Before there was the Fierce Five, there was the Magnificent Seven. Greenfield native and former Harris Elementary student Jaycie Phelps won an Olympic gold medal along with six of her fellow U.S. gymnasts by capturing the team championship at the 1996 Atlanta games. Phelps, Shannon Miller, Dominique Moceanu, Kerri Strug, Amy Chow, Dominique Dawes and Amanda Borden were the first U.S. gymnasts to win an Olympics team gold medal. Earlier this week, Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, Kyla Ross and Jordyn Wieber duplicated the feat. The Daily Reporter caught up with Greenfield’s trailblazer for her thoughts on this year’s squad, and a look back at the magic of 1996.
The Fierce Five — how will their lives change?
“Dramatically (laughs). That was one of the first things I said (after they won) … their lives are about to change. From what I understand, they’ve all turned professional already, so the college scholarship thing is not going to happen. They’re going to have tons of opportunities; they’re doing the (exhibition) tour, which we did in ‘96. We did 85 cities and that was the most fun experience I’ve ever had in my life, so they’re going to experience all that stuff.
“They’re going to meet the president and travel everywhere and probably meet anyone they want to meet and it’s just going to be, from this point on, when the Olympics is over for all of them, it’s going to be a year, maybe two years of complete rock star status. Just an experience of a lifetime for them.”
What did you enjoy about the post-Olympics nationwide tour?
“The system is a lot different now for the girls training on the national team. They get together once a month and we actually have a national team training center for the women.
“Gymnastics on the women’s side had always been more about individual clubs just doing their own thing and now we’ve got a system where everybody’s working together and we’ve got a national staff, and the girls are really good friends going into competitions and they know each other really well, which is different than when we were training.
“We always competed against each other and never trained with each other, so being able to do that afterwards and be on tour and just get to know everyone a lot better … it was a different environment. We weren’t competing against each other; we were performing together, so it was a little more relaxed a laid back. We just got to have fun. Plus, we were on tour buses, so, you know, rock stars (laughs).
“And there’s nothing like performing in from of 20, 30, 40 thousand people and we did it every night for months in a row. It was cool. And I was still a junior in high school, so I was in school Monday through Wednesday and on the road in a tour bus Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, so it was kind of a double life. It was a lot of fun, but it kept me grounded, too. To have to reel myself back in and be a normal student and kid. I was thankful for that, too.”