Mohini Bhardwaj

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Mohini Bhardwaj
— Gymnast —
Nickname(s) Mo
Country represented United States
Born (1978-09-29) September 29, 1978 (age 36)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Discipline Women's artistic gymnastics
Level Senior International
Years on national team 8 (1992-98, 2001-02, 2004)
Club All Olympia Gymnastics Center, Brown's
College team UCLA
Former coach(es) Chris Waller, Galina Marinova, Val Kondos-Field, Rita Brown
Eponymous skills Bhardwaj (uneven bar)
Retired 2005

Mohini Bhardwaj (born September 29, 1978) is a retired American gymnast who competed at the 1997 and 2001 World Championships and earned a team silver medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. She is the first Indian-American gymnast, and the second Indian-American athlete overall, ever to medal at the Olympics.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

Mohini Bhardwaj was born on September 29, 1978, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to parents Indu and Kaushal. She has one younger brother, Arun. Bhardwaj's mother, Indu, is a Russian from New York who converted to Hinduism and who teaches yoga; her father is from India and is a physician in Cincinnati.[2] Bhardwaj was raised in the Hindu faith, and is vegetarian.[3] Her given name, Mohini, means "the one who mesmerizes" in Hindi.[4] During her gymnastics career, this fact was repeated by commentators in almost every televised competition in which she competed, and eventually became a running joke among gymnastics fans.

Bhardwaj began taking gymnastics classes at the age of four in her hometown of Cincinnati,[4] where she attended Seven Hills School.[5] She excelled in the sport, and, at the age of 13, moved to Orlando to train at Brown's Gymnastics.[2]

At the age of 16, Bhardwaj's coach, Alexander Alexandrov, moved to Houston to open a new facility for Brown's. Bhardwaj followed, without her parents.[6] Living alone in a Texas apartment, she began to struggle, and her gymnastics suffered from long nights of partying, smoking and drinking.[2][6] At the 1996 U.S. Olympic Trials, she finished in 10th place, missing a spot on the team by .075.[3]

Bhardwaj continued training after the Olympics, but at the 1997 U.S. Nationals, NBC commentators noted that she was only competing due to her parents' insistence.[7] In spite of her seeming indifferent, Bhardwaj had a strong showing at Nationals, finishing 3rd in the all-around and easily earning a spot on the American World Championships team. At the 1997 World Championships, Bhardwaj was the only American besides Kristen Maloney to qualify for an individual event final, the vault, where she placed fifth.[4]

NCAA career[edit]

Bhardwaj's reputation as a wild child scared off some NCAA recruiters, but Val Kondos, head coach for UCLA, awarded her a full gymnastics scholarship. Her partying continued through her freshman year, prompting Kondos to issue her an ultimatum to remain on the team.[2][6]

Kondos' faith paid off: by 1999, Bhardwaj had changed her ways and became a key member of the Bruins. Her gymnastics flourished in the college environment, her difficulty on all events increased, and she developed a new artistic style on floor exercise. During her time at UCLA, Bhardwaj earned All-American honors eleven times, earned 23 individual titles, and was the first gymnast from UCLA to be a four-time All-American on the uneven bars. As a senior, she won both the AAI American Award and the prestigious Honda Award.[2][8][9]

Mohini Bhardwaj, wearing a UCLA team leotard, where she'd just finished her NCAA career a few months before, on balance beam at 2001 US National Gymnastics Championships, at which she placed third all-around and first on vault.

2001-2004[edit]

After ending her UCLA career with a new perspective and work ethic, Bhardwaj returned to elite competition. At the 2001 U.S. National Championships, she won the vault title and placed 3rd in the all-around. She was named to the American team for the 2001 World Championships in Ghent, Belgium, where she contributed to the U.S. squad's bronze medal, placed 18th in the all-around and 7th in the vault event final.[4]

In 2002, however, Bhardwaj suffered a dislocated elbow, an injury so serious that she retired for a year before deciding to return to training in 2003.[6][10] Off the national team and running low on funds, Bhardwaj found herself taking odd jobs, such as waitressing and delivering pizzas, to pay for her gymnastics training and personal expenses. By 2004 she was in debt and could not afford to attend the U.S. Olympic Trials and other competitions. Baywatch star Pamela Anderson learned of Bhardwaj's challenges when she purchased a raffle ticket on her behalf, became a personal supporter, and gave the gymnast a generous $20,000 grant to support her training expenses.[3][6][11]

At the 2004 Nationals, Bhardwaj placed a disappointing 12th in the all-around, just snagging the final spot in the Olympic Trials when Ashley Postell fell on bars, effectively handing her spot to Mohini. But Bhardwaj went on to make the most of her chance, earning sixth place at the Trials and earning an invitation to the subsequent closed-door selection camp at the Karolyi ranch. There she impressed national team coordinator Martha Karolyi and the other selectors enough to not only earn a place on the team, but to be named its captain. Her strength and consistency on vault were expected to add balance to a team already formidable on beam and bars,[12] but at the Athens Games she placed 20th on vault and failed to qualify for the event final. She was the only American to qualify for the floor final, where she finished in sixth place. Had Bhardwaj competed with a routine with a start value of 10 instead of the 9.7 she received, she would have won a medal. She finished eighth in qualifying for the all-around competition behind teammates Carly Patterson (1st) and Courtney Kupets (4th), and would easily have been among the 24 to make the final; however, since each team could send just two gymnasts, she became the only competitor finishing in the top ten to not make the all-around finals.[13]

Her performance in the Olympic team finals was integral to the team's silver medal effort. In addition to improving her vault from preliminaries and putting in a strong floor exercise, when Courtney Kupets decided to sit out balance beam due to a sore leg, Mohini was asked to fill in last-minute. Team member Courtney McCool actually had much more scoring potential, but it had been decided before the competition that McCool's performances were not needed so she was not prepared to go up on the beam. Bhardwaj got through a clean, well-executed routine that helped the team maintain its standing.[14]

For her Olympic achievements, Bhardwaj was named the India Abroad Person of the Year for 2004.[15]

After the Olympics, Bhwardwaj joined the other members of the Olympic team on a national exhibition tour.[15] She attempted to continue competing into 2005, and was originally selected for the American Cup in January 2005, but had insufficient training time to be ready and withdrew. She eventually retired from competitive gymnastics later in 2005, at the age of 26.

Post-retirement[edit]

Bhardwaj currently is owner and coach at Oregon Olympic Athletics in Bend, Oregon. She is married to Jeff Barry, a United States Marine, and had a son in 2009.[16]

Major competition results[edit]

2004 Olympic Games: 2nd team; 6th FX
2004 US Olympic Trials: 6th AA
2004 US Championships: 12th AA; 2nd VT
2001 World Championships: 3rd team; 18th AA; 7th VT
2001 Pan American Championships: 1st Team; 2nd AA; 5th VT
2001 US Championships: 3rd AA; 1st VT; 2nd UB; 6th VT; 7th FX (tie)
2001 NCAA Championships: 1st Team; 1st FX
2000 NCAA Championships: 1st Team; 2nd AA; 1st UB; 2nd BB; 5th VT
1999 NCAA Championships: 11th AA; 6th UB
1999 World University Games: AA (qualified)
1998 NCAA Championships: 4th UB; 7th VT
1997 World Championships: 6th Team; 5th VT
1997 US Championships: 3rd AA; 3rd VT (tie); 5th FX
1997 American Cup: 10th AA (preliminary competition)
1996 US Olympic Trials: 10th AA
1996 US Championships: 12th AA (tie); 2nd BB; 4th VT; 4th UB; 5th FX (tie)
1996 Pacific Alliance Championships: 1st team; 1st AA; 1st VT; 2nd BB; 3rd FX
1996 Moscow World Stars: 4th AA; 2nd UB; 3rd BB; 3rd VT
1995 US Championships: 15th AA; 4th UB (tie); 6th BB
1995 Atlanta Invitational (Olympics Test Event): 8th AA; 1st VT
1995 China Cup: 7th AA; 2nd mixed pairs; 3rd BB: 5th UB (tie); 7th VT
1995 International Mixed Pairs: 5th
1995 US Olympic Festival: 5th AA; 2nd VT; 2nd UB
1994 Puerto Rico International Gymnastics Cup: 2nd VT; 3rd BB 1994 US Championships: 35th AA
1994 US Olympic Festival: 7th AA (tie); 5th BB; 6th VT
1993 US Championships: 10th AA

References[edit]

  1. ^ " Mohini second Indian-American to win medal" Prabhjot Singh, The Tribune, August 19, 2004
  2. ^ a b c d e "Her Party Life Over, She Returned to Bars" Diane Pucin, Los Angeles Times, July 19, 2001
  3. ^ a b c "Nothing ordinary about her:Life's challenges never derailed gymnast's dream" Paul Daughtery, Cincinnati Enquirer, August 15, 2004
  4. ^ a b c d Mohini Bhardwaj's official bio at USA Gymnastics
  5. ^ "Congratulations to our local Graduates". Cincinnati Enquirer. 21 July 2004. Retrieved 25 September 2010. 
  6. ^ a b c d e "Living life on her own terms" Arun Venugopal, The Rediff Special, December 8, 2004
  7. ^ NBC-TV Footage of the 1997 U.S. National Championships, 1997
  8. ^ Honda Award winner page, 2000-2001
  9. ^ Mohini Bhwardwaj's official UCLA Bruins biography
  10. ^ "A U.S. Veteran Tiptoes on the Balance Beam of Life" Tyler Kepner, New York Times, August 22, 2004
  11. ^ "Pamela Anderson spurs Bhardwaj to silver" Reuters, August 18, 2004
  12. ^ "They've brought women back into gymnastics", San Diego Union-Tribune, August 14, 2004.
  13. ^ "Gymnastics at the 2004 Summer Olympics – Women's artistic qualification", wikipedia article.
  14. ^ http://sepiamutiny.com/blog/2004/08/17/first_indianame/
  15. ^ a b "Mohini Bhardwaj is the India Abroad Person of the Year 2004" Rediff, December 4, 2004
  16. ^ [1]

External links[edit]