In the time it has taken Tabitha Yim of Irvine to recover from a torn right Achilles' tendon, several new comets have blazed across the gymnastics horizon.
Fifteen-year-old Carly Patterson, who won the all-around title at the American Cup competition March 1, leads a flock of promising youngsters who are barely wider than the balance beam on which they pirouette. Yim is no old lady at 17, but she knows she'll have to push hard to win a spot on the U.S. team for the world championships at the Arrowhead Pond in August.
"She's so cute and she's really talented," Yim said of Patterson. "There's so many good girls right now. Everyone's excited about the upcoming worlds and Olympics because we have a really good shot as a team."
The resurrection of the U.S. women's program after its Sydney Olympic medal shutout continues tonight in the Pacific Challenge at Cal State Fullerton's Titan Gym. Two U.S. teams, one of junior competitors and another featuring Yim, Patterson, Ashley Postell and Courtney Kupets, will compete against teams from Australia and Canada.
It will be a good test for Yim, who was part of the bronze medal-winning U.S. team at the 2001 world championships but missed last year's event because of her injury. She still can't do her toughest tumbling runs and has simplified her floor exercise routine, dropping its start value below 10.0. However, the Northwood High senior prevailed at last week's American Classic meet in Burlington, Mass., and is optimistic she can build on that tonight.
"It was actually the best time to have it," she said of the injury, which she sustained while training. "Better than right now.... Actually, one of my weaker events is [uneven] bars, and since you don't use your feet, I was able to do that and improve that, so it actually worked out to be a good thing."
Beth Rybacki, who coaches Yim at Charter Oaks Gymnastics, said Yim has done well in overcoming the Achilles' tear, a stress fracture that preceded it and a growth spurt that took her from 4 feet 11 to 5-3 in two years. She described Yim as "catlike" for her unerring sense of where she is in the air, even upside down.
"She keeps getting stronger as the weeks go on, and we've just got to keep her healthy," Rybacki said. "She has a special side to her gymnastics. She's very artistic."
Allyse Ishino of Santa Ana and Hollie Vise of Dallas withdrew because of minor ankle and elbow soreness, respectively.