Bhardwaj Selected U.S. Gymnastics Team Captain

Aug. 12, 2004

By TIM KORTE, AP Sports Writer

Athens, Greece - Mohini Bhardwaj's already impressive story just got a little better. Bhardwaj, who is one of the oldest female gymnasts in the Athens Games at 25, was selected as captain of the U.S. women's gymnastics team.

'From a year ago, if you had taken odds on her making our Olympic team -- even the odds of making it to nationals -- she just continues to impress,' USA Gymnastics president Bob Colarossi said Wednesday.

Bhardwaj was one of the United States' most talented gymnasts as a teenager, but the long hours of training burned her out. She rediscovered her love of the sport at UCLA, where she led the Bruins to two NCAA Championships.

She was on the American squad that won a bronze medal at the 2001 world championships, but an elbow injury the following year seemed to end her Olympic dreams. Bhardwaj, who turns 26 on Sept. 29, decided last year she had to give it one more shot.

She was considered a long shot when she finished 12th at the U.S. championships, but climbed to sixth at the Olympic trials. She put on another impressive show at the selection camp at team coordinator Martha Karolyi's ranch last month, earning a spot on the U.S. squad.

When Karolyi announced her name, Bhardwaj burst into tears.

'Dream your dreams and then go make them happen. That's what she's done,' Colarossi said.

Bhardwaj also has star power on her side. When former 'Baywatch' actress Pamela Anderson found out Bhardwaj was selling raffle tickets to help pay for her training, Anderson gave her $25,000. She's also been Bhardwaj's most vocal supporter, and will be in Athens to cheer her on.