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Julissa Gomez
— Gymnast —
Full name Julissa D'Anne Gomez
Country represented  United States
Born (1972-11-04)November 4, 1972
San Antonio, Texas
Died August 8, 1991(1991-08-08) (aged 18)
Houston, Texas
Discipline Women's artistic gymnastics
Level Senior international
Club Karolyi's; GAGE
Former coach(es) Béla Károlyi; Marta Károlyi; Al Fong

Julissa D'anne Gomez (November 4, 1972 – August 8, 1991) was an American gymnast whose rapid rise through the ranks of elite gymnastics in the mid-1980s was cut short by a vaulting accident in 1988 that left her quadriplegic. Her injury sparked major changes to the vaulting discipline of women's gymnastics with the goal of preventing such serious injuries.


Gomez was born in San Antonio, Texas, the younger of two daughters born to a pair of former migrant farm workers from Laredo, Texas.[1] Her parents, mother Otilia and father Ramiro, worked their way up from their farm working days to become a teacher and a welder, respectively, and struggled to keep their family together while giving 10-year-old budding gymnast Julissa a chance to train with renowned gymnastics coach Béla Károlyi in Houston.[2] At the 1986 U.S. Championships, she placed fourth in the all-around in the junior division and won a place on the U.S. National Team.[3] By 1987 she was representing the United States in international meets. Especially strong on the uneven bars and balance beam, Gomez was considered a legitimate contender for the 1988 U.S. Olympic team.

In mid-1987, Gomez, wanting to move further up the rankings and reportedly frustrated with Károlyi's sometimes abusive training methods,[1] decided to leave the Károlyis. After briefly training at US Acrosports in Webster, Texas,[4] Gomez's search for a new coach led her to select Al Fong, who was the trainer of another up-and-coming gymnast eager to make the 1988 Olympic team, Christy Henrich.[1] Though her parents had vowed to keep the family together no matter where Julissa's career took her, they decided that Ramiro would move with Julissa to Blue Springs, Missouri, where Fong's gymnastics club, Great American Gymnastics Express (GAGE), was located, while Otilla would remain behind until Julissa's older sister Kristy finished school for the year.


In May 1988, several months before the Olympics, she traveled with her coach to Tokyo, Japan, to compete in the World Sports Fair. In an eerie foreshadowing of events to come, during the qualifying rounds of the competition, Gomez reportedly spoke about the Soviet gymnast Elena Mukhina, who had been paralyzed in an accident in 1980 just a few weeks before the Moscow Olympics.[5] Mukhina's former coach, Mikhail Klimenko, was reportedly in attendance at the meet.[1]

During the all-around competition, Gomez qualified for the vault finals. However, observers had noticed her struggle with the apparatus over the months leading up to the competition, including her former coach Béla Károlyi, past and present teammates, and even her present coach Al Fong. Gomez's technique on the extremely difficult Yurchenko vault had been described as shaky at best, and Gomez was unable to perform the vault with any consistency during practices, sometimes missing her feet on the springboard.[1] A teammate from Károlyi's, Chelle Stack, later stated, "You could tell it was not a safe vault for her to be doing. Someone along the way should have stopped her."[1] However, Julissa's coaches insisted that she needed to continue training and competing the Yurchenko vault in order to achieve high scores.[1]

During warmups for the final, held on May 5, 1988, Gomez continued to practice the Yurchenko. As she raced toward the vault on one of her practice runs, her foot slipped off the springboard and her head hit the vaulting horse at high speed. The resulting impact instantly paralyzed her from the neck down.[6] A subsequent accident at a Japanese hospital, in which she became disconnected from her ventilator,[1] resulted in severe brain damage and left her in a catatonic state.[7] Gomez's family cared for her for three years before she succumbed to an infection and died in August 1991 in Houston, just three months shy of her nineteenth birthday.[2]


The Gomez tragedy stands as one of the most serious accidents ever to occur in artistic gymnastics, and helped prompt changes in the sport. In 1989, the International Gymnastics Federation decided to increase vaulting safety by allowing U-shaped springboard mats, traditionally utilized in practice to give all gymnasts a greater margin of error in preflight, to be used during competitions.[1] The mat is now mandatory: as of the 2006 Code of Points, performing a Yurchenko-style vault without the safety mat results in an automatic score of zero.[8]

In 2001, the traditional horse was completely phased out and replaced by a larger, more stable vaulting table to provide gymnasts with additional safety.

