The Magnificent Seven: The Truth About The 1996 US Women's Gymnastics Team

From 1952 to 1992, the U.S.S.R. dominated women's gymnastics at the Olympics, in the most literal sense of the word. Every single team gold medal that was awarded had gone to either the USSR (from 1952 to 1988) or the "Unified Team" (which took the USSR team's place in 1992, following its political breakup); in 1996, though, everything changed when the U.S. women's team, nicknamed the "Magnificent Seven," brought gold home for the first time in history. (The U.S. women's team has gone on to win gold twice since: in 2012 and 2016.)

Their nearly perfect performance the night they won is remembered mainly for two things: Jaycie Phelps opening the night with her absolutely flawless routine on the uneven bars, and Kerri Strug sticking a perfect landing in her vault performance, only to collapse because of an injured ankle. But do you know the story behind the U.S. women's gymnastics team's history-making night?

Jaycie Phelps had actually failed at every practice attempt that night

In theater, they say a terrible dress rehearsal makes for a good performance (possibly because the actors have been scared straight), and apparently that sometimes applies to sports as well. Jaycie Phelp's uneven bars routine went off without a hitch when it came time to perform for the judges, but behind the scenes, she had every reason to be worried. "I'm used to hitting two or three routines in my warm-up to make me feel like, 'All right, I'm ready to go,'" she told Elle in a 2016 interview, "and I did not hit one turn back in the warm-up gym."

Not only did she blow every attempt at the warm-up gym. When allowed one more warm-up attempt before her performance, she blew that one as well. At that point, her teammates were beginning to get nervous. "We had trained together forever," teammate Amanda Borden commented. "She's the most consistent, hardworking person I've ever seen. What's happening?"

After a pep talk from Borden, though, Phelps jumped on the bars and pulled off her routine without missing a beat. It would set the tone for the team's whole performance.

Coach Bela Karolyi gave Kerri Strug the lamest pep talk ever

By the time Kerri Strug began her final vault — the one that clinched the gold medal for the team — it was clear that her ankle wasn't quite right. "It felt, like, loose, like it was out of place or something," she told Elle. Normal people would take that as a sign that they should lay off the gymnastics, but of course, normal people don't win Olympic gold. Instead of taking it easy, she reassured herself that continuing to compete on it would pop it back in place. We all know how that turned out: with a devastating injury, but also a gold medal.

Before performing her final vault, though, she looked to her coach, Bela Karolyi, for the reassurance she needed. What she got was a line that would have been cut from any movie script for being overly cheesy: "You can do it!"

"All these years later, now that I'm a mom, I'm like, Really?" she told Elle. "That's all you thought of? That's what I'm telling my four-year-old little boy when he's playing T-ball. 'You can do it! Come on honey, you can do it!'"

As of 2016, five of the Magnificent Seven were still professionally active in gymnastics (via USA Gymnastics). Only Strug, who works as a program manager for the U.S. Department of Justice, and Amy Chow, who practices pediatrics, had moved on to other things.

This year's Olympic Games are scheduled for July 23-August 8 in Tokyo, Japan.