Vanessa Atler

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Vanessa Atler
Full nameVanessa Marie Atler
Nickname(s)Ness, Nessa, Nestea
Country represented United States
Born (1982-02-17) 17 February 1982 (age 36)[1]
Valencia, California
HometownBakersfield, California
Height4 ft 11 in (1.50 m)
Weight92 lb (42 kg)
DisciplineWomen's artistic gymnastics
LevelSenior International Elite
Years on national team1995-2001
Gymnastics Unlimited
AV Twisters
Charter Oak Gliders
Rohnert Park Gymnastics
Head coach(es)Ben Corr
Former coach(es)Tony Lanzara[2]
Steve and Beth Rybacki
Valeri Liukin and Yevgeny Marchenko[3]
ChoreographerNancy Roach
Beth Rybacki
Natalya Marakova
Music1995-1996: Phil's Piano Solo
1997-1998: Jack's Conga
1998-1999: La Cumparsita
2000: Les Deux Guitares
RetiredApril 16th, 2001[4]

Vanessa Marie Atler (born February 17, 1982) is a retired American elite gymnast. She was the 1996 junior national champion on floor and in the all-around, a five-time senior national champion, the 1998 Goodwill Games gold medalist on the floor exercise and vault and a five-time World Cup champion. At the 1999 American Cup, Atler became the first female gymnast to successfully perform a Rudi vault.

A member of the U.S. national gymnastics team from the age of 12, Atler was one of the United States' most successful gymnasts as a junior in the late 1990s. Known for her explosive vaults, difficult tumbling skills and likable personality, she won or medaled in several important meets, and was considered to be one of the front-runners for the 2000 Olympics. However, injuries, coaching conflicts, gym changes, mental breakdowns and bulimia symptoms derailed her progress in 1999 and 2000, and after a poor showing at the 2000 Olympic Trials, she was controversially left off the Olympic team despite placing sixth overall.[5]

Early career[edit]

Atler was born on February 17, 1982 in Valencia, California and began gymnastics at the age of 5. She has a brother who played baseball, her mother was a tennis instructor and one of her cousins had been a Minnesota Vikings quarterback. By the time she was 12 years old, she was competing at the elite level.[6]

As a junior elite gymnast, Atler had a fruitful career. In 1995, she gained attention by placing third in the all-around, behind Olympian Kerri Strug and Heather Brink, at the U.S. Olympic Festival and winning the silver medal in the all-around at that year's U.S. National Championships.

Atler also made her international competitive debut in 1995, winning the floor exercise title at the prestigious International Junior Gymnastics Competition in Japan.[7] She continued to enjoy success in 1996, as she became the junior all-around and floor exercise U.S. National Champion[6] and was invited to participate in a televised exhibition meet, USA vs. the World, with members of the Magnificent Seven and international Olympians.[8]

With her February 1982 birth date, Atler missed the age cutoff for senior competition—which would have given her a chance to compete for a spot on the 1996 Olympic team—by only six weeks. In 1997, she found herself shut out of senior international competition once again, as the FIG raised the age limit from fifteen to sixteen.[7][9]

Nonetheless, Atler competed well in 1997, participating in both junior events and senior meets that were not bound by the FIG's new age restrictions. She placed second at the 1997 American Cup, where she however managed to win event titles on beam and vault and tied with Kristy Powell to win the senior all-around title at the U.S. National Championships. At the same competition, she became the national vault champion. She also won the 1997 Canberra Cup in Australia, an important meet for junior international gymnasts.[6][9][10]

In 1997, however, Atler began to experience problems on the uneven bars. On the second day of the U.S. Nationals, a fall from the apparatus kept her from winning the title outright. This marked the beginning of a string of competitions in which she suffered unusual mistakes and misses on bars. In her diary, she once referred to the bars as "the devil--testing my will and my patience, even my love for the sport."[11] Over the next few years, bars would become a mental block for the young athlete who time after time failed to put together a mistake-free routine in the heat of competition.[12][13]

Senior career[edit]

In 1998, Atler was finally age-eligible for senior competition. The year got off to an inauspicious start, as another fall from the bars cost her the all-around title at the American Cup. During the event finals of the same competition, however, Atler managed to win the vault title and to hit her bar routine to claim a bronze.

