Mohini Bhardwaj (USA)
1993 U.S. National Championships: 10th AA
1993 U.S. Classic: 15th AA
Born in Philadelphia on September 29, 1978, Mohini (name means "illusion" in Hindi) began gymnastics at the age of 4 in 1982. She trained at Queen City Gymnastics until 1993 when she transferred to Brown's gymnastics to train under Alexander Alexandrov, the former Soviet National Team coach, and Rita Brown. She trained in both Orlando, FL and Houston, TX during her 4 years at Brown's and unlike many of her US teammates, had her own apartment in Houston rather than living with a host family.
Mohini was a three-time US team member. Despite a 3rd place finish in the US Classic in 1996, Mohini placed 10th at the 1996 Olympic Trials and did not qualify to compete at the 1996 Olympics. Despite her desire to retire from elite gymnastics soon afterward, Mohini continued in the sport in order to compete in the 1997 Worlds, mostly as a result of her parent's direction. As a result, Mohini finished 3rd at the 1997 Nationals, qualifying for her first World Championships team. She finished 5th on Vault, the best showing on this apparatus from an American since 1992.
After the 1997 Worlds, Mohini retired from elite competition to attend UCLA on a gymnastics scholarship. In her own words, Mohini's freshman year was a bit of a "rude awakening." "The college experience is definitely about growing up and I don't think my head was on my shoulders - at least straight (laughs) - during that time," she told IG magazine. UCLA coach Val Koldos was able to refocus Mohini towards academics and sport."
Majoring in History and Sociology (having switched out of Earth and Science), Mohini found success both in the classroom and in sport. She earned All American honors during her Freshman season, and made two event finals at the NCAA Championships. One of these event finals was bars, an event she would qualify to in each and every of her four years and won during her junior year.
Competing all four events for UCLA in her second year, she qualified to the AA at the NCAA Championships and placed 11th AA. Between her second and third years, in July 1999, she represented the USA at the World University Games in Spain.
In her junior, UCLA claimed the team title, and Mohini earned silver in the AA and beam, as well as gold on bars. Half-way into a successful sophomore year, Mohini announced her intention to return to elite international competition. "I am so much better prepared than I was four or five years ago...It would be upsetting to me to know I finished my career and could have done better than I did," she told IG magazine.
A month later, UCLA retained the team title at the NCAA Championships. Mohini again medalled in the AA (bronze), capping her NCAA career with a gold on the floor exercise. She continued to train atUCLA in preparation for the US Classic, a qualifying meet for the US Nationals. Unfortunately, an ankle injury hampered her performance at Classics and she could not compete floor.
Mohini petitioned to the US Nationals, where she did not disappoint. She finished championships in third place AA, automatically qualifying to the USA's 2001 World team. In Ghent, Mohini contributed to the USA's bronze medal finish. She placed 18th in the AA competition, and 7th in vault event finals.
Mohini injured her elbow at the 2002 US Nationals, the injury threatening career ending. But Mohini came back, financially assisted by an endowment from actress Pamela Andersen, and in 2004 qualified to the U.S. Olympic Trials where she finished a remarkable 6th overall to advance to the selection camp in Texas. On July 18, Mohini was named to the 2004 U.S. Olympic team.
Mohini eventually plans to attend law school.