Rounding Off: Shannon Miller reflects on 25 year anniversary of Magnificent Seven

Plus, 'All Around' returns, Oleg Verniaiev speaks, Giorgia Villa out of Tokyo and a look back at Romania from Sydney 2000

By Scott Bregman

A week from today, as the Tokyo 2020 Olympics get underway with the Opening Ceremony, the date, July 23, will also mark another important milestone: 25 years since Team USA’s women’s gymnastics team won its first-ever Olympic team gold medal at Atlanta 1996.

“It’s hard to believe it's been 25 years, but I'm feeling really old at this point,” joked Shannon Miller, who was part of that Magnificent Seven team in Atlanta, during an exclusive interview with “I think looking back, obviously some of my biggest memories are standing up there with my teammates, seeing the American flag being raised and trying to understand that we actually won a gold medal.

“It seemed a little bit surreal at the time,” Miller continued, “and I think for many years after.”

Despite the years, Miller clearly remembers her team’s triumph in Atlanta and the pressure that came with going for gold on home soil.

“I remember walking into the arena for the first time, really during the compulsory round. You have this packed arena, the loudest thing I've ever heard, flashbulbs going off, red, white and blue, the support and the love that you felt. It was just absolutely insane,” she said. “I think for me coming through in the team competition, hitting all eight events was so important to me. Everything else was icing. I just needed to hit for the team, and that's a lot of pressure that you put on yourself.”

Miller, who won five medals at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 before taking two golds four years later, is currently the most decorated Olympic gymnast in U.S. history. That’s a record Simone Biles is likely to break at the Tokyo Games in 2021.

So, it perfect made sense that Miller and 1996 team captain Amanda Borden announced to the crowd and on live television the U.S. women’s Olympic team last month at the U.S. trials in St. Louis.

“It was one of the greatest honors that I've had in my career to be able to announce the next Olympic team. It was something that I never imagined I would have the opportunity to do,” said Miller, “and I wanted so badly to do such a good job to really celebrate these athletes and how hard they've worked, especially during this very challenging, very uncertain, difficult year and a half that they've just been through.”

All Around is back!

In case you missed it, the Olympic Channel original series All Around is returning next week, with a new episode premiering Tuesday, 20 July. The series follows 2019 World all-around bronze medallist Angelina Melnikova, 2017 World all-around champion Morgan Hurd, and 2018 Asian Games champion Chen Yile.

Watch the episode trailer below.

Oleg Verniaiev reveals reasoning behind suspension

Last week, as the Ukrainian Olympic Committee named its Tokyo team, one name was conspicuously missing: Oleg Verniaiev. The 27-year-old is the reigning Olympic champion on parallel bars and finished with the silver medal to Uchimura Kohei in the men’s all-around final, but his status at Tokyo 2020 has been in doubt since his name appeared on the International Gymnastics Federation’s suspended list late last year.

Monday, Verniaiev addressed the issue on Instagram.

“The FIG arbitration decided that the concentration of meldonium that was found in my body is sufficient to disqualify me for four years,” the post read, in part. “This means that I will not go to the Olympics.”

With Verniaiev's absence, the four men who will compete for Ukraine are Igor Radivilov, Petro Pakhniuk, Yevhen Yudenkov, and Illia Kovtun. In women's gymnastics, Diana Varinska qualified by name to the Olympics based off her performances at the 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart, Germany.

2018 Youth Olympic champion Giorgia Villa out after injury

Giorgia Villa, who claimed all-around, vault, and floor exercise gold medals at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, will miss the Tokyo Games. The 18-year-old claimed her third Italian national title over the weekend; however, she suffered an ankle injury in the process. After 48 hours of evaluation, the Italian Gymnastics Federation announced that injury would keep her from the Olympics.

In her place, Vanessa Ferrari, the 2006 World all-around champion, will move from individual competitor to team member. Lara Mori, who finished runner-up in the International Gymnastics Federation’s apparatus World Cup series to Ferrari on floor exercise, will now compete as an individual.

From the vault…

This week, we take a look back at the legendary Romanian women on floor exercise from Sydney 2000’s team final. The team won the gold medal, led by Simona Amanar in this rotation who scored 9.775.