Carly Patterson won the Olympic all-around title in 2004, becoming only the second American woman to win. (In 1984, Mary Lou Retton was the first, and in 2008, Nastia Liukin became the third.)
The Stand-Out Junior:
Patterson was a big talent from an early age: she made the junior national team in 2000 at age 12, the youngest gymnast to qualify that year. She also placed fourth in the all-around and second on beam.
Two years later, she won the junior national all-around title.
A Stunning Senior Debut:
Patterson’s first international meet as a senior came early in 2003, at the American Cup. She took the all-around, beating out world champions (and American teammates) Courtney Kupets and Ashley Postell.
Though she had to sit out the 2003 US nationals with an elbow injury, she recovered in time to compete at the 2003 World Championships. At worlds she helped the team take its first-ever gold, and won the all-around silver — the first world all-around medal for the US women sincen Shannon Miller in 1994.
Living Up to the Hype:
By 2004, Patterson was widely regarded as the top US gymnast and the best hope for Olympic all-around gold. She only increased expectations with a gold-medal sweep of every event at the 2004 American Cup, and an all-around win alongside Courtney Kupets at the 2004 US Nationals.
At the 2004 Olympics, Patterson led the all-around after preliminaries, but made uncharacteristic errors on bars in the team finals. The US team placed a disappointing second, but Patterson came through in the all-around finals two days later. She edged three-time World All-Around Champion Svetlana Khorkina 38.387 to 38.211 to take gold. She later earned a silver in the beam inpidual event finals.
Best-known for her impressive beam repertoire, Patterson was the first to perform an Arabian Double front dismount (called the Patterson), and also competed a back full and standing Arabian. On vault, Patterson twisted a Yurchenko double full, and on floor, she threw a half-in half-out and double Arabian.