Kim Zmeskal
Westfield High School

American gymnast and coach


Kimberly Lynn Zmeskal (Burdette, born February 6, 1976 in Houston, Texas) is an American gymnast and coach. As a young girl, Zmeskal was one of the first to sign up for gymnastics classes under the tutelage of coaching great Bela Karolyi who had recently bought a run-down gym in her Houston neighbourhood. An energetic child of parents David and Clarice, it was a natural choice that she join a gymnastics class.

Attending classes Zmeskal had the opportunity to closely observe and interact with her heroine, Mary Lou Retton. Her assests were unyielding determination and ability to focus under stressful situations. Although she was sometimes criticised by coach Karolyi for a lack of discipline, she had the uncanny ability to rise to the occasion when it counted.

In 1989, at the age of 13, Zmeskal became the U.S. Junior National Champion. This was to be the start of her rise to the top of the gymnastics world. Before the year was out she had also taken first place in the American Classic, the Swiss Cup Mixed Pairs (with Lance Ringnald), and the Arthur Gander Memorial.

Proving her ability to excel was not a fluke, in 1991, Zmeskal became the first American gymnast, (male or female) to win the all-around title at the World Gymnastics Championships in Indianapolis, IN. (vault: 9.962, uneven bars: 9.937, beam: 9.962, floor: 9.987). Thwarting critics that had said that Zmeskal had won the championship title only because the competition was held in the United States, Zmeskal turned out gold medal performances at the Individual Apparatus Championships in Paris. It is worth noting however that the world championships in an Olympic year are not full worlds, only individual apparatus and as such are not considered to be as competitive as those in non-Olympic years. Many of the best were not actually in Paris. Zmeskal's victory over Svetlana Boguinskaya in Indianapolis remains controversial.

Naturally, Zmeskal was endowed with American hopes for its first team gold medal and a plethora of gold medals in the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games. Unfortunately, Zmeskal would fall off the balance beam during her routine the first night of competition. Although after a magical rebound performance on the floor, vault, and bars, Zmeskal was in 32nd place after the compulsories and 5th on the American team.

With impressive scores of 9.912 on beam, 9.95 on vault, 9.9 on uneven bars, and a crowd pleasing 9.925 on floor, Zmeskal rocketed into 12th place and into the all-around competition by finishing third among the American women. Her combined score of 39.687 for the night was the highest of any competitor, even Shannon Miller.

Although reaching the all-around competition, Zmeskal would falter during her floor exercise, stepping out of bounds. It would later be revealed that Zmeskal was suffering from a stress fracture in her ankle before the Olympics began. Zmeskal however, did not use this as an excuse for her performance.

Her dreams for a comeback in Atlanta during the 1996 Olympic Games would be dashed due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her right knee suffered during a floor exercise.

Zmeskal retired from competition in 2000 from injuries. In 1999, she married coach Chris Burdette whom she had met during a clinic. Zmeskal now spends time with her husband, speaking and coaching, and had recently opened a coaching program in Coppell, Texas for girls who wish to follow in her footsteps. She has coached an athlete to nationals standard, unusual for so young and relatively inexperienced a coach. The Burdettes had their first child, son Robert Ryder, in May of 2005.

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