Talking to a legend

Bart Conner is one of the most decorated gymnasts of all time. In 1978, while at the University of Oklahoma, his team won the NCAA Championship and individually he won the NCAA All-Around title. Six years later, he won a gold medal as part as Team USA and after scoring two perfect 10's, he won an individual gold medal in the parallel bars. After he retired, he became a TV broadcaster and has covered gymastics including several Georgia meets and recently he talked about the Gym Dogs with me.

Dave McMahon -- What are you impressed with this year's Georgia gymnastic team?

Bart Conner -- I am really impressed with the depth and quality of the Gym Dogs. What a luxury to have that much talent. Imagine that Georgia won last year with much less depth. This year could be incredible.

DM -- When you were on the 1984 Olympic Team, they were heavy favorites to win and they did win. Coming into the NCAA's, the Gym Dogs will be favorites. Do you think, Georgia likes being in the favorite role, or do you think they like being the underdog?

BC -- Honestly, I prefer being an underdog, but being a favorite is not a new experience for Suzanne Yoculan. She is a great motivator, and I am sure she will have the team properly focused.

DM -- What are Georgia's strengths this year?

BC -- Depth, talent and confidence.

DM -- Why aren't there perfect 10's anymore?

BC -- The international gymnastics rules are going through many changes, however I prefer the old system. I am very happy that the Women's Collegiate coaches ignored the international rules and retained the Perfect 10 scoring system. I think the so called "open-scoring system" of the international rules, where gymnasts scores will be something like 15.1 or 16.2 is a big mistake. The concept of a Perfect 10 is a gymnastics brand that we should retain.

DM -- The Gym Dogs this year are so young, but freshmen gymnasts are a lot different now, aren't they?

BC -- Yes, these freshmen have so much more elite gymnastics experience that those of previous years. I am so impressed with the level of competition in the NCAA program these days. Many years ago, most of the top US gymnasts chose not to go to compete for a collegiate program. Now days, the collegiate programs are so good, that it is becoming more and more competitive to get a scholarship at a top program like Georgia, Alabama, UCLA, Utah, and others.

DM -- You were an olympic champion and a college champion, Courtney Kupets is trying to do the same thing. What are the differences of the two competitions?

BC -- Competition is competition. Yes, of course, it is a little different in college because the athletes have so many other social commitments with school and community service. But, the great athletes, like Courtney, and others, have learned to become very efficient with their time. At the Olympic level, you must compete much more difficult routines than in the NCAA program. But in Olympic level gymnastics there are very few competitions each year. In the NCAA program, these young ladies have to compete several times throughout the season, so there is a different kind of pressure to be consistent. Plus, in NCAA competition, your teammates are counting on you to deliver week in and week out, as opposed to the Olympics which is more like an All-Star team.

DM -- You have been to Athens several times, what do you like about the town and the Gym Dog fans?

BC -- I love coming to Athens for a meet. The energy and the winning spirit is awesome. Plus, I love following Women's NCAA gymnastics. Many of these young ladies come from the elite world of gymnastics which is very tough, and lonely. For these young ladies to be on a team with the kind of pride and confidence that they have a Georgia is, for many of them, a life changing experience.

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