Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Comeback story continues

Bhardwaj earns invite to camp for Olympics

By Colleen Kane
Enquirer staff writer

Mohini Bhardwaj has a plan for the next few weeks leading up to the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Team Selection Camp: Train so hard that she'll actually be looking forward to the rigorous week-long boot camp.

"I'll be literally working my butt off," Bhardwaj said.

Mohini Bhardwaj of Cincinnati executes a vault during preliminaries at the U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials in Anaheim, Calif.
(AP photo)
Bhardwaj, a 25-year-old Cincinnati native, finished sixth at the U.S. Olympic Trials Sunday and was invited to the camp July 13-18 in Houston. At the end of that week, a committee will pick six of the competitors to be Olympic women's gymnastic team members and three to be alternates.

"It will be a little bit rough. ... It's like having a week-long competition," Bhardwaj said. "It doesn't really make a difference to me that it's more than just competition. I'm a really good competitor, but I also train very well."

She will use the time leading up to the camp to work on her dancing and "leaps and jumps" in the floor routine and to build confidence on the balance beam, she said. She placed 10th in the beam, 11th in the floor at the Trials.

Her performance in the other two events, however, might not need a lot of work. In the vault, she placed second, scoring a 9.6 both days with a vault she has been doing since the 1996 Olympic trials - the Yurchenko double twist. She also placed fourth overall in the uneven bars.

"The U.S. team is really lacking in good vaulters, so it's a definite edge I have over the other girls," Bhardwaj said.

Her other edge is the many years of competition. Bhardwaj's placing Sunday adds to the comeback story for the former UCLA gymnast, who now lives in Los Angeles. She was 10th at the 1996 Trials, but didn't participate in the 2000 Trials. Two years ago, she retired after dislocating her elbow at the U.S. Championships in Cleveland, but decided to make one last run at the Olympics.

Her quest is being funded by a donation of $20,000 from actress Pamela Anderson, who cheered on Bhardwaj this weekend.

"I'm pretty comfortable with this whole thing," Bhardwaj said. "I have more experience than anyone else on that team. I have a lot of competition experience, so it gives me an edge over some of the younger girls."

Samantha Sheehan's Olympic run ended Sunday when she finished 13th overall with a score of 55.575, opting not to compete in the beam.

"I felt really good," Sheehan said. "I hit all my routines. I didn't get some of the scores that I wanted to, but I gave it my all."

Sheehan, an 18-year-old graduate of Cincinnati Christian, said she likely will not try for the 2008 Olympics and will focus instead on her upcoming career at the University of Georgia, the runner-up at the NCAA Championships this year.

"I'm excited about the next step," Sheehan said. "I've been successful at what I've done."


The Associated Press contributed.

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