Vanessa Atler
Atler at the 1999 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships

Full name

Vanessa Marie Atler


Nessa, Ness

Country represented

Flag of the United States of America United States of America


February 17 1982 (1982-02-17) (age 35)
Valencia, California, USA

Years on National Team



Charter Oak Gliders (former)


Valeri Liukin
Beth & Steve Rybacki (former)

Current status


Vanessa Marie Atler is a retired American elite gymnast. She was the 1996 junior all-around National Champion, the 1997 senior all-around National Champion and the 1998 Goodwill Games gold medalist on the floor exercise and vault. At the 1999 American Cup, Atler became the first female American gymnast to successfully perform a Rudi vault.

A member of the U.S. national gymnastics team from the age of 12, Atler was one of the United States' most successful gymnasts as a junior in the late 1990s. Known for her explosive vaults, difficult tumbling skills and outspoken personality, she won or medaled in several important meets, including the Goodwill Games, and was considered to be one of the front-runners for the 2000 Olympics. However, injuries, coaching conflicts and gym changes derailed her progress in 1999 and 2000, and after a poor showing at the 2000 Olympic Trials, she was controversially left off the Olympic team despite placing sixth overall.

Junior Career

Atler was born on February 17, 1982 in Valencia, California and began gymnastics at the age of 5. By the time she was 12 years old, she was competing at the elite level.

As a junior elite gymnast, Atler had a fruitful career. In 1995, she gained attention by placing third in the all-around, behind Olympian Kerri Strug and Heather Brink, at the U.S. Olympic Festival and winning the silver medal in the all-around at that year's U.S. National Championships.

Atler also made her international competitive debut in 1995, winning the floor exercise title at the prestigious International Junior Gymnastics Competition in Japan. She continued to enjoy success in 1996, as she became the junior all-around U.S. National Champion and was invited to participate in a televised exhibition meet, USA vs. the World, with members of the Magnificent Seven and international Olympians.

With her February 1982 birth date, Atler missed the age cutoff for senior competition—which would have given her a chance to compete for a spot on the 1996 Olympic team—by only six weeks. In 1997, she found herself shut out of senior international competition once again, as the FIG raised the age limit from fifteen to sixteen. Nonetheless, Atler competed well in 1997, participating in both junior events and senior meets that were not bound by the FIG's new age restrictions. She placed second at the 1997 American Cup where she also won two golds on beam and vault in the event finals and tied with Kristy Powell to win the senior all-around title at the U.S. National Championships.At that same edition of the National Championships,Atler also won gold on vault and tied with teammate Jamie Dantzscher for bronze on bars. She also won the 1997 Canberra Cup in Australia, an important meet for junior international gymnasts.

In 1997, however, Atler began to experience problems on the uneven bars. On the second day of the U.S. Nationals, a fall from the apparatus kept her from winning the title outright. This marked the beginning of a string of competitions in which she suffered unusual mistakes and misses on bars. In her diary, she once referred to the bars as "the devil--testing my will and my patience, even my love for the sport." Over the next few years, bars would become a mental block for the young athlete who time after time failed to put together a mistake-free routine in the heat of competition.

Senior Career

In 1998, Atler was finally age-eligible for senior competition. The year got off to an inauspicious start, as another fall from the bars cost her the all-around title at the American Cup. She placed fourth overall,despite winning a bronze on bars in the event finals thanks to a rare hit routine and defending her vault title.

At the 1998 Goodwill Games, Atler was chosen to compete on floor exercise and vault, her two strongest apparatus. She won both events, defeating, in the process, a roster of Olympic and World medalists. She had a similarly strong showing at the 1998 Copa Gimnastica in Mexico City in the fall, where she had a good competition on all four events, including bars, won the gold on vault and placed third in the all-around behind Viktoria Karpenko and Simona Amânar.

At the 1998 U.S Nationals,Atler fell from bars on the first day of competition and ended the preliminaries in sixth. She,however,won gold on floor,silver on vault,and came back in the finals to hit her bars routine (scoring her personal best ever) and win the silver in the all-around behind Kristen Maloney thanks to good performances on all events.

In 1999, however, Atler had significant struggles. Early in the year, at the American Cup, she became the first American woman to successfully complete a Rudi vault in competition, and won the gold medal on the event,as well as on floor and beam.However, she once again fell off the bars at both stages of competition and placed third in the all-around. Shortly thereafter, at the Paris-Bercy meet in France, she placed second in the all-around to Svetlana Khorkina whilst competing in a field that included gymnasts by the likes of Simona Amanar and Viktoria Karpenko, whom she defeated thanks also to earning the best score of the day on floor,and won another vault gold medal but severely injured her ankle during the floor exercise final when she landed out-of-bounds, in an area without protective safety mats, after her first tumbling pass. Atler recovered in time to compete at the 1999 U.S. Nationals, where she won the event titles on the vault and the balance beam. However, in the all-around, she once again fell from bars and finished second to Kristen Maloney.


Atler at the 1999 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships

Following the U.S. Nationals, Atler left her longtime coaches at Charter Oak gymnastics club, Steve and Beth Rybacki. She was too injured to compete at the U.S. World Team trials, but was petitioned onto the team on the strength of her scores at Nationals. Competing at the 1999 World Championships in Tianjin, China, Atler was injured, out of shape and unprepared for the meet. The stress proved to be too great as she only hit one clean routine throughout the team competition, and scored in the low 8s and 9s on bars and beam. She qualified for the all-around finals, but, struggling with her injury, placed 31st in the all-around. After the World Championships, Atler had surgery twice on her ankle.Her injury had been misdiagnosed as a sprain but x-rays after Worlds revealed bone chips had broken. Atler had also elected to withdraw from the floor final that she had qualified in fourth for, and the beam final where she would have replaced also injured teammate Kristen Maloney.

In late 1999, Atler moved to Texas to train with 1988 Olympic champion Valeri Liukin at the World Olympic Gymnastics Academy (WOGA). Still struggling with her bars performances, she performed respectably at the 2000 U.S. Nationals,finishing fourth in the all-around and winning silver on floor and bronze on vault. However, at the Olympic Trials a few weeks later, Atler experienced what many considered a meltdown. She was unable to hit even one clean routine over the two days of competition, and botched moves that she usually performed well, changing her vault in mid-air, modifying tumbling passes on floor and falling on her back on her balance beam dismount. As a result, the Olympic Selection Committee opted to leave her completely off the U.S. Olympic Team. However, even with major mistakes in each routine, Atler managed to place sixth at trials, causing some to argue that she had earned a spot on the team and to question the fairness of the selection process. Six athletes were named to the team as well as two alternates.

Atler retired in April 2001 from competitive gymnastics,after performing in the post-Olympic tour during fall 2000 and having trained for a short period of time at Rohnert Park Gymnastics with Ben Corr.


Atler currently coaches at the American Kids Sports Center in Bakersfield, California.

Appearences in other medias

Atler's large popularity led her to becoming a professional athlete at a young age. During her elite career,she competed in various professional competitions such as the Reese's Cup and the Rock'N'Roll Championships, appeared in commercials for the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and the U.S. Olympic Committee and in documentaries for ESPN (Scholastic Sports America) and Fox Sports (Going Deep).

Medal Count

Year Event TF AA VT UB BB FX
1994Junior U.S. Classic3rd1st1st2nd
1995Junior American Classic 43rd
Junior Coca-Cola Championships2nd2nd
U.S. Olympic Festival3rd661st2nd
Catania Cup52nd43rd
International Junior Gymnastics Competition441st
1996Junior American Classic 1st1st1st1st
Junior Coca-Cola Championships1st
City of Popes Competition92nd
1997John Hancock Championships1st1st3rd105
International Team Championships2nd
Foxsport Challenge1st2nd2nd1st43rd
Canberra Cup1st2nd3rd2nd1st
American Cup2nd1st1st
1998John Hancock Championships2nd2nd2551st
International Team Championships1st64142nd4
Australia Cup1st1st1st
American Cup41st3rd87
Pacific Alliance Championships1st1st1st
New York Goodwill Games1st1st
1999American Classic1st1st1st1st1st
John Hancock Championships2nd1st1st
American Cup3rd1st1st1st
Bercy World Cup2nd1st
Pontiac International Team Meet2nd
Tianjin World Championships6
2000U.S. Classic 1st2nd3rd1st
John Hancock Championships42nd63rd
Pacific Alliance Championships1st3rd
U.S. Olympic Trials6

Floor Music

1995-1996 - Phill's Piano Solo by Terry Fryer

1997-1998 - Jack's Conga by Micheal Kamen

1998-1999 - "La Cumparsita" by M.Rodriguez

2000 - "Les Deux Guitares" by Paul Mauriat

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