Mohini Bhardwaj Honored As India Abroad Person of the Year 2004

Dec. 6, 2004

Former UCLA gymnast and 2004 Olympic silver medalist Mohini Bhardwaj was voted India Abroad Person of the Year 2004 by a distinguished 11-member jury, headed by Sonal Shah, India Abroad Person of the Year 2003.

Bhardwaj was one of the 123 nominations sent in by the readers of India Abroad and rediff.com for the India Abroad Person of the Year 2004. Shah presented the award to Bhardwaj's father, Dr Kaushal Bhardwaj in a ceremony held at the New York Palace hotel in New York on Dec. 3. Mohini was unable to attend due to T.J. Maxx Tour of Gymnastics Champions committments.

The ceremony's impressive guestlist included US Congressman Joseph Crowley, co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans.

Bhardwaj was an 11-time All-American during her four-year career at UCLA (1998-2001). She helped the Bruins win NCAA team titles in 2000 and 2001 and captured individual titles of her own on uneven bars in 2000 and on floor exercise in 2001. She won the 2001 Honda Award for gymnastics, which honors the nation's top collegiate gymnast.

At the conclusion of her collegiate career, Bhardwaj made a rare yet successful return to international elite competition, winning the 2001 U.S. National vault championship and placing third in the all-around at the USA Championships. She earned a spot on the World Championships team and earned a team bronze medal. She also qualified for the vault finals for the second time in her career (she had placed fifth at the 1997 World Championships).

Bhardwaj retired from competitive gymnastics after dislocating her elbow at the 2002 USA Championships but returned once again in 2004 to train for the Olympics despite little funding. Eight years after her first Olympic Trials, she made the Olympic team in 2004 at the age of 25. Not only did she make the team, but she was also selected the team captain and led her U.S. squad to a silver medal. She also qualified for the floor exercise finals and introduced a move on the uneven bars that will now be named after her in the international code of points.

Says Shah, 'Mohini achieved many firsts as an Indian American. She is the first Indian American to represent the US in an Olympic competition -- what is more remarkable is that she made it to captain of the US women's gymnastics team. She is the first to lead her team to a silver medal, indeed the first Indian American to receive a silver medal. Her personal journey is an inspiration to us all, reminding us that hard work and determination can overcome personal challenges. Hers is a story of endurance, courage and tremendous inner strength.'

'I am honoured to have been selected as the recipient of this award,' Bhardwaj said in her acceptance speech, which was shot on location in Orlando.

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