Valerie's Kim Zmeskal Tribute Page

kim5.jpg (41572 bytes)

photo by Matthew Barber
(photo used with permission)

Kimberly Lynn

Birthdate: February 6, 1976

Hometown: Houston, Texas

3-time National Champion

World Champion

    1991- All Around
    1992- Balance Beam
    1992- Floor Exercise

Fan mail for Kim can be sent to the following address:

Mrs. Kim Zmeskal-Burdette
EveryBody Fits
200 Fitness Court
Coppell, TX 75019

I have a banner now if you want to use it to link to my page. Just right click and do the "save as" thing.

I spent a lot of time in front of the TV during the summer of 1992.  The Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain had captured my unwavering attention due to one special person.  Kim Zmeskal went into the Olympic Games a heavy favorite to win the gold.  The media and her fans had high expectations and Kim had dreams and expectations of her own.  As most people know, Kim did not win the All-Around title at the Olympics.  She didn't take home any individual medals either. But Kim won something more important- the hearts of millions. Kim Zmeskal will always be remembered for her guts and determination as she stared down her demons and learned there was much more to life than gold medals and product endorsements.

The Early Years

kim6sm.jpg (17180 bytes) As a young girl, Kim was one of the first to sign up for gymnastics lessons when Bela Karolyi bought a run down gym in her Houston, Texas neighborhood in 1982.   She was tired of watching her babysitter's daughter during her gymnastics classes- Kim wanted to get involved too.  The oldest of three children to parents David and Clarice, Kim was always a handful.  Vaulting over the loveseat, bouncing on the trampoline, and doing backflips in the front yard always kept them on their toes.

Kim was inspired by her idol, Mary Lou Retton.  She had the rare opportunity to watch Mary Lou day in and day out and see just what it took to become an Olympic champion.   Kim trained hard, improved her technique and difficulty, and bided her time.   With her grit, determination,  incredible skill and a world class coach like Bela Karolyi by her side, Kim knew she had what it took too.  Kim's greatest asset however was her ability to focus during critical moments.  Karolyi had often criticized her for not training as hard as the other girls, but when competition rolled around, she could pull together a winning performance like no other.

Finally in 1988, after the changing of the guard from old to new, Kim had her chance to show everyone what she had learned.  In July of 1989, Kim became the US National Junior Champion.   Before the year was out she had also taken first place in the American Classic, the Swiss Cup Mixed Pairs (with Lance Ringnald), and the Arthur Gander Memorial.  photo by Matthew Barber (used with photographers permission)  

Reigning Over The World

In the months preceding the 1992 Olympics, Kim was on top of the world. Kim held national and international medals in several reputation building events, and in September of 1991 at the age of fifteen, she was the first American, man or woman, to win the All-Around title at the World Gymnastics Championships (V-9.962, UB-9.937, BB-9.962, FX-9.987). With her amazing floor routine to Glenn Miller's "In The Mood", Kim brought the audience to their feet in Indianapolis and tears to the eyes of those of us watching at home. I still cry when I watch that floor exercise routine.

Kim was not only collecting medals, she was collecting awards as well.  In 1991, she was named U.S. Olympic Committee SportsWoman of the Year and the March of Dimes Athlete of theYear.  She was chosen the "1992 Athlete of the Year" by her national teammates, and the Women's Sports Foundation honored her with the "1990 Up & Coming" award. Kim was a member the National Honor Society in high school and was a two-time AAU Sullivan Award nominee.  Kim also shares the 1991 Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year with Carl Lewis.

In April of 1992, Kim put her reputation on the line and competed in the Individual Apparatus World Championships in Paris, France. Her skeptics had called her All-Around win a fluke and Kim was out to prove them wrong. Many had argued that she only won because the World Championships had been held in the US. With the same incredible difficulty in her routines that she showed in Indianapolis, and gold medal performances on the balance beam (9.925) and floor exercise (9.937), Kim reconfirmed her ability to perform under pressure and in whatever venue and country thrown at her.

Kim Zmeskal Split Leap
photo by Richard Martin
from TV Guide Magazine

KimZ13.jpg (28134 bytes)
photo by Matthew Barber
used with photographers permission

Kim Zmeskal Time Cover
photo by Gregory Heisler

Just one month later, Kim was back in the U.S. winning her third consecutive U.S. Gymnastics Championships title that included a perfect 10.0 on her optional vault. She also picked up more gold on beam and floor and silver medals on vault and uneven bars in the event finals. Kim was the one to beat and everyone knew it.