At the 1998 Goodwill Games, Atler was chosen to compete on floor exercise and vault, her two strongest apparatus. She won both events, defeating, in the process, a roster of Olympic and World medalists. She had a similarly strong showing at the 1998 Copa Gimnastica in Mexico City in the fall, where she had a good competition on all four events—including bars—, placed third in the all-around behind Viktoria Karpenko and Simona Amânar and defeated Amanar to win the vault gold once again (she had already done so to win vault gold at the Goodwill Games).[6] A disastrous 8.225 on bars during the first night of the national championships cost Atler a chance to defend her title. She managed to walk away from the meet with the all-around silver, as well as gold on floor and silver on vault.

In 1999, however, Atler had significant struggles. Early in the year, at the American Cup, she became the first American woman to successfully complete a Rudi vault in competition, and won the gold medal on the event, as well as on beam and on floor. However, she once again fell off the bars during both days of competition [14] and placed third overall. Shortly thereafter, at the Paris-Bercy meet in France, she placed second in the all-around and won another vault gold medal, but severely injured her ankle during the floor exercise final when she landed out-of-bounds, in an area without protective safety mats, after her first tumbling pass. Atler recovered in time to compete at the 1999 U.S. Nationals, where she won the event titles on the vault and the balance beam. However, in the all-around, she once again fell from bars and finished second to Kristen Maloney.

Following the U.S. Nationals, Atler left her longtime coaches at Charter Oak gymnastics club, Steve and Beth Rybacki.[13] She was coached by Artur Akopyan as she prepared to compete at the World Team Trials and World Championships.[15] She was, however, too injured to compete at the U.S. World Team Trials, and was petitioned onto the team on the strength of her scores at Nationals alongside Kristen Maloney and Jennie Thompson who were also suffering from injuries. Competing at the 1999 World Championships in Tianjin, China, Atler was out of shape and unprepared for the meet. The stress proved to be too great as she only hit one clean routine throughout the team competition, and, following two falls, scored an 8.025 on beam. She qualified for the all-around and floor finals and was to replace Kristen Maloney (who had already refused to compete due to her injury) in the beam final,[16] but, struggling with her injury, placed 31st in the all-around and withdrew from both the event finals she was scheduled to take part in.[17] After the World Championships, Atler had surgery twice on her ankle.[13]

In late 1999, Atler moved to Texas to train with 1988 Olympic champion Valeri Liukin at the World Olympic Gymnastics Academy (WOGA). Still struggling with her bars performances, she performed respectably at the 2000 U.S. Nationals and finished fourth in the all-around. A silver on vault and a bronze on floor were of mere consolation.[18] However, at the Olympic Trials a few weeks later, Atler experienced what many considered a meltdown. She was unable to hit even one clean routine over the two days of competition, and botched moves that she usually performed well, changing her second vault in mid-air during both days, modifying her second tumbling pass on floor during the first day and falling on her back on her balance beam dismount during the first day. As a result, the Olympic Selection Committee opted to leave her completely off the U.S. Olympic Team.[5][10][19][20] However, even with major mistakes in each routine, Atler managed to place sixth at trials, causing some to argue that she had earned a spot on the team and to question the fairness of the selection process.[5] Six athletes were named to the team as well as two alternates.

After 2000[edit]

Atler participated in the T.J. Maxx post-Olympics exhibition tour.[21] In 2001, she trained briefly at Rohnert Park Gymnastics, but announced her retirement in April.[22] In 2005, she appeared on the television show Starting Over, where she discussed some of the self-esteem and confidence issues that had arisen from her struggles in gymnastics.[23][24]

Post-competitive gymnastics career[edit]

Atler now works as the girls team director at American Kids Sports Center in Bakersfield, California and had a son in January 2014.[25]


Vault: Laidout Rudi (first American female ever to compete this); Double Twisting Yurchenko; Laidout Cuervo; Handspring Laidout Front.

