DALLAS, Aug. 6, 2009 – USA Gymnastics will recognize several Dallas-Ft. Worth area gymnasts for their landmark Olympic and world achievements as well as celebrate the accomplishments of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Team during the 2009 Visa Championships, Aug. 12-15, at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. Those being honored are the World Olympic Gymnastics Academy – founded by two-time Olympic and world champion Valeri Liukin and world acrobatic champion Yevgeny Marