marlowe by .209, scoring 77.255.
Mills kept cool throughout the compulsories and optionals, sticking to a plan that calls for her to concentrate solely on herself. "I was completely focused on what I have to do because this is it," she said. "It's really a personal thing. When I'm myself and focused is when I do the best."
Still, she will be happy to have so many of her Karolyi's teammates with her to train and travel to Seoul. "We all support each other very much," she says.
The Karolyi Kids' coach still says he won't go to Seoul because he can't be on the floor with his athletes - he's not the head or assistant coach and so he won't have credentials; his wife, Martha, is the assistant and will be there. Karolyi also said he won't go to training camp in Huntington Beach, Calif., a week from now because he can't help the kids anymore there either. If they call and ask him to come to help with a specific problem, he will come, he said.
Karolyi, who defected from Romania five years ago, said his responsibility to train the youngsters has ended. "I done it to the very end. My obligation is finished here," Karolyi said, adding he's turning them over to Peters.
Mills said whatever Karolyi does, he does it for a reason, and it's all right with her.
It's all right with Peters, too, because he's hoping to gradually pull the eight individuals together as a team through training weeks at his SCATS club. "That's the way I wanted to see it done all along, even when Greg (University of Utah Coach Marsden) was coach," said Peters, who replaced Marsden as Olympic coach after Marsden resigned for good in January.
What isn't all right with Peters is what happened to the three girls he trained at his SCATS club. Two of them, Sabrina Mar and Doe Yamashiro, pulled out of the competition before Saturday's round. Mar's chronic back problems were bothering her and she didn't have a good enough score to force the issue. Yamashiro had been seventh going into Saturday's meet but aggravated an old ankle sprain and didn't compete.
The third SCAT, Stacey Gunthorpe, finished 11th overall but came into the Salt Lake competition in fifth place.
"I want to go home and cry. I feel horrible," said Peters, who stayed and answered every controversial question.