|— Gymnast —|
|Country represented||United States|
|Born||May 15, 1978|
|Hometown||San Jose, California|
|Discipline||Women's artistic gymnastics|
|Years on national team||8 (1990-97 & 1999-2001)|
|Club||West Valley Gymnastics School|
|Eponymous skills||Chow/Khorkina, Chow II|
Amy Yuen Yee Chow (Chinese: 周婉儀; pinyin: Zhōu Wǎnyí; born May 15, 1978) is a retired American gymnast and a member of the famous Magnificent Seven, the first American team to win Olympic gymnastics gold. Chow was coached by Mark Young and was the first Asian American woman to take an Olympic medal in her sport.
Chow was born to Nelson and Susan Chow, who had immigrated to the United States from Shanghai and Hong Kong respectively.
Chow began gymnastics training in 1981 at the age of 3. Her mother Susan wanted her daughter to be a ballerina and tried enrolling her in ballet schools, none of which would take a child that young. She then signed Amy up for classes at West Valley Gymnastics School in Campbell, California, where she joined an accelerated program at the age of 5, training under Mark Young and Diane Amos for her entire career. Her younger brother, Kevin, was also a gymnast.
At 11 years old, Chow became the first gymnast to reach Elite level in the school. She began competing in national and international competitions in 1990.
Her very first international competition as a part of the US gymnastics team was the 1994 World Championships at Dortmund, Germany. This proved to be a memorable experience as she overcame her nerves after a poor showing in preliminaries (she fell from the vault twice and thrice on a single balance beam routine) to perform admirably at the team finals, playing a great part in helping the team clinch a silver medal. The poor showing of the team at the preliminaries was also attributed to the sudden departure of Shannon Miller, the anchor of the team.
Another notable competition Chow took part in as part of the national team was the 1995 Pan American Games, where she was part of the gold-medal winning team and also clinched a gold in the Vault, silver in the Uneven Bars and bronze in the All-Around. Chow also made it to the team for the 1995 World Championships, but had to forgo that because of a sprained ankle sustained just days before the competition.
Chow is primarily known for her performance at the 1996 Olympics where she won a silver medal on her favorite event, the Uneven Bars, and a team gold. She nearly missed a spot in the team when she fell off the beam during the Olympic Trials, scraping her face on the side of the beam, but getting up to complete the routine despite the obvious pain. Although Chow only participated in the Uneven Bars and Vault events at the Olympic team finals, sitting out the Floor Exercise and Balance Beam, her performance took her to a career high. In the Bars event finals, she completed a very difficult routine with an almost flawless dismount, scoring a 9.837. She even edged out the more experienced Dawes to clinch an event final silver. Chow shared the medal with Bi Wen Jing of China, although the commentators felt Chow should not have had to share the medal with Bi as the latter made a glaring mistake that the judges did not take into account. Post '96, Chow and the rest of her Magnificent Seven teammates went on many tours and performed in numerous shows such as the John Hancock Tour.
She also competed in the 2000 Summer Olympics. Chow's decision to make a comeback and try for a shot at her second Olympics was something she never managed to verbalize quite so clearly. She contacted Mark Young and asked him to train her for it; he relented despite the fact that he was already retired by then as her dedication and determination touched him. Chow juggled rigorous hours back at the gym with her medical research work back at Stanford, where she was working at her Biology undergraduate degree. She even took time off school for this. Chow was not the only member of the Magnificent Seven who decided to try for a spot in the 2000 Olympics team. Dominique Dawes, Dominique Moceanu, Shannon Miller and Jaycie Phelps also shared Chow's sentiments and tried out. In the end however, only Chow and Dawes made it to the team, with the rest not making the cut due to personal injuries. Chow proved she was in top form by qualifying second in the All-Around of the Olympic Trials. She was also named by Béla Károlyi as one of three leaders in the 2000 team, the other two being Elise Ray and Jamie Dantzscher. The team initially placed fourth at the team finals. Chow, however, qualified to the all-around finals where she was the second-ranked American woman, finishing in fourteenth place.
On April 28, 2010, Chow and the other women on the 2000 Olympic team were awarded the bronze medal in the team competition when it was discovered that the previous medal winners, the Chinese team, had falsified the age of team member Dong Fangxiao. As a result of the falsification, Dong's results were nullified, and the Chinese team was stripped of the medal by the IOC. The FIG originally submitted a recommendation to the IOC on February 27, 2010, that the United States team be awarded the bronze medal after recommending the fourth-place United States team be moved to third place in the team competition after disqualifying China for violating the minimum age violation, advancing her age by three years and three days. This violation was found in 2008 when Dong was a judge at the vaulting competition. To this, Chow has said that while the team was disappointed with their fourth place finish in 2000, she nevertheless felt bad for the Chinese team as the latter worked as hard as them to medal.
Other gymnastics highlights
Chow has two gymnastic moves named after her, the "Chow/Khorkina" (Stalder 1½ pirouette) and the "Chow II" (Stalder to Shaposhnikova). She was nicknamed "the Trickster" within the gymnastics community for her extreme difficulty on each apparatus and her ability to perform complicated skills with apparent ease. She was the first American woman to perform both the double-twisting Yurchenko and the tucked double-double dismount on bars in international competition. Chow also competed one of the most difficult balance beam routines ever performed. It consists of a standing piked full, flic-flac, layout, flic-flac, layout series, a full-twisting swing down, and a round-off, flic-flac, triple full dismount. Despite being a very reserved person of few words and one who always preferred being out of the limelight (this resulted in a more subdued stage presence as compared to her more gregarious Magnificent Seven teammates), Chow gained the respect and admiration of many a gymnastics fan with her pure talent and penchant for perfecting the most difficult routines on any apparatus. She maintained a competition-level standard of difficulty in all her routines even in gala shows and tours.
In addition to her gymnastic career, Chow is also a pianist. In 1994, she received an advanced level certificate of merit for piano. In high school she was also a competitive diver for Castilleja School, continuing with the sport even at Stanford. Chow has been a pole vaulter, and has competed as an unattached athlete at "open" track and field events in the discipline. Because she received money following the 1996 Olympic Games, she was ineligible to be a collegiate athlete.
Career and personal life
As of August 2008[update], she was a pediatrics resident at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford. She is licensed as a physician and surgeon. She married Jason Ho, an orthopedic surgeon, on July 10, 2010 in Saratoga, California. Upon completion of her residency at Lucile Packard in June 2010, she set up private practice as a general pediatrician in northern California, where she lives with her husband.
Awards and recognition
Chow was inducted into the U.S. Gymnastics Hall of Fame twice; in 1998 in her capacity as a member of the 1996 U.S. gymnastics team, and again in 2005 in her individual capacity. In 2004, she was inducted into the San Jose, California Sports Hall of Fame.
In spring 2003, Chow was nominated a fellow by The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans, based on her achievements and personal merits. She was also a recipient of the Outstanding Overseas Chinese Award.
In 2008, Chow was inducted into the United States Olympic Hall of Fame in the team category, alongside the rest of the Magnificent Seven. The team received their award in Chicago with other Olympic greats.
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