Host City: Seoul, South Korea
Venue(s): Olympic Gymnastics Hall, Olympic Park, Seoul
Date Started: September 19, 1988
Date Finished: September 21, 1988
Format: Six-person teams. Each gymnast to perform a compulsory and an optional exercise on all four apparatuses. Top five scores per team on each of the eight exercises count towards the team score.
The Soviet women won this event at every Olympics from 1952-80, and returned in 1988 to continue their hegemony in women’s team gymnastics. They would win again in 1992 as the Unified Team. Romania had defeated the Soviet Union at the 1987 World Championships, but had to settle for silver in Seoul, after winning the 1984 Olympic gold medal.
The battle for bronze was quite close between the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), the United States, and Bulgaria. Unfortunately it came down to a decision with political overtones. During their uneven bars rotation, US alternate Rhonda Faehn was charged with removing the springboard used by the gymnasts to mount the bars. But instead of leaving the competition area, she stayed on the podium to watch [Kelly Garrison-Steves] perform her routine. For this the Americans were penalized 5/10ths of a point by the President of the Technical Committee of the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG), Ellen Berger. Berger was from East Germany, and the penalty margin gave the bronze medal to East Germany, with the US finishing fourth, 3/10ths of a point behind. US coach Bela Karolyi, a Romanian emigré, went ballistic, calling Berger “a cow” and the ruling “a Communist plot.”