|— Gymnast —|
|Full name||Elizabeth Anna Okino|
|Country represented||United States|
June 4, 1975 |
|Discipline||Women's artistic gymnastics|
|Head coach(es)||Bela Karolyi|
|Eponymous skills||Okino (balance beam and uneven bars)|
Born in Entebbe, Uganda, Okino moved to the United States with her family and began gymnastics at the relatively late age of 9. By 1988, only four years later, she had progressed to the elite level, placing 17th at that year's junior U.S. National Championships. In 1990 Okino moved to Houston to train with Marta and Béla Károlyi. She placed second in the all-around and won the balance beam title at the 1990 U.S. Nationals; and represented the United States at several major international meets, including the Goodwill Games, where she won a silver medal with the American team and finished fourth in the all-around and uneven bars finals. Okino was part of the U.S. team for the 1991 World Gymnastics Championships, winning a silver medal in team finals and a bronze on the balance beam. She also won the 1991 American Cup.
Okino continued to succeed in 1992, winning a silver medal on the bars at the 1992 Worlds. However, serious injuries to her spine forced her to miss both the 1992 U.S. Nationals and Olympic Trials. In spite of this, she was added to the U.S. team for the 1992 Olympics based on her performance at a second, private trial for U.S. Gymnastics Federation officials and coaches. She helped the American team win their first Olympic team medal, a bronze, in a fully attended Games, aqualified for the balance beam event final and placed 12th in the all-around.
Personal life and last years
Her mother, Aurelia Matei, is a native of Romania and her father, Francis Okino, is Ugandan. Her father met her Romanian mother while studying veterinary medicine in Bucharest. Betty is fluent in Romanian. This skill came in handy in the gym and international competitions, where she could tell her teammates what was being said about them by their coaches and the Romanian gymnasts. When the Karolyis discovered Okino understood Romanian, they switched to speaking Hungarian in the gym.
Following her retirement from gymnastics, Okino became involved in show business. She has performed with Seaworld and has appeared in many television shows and films, including Moesha, Æon Flux and Undressed.
Known for her long lines and balletic style, Okino introduced an original move on beam; a triple pirouette. The element is called "The Okino" in the Code of Points and is rated at a high difficulty level. Okino also has an uneven bars dismount named for her in the Code, a clear hip underswing with a half twist to a layout salto.
- Phil Hersh, "For Moves, Local Gymnast Special", Chicago Tribune, July 18, 1990.
- Kenny Moore, "Balance Of Power", Sports Illustrated, August 6, 1990.