Biography of US Gymnast Kim Zmeskal

Born February 6, 1976, in Houston, Texas, Kim Zmeskal would soon become one of America’s greatest gymnasts, landing a spot on the cover of Time Magazine and in the hearts of gymnastics fans across the globe.

Zmeskal began gymnastics at six years of age when she began classes at a new school opened in her home city by none other than Bela Karolyi (who would come to become the most famous gymnastics coach the world has known). Growing up in gymnastics, young Zmeskal would have the opportunity to watch and observe Mary Lou Retton, America’s golden child of 1980s gymnastics and one of Zmeskal’s personal heroes. Other great gymnasts would soon join Karolyi’s gym, including Betty Okino, Dominique Dawes, Dominique Moceanu, and Kerri Strug.

Zmeskal broke into elite gymnastics early on and became the U.S. Junior National Champion in 1989 at age 13, after winning several awards previous that year. For the next three years, the name of Kim Zmeskal would become synonymous with all-around titles, as she began to sweep one gymnastics tournament after another. Come 1991, Zmeskal was America’s great hope entering into the upcoming Olympics, and she responded beautifully to the pressure, nailing performance after performance to earn countless first place medals.

Then, the unthinkable happened: at the 1992 Olympic games, U.S. Gold-hopeful Kim Zmeskal fell off of the balance beam during her first routine. Despite flawless routines throughout the rest of her events, Zmeskal didn’t manage to place. Her winning streak continued, and she eventually managed to make it back to 12th place in the compulsories, completing one of the best comebacks in gymnastics history. During all-around competition, Zmeskal once again made a fatal error: one foot stepped out of bounds during the floor exercise, dashing her hopes of bringing home a gold medal in the exact style of competition at which she excelled. Zmeskal, it seems, had been suffering from a stress fracture in her ankle, but was determined to compete in the Olympics nonetheless.

Zmeskal took a long break from gymnastics competition after the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, presumably to heal. Four years later, at 20 years of age, Zmeskal was poised for a comeback and qualified once again for the Olympics, landing a spot on the 1996 team along with many of her other students at Karolyi’s gym. Injury would once again haunt Kim Zmeskal, however, as an injury to her ACL would prevent her from competing and force her to watch the games from the stands.

After the 1996 Olympics, Zmeskal competed in a handful of other competitions, holding strong to her past record but clearly weakening due to repeated injuries and age. She retired from gymnastics in 2000 due to injuries, and was inducted into the Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 2001. Her many career awards include:

  • 1999 China Dual, China; 1st-Team, 1st-BB
  • 1998 John Hancock U.S. Gymnastics Championships; 11th-AA, 5th-V, 22nd-UB, 4th-BB, 13th-FX
  • 1998 US Classic; 3rd-AA, 3rd-V, 17th-UB, 6th-BB, 5th-FX
  • 1992 Olympic Games; 3rd-Team, 10th-AA, 8th-V, 6th-FX
  • 1992 World Gymnastics Championships; 1st-BB & FX
  • 1992 McDonald’s International Mixed Pairs; 4th-AA
  • 1992 McDonald’s American Cup; 1st-AA
  • 1992 U.S. Olympic Trials; 2nd-AA
  • 1992 U.S. Gymnastics Championships; 1st-AA & FX, T1st-BB, 2nd-V & UB
  • 1991 World Championships Team Trials; 1st-AA
  • 1991 U.S. Gymnastics Championships; 1st-AA, T1st-FX, 2nd-BB
  • 1991 World Gymnastics Championships; 1st-AA, 2nd-Team, 3rd-FX, 7th-V,
  • 1991 USA vs. Romania; 1st-AA & UB, T1st-FX, 3rd-V & BB
  • 1991 McDonald’s International Mixed Pairs; 1st-AA
  • 1991 McDonald’s American Cup; 2nd-AA
  • 1990 Recontre Beaucaire; 2nd-Team & AA, 1st-FX
  • 1990 DTB Pokal; 5th-AA
  • 1990 Arthur Gander Memorial; 3rd-AA
  • 1990 Joaquim Blume Tournament; 6th-AA, 3rd-BB
  • 1990 McDonald’s Challenge: USA vs. USSR; 1st-AA
  • 1990 Goodwill Games; 2nd-Team, 6th-AA, 3rd-UB & FX
  • 1990 International Tournament of France; 2nd-AA & V, 1st-FX
  • 1990 McDonald’s International Mixed Pairs.; 1st-AA
  • 1990 McDonald’s American Cup.; 1st-AA, V, & FX, T1st-UB & BB
  • 1990 U.S. Gymnastics Championships.; 1st-AA, T2nd-UB, 2nd-BB & FX, 5th-V
  • 1990 U.S. Challenge; 1st-AA
  • 1989 American Classic; 1st-AA, BB & FX, 2nd-V & UB
  • 1989 U.S. Olympic Festival; 1st-AA & FX, 2nd-V & BB, 6th-UB
  • 1989 U.S. Classic, junior division; 1st-AA, V & BB, 3rd-FX, 4th-UB
  • 1989 Swiss Cup; 1st-AA
  • 1989 Arthur Gander Memorial; 1st-AA
  • 1989 DTB Pokal; 4th-AA, 2nd-BB, 3rd-V
  • 1989 City of Popes; 1st-AA
  • 1988 McDonald’s U.S. Gymnastics Championships, junior division; T8th-AA, 3rd-FX, T4th-V, 6th-BB
  • 1988 American Classic, junior division.; 6th-AA, 1st-V

Throughout her ten year career as a gymnastics competitor, Zmeskal achieved several perfect 10s in competition, first at the 1989 Arthur Gander Memorial in the floor exercise. She continued on to get another 5 perfect scores in vault and another two in floor exercise.

At the age of 30, Kim Zmeskal now coaches gymnastics with her husband, Chris Burdette, at Texas Dreams Gymnastics, their gymnastics school in Coppell, Texas. In her time on the other side of the mat, Zmeskal has produced several strong athletes, many of whom have made strong showings in competition and won scholarships, including Tiffany Tolnay, a three-time Junior Olympic All-Around Champion. Zmeskal’s hard work both in competition and as a coach have paid off, and she can now rest peacefully, knowing that her name will be a household name in gymnastics for many years to come.

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