Floor: Double Layout + Punch Front + Stag Jump in combination; Whip Double Pike; Whip Half + Front Layout Double Full in combination; Double Front Tuck; Two and a Half Twist + Front Layout in combination.

Her floor music were: Phil's Piano Solo by Terry Snyder in 1995 and 1996; Jack's Conga by Micheal Kamen in 1997 and 1998; La Cumparsita by Gerardo Matos Rodriguez in 1998 and 1999; and Les Deux Guitares by Paul Mauriat in 2000.

Balance Beam: Punch Front + Jump mount sequence; Layout to two feet; Switch Leap + Gainered Layout in combination; Piked Front + Jump in combination; Tucked Barani; Tucked Double Dismount.

Uneven Bars: Giant One and a Half; Tkatchev; Comaneci Salto; Pak Salto; Full Twisting Double Layout Dismount.

Appearances in other media[edit]

Atler was a stunt double for the Lifetime Television film Little Girls in Pretty Boxes in 1997.[24] She also appeared in commercials for Reese's Peanut Butter Cups in 1999[5] and for the U.S Olympic Committee in 2000, in the Starting Over TV series in 2005[24] as well as in various made-for-TV gymnastics exhibitions such as the Reese's Cup in 1999 and 2000, the Rock'n'Roll Championships in 1997 and 1998 and "USA vs The World" in 1996.


  1. ^ "Profile". 17 February 1982. Archived from the original on 6 October 2001. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
  2. ^ "Great Expectations". May 1999. Retrieved 14 March 2014.[dead link]
  3. ^ "Biography". 29 February 2000. Archived from the original on 29 February 2000. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
  4. ^ "Dear Diary". 16 April 2001. Archived from the original on 6 June 2001. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d "Being Good Isn't Always Enough for U.S. Team" Juliet Macur, New York Times June 24, 2004
  6. ^ a b c d [1] Official biography at USA Gymnastics
  7. ^ a b "Getting to know Vanessa Atler" USA Gymnastics, June 3, 1996
  8. ^ USA vs. the World results USA Gymnastics, September 2, 1996
  9. ^ a b "Vanessa Atler: World class gymnast" Mary Schubert, Associated Press/Daily News 1998
  10. ^ a b "Atler at peace with herself" Canoe Network, September 15, 2000
  11. ^ Reported at NBC-TV broadcast of 1998 American Cup
  12. ^ "Whose star will shine in Sydney?"[permanent dead link] John Wilner, Daily News 1998
  13. ^ a b c "Decidedly different: Atler's path not routine" Archived 9 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine. Bob Duffy, Boston Globe August 14, 2000
  14. ^ vanessa Atler - Vingette - 1999 Visa American Cup Archived 10 April 2016 at the Wayback Machine.NBC Sports,1999
  15. ^ 1999 Worlds AA Part 7 Archived 12 July 2014 at the Wayback Machine.Eurosport UK,1999
  16. ^ Women's Event Qualifiers To FinalsUSA Gymnastics,October 11, 1999
  17. ^ Maloney and Atler Withdraw From Event FinalsUSA Gymnastics,October 16, 1999
  18. ^ "Atler's back" International Gymnast July 22, 2000
  19. ^ "Female Gymnasts Braved an Audition, and a Trial" George Vecsey, New York Times August 21, 2000
  20. ^ "Miller Out, But Dawes And Chow Make Team" Selena Roberts, New York Times August 21, 2000
  21. ^ "Atler returns to training at new gym" International Gymnast January 11, 2001
  22. ^ "Atler announces retirement" International Gymnast, April 17, 2001
  23. ^ "Atler starts over". Inside Gymnastics magazine, February 22, 2005
  24. ^ a b c Vanessa Atler at the IMDB Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine.
  25. ^ Moving Forward-An Interview With Vanessa Atler Archived 28 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine.Triple Twist Gymnastics,2014

External links and references[edit]