|Monica delighted with her |
three gold medals from 79 Pan Ams
Gymnastics fans sigh while remembering with nostalgia the exquisite elegance of Soviet gymnasts during the 1970's, a time when no stone was left unturned relative to artistry and execution. The same holds true for an elegant sprite by the name of Monica Goermann. Always commanding the attention of worldwide audiences when she took to the international floor, there was nothing that separated her impeccable gymnastics from the absolute best Soviets of that decade. In fact, in many respects, she was superior. What was it that separated this physically beautiful, charismatic Canadian gymnast from her compatriots? A look into the past reveals some of the secrets of her highly successful career.
Born on September 01, 1964, Monica became enthusiastic for the sport of gymnastics at age eight after accompanying her mother, Elfriede Goermann, a gymnastics judge, to numerous competitions. For four years, Monica trained at a local gym club until her mother and father, Wolfgang Goermann, founded the Winnipeg Gymnastics Centre. Taking over the role of primary coach for Monica, her driven mother demanded perfection on the apparatus, and trained Monica in a strict manner comparable to that of the eastern European system, derived from their German roots. Training six days a week for five hours each day enabled Monica to keep pace with the best gymnasts in the world and her parents knew that the secret to success was dedication, concentration and an endless amount of hard work. Although Monica acknowledged that her mother was somewhat harder on her than the other girls at the gym, she realized that this approach to training would only benefit her routines and allow her to compete that much better.
|Monica (c. 1978)|
Innately talented with a petite, well-toned physique, Monica possessed all the qualities that it took to become a big star in the sport. Bursting onto the Senior National Team at the age of 12, Monica surprised members of the Canadian Federation by placing 3rd AA at the Canadian National Team Selection meet. From that day forward, Monica was an exemplary competitor for Canada and became a national treasure.
In May of 1978, the Winnipeg native traveled to neighboring province, Ontario, to compete for her first senior national title. The Nepean Sportsplex in Canada’s capital of Ottawa played host to the country’s best gymnasts and the inexperienced 13 year-old Monica competed exceedingly well by placing 4th AA behind a trio of highly touted gymnasts, with whom she would juggle positions for the next few years. Monica’s confidence for this meet had been boosted by a win a few weeks earlier in her home city, where she got the best of Elfi Schlegel, eventual winner of the 1978 Nationals, as well as Montreal Olympian, Karen Kelsall, at a dual meet against Bulgaria.
A few weeks before her 14th birthday, Monica and her family traveled to Edmonton, Alberta for her first major international meet, the 1978 Commonwealth Games. Team competition, as well as the all-around title, were at stake with no individual events to be contested. Teaming with Karen Kelsall, Elfi Schlegel and Sherry Hawco, Canada dominated the field and proudly took home the gold medal, much to the roaring crowd’s sheer delight. Beginning the individual all-around the following day on the vault, Monica performed two high piked Tsukahara’s, each landing with one step back. Moving to the uneven bars, Monica immediately captured the crowd’s attention with her fast paced, intricate routine, which included a free hip to handstand on high bar, half turn to stomach whip on low bar, quickly dropping to a handstand position on the low bar facing out, and with great speed and momentum, immediately thrust her body forward, releasing the low bar to catch the high bar, causing the crowd to gasp in astonishment. Following a stalder sequence, Monica readied herself for her underswing front somi dismount over the low bar. Unfortunately she put her hands down, a problem which had been plaguing her in training all year. Determined to redeem herself after her disappointing bar routine, Monica mounted the balance beam with an English press to handstand and continued with refined technique and the polish of an Olympic champion. Her aerial walkover and cartwheel to back somi were beautiful, as were her switch leap and tourjete. Following her flip flop sequence, Monica dismounted with a difficult cartwheel to double twist and her jubilance was shared by everyone in the arena. She was rightly bestowed the highest score on the beam among all competitors. How fitting it was then to finish on her favourite piece of apparatus, the floor exercise. Showing off her ballet background by dancing to stunning, Soviet-style choreography set to European folk music, Monica’s expression and panache were simply unmatched and she coupled this with sound tumbling. Her first tumbling pass included a roundoff, two back handsprings, double twist; second pass included a roundoff, back handspring, arabian stepout, roundoff, back handspring, high layout stepout and she finished the routine with a roundoff, back handspring double twist. Justly, the crowd thundered their approval. Monica’s enormous efforts earned her the silver medal in a tie with Sherry Hawco, not far behind national champion, Elfi Schlegel.