Kim was also busy doing interviews for the press. As the Olympics drew closer, Kim could even be found on the cover of the July 27th issue of TIME magazine and the topic of dozens of other articles in a wide variety of magazines. I have a scrapbook full of pictures and the hundreds of articles written about Kim and the other gymnasts headed to Barcelona. Everyone was calling Kim,"America's best hope for gold", and "the next Mary Lou". The American public built Kim up to be almost superhuman.

Kim Zmeskal and Bela Karolyi

Kim receives a kiss from Bela at a press conference after the 1991 World Championships
photo by Matthew Barber (used with permission)

The Olympic Experience

Kim on the beam at the 1992 Olympics

After weeks of intense scrutiny by the team selection committee, Kim and the rest of the team were finally in Barcelona. Thousands of fans packed the stands just to watch the gymnasts in podium training. On the first night of team competition for the women, Kim got off to a rough start. On Kim's first event of the night, the beam, she rushed her tumbling pass and found herself teetering on the edge of the beam. Gravity took over and Kim had no way of staying on. Suddenly, a move thashe had performed a thousand times in the gym and should have been automatic was just beyond her grasp. Stunned, Kim remounted the beam and finished the routine almost in a trance. With a pitiful score of 9.35, even Bela remarked that for Kim to make it to the all-around competition would be "remote". Even though Kim fought back with scores of 9.925 on floor, 9.9 on vault, and a 9.887 on bars, she stood in 32nd place after the compulsories and 5th on the American team. Kim would have to fight her way past her teammates Dominique Dawes and Kerri Strug since only the top three from each country can advance to the all-around. (Photo at left by Jill from Jack's Gymnastics Page)

Kim Zmeskal compulsory beam Kim Zmeskal fall Kim Zmeskal and Bela

Kim on compulsory beam

H. Darr Beiser

Trying to stay on

Peter Read Miller

Bela helps her refocus

Dave Black

kimleapbw.jpg (15993 bytes) photo by Matthew Barber
used with photographers permission

During team optionals, Kim had something to prove to herself and to her millions of fans. Kim was a fighter, not a quitter. With impressive scores of 9.912 on beam, 9.95 on vault, 9.9 on uneven bars, and a crowd pleasing 9.925 on floor, Kim rocketed into 12th place and into the all-around competition by finishing third among the American women. Her combined score of 39.687 for the night was the highest of any competitor, even Shannon Miller. Unfortunately for her teammate Kerri Strug, Kim's success meant she would have to wait another four years to try for her all-around dream. We all know how that turned out.

On a night when the priority is supposed to be the team, Kim had to do battle against her own teammates just to keep her Olympic hopes alive. But in the long run, the battle between the American gymnasts to make it to the individual all-around, helped the U.S. team to the bronze medal. This was only the second team medal ever won by an American team at a non-boycotted Olympics (first was at the 1948 London Olympics). The Unified Team once again won the gold and the Romanians took home the silver.

Even though Kim made it to the all-around, she would once again be faced with defeat. During her floor exercise routine, Kim watered down one of her tumbling passes and did a double back dismount instead of a full twisting double back. Taking out the full twist gave Kim too much energy as she landed and she bounced her right foot out of bounds. It was a relatively minor error. In any other meet it probably would not have made much of a difference. But in the Olympics, her 9.775 and a disappointing 9.8 on the beam were enough to take her out of contention for a medal. Kim finished 10th in the all-around. A few days later in the event finals, Kim finished 8th on vault and 6th on floor exercise. The media would still not leave Kim alone. She suddenly became the symbol of teen athletes who are pushed too hard at too young of an age. No matter how often Kim and other gymnasts insisted they were in the sport because they loved it, the controversy still hasn't gone away.

Kim Zmeskal Newsweek Cover photo by Lori Adamski-Peek

Fans hardly noticed that Kim had her ankle tightly taped at the Olympics. It wasn't until after all was said and done that Kim and Bela admitted that Kim had been diagnosed with a stress fracture in her ankle just before the Olympics began. To this day, Kim has not used her injury as an excuse for her performance in Barcelona. And through all the adversity and media scrutiny, Kim never once cried on the arena floor. If she was crushed by her performance, she never let her fans or her enemies see her give in to grief.

A Comeback or Two

Kim Zmeskal in AtlantaKim caused a lot of excitement among her fans when she attempted her first competitive comeback just before the 1996 Olympics with the help of her former coach, Bela Karolyi. Unfortunately, a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her right knee suffered during an exhibition floor routine, forced her to watch the Atlanta Olympics from the stands.

