For every gymnast, the worst fear is losing control during their gravity-defying routines as they spin and somersault through the air.
That worst fear became reality for 17-year-old Sang Lan during warmups for the women's vault competition at the Goodwill Games, and Wednesday the Chinese gymnast is paralyzed after landing on her head as she practiced for the competition.Sang was attempting a forward vault when she tumbled, landing on the floor of the Nassau Coliseum head-first. She was removed on a stretcher to the Nassau County Medical Center where Dr. Brock Schnebel, chief medical officer of the games, evaluated her injury.
Schnebel said X-rays and a CAT scan showed Sang with a fractured-dislocation of the sixth and seventh cervical vertebrae.
"This has resulted in an injury to her spinal cord," the doctor said.
Schnebel said Sang was unable to move her legs and had only minimal motion of her arms.
"She cannot feel from her mid-chest down," he said. "This is consistent with a spinal cord injury at the C-6, C-7 (sixth and seventh vertebrae)."
Schnebel said it was too early to predict if Lan could recover from her injuries and be able to walk again.
The other gymnasts were unaware of how seriously Sang had been injured and the competition started on time, with American Vanessa Atler winning the event.
At the track, Michael Johnson showed he's still the boss, Maurice Greene left Donovan Bailey almost speechless and one of track's most enduring stars showed he might at last be finished.
Johnson, the 1996 Olympic 200 and 400 champion, erased any thoughts that his career might be on a downslide, winning the 400 in a meet-record 43.76 seconds.
Johnson's time was the 12th-fastest in history - he holds nine of the best - and the fastest in the world since he ran 43.75 at Waco, Texas, on April 19, 1997.
Greene, who has been bad-mouthed by Bailey since winning last year's 100-meter world championship, quieted the Canadian by racing to victory in 9.96. Bailey appeared to shut down with 80 meters left and finished seventh at 10.30, far off his world record of 9.84.
"I guess I'm the world's fastest man," Greene said, summing up the outcome. "I'm just getting started."
But Sergei Bubka, the greatest pole-vaulter in history, gave more signs that the end of his career is near.
The 34-year-old Ukrainian, who has set the world record 35 times and is the only one to clear 20 feet, no-heighted for the second time in three meets. On his final try at 18 feet, 81/4 inches, the 90-second time limit ran out and Bubka did not even make an attempt at the bar.
Jeff Hartwig won the pole vault with an American record vault of 19-81/2, breaking his American record by one-quarter inch.
Jackie Joyner-Kersee, the 36-year-old world record-holder in the heptathlon who has not completed a multi-event since the 1996 Olympic trials, looked woefully out of shape at the start of her final heptathlon. The two-time Olympic gold medalist finished her first four events in second place with 3,833 points, 34 behind leader DeDee Nathan.
Atler was convinced somebody would overtake her 9.662 score. But nobody ever did, sending the 16-year-old from Canyon Country, Calif., home with a gold medal.
Three other Americans took home medals Tuesday night. Jay Thornton of Augusta, Ga., won the silver in the floor exercises; Elise Ray of Columbia, Md. won a silver in the women's uneven bars, and Yewki Tomita of Tucson, Ariz., captured the bronze in the pommel horse.
The U.S. basketball team advanced to the semis with a 106-75 victory over Brazil. Elton Brand of Duke led six U.S. players in double figures. Utah guard Andre Miller added 14 points. The United States plays Lithuania in the medal round Thursday.