Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lighting the Sixth Candle: Kerri Strug

Sometimes, one wishes that Hanukkah wasn't eight nights.  While it is great to brag to those bratty Christian kids that you get eight nights of presents, it gets a bit old by adulthood.  After a while, you drink too much wine at dinner and forget to light the Menorah.  Other times, life gets in the way.

That does not mean that we forget to honor the fierce Jews who light up our lives.

One fierce Jewess is the only and only Kerri Strug.  Armed with a Minnie Mouse voice, we don't always like listening to Ms. Strug, but her actions are more than enough.

Like many Jews, Kerri inherited a plethora of neuroses and complexes from her mother.  She also inherited the most important characteristic of all fierce Jews: ambition.

Kerri may have only been an eight-year-old watching the Nadia movie, but she had a plan to be the best.  After incessant whining to her parents, the Strugs finally allowed Kerri to move to Houston and train with Bela Karolyi.  Kerri was often frightened of Bela and had breakdowns when he'd yell at her.  After realizing that she had been guilted by her mother and grandmother for years, Bela was able to motivate her without yelling.  He simply preyed on her insecurities.

While she may have always been the most agile and talented gymnast, Kerri was not the greatest competitor.  Bela sense that Kerri had a burning desire to be the best and knew that it chapped her ass when Kim Zmeskal would beat her in competition after losing every workout.  Whenever Bela wanted to motivate Kerri, he'd simply praise Kim publicly.  "Kerri is saying, look at Kim!"  Kerri was most definitely NOT saying look at Kim, but it would be years before she could relax her knees and conquer her nerves.

Dissatisfied with being a perpetual bridesmaid, Kerri told Kathy Johnson Clarke that she was every bit as good as Kim in practice.  This did not sit well with the World Champion.  Later, after Bela retired, Kerri used to her inferiority complex as motivation yet again, training in the shadow of Shannon Miller.

No gym was good enough for Kerri Strug.  The daughter of one of Arizona's most successful heart surgeons, Kerri knew the best when she saw it.  She brought her brand of drama around the country until Bela came back.

While Bela didn't come back for Kerri, he had a newfound respect for her for making it through another four years and made her a star.  Brimming with confidence, Kerri stole the show the American Cup and Olympic Trials while Dominique Moceanu sat on the sidelines.

Kerri relished her anchor position in Atlanta and when Moceanu went down, she made sure that she'd be the girl to land the vault and be the Olympic hero.  Like a good Jew, Kerri then signed with a power agent and held out for more money than the pennies the John Hancock Tour was offering the rest of the Magnificent Seven.  Starring in fewer shows for far more money meant a big payday for Strug, who eventually toured with her Olympic Teammates once they stopped hating her for taking all of the credit for the team victory.

Kerri hasn't tempered her competitive Jewish ways and now runs marathons and works for the Department of Justice.


  1. I loved Strug when I was little. Thank you for this.

  2. Too bad she turned out to be a crazy right winger just like mary lou.

  3. 'Anonymous said...
    Too bad she turned out to be a crazy right winger just like mary lou.'

    I'm sorry but like Mary Lou I just never warmed to Kerri or her gymnastics. She did everything well but to me she had no artistry and zero expression (she reminded me a little of Gina Gogean as far as poker faces go). It also annoyed the hell out of me that the media made it seem like Kerri won the U.S. it's Team Olympic Gold all by her little bitty self. Her vault was an amazing moment mind you but it can not make up for the fact that she's brown-nosing Republicans now. Like Mary Lou. Blech.

  4. Great write up. You totally nailed her. I never liked her gymnastics and I still don't like her personality. She's lucky her ankle gave out when it did - she would have never been a star without something uber-dramatic like that.