See also[edit]

  • Elena Mukhina, a Soviet gymnast paralyzed in a tumbling accident in 1980 while attempting the now-banned-for-women Thomas salto
  • Christy Henrich, an American gymnast who was told by an international gymnastics judge in 1989 to lose weight and pushed by coaches to lose weight while continuing to train until constant dieting led to anorexia nervosa, which contributed to Henrich's death from multiple organ failure less than five years later
  • Little Girls in Pretty Boxes, Book by Joan Ryan recalling Julissa Gomez's story, along with other gymnasts and figure skaters.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Ryan, Joan (1995). Little Girls in Pretty Boxes. Garden City: Doubleday. pp. 17–20. ISBN 978-0-385-47790-1. 
  2. ^ a b "Tales from the vaults" Rebecca Seal, Guardian Unlimited, 4 December 2005.
  3. ^ Results from 1986 Jr. Nationals at Gymn-Forum
  4. ^ Results from 1987 U.S. Nationals at Gymn-Forum
  5. ^ Memorial at Gymnastics Greats
  6. ^ "Gymnast paralyzed" The New York Times, May 8, 1988.
  7. ^ Hudson, Maryann (June 27, 1988). "A Gym Tragedy: Mother Says U.S. Athlete Fell Into a Coma Because of Treatment at a Tokyo Hospital". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 10, 2013. 
  8. ^ Code of Points at the official website of the International Federation of Gymnastics (FIG):Section 8.4, "Specific Apparatus Deductions (A Panel), page 34.

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julissa_Gomez — Please support Wikipedia.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.

61 news items

Sun, 24 Jan 2016 13:48:38 -0800

Perdió Julissa Gómez. Yadira González se fue de 4-3, mientras que Gabriela Díaz terminó bateando de 4-2 y Yanina Cáceres pegó dos dobles. En otro partido, Punta Caña se llevó una victoria 10-8 ante Pedro Corto. Ganó Julissa Figuereo y perdió Benier ...

The Orion

The Orion
Fri, 04 Sep 2015 16:45:41 -0700

“I don't really understand it,” said Julissa Gomez, first-year student. The artwork Gomez was referring to was simple— five small red balls juxtaposed with two larger blue balls— but still too abstract for some students. When asked about her favorite ...

Scottsbluff Star Herald

Scottsbluff Star Herald
Sun, 26 Jul 2015 00:50:38 -0700

... on what the baby needs,” said Eli Rodriguez, UNMC senior nursing student. Taylor Keegan of Hemingford, attended the camp to learn more about nursing. “I came for the experience and to see what I'm getting myself into,” said Julissa Gomez, of Alliance.

Manteca Bulletin

Manteca Bulletin
Thu, 28 May 2015 02:22:30 -0700

... Rudy Esquibel, Nathaniel Fausto, Michael Foley, Shantal Fontaine, Krystal Freitas, Casandra Gamino Ruiz, Luis Garcia, Melanie Garcia, Kryshara Gary, John Gish, Julissa Gomez, Alex Gonzalez Iniguez, John Gudino, Alexis Gutierrez Perez, Sayed Hakimi, ...

Vivelo Hoy

Vivelo Hoy
Fri, 02 Sep 2011 10:00:42 -0700

Pero Julissa Gómez nunca ha pensado en deshacerse de ellos. “Ya no me los pongo, pero no los puedo tirar”, dijo Gómez, de 36 años, una abogada y ahora maestra de educación especial que sobrevivió a los ataques del 11 de septiembre. “Estos zapatos ...

Slate Magazine (blog)

Slate Magazine (blog)
Wed, 01 Aug 2012 05:59:08 -0700

Ryan chronicled the accident at the 1988 World Sports Fair in Tokyo in which Julissa Gomez was left a quadraplegic after attempting a Yurchenko vault. Gomez, who eventually died from complications of her injuries and treatment, was not proficient ...

Daily Mail

Daily Mail
Tue, 17 Jun 2014 17:58:41 -0700

A total of eight acrobats were seriously injured on May 4 in Rhode Island when their circus platform collapsed and fell 40-feet; Four of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus acrobats appeared in public at their Boston hospital for the first ...


Wed, 07 May 2014 09:48:07 -0700

2 of the victims in the Ringling Brothers circus accident Sunday at the Dunkin Donuts Center have spinal cord injuries and face “a long road” to ever walking again. Emergency personnel tend to victims after Sunday's circus accident. The neurosurgeon at ...

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