GYMNASTICS : For Americans, the Deck Is Stacked


The McDonald's American Cup is one of the most prestigious international gymnastic meets held in the United States, although the format is peculiar.

The United States has as many gymnasts as it wants; other countries are limited to two. That might account for the fact that every female champion over the last 15 years has been an American.

So with the deck stacked again--though the field is somewhat altered because of injuries--this U.S. Gymnastics Federation competition begins tonight at the Seattle Center Arena. The event lasts two days, with preliminaries tonight and finals Saturday. The meet will be followed Sunday with a competition that pairs men and women.

The Americans usually use this meet as a showcase for veterans and rising talent, but this year three of their top gymnasts will not compete. The women's national champion, Dominique Dawes, has a stress fracture in her foot, and the men's national champion, UCLA's Scott Keswick, suffered a herniated disk Saturday, when he slipped on the high bar and fell on his back. Also missing is the United States' most promising young talent, 13-year old Dominique Moceanu, who has a stress fracture in her foot.

Still, the U.S. women appear deep, with world champion Shannon Miller heading a group of seven. John Roethlisberger leads the five U.S. men. Despite the odds against them, most of the 15 other countries have sent rising instead of established talent.

The last time U.S. gymnastics officials can remember a female champion other than an American was when Romania's Nadia Comaneci won in 1976, the event's first year. (Results for the next three years were not recorded.)

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