Former U.S. National Champ (1997) Vanessa Atler (pictured at left) joins the cast of the reality show “Starting Over” today. The show, whose tagline is “Everyday women. Reinventing their lives. Together … Under one roof,” uses two life coaches, a psychologist and other inspirational assistance designed to jump start the lives of six women at crossroads in their lives. The rotating cast members, whom “Starting Over” promotional material refers to as “extraordinary women who want to make extraordinary changes in their lives,” live together in a house in Los Angeles during filming of the show. Most cast members remain in the house for about two to three months before “graduating.” Atler started filming “Starting Over” episodes in November and left the house on February 10, according to her official website (www.vanessascorner.com).
During her gymnastics career, Atler, who turned 23 last week, struggled with coaching conflicts, inconsistency and injury, although most expected her to be a part of the Olympic team in spite of those difficulties. Instead, Atler, sixth at the 2000 Olympic Trials, was left off the squad altogether.
Atler has been vocal in her disappointment with U.S. gymnastics officials and the Sydney selection process. (Atler has claimed that she was told, before the conclusion of the '00 Trials, that she would not be selected, no matter how she performed.) “They chose me to be the star, to be the perfect American girl, and it didn’t work out that way,” Atler said in an interview with the New York Times’ Juliet Macur last year. “It’s sad because they’re basically dealing with children who trust them, then in the end they manipulate you. They’re very sneaky and it really caused a lot of pain.”
Atler (pictured at left in 2000) has also confessed she struggled with bulimia during her career, telling the Times she “binged and purged nearly every meal,” during her run for the 2000 team. In “Starting Over” Atler says that, “being a gymnast started to become a burden and she stopped having fun,” at age 13 or 14.
Since 2000, Atler briefly attended college but currently makes her living coaching in Southern California and at various summer camps. She reveals on "Starting Over" that she gave away the money she'd earned in the sport, nearly $60,000, to family and friends she felt indebted to, including putting her brother through college and buying him a car and giving her boyfriend of two years nearly $8,000. Atler's stated “Starting Over” goal is to, “conquer her fear of failure and work on creating a new identity."
“When I look back on my childhood, half of it was pure bonding, fun and love,” Atler’s “Starting Over” bio reveals. “But the other half felt like torture. When I was at gym, I would cry almost every day before a workout, get screamed at by my coaches and missed out on social situations. I felt I had to pretend I was happy all the time because that was the only way I could get through it.”
“Starting Over” is syndicated by NBC television and airs at various times across the country. For information on local airtimes/stations, visit: http://www.startingovertv.com/wherewatch/index.html.