In Memory of
Julissa Gomez

1972 - 1991

Sixth months leading up to the 1988 Olympic Games, Julissa Gomez (USA) ranked 13th in the USA....

Photo used with the expressed permission
of Sato Takeo
of the OEFC Gymnastics Gallery

Gomez' Competitive Results:

1986 American Classic (Junior Division): 2nd AA
1986 US National Junior Championships: 4th AA
1986 US Olympic Sports Festival: 4th T, 22nd AA
1986 USA vs China: 1st T, 3rd UB (?)
1987 Alamo City Invitational
1987 US National Championships
1988 Flips Invitational: 5th AA
1988 World Sports Fair

You could tell it was not a safe vault for her to be doing. Someone shoud have stopped her along the way -- Chelle Stack.

At the age of ten, Julissa’s family packed up their belongings and moved from San Antonio to Houston, Texas so that Julissa could train with Bela Karolyi. One week before the 1987 US National Championships, Julissa left Karolyi’s gym. She trained for a brief period at another gym in Houston before settling at Al Fong’s gym in Blue Springs, Missouri.

Julissa was told that in order to remain competitive, she must perform the Yurchenko vault. Julissa never felt comfortable with this vault, but continued to train the vault. A few months before the 1988 US Olympic Trials, Julissa entered the 1988 World Sports Fair in Tokyo, Japan. Julissa performed well on the first day and qualified to the vault event finals. That day, someone had also directed Julissa's attention to a Soviet coach across the floor of the Tokyo arena -- Elena Mukhina's former coach. That night, Julissa couldn't stop thinking about Elena Mukhina, the 1978 World AA Champion who became paralyzed after landed on her head during a tumbling run two weeks before the beginning of the 1980 Olympics.

During warm-ups the next day, Julissa was off and barely made the first vault. On her second vault, her right foot missed the springboard and she crashed into and over the vault. Her forehead slammed into the side of the horse, breaking her neck. Japanese TV actually broadcast this vault.


Photo used with the expressed
permission of
Sato Takeo of the
OEFC Gymnastics Gallery

Julissa’s parents were immediately flown to Japan, where doctors informed her parents that they were 99 percent certain that Julissa was paralyzed from the neck down. One week later Julissa has a tracheotomy (a procedure to help her breath on her own) and every day she was breathing more and more on her own. Julissa’s parents proceeded to make arrangements to fly her home, but when they arrived at the hospital they were told that during the night Julissa had become disconnected from her oxygen supply. She was in a coma with considerable brain damage.

Julissa was eventually brought back to the USA, where she required round-the-clock care. The USGF’s insurance would pay for nurses for only 40 hours per week, so Julissa’s family (father Ramiro, mother Otilia and sister Kristy) shared the burden of watching over Julissa’s ventilator, maintaining her feeding tube, changing and bathing her. Three years later, in August 1991, Julissa contracted an infection and passed away. 

1999-2002. This page was created on January 26, 1999 and last updated on December 22, 1999.


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