Few gymnasts have dominated on a national level as Kim Zmeskal did from 1989-92, when she won four consecutive U.S. titles: one junior and three seniors. But it was Zmeskal's international achievements, fueled by her energized spunk, that really jump-started a U.S. women's program that had taken a dip after its success in 1984.
Born Feb. 6, 1976, in Houston, Zmeskal became the first American to win a world all-around title, in 1991 in Indianapolis. And to prove it was no home-advantage fluke, Zmeskal, who was coached by the legendary Bela and Marta Karolyi, followed her historic victory with gold medals on balance beam and floor exercise at the inaugural Individual Apparatus World Championships in Paris in 1992.
And while she was unable to continue her individual success at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Zmeskal rallied in the team competition with the highest optional total of any country that day (39.687), which helped the U.S. secure the bronze medal.
Though she may not have lived up to external expectations in Barcelona, Zmeskal revealed a character worthy of any gold medal. It was discovered that she had competed with a stress fracture in her left ankle at those Olympics, yet the 16-year-old gymnast never used it as an excuse.
After a brief retirement, Zmeskal was lured back to competition by her love for the sport. A torn ACL ruined her comeback attempt for the 1996 Olympics, but she resumed training the following quadrennium before a torn Achilles' tendon ultimately ended her competitive career for good.
Zmeskal's passion for the sport never waned, however, and today she and husband Chris Burdette operate their own gym, Texas Dreams, in Coppell, Texas. The couple also has three kids of their own: Ryder, Koda and Riven Belle.