|Country represented||United States|
|Born||September 29, 1978|
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Discipline||Women's artistic gymnastics|
|Level||Senior International Elite|
|Years on national team||8 (1992–98, 2001–02, 2004)|
|Club||All Olympia Gymnastics Center, Brown's|
|College team||UCLA Bruins|
|Former coach(es)||Chris Waller, Galina Marinova, Valorie Kondos Field, Rita Brown|
|Eponymous skills||Bhardwaj (uneven bars)|
Mohini Bhardwaj deFreitas (born September 29, 1978) is a retired American artistic gymnast who competed at the 1997 and 2001 World Championships and earned a silver medal with the American team at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens and is a member of the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame. She is the first Indian-American gymnast, and the second Indian-American athlete in any sport, to medal at the Olympics.
Early life and career
Bhardwaj was born in Philadelphia to parents Indu and Kaushal. She has one younger brother, Arun. Her mother, Indu, is a Russian from New York who converted to Hinduism and teaches yoga; her father is from India and is a physician in Cincinnati. Bhardwaj was raised in the Hindu faith and is vegetarian. Her given name, Mohini, means "the one who mesmerizes" in Hindi.
She began taking gymnastics classes at the age of four in her hometown, Cincinnati, where she attended Seven Hills School. At the age of 13, she moved to Orlando to train at Brown's Gymnastics. When she was 16, her coach, Alexander Alexandrov, moved to Houston to open a new facility for Brown's, and Bhardwaj followed without her parents. Living alone in a Texas apartment, she began to party, smoke, and drink, and her gymnastics suffered.
At the 1996 U.S. Olympic Trials, Bhardwaj finished in 10th place, missing a spot on the team by 0.075. She continued training after the Olympics, but at the 1997 U.S. Nationals, NBC commentators noted that she was only competing at her parents' insistence. Still, she finished third in the all-around at Nationals and earned a spot on the 1997 World Championships team. At Worlds, she was the only American besides Kristen Maloney to qualify for an individual event final, the vault, where she placed fifth.
Bhardwaj's reputation as a wild child scared off some NCAA recruiters, but Valorie Kondos Field, the head coach for the UCLA Bruins gymnastics team, awarded her a full scholarship. Her partying continued through her freshman year, prompting Kondos to issue her an ultimatum to remain on the team.
By 1999, Bhardwaj had changed her ways and became a key member of the Bruins, with increased difficulty on all four events. During her time at UCLA, Bhardwaj earned All-American honors 11 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 Honda Sports Award. She was inducted into the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame in 2013.
After ending her UCLA career, Bhardwaj returned to elite competition. At the 2001 National Championships, she won the vault title and placed third 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. Individually, she placed 18th in the all-around and 7th in the vault event final.
In 2002, she suffered a dislocated elbow and retired for a year before deciding to return to training in 2003. Off the national team and running low on funds, she took odd jobs, such as waitressing and delivering pizzas, to pay for her training and personal expenses. By 2004, she was in debt and could not afford to attend the Olympic Trials and other competitions. Baywatch star Pamela Anderson, who learned of Bhardwaj's situation when she purchased a raffle ticket on her behalf, became a personal supporter and gave Bhardwaj $20,000 for her training expenses.
At the 2004 Nationals, Bhardwaj placed a disappointing 12th in the all-around, only securing the final spot in the Olympic Trials when Ashley Postell fell on bars. But she went on to finish sixth at the Trials, earning an invitation to the subsequent closed-door selection camp. There, she impressed national team coordinator Márta Károlyi and the other selectors enough not only to 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, but at the Olympics, she placed 20th on vault and failed to qualify for the event final.
Bhardwaj was the only American to qualify for the floor final at the Olympics, where she finished in sixth place. She finished eighth all-around in qualifying, behind teammates Carly Patterson (1st) and Courtney Kupets (4th), but was not among the 24 gymnasts to advance because of a rule limiting each country to two competitors in the final. Bhardwaj was the only gymnast in the top ten in qualifications who did not make the all-around final. In the team final, however, she was integral to the team's silver-medal effort: In addition to improving her vault from preliminaries and performing a strong floor exercise, she filled in on beam at the last minute when Kupets decided to sit it out because of a leg injury.
For her Olympic achievements, Bhardwaj was named the India Abroad Person of the Year for 2004.
After the Olympics, Bhardwaj joined the other members of the U.S. team on a national exhibition tour. She tried to continue competing into 2005 and was selected for the American Cup in January, but she had insufficient training time and withdrew. She retired from competitive gymnastics later in 2005, at the age of 26.
Uneven Bars: Full-twisting Pak salto (E); first performed at the 2004 Summer Olympics
Bhardwaj is owner and coach at OOA Gymnastics in Bend, Oregon. She had a son in 2009 and she is married to fellow Olympian Shane de Freitas who competed in the 1996 Olympics, also she now helps gymnasts who working to become Olympians in a gymnastics camp called "Dan Alch Camp of Champions" .
Major competition results
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
- " Mohini second Indian-American to win medal" Prabhjot Singh, The Tribune, August 19, 2004
- "Her Party Life Over, She Returned to Bars" Diane Pucin, Los Angeles Times, July 19, 2001
- "Nothing ordinary about her:Life's challenges never derailed gymnast's dream" Paul Daughtery, Cincinnati Enquirer, August 15, 2004
- Mohini Bhardwaj's official bio at USA Gymnastics
- "Congratulations to our local Graduates". Cincinnati Enquirer. 21 July 2004. Retrieved 25 September 2010.
- "Living life on her own terms" Arun Venugopal, The Rediff Special, December 8, 2004
- NBC-TV Footage of the 1997 U.S. National Championships, 1997
- Honda Award winner page, 2000-2001
- Mohini Bhardwaj's official UCLA Bruins biography
- "A U.S. Veteran Tiptoes on the Balance Beam of Life" Tyler Kepner, New York Times, August 22, 2004
- "Pamela Anderson spurs Bhardwaj to silver" Reuters, August 18, 2004
- "They've brought women back into gymnastics", San Diego Union-Tribune, August 14, 2004.
- "Gymnastics at the 2004 Summer Olympics – Women's artistic qualification", wikipedia article.
- "Mohini Bhardwaj is the India Abroad Person of the Year 2004" Rediff, December 4, 2004
- The Rebel’s New Sport: Mohini Bhardwaj de Freitas Pivots From Gymnastics To Weightlifting
- Mohini Bhardwaj at the International Federation of Gymnastics
- USA Gymnastics Biography (PDF file)
- List of competitive results at Gymn Forum
- Mohini Bhardwaj on the Rise—1996 Feature from USA Gymnastics
- UCLA Bruins Biography page
- International Gymnast feature on Bhardwaj's coach, Galina Marinova
- Mohini Bhardwaj site page at Olympic Gymnastics
- US Gymnastics Team Captain Hopes to Make Dream a Reality in Athens VOA News - August 14, 2004