CINCINNATI – When Amanda Borden failed to make the U.S. Olympic team in 1992, the 15-year-old Finneytown High Schooler almost quit gymnastics.
Four years later, though, she vaulted from her lowest low to her highest high – captaining the women's team that won America's first Olympic gold medal in all-around team competition.
Borden, 19, and 16-year-old Jaycie Phelps, who came from Greenfield, Indiana, trained together under coach Mary Lee Tracy at Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy in Fairfield. When both made the Olympic team, they were destined to become part of "The Magnificent Seven," America's favorites at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
WATCH John Popovich's report from the Olympics and an exclusive interview with Borden and Phelps in the video player above.
With the 2016 Olympics under way, The Magnificent Seven are back in the spotlight 20 years later. There was Kerri Strug, who tore two ligaments in her ankle but nailed the heroic final vault and landing that won the gold for the U.S. Shannon Miller. Dominque Dawes. Amy Chow. Dominque Moceanu. They were just teenagers – 14 to 19 – fierce competitors thrown together as a team but young enough that they feasted on gummy bears.
The U.S. team wasn't expected to win in Atlanta – the Soviets or the Romanians always won – but they thought they could, and the home crowd chanting "USA, USA" gave them plenty of inspiration.
WATCH Popovich's report on the final round of competition:
The team voted unanimously to make Borden the captain. She was experienced – six years on the national team – and vivacious – a contrast to coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi, who were stern taskmasters.
Borden had raised her game since 1992. At the 1994 Nationals, she was third in the all-around, uneven bars and floor exercise. At the Individual World Championships, she placed eighth in the all-around. At the 1995 Pan-Am Games, she won gold on the balance beam and silvers in the all-around and floor exercise. In '96, she was fourth in the all-around at the Nationals and fifth at the Olympic Trials.
Phelps was a relative newcomer who quickly made her mark. She made her senior debut in 1994 at the U.S. Classic, placing third in the all-around, and later took sixth at the Nationals. In 1995, Phelps won the all-around in the U.S. Classic and took third in the Nationals. In '96, she took second in the all-around at Nationals and third at the Olympic Trials.
At the Olympics, Borden competed in the floor exercise and balance beam. Phelps competed in all four events, including the vault and uneven bars. Neither won individual medals in Atlanta, but wearing the team gold was thrilling enough.
WATCH Popovich talk with Borden's and Phelps' coach and parents:
The gold-medal gymnasts became instant celebrities, like rock stars, and spent almost a year touring the country for exhibitions and TV appearances. Borden and Phelps eventually became coaches.
Borden retired from competition after the '96 Games and went to Arizona State University, where she graduated summa cum laude with a degree in early childhood education.
Borden married a former gymnast, Brad Cochran, in 2006 and the couple currently owns Gold Medal Gym in Tempe, Arizona. Now 39, she also does gymnastics commentary on TV and has three children.
Phelps also dropped out of competition after the Olympics but attempted a comeback for the 2000 Games in Sydney. She qualified for the Nationals but withdrew on the second day.
Phelps, 36, owns Jaycie Phelps Athletic Center in her hometown and oversees about 600 young gymnasts. She married Dave Marus in 2014.
SEE more video and stories about Tri-State history in our "From The Vault" series.