To the squeals of "Mighty Mouse" from her teammates, Britney Young took center stage at the SUSC Centrum during Monday's opening day at the 1988 Summer Games and performed her gymnastic floor routine.
No matter that it lasted only 30 seconds nor that it was a pre-determiend compulsory routine set to the same music - "As Time Goes By" from the movie "Casablanca" - for every competitor Monday.While the music may have become somewhat monotonous - play it again, Sam, and again and again - and the skill levels were obviously in early development, Monday's competition with the young, novice gymnasts was a display of amateur athletics at the grassroots level. Or better yet, at the knee-high-to-a-grasshopper level.
In other words, it was youngsters with budding talent and nonstop enthusiasm competing in a sport boasting of increased participation.
With most of Monday's activities hampered by late-afternoon thunderstorms, the opening-day gymnastics proceeded without many flaws. Oh, there were the head-on collisions with the vaults, the need to be helped up to the uneven bars or helped back onto the beam - but that's as normal at Class IV gymnastics as tears of disappointment and applause from partisan parents.
Eric Gunnerson, coach at Wasatch Gymnastics in Logan and gymnastics coordinator for the 1988 Summer Games, remembers having a total of 22 gymnasts participate in the inaugural competition two years ago. This year, the sessions quickly filled with nearly 300 competitors, with Gunnerson having to turn away 80-plus hopefuls whose misfortune was merely being the last to register.
One reason for the increased participation is that the competition has been expanded to include all lower levels - not just the Elite and Class I gymnasts. Boys will be competing this year for the first time, and Gunnerson hopes that collegiate gymnasts will be included in the near future.
But the real reason for the big numbers is the high-profile attention gymnastics received in the 1984 Summer Olympics. The popularizing of the sport, thanks to what Gunnerson refers to as the Mary Lou Retton syndrome, is still being felt four years later. "She was the eighth wonder of the world for a while there."
For most of the young gymnasts, their participation in the sport will probably be at the club level, possibly never advancing to scholastic, collegiate, Class I or Elite levels. "And if they don't ever compete in the Summer Games again, this will be the neatest meet they have ever competed in."
That's why when Young - her "Mighty Mouse" nickname partially the result of her school-record 16 pull-ups as a 4-foot, 46-pound third-grader - rejoined her teammates from USA Gymnastics World of Woods Cross, the between-event conversation centered on lounging in the lodge's hot tub and watching television to see if they might appear on the news later that night.