Carolina Pascual (ESP)
Tribute courtesy of Robin Catalano

 Born June 17, 1976, Carolina Pascual was originally a ballet dancer. A 7-year-old Pascual was singled out by her teacher, who noticed that the young girl had special talents for rhythmic gymnastics. Because there were no rhythmic training facilities nearby, Pascual's mother committed to driving her daughter to a club an hour away.

The native of Orihuela, Spain, got her break in 1990 when Spain's head coach, Emilia Boneva, selected Pascual for the National Team. The newcomer was sent to the 1990 European Championships, where she helped the Spanish team win the bronze medal. She also placed 12th in the all-around and qualified for two event finals.

Pascual's personality-filled exercises propelled the new Spanish National Champion to 7th position at the 1991 European Cup. In her first World Championships, however, the upbeat teenager gave in to nerves and wound up 15th. She would fare a bit better at the 1992 European Championships in 11th. When the Olympics came to Barcelona that year, Pascual turned on her thousand-watt charm to impress the judges and captivate the audience. The result, however, is one of the most disputed in rhythmic history: Pascual won the silver medal, an accomplishment many feel was due more to the home-court advantage than her difficulty and superb expression. At the awards ceremony, bronze medalist Oksana Skaldina refused to acknowledge the sunny Spaniard on the podium. Pascual, in turn, was very vocal in her disapproval of Skaldina's actions.

An injured Pascual sat out the 1992 World Championships, then came back for a strong bronze medal-winning performance at the 1993 European Cup. But a much-discussed weight gain and imprecise performances contributed to the popular gymnast's 7th-place finish at the 1993 World Championships. Still, she would take silver with clubs behind teammate Carmen Acedo. A tired Pascual then decided it was time to retire. Now a coach at Club IMD Orihuela, Carolina Pascual is revered as one of Spain's most successful gymnasts.

Pascual, who counts Russia's Oksana Kostina as her role model, is identified most with her shining performance demeanor. In fact, her wonderfully charismatic style is frequently mentioned at the expense of her excellent difficulty, great back flexibility, and inventive skills. Among Pascual's always entertaining exercises, her relentlessly perky 1992 clubs and unbridled 1995 ball -- which included several original traps and a solid double turn with the ball held between the knees -- are most memorable. Whether directly or indirectly, Pascual's star quality and ever-present smile have influenced many of today's gymnasts, including popular European Champion Alina Kabayeva.

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1999-2002. This page was created on September 20, 1999.


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