|Date of Birth
||February 17, 1982
|Place of Birth
Vanessa Marie Atler is a retired American elite gymnast. She was the 1996 junior all-around National Champion, the 1997 senior all-around National Champion and the 1998 Goodwill Games gold medalist on the floor exercise and vault. At the 1999 American Cup, Atler became the first first female American gymnast to successfully perform a Rudi vault.
A member of the U.S. national gymnastics team from the age of 12, Atler was one of the United States' most successful gymnasts as a junior in the late 1990s. Known for her explosive vaults, difficult tumbling skills and outspoken personality, she won or medaled in several important meets, including the Goodwill Games, and was considered to be one of the front-runners for the 2000 Olympics. However, injuries, coaching conflicts and gym changes derailed her progress in 1999 and 2000, and after a poor showing at the 2000 Olympic Trials, she was left off the Olympic team.Atler was born on February 17, 1982 in Valencia, California and began gymnastics at the age of 5. By the time she was 12 years old, she was competing at the elite level.
As a junior elite gymnast, Atler had a fruitful career. In 1995, she gained attention by placing third in the all-around, behind Olympian Kerri Strug and Heather Brink, at the Olympic Festival and winning the silver medal in the all-around at that year's U.S. National Championships.
Atler also made her international competitive debut in 1995, winning the floor exercise title at the prestigious International Junior Gymnastics Competition in Japan.She continued to enjoy success in 1996, as she became the junior all-around U.S. National Champion and was invited to participate in a televised exhibition meet, USA vs. the World, with members of the Magnificent Seven and international Olympians.
With her February 1982 birthdate, Atler missed the age cutoff for senior competition--which would have given her a chance to compete for a spot on the 1996 Olympic team--by only six weeks. In 1997, she found herself shut out of senior international competition once again, as the FIG raised the age limit from fifteen to sixteen.
Nonetheless, Atler competed well in 1997, participating in both junior events and senior meets that were not bound by the FIG's new age restrictions. She placed second at the 1997 American Cup and tied with Kristy Powell to win the senior all-around title at the U.S. National Championships. She also won the 1997 Canberra Cup in Australia, an important meet for junior international gymnasts.
In 1997, however, Atler began to experience problems on the uneven bars. On the second day of the U.S. Nationals, a fall from the apparatus kept her from winning the title outright. This marked the beginning of a string of competitions in which she suffered unusual mistakes and misses on bars. In her diary, she once referred to the bars as "the devil--testing my will and my patience, even my love for the sport."Over the next few years, bars would become a mental block for the young athlete who time after time failed to put together a mistake-free routine in the heat of competition.