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During a Feb. 23 dual meet against Kentucky, Georgia freshman
Karin Lichey became the first gymnast, college or otherwise, to
earn a 40.00--a perfect 10 in each of the four events. One week
later writer-reporter Dana Gelin was on the scene in Tuscaloosa
as Lichey came back to earth against Alabama.

"When I heard Karin had gotten a 40, I thought three things,"
Alabama coach Sarah Patterson said last Friday after her No.
2-ranked Crimson Tide had beaten top-ranked Georgia
197.550-196.675 in front of a record SEC women's gymnastics
crowd of 13,563. "She had to be in a great zone, the atmosphere
had to be just right, and the judges had to be in the right
frame of mind."

Against Alabama, Lichey was definitely not in a zone, and the
judges were not in a Bo Derek frame of mind. Only one perfect 10
was awarded, to Georgia's Leah Brown in the vault, and Lichey
finished with a 38.825 in the all-around. Said Lichey, "This
brought me back to reality."

The reality is that with any perfect score, there is invariably
skepticism, a sense that it came as a result of overly generous
judging. Because of this skepticism, judges, who are already
touchy about the somewhat subjective nature of their scoring,
may be reluctant to grant another 40.00 for a long while. One
wonders if Lichey's four-bagger will stand alone as a Bob
Beamonesque standard that everyone in gymnastics will talk about
and nobody will attain--for a couple of decades anyway.

Another school of thought holds, however, that Lichey's
across-the-board 10's may have removed a psychological barrier
for gymnasts and judges. (It should be noted that a 40.00 is
easier to achieve under NCAA guidelines than under international
rules--a collegiate 10 must include two maneuvers that demand
D-level skills, on an ascending scale from A to E, while an
international perfecto requires five.) "Roger Bannister broke
four minutes in the mile, and within a couple of years there
were a bunch of people," says Georgia coach Suzanne Yoculan.
"Before Karin's career is over, she will receive--will
earn--another 40.00. She has all the tools."

For now, Lichey's performance remains singular and can be
relived on videotape, as the 5'1" 112-pounder has already done.
"Some people will say, 'Did she really deserve that?'" Lichey
says. "But I watched the tape and said to myself, You know, I
actually did."