Monica’s star shone even brighter in 1979, as she won almost every competition she entered. Hammering the competition in fine style in front of a hometown crowd at the Canadian Nationals, Monica became National Champion by over half a point, and picked up three gold medals in event finals in the process, leaving only the vault title to be secured for another. Elated, her confidence grew, and she felt primed for the upcoming competitive season.
Overshadowing her teammates, as well as her British hosts, at the Gold Top Milk International, Monica accumulated more gold to add to her vastly growing medal collection. Continuing to transcend all expectations, Monica once again reigned supreme at the Pan American Games in San Juan, Puerto Rico in July of 1979. What is now viewed as Monica’s most successful international appearance, she dumbfounded the sporting world by winning an inconceivable three gold medals, including the coveted all-around title. Her other golds were achieved with her Canadian team, and she picked up her third gold on the final day of competition on the uneven bars. After winning the silver on floor exercise and the bronze on the balance beam in event finals, further adding to her magnificent haul, Monica’s incredible Pan Am showing now stands as one of Canada’s brightest moments in the sport.
|Monica on her way to winning the AA silver medal |
at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton
With only a few short weeks to catch her breath, a tired but thrilled Monica flew half way around the world to the former Soviet Union to strut her stuff at the world renowned Spartakiade competition. Competing against a huge international field, which included the current World Champion, Yelena Mukhina, as well as the world silver and bronze all-around medalists, Nelli Kim and Natalia Shaposhnikova, Monica must surely have felt great pride when she placed 9th all-around and an astounding 5th on both the balance beam and floor exercise. No doubt if Monica had been adorned with a leotard bearing a Soviet or East German national emblem, she would have finished on the medal rostrum.
After struggling at both the 1978 and 1979 World Championships due to injuries, Monica desperately wanted to represent Canada at the 1980 Olympic Games and to show the world what she was capable of at such a significant competition. Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond her control, a disappointed Monica, who most certainly would have lead her Canadian team in grand style in Moscow, accepted the fact that her country’s flag would not be among those represented. Instead, she turned her attention to the next big meet following the Olympics, the prominent World Cup, where she would represent Canada in front of a home crowd in Ontario’s capital of Toronto.
Representing Canada with good friends and teammate’s, Schlegel and Hawco, Monica readied herself for the two-day competition, which featured all Moscow Olympians with the exception of her teammates and Zheng Zhu of China. Competing with an ankle injury, Monica fell on her first event, the vault, after over rotating her beautifully high piked Tsukahara, causing a fall. She scored a low 8.750. She picked up the pace quite well on the uneven bars scoring a respectable 9.60 for a beautiful and technically sound routine which included a free straddle vault over the low bar, free hip to handstand with a full pirouette on top of the bar, free hips, stalder sequences and she dismounted with her tricky underswing front somersault, with two hops forward on the landing. Moving to the balance beam, Monica showed less hesitation and superior rhythm between movements than any other gymnast in the entire field, including Olympic beam finalist’s, Maxi Gnauck and Steffi Kraker of East Germany, as well as Emilia Eberle of Romania. Sadly, she suffered a major wobble following a back walkover, back somersault, flip flop step out series and hesitated between an aerial walkover, aerial walkover to two feet, combination. Once again, she was leagues ahead in the leaps and jumps category, demonstrating far more amplitude and risk than her opponents. Dismounting with a cartwheel to double twist, Monica scored a disappointing 9.20. Finishing the meet on the floor exercise, Monica enchanted the home crowd with gorgeous choreography and splendid new tumbling, which included a difficult double pike somersault. Monica placed 17th all-around in the World Cup, the meet that was her final major international competition.
As it would entail four more years of dedication and hard work, perhaps Monica wondered if, as a twenty- year-old, she would be able to vie for a precious spot on the Canadian team at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, especially in the face of strong challenges from a rising new generation of stars. Monica decided that she had already given her heart and soul to competitive gymnastics and retired from the sport in 1981.
Monica’s parents still own and operate a gymnastics club in Winnipeg and Monica was awarded with The Manitoba Gymnastics Association’s prestigious Sports Excellence Award for her extraordinary contribution to amateur athletics. While many Canadians have never had the opportunity to witness Monica compete, she was immortalized by a National Film Board Documentary, which followed her training leading up to the 1978 Commonwealth Games. The documentary is still available for purchase at this website.