Carly Patterson was the “it” girl, the one with the big chance to become the next Mary Lou Retton.
Courtney McCool was the upstart senior with the impeccable form who some thought could win it all for herself.
Courtney Kupets was an amazing comeback story — the girl who had weathered a potentially career-ending injury and come back better than she’d been before, all in less than a year.
Mohini Bhardwaj had defied all odds and made an Olympic team eight years after she was expected to be at her prime.
Annia Hatch was living the American dream.
And Terin Humphrey was the girl, who despite not being a particular Olympic favorite (some doubted she’d make the team, given that the USA had so much talent to choose from) wound up standing on a podium in Athens all by herself with a silver medal around her neck.
If, as the reports say, Humphrey will never compete again, one of the quietest and yet most significant careers of the past eight years has come to an end.What was it about her that inspired such fan devotion? On a message board around the 2004 Olympic trials, someone posted something along the lines of “I don’t care how anyone else does. I only care about Terin…” Sounds a bit stalkerish, but I think it was meant with the best of intentions.
Her gymnastics had a kind of vulnerability to it — there was often a sense that this one was special, but needed to be protected, needed to keep working hard to earn her spot. She was very, very easy to cheer for.
The fan devotion lingered after the Olympics when she accepted a scholarship to Alabama. Many gymnastics fans are probably distraught to hear that Humphrey won’t be completing her senior season, won’t get another shot at an NCAA Championship.
But what great moments she did give.
A young, iridescent Humphrey at the 1999 U.S. Junior Championships on floor:
She caught big media attention with her bar routine at the 2000 International Team Championships:
2002 was the year she debuted her signature “Armenian Tango” floor routine:
Her helicopter turn on balance beam wowed commentators at the 2003 U.S. Championships:
She upgraded to a highly respectable double-twisting Yurchenko in 2004, although it was said the move scared her:
Terin’s Olympic moment on uneven bars:
She was the NCAA bars champion in 2005 as well:
College allowed Humphrey more freedom of expression, as demonstrated in this 2007 floor exercise:
The NCAA bar title was hers for the second time last year, too:
Humphrey competed bars four times for Alabama this season. She did not compete any other events.
“The Dream Within” — One of Aleksas’ many montage tributes to Humphrey (like many, Aleksas was a huge Humphrey fan):