Strug: Terror Threats Won’t Stop Gymnasts

Posted on by Chief Marketer Staff

NEW YORK—High-profile NBA players such as Detroit’s Ben Wallace and Richard Hamilton may have turned down their Olympic invites due to security concerns, but don’t expect any members of the U.S. Gymnastics teams to turn down a chance at a Gold Medal.

Meow Mix spokesperson Kerri Strug, the gymnast hero of the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, told PROMO that the Olympics have a different meaning for pro athletes than it does for amateurs.

“For gymnasts, this is the pinnacle of their career,” she said. “There is such a small window of opportunity for gymnasts to be able to compete in the Olympics. Age is a factor and it’s an event that happens once every four years.”

Strug was appearing Tuesday at the South Street Seaport in New York City for the Meow Mix Gold Medal Games, a mobile tour handled by Grand Central Marketing.

“Professional athletes have more at stake. I think there is more of a risk for them to compete at the Games,” Strug said in reference to the security issues in Athens.

Strug, who now works for the U.S. Treasury Dept., said those security issues won’t stop her from going to Athens in August as an Olympic VIP for Sports Illustrated and columnist for Yahoo! Sports. She will write about both U.S. Gymnastics teams for the Web site.

Competing in the vault with two torn ligaments in her left ankle and as the last hope for Team U.S.A. to win the Gold Medal in 1996, Strug provided the most memorable moment of the Atlanta Games. She parlayed that into several endorsement deals, including a Wheaties box and a campaign with Ace Bandage.

But she noted the endorsement offers didn’t start raining in as soon as she landed on the injured ankle and was scooped up by Olympics coach Bela Karolyi. From what she recalled, her parents were in discussions with marketers about two weeks later.

Based on the success of the U.S. Women’s team in recent international competition, Strug said there are many Olympians who could follow in her endorsement footsteps. Among them, she says, are Courtney McCool, Courtney Kupets and Carly Patterson, who start competing for a spot today in the Olympic Trials in Anaheim, CA.

As for the Meow Mix Gold Medal Games, Strug said that competition is much different, but still a fun thing to be a part of. Instead of trying to run the fastest, jump the farthest or lift the most weight, the winners are the ones who excel in events like “Hairball Toss” and “Litterbox Cleanup” (Editor’s Note: There are no real hairballs to remove and the litter boxes are filled with poker chips).

“It’s fun and it’s definitely for a good cause,” said Strug, noting that cat adoption fairs are part of the tour. Meow Mix also donates a pound of cat food per participant to a local cat shelter. Only 141 participants competed, but Meow Mix decided to top its Boston donation of 319 pounds and split 400 pounds of cat food between City Critters and Animal Haven, a group that provided the adoption vehicle to City Critters.

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