Jaycie Phelps has the skill and the desire to try for her second Olympic team. What she doesn't have are the knees.
The second-youngest member of the "Magnificent Seven" announced Thursday she was withdrawing from next week's U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials because of chronic knee problems.
"Of course it's disappointing, especially for Jaycie. But we knew this going in," said her coach, Geoff Eaton. "Jaycie is a very, very gifted athlete. This was solely a matter of her body not allowing her to go any further."
Four other members of the first American women's team to win Olympic gold are expected to compete next week. Combined scores from trials (60 percent) and last month's U.S. Gymnastics Championships (40 percent) will be used to rank the gymnasts, and a selection committee headed by Bela Karolyi then will choose the six-person squad.
Phelps said the decision to drop out was tough, but she couldn't even walk her dog because the pain was so bad after the U.S. Gymnastics Championships last month.
"I came back to start training and I did a couple of workouts, and it got to the point where I couldn't walk out of the gym," she said. "I couldn't take my dog for walk, I couldn't get up my stairs."
"It's in my best interest to do this right now, get the knee fixed and hopefully I can do some things in 2001."
That Phelps, 20, even got this far is impressive. When the meniscus in her left knee was replaced in 1997 --the third operation on the knee -- doctors told her they doubted she'd be able to compete again.
But she was diligent in her rehabilitation and decided last November that she wanted to come back and try for the Sydney Olympics. She chased her goal full speed, training for all four events instead of settling for the uneven bars and the balance beam, which put less stress on her knee.
"The left knee is doing great. That was the main concern when I started training and it's held up the whole time," she said. "It hasn't given me any problems at all."
This time, it's her right knee. She began having pain about a month ago, but still competed in the all-around preliminaries at nationals. She struggled to a 17th-place finish, and her highest score was a 9.050 on the balance beam.
She withdrew before the finals there because of her injury, and an examination showed some fraying in her right meniscus. Rather than risk further injury, Phelps decided to take care of it now.
"We knew it was a long shot, and it's too bad the cards fell this way for us, but at least we tried. At least we gave it that shot," Eaton said. "It's much better to try and know than not (try) at all and always wonder."
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