Golden lesson

Kerri Strug smiles as she watches the class practice Monday.

As members of the Morgan Hill Gymnastics Club anxiously awaited
the arrival of Olympic gold medalist Kerri Strug
MORGAN HILL – As members of the Morgan Hill Gymnastics Club anxiously awaited the arrival of Olympic gold medalist Kerri Strug, one young gymnast could hardly wait – hopping back and forth from the entrance way to the waiting room asking, “Is Kerri Strug here yet?”

That was the question of the day on Monday until Strug finally arrived in Morgan Hill for a special one-hour lesson – which was auctioned off on the E-Bay web site.

Brian Anthony’s last-minute bid of $405 took the prize. Anthony did it for his five-year-old daughter Jessica – who has been in gymnastics for two years and is a part of the local club. Although the original agreement was for a two-person lesson, Strug – who helped the U.S team clinch its first ever Olympic Gold medal in 1996 – said she would be honored to work with Jessica’s five-member mini team.

“The number one goal was to foster gymnastics to this community,” said Tharien Bramhall, who opened Morgan Hill Gymnastics in 1996. “Bringing her in here brings a little a little more interest to the community.”

The girls started their session as usual but this one time Strug led them through their warm-up routine and helped them along the way with their form. The session consisted of practice runs on the uneven bar, the balance beam and the trampoline. Strug assisted them over the bar, showed them the proper forms of landing, and encouraged their work.

“(In) everything you want you’re best form. Always,” said Strug to the aspiring young gymnasts.

Throughout the lesson many of the parents took photos and video recorded the girls with the 1992 Olympic bronze medalist. The parents were just as excited as their kids about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“She ís really excited. You can’t put it in words,” said Brian Anthony of his daughter’s reaction.

Jessica added: “I liked it when Kerri came. I was happy.”

The girls kept asking to work on the beam so they even cut their bar routine short. On the beams, Strug talked through each routine, showing the girls the proper form to use. The girls also learned a few new things from Strug.

“We learned the trampoline and how to turn,” said Nicole Quinones, a six-year-old mini team member.

After the private lesson that lasted over the allotted one hour, Strug autographed all the items that the gymnasts brought in such as books on the Olympian and the students’ Morgan Hill Gymnastics shirts.

“She went over a lot of basics and made them look really clean,” Morgan Hill Gym Club Coach Maria Ohlson said.

Strug, 24, who is now a second-grade teacher in the Bay Area, does a number of clinics over the summer. Strug, a member of the Bay Area Olympic Committee, donated the one-hour session as way to help with the bid for the 2012 Olympic Games to be in San Francisco – which is a finalista along with New York City.

“It ís really important for me to try other things,” Strug said. “I definitely love the sport gymnastics.”

Strug, a Stanford University graduate, won the gold in the 1996 Games while nursing an injured ankle; took bronze at the 1995 World Championships; took silver at the 1994 Team World Championships; and was a 1992 Olympic bronze medalist.