With a new outlook on her training and a move to Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy, Kim found her second attempt at a comeback to be much more rewarding.  On October 20, 1997, Kim thrilled the audience at the 1997 Rock 'n Roll Gymnastics Championships with two amazing floor routines. Her first was a version of her classic In the Mood/Rock Around the Clock routine (pictured below). Her second was an amazing routine to Bad to the Bone. That routine earned her 4 perfect 10's and a 9.95. No one could catch her after that. Kim took home the electric guitar and a renewed enthusiasm for the sport that has given her so much. Kim repeated her Rock 'n Roll win in 1998.  It was so great to see her that happy. Congratulations Kim. You deserve all the happiness in the world!

Kim Zmeskal during the 1997 Rock n Roll ChampionshipsIn February of 1998 Kim competed at the American Classic- her first amateur competition since Barcelona.  She scored 9.187 on vault (7th place), 8.625 on balance beam (21st place), and 8.75 on floor exercise (13th place).  Kim did not compete on the bars so she did not place in the all-around but I think she did a great job for her first competition back.

After the American Classic, Kim took second place at the 1998 Reese's Cup with   her teammate Amanda Borden and she took third at the Women's Professional Gymnastics Championships.  Her second day vaults were amazing but with the new code of points her full twisting Yuerchenko is only worth a 9.9. 

In early August 1998, Kim showed great form to take third place at the U.S. Classic in San Antonio, Texas with a total score of 35.950  (V 9.125, UB 8.525, B 9.3 and FX 9.0).  Because of this great showing, Kim qualified for the 1998 US Nationals which took place August 19-22 at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis, Indiana.  Placing 11th overall in her first Nationals since 1992 with total scores of 36.287 in prelims and 35.612 in the finals, Kim had an almost perfect meet.  She definitely showed everyone that she meant business out there. 

Kim Zmeskal Milano line

Life Beyond the Gym

Kim had a blast touring with the Magnificent 7 on the John Hancock Tour of World Gymnastics Champions after the 1996 Olympics and appearing in various exhibitions.   Just before the '96 Games, Kim teamed up with Milano International to develop her own line of gymnastics leotards. The picture at the right is from the Milano catalog.

1999 brought a few setbacks for Kim with a torn calf muscle in June and then a ruptured Achilles tendon in July.  Due to a calf muscle injury in the same leg as her Achilles tendon injury, Kim decided in January 2000 that physically it was time to retire from active participation in gymnastics.  But her life outside the gym was just kicking into high gear... 

ringr.gif (2641 bytes)These days, Kim can be found spending time with her husband, Chris Burdette.  Kim and Chris were married at Karolyi's Ranch on October 23rd, 1999.  Among her bridesmaids were Shannon Miller and Amanda Borden.  Kim spent several months in early 2000 helping the future stars of the Sydney Olympics prepare.  Now Kim and Chris have moved back to their native Texas and opened their own gym.  With the opening of Texas Dreams Gymnastics at EveryBody Fits in Coppell, Texas, Kim and Chris will fulfill their dreams of helping the next generation of great US gymnasts and of giving back to the sport some of the benefits they gained over the years. 

And to top it all off, on August 11th, 2001, Kim was inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame.

Personal Notes

Kimblksm.gif (15027 bytes) Just after the '92 games, I was just as disappointed as everyone else that Kim didn't win any individual medals. But the more I thought about it and as more time passed, I realized she did a great job compared to most Olympians. Everyone, including Kim herself, had these incredible expectations of her. When they didn't pan out, most people (including Kim) saw her Olympic experience as a failure. Thousands of athletes compete in the Olympics who never get close to winning any medals, and never get one second of press coverage. When I think of Kim's experience that way, it makes me even more amazed at her accomplishments.

No matter what Kim does now or how she did in the Olympics, she will always be my favorite gymnast and an amazing human being. She showed me that reaching your dreams is not always as important as being a good person and just enjoying what you do. I hope Kim has been able to put everything into perspective and has some fond memories of those special weeks during an exciting Spanish summer. She deserves the peace of mind of knowing that her fans love her, then and now.


Questions? Comments? Suggestions? E-mail me!

Read some wonderful e-mail's from fans about Kim and this site.


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Kim Zmeskal-Burdette: Official Website

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This page was last updated on November 2, 2001

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