Getting to Know Vanessa Atler


[Portrait of Vanessa]

June 3, 1996

At this year's Coca-Cola National Championships, many people will be focused on the competition for a qualifying spot at the 1996 U.S. Olympic Trials, and ultimately the 1996 Olympic team. Crowds will cheer for familiar names such as Dominique Dawes, Shannon Miller, Dominique Moceanu, and Kerri Strug. Those in the know, however, will also be paying close attention to the junior competition, where gymnasts like Vanessa Atler are pushing the boundaries.

At the 1996 American Classic in February, Atler won the junior division with an optional score that topped all but two of the seniors (Jaycie Phelps and Dominique Dawes). Vanessa and her teammate, Jamie Dantzscher, are both well known for their clean execution, fantastic choreography, and difficult routines. Their success and reputation has even reached the international arena: in all of their international competitions thus far, they have outscored all other competitors their age or younger. When asked about coaching their dynamic duo, the Rybacki's gave a sample of their coaching philosophy:

We have spent quite a bit of time the last two years working on our relationships. All gymnasts are going to do better with a group of helpful people around them. Everyone respects each other in our workouts. We do not believe in letting them rival against each other. That kind of "push" is short lived. If it would be left up to them, all gymnasts in the meet would "hit" and the best would win. No matter who they may be.

I love Jamie [Dantzscher, teammate] with all my heart and I don't know if it would be much fun traveling alone to all those meets. She's always encouraging me and I don't think it would be the same without her. She's my pick for the Championships. She's been training awesome!
- Vanessa Atler

Did you know that...

Atler enjoys international travel. She says, "I've made a lot of friends at international competitions. Exchanging gifts with other gymnasts is fun. As for my gymnastics, when I see Russian, Romanian, and Chinese gymnasts it makes me want to hurry up and get home to start working on my gymnastics again. Boy, they're tough!"

Vanessa's home was very close to the center of the 1994 earthquake in California. "My whole family slept in a tent in our backyard. The freeways were down and I had to travel two hours to get to the gym. Rain or earthquakes, we still have practice!"

There are many times in workouts when I need to tell her to not try so hard. As her coaches, our hopes for her success are centered around her spirit. She is a great person and we are grateful to have her training with us.
- Steve Rybacki

The Rybacki's disagree with the raising of the age limit to sixteen for international competition, a rule which goes into effect in 1997. "Our workouts are demanding, but, right now we train only 27 hours a week. Abusive coaches will NOT go away by raising the age limit... The talk of not having a '98 Worlds will keep some VERY talented U.S. gymnasts from having a shot at placing at big competitions such as these. This will also give the financially strapped eastern Europe countries time to build their programs back up."

Energy and drive are Vanessa's best gymnastics traits. Atler said, "I would have to say that I try hard all the time in practice. Well, since Steve and Beth are probably going to read this, I better say, I ALMOST try all the time in practice! Right Steve?"

Vanessa loves to surf the web. Check out some of her favorites sites!

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