Big Decisions, Olympics, Chocolate Ice Cream, and Dreams Come True

1996 women's gymnastics team

I made a big decision that summer.

My parents gave me the choice to go back to camp with my old friends or go to camp earlier in the summer—with all new people—so I could be home to watch the 1996 Olympics. In my hometown.  For an 11-year-old who did not easily make friends coupled with my indecisive nature, the decision kept me awake night after night. Camp friends were known. The Olympics were primarily unknown and I didn’t know what to expect.  

It was my first ‘big’ decision I remember making all by myself.

I finally decided to go to camp earlier in the summer in order to experience the whirlwind of excitement and national pride the Olympics brought that summer.  I was fully prepared with my Olympic rings t-shirt, visor and my key chain that proudly jingled from my monogrammed backpack.

It was a coming of age sort of summer.

My dad got tickets for us to several events, where we drank overpriced Icees and chanted, “USA! USA! USA!” with the crowd. My sisters and I got to break bedtime rules and would pile on my grandmother’s couch and watch the athletes. I think I had a bowl of ice cream every night, as the dessert rules disappeared along with our bedtime.

The best part of the 1996 summer Olympics was watching the US women’s gymnastics team, The Magnificent Seven, win gold. The Soviet Union had remained undefeated since 1950—and the world seemed to be watching as the American team showed they had what it took to win gold. The seven members of the team were Shannon Miller, Dominique Moceanu, Dominique Dawes, Kerri Strug, Amy Chow, Amanda Borden, and Jaycie Phelps. I’d never seen anything like their tiny, muscular bodies launching across the uneven bars, doing elaborate floor routines, catapulting over the vault—and was truly captivated by their performance.  

My family and I were glued to the TV when Kerri Strug Kerri Strug injured her ankle in the first vault—and no one breathed as she limped off the mat. We nervously watched as she went up for her second vault—knowing she had to stick it in order to win gold. But on an injured ankle? It just wasn’t possible. Then the impossible became possible as Kerri stuck the landing ON ONE FOOT. Do you remember when her coach carried her off the mat? What a triumphant victory! Here’s the video:

I watched this moment as an awkward 11-year-old with frizzy hair—I felt Kerri’s pain and her joy. I saw determination and drive that I wanted to emulate in my life. It was like she whispered from the mat to me, “You can do anything you set your mind to. Dreams do come true.”

 A summer of big decisions, Olympics, chocolate ice cream, and dreams come true—I can’t imagine a better way to peer into the world of adulthood.

Have you been watching the Olympics this year? Do you remember 1996 when the Magnificent Seven won gold?

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12 Responses to “Big Decisions, Olympics, Chocolate Ice Cream, and Dreams Come True”
  1. Yes, Ruthie…I remember! (And I won’t tell you how old I was. ;) ) I remember sitting spellbound with my family and watching all the girls, especially little Kerri Strug. She gave new definition to the word “brave.” What an inspiration! I still have the yellowed newspaper clipping–even after all these years! I wonder where the “Magnificent Seven” are today.

    Great post!

    • Ruthie Dean says:

      Hi Cynthia! Sorry for my delay in response. I LOVE that you still have the newspaper clipping. I heard that Kari recently had her first baby! And she’s a big marathon runner.

  2. Annie Hall says:

    I remember! That video makes me tear up every time!! I was 7 that summer… my parents took me to Atlanta for a few events, and we watched everything else on TV (with the best video quality our rabbit ears could muster, haha)… that was the year I got hooked on the Olympics… been in love with the Summer and Winter Olympics ever since!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    ’96 was the first year I was old enough to appreciate the Olympics and really get into them (I was 8). The Keri Strug moment was definitely the pinnacle of it all. No little girl who witnessed that event was unmoved by it… seeing the replay brings tears to my eyes to this day. I have been in love with the Olympics ever since.
    Thanks for the walk down memory lane!

  4. Jessica says:

    Oh I so remember, I would have been 14. I have been talking all week about that exact story, struggling to remeber Kerri Struggs last name. Every time I have brought it up years have come to my eyes! It was such a powerful moment of strength, determination, joy, pride, tenderness (coach carrying her off) and above all the awesomeness of God. Anything is possible with him. Watching the girls this year and especially Gabby and her amazing Faith has just been so wary lifting! I just love your blog. On mornings I find one in my inbox I delete all my junk mail and save that one email for my morning break!!! Thank you!!

    • Ruthie Dean says:

      Hi Jessica! Thanks for commenting. I love that you remember that moment and see the awesomeness of God portrayed. Thank you for reading my blog. Truly thankful it brings encouragement!

  5. L says:

    I know what you mean about the excitement! I have been glued to the TV watching and enjoying the amazing success my country has had. Luckily my family got tickets so we went at the weekend- such a ‘once in a lifetime’ thing to have it at home!

  6. Natalie Zhaoying Han says:

    I have not watched a lot of games, but I’ve heard some amazing stories in Olympics, this is such an encouraging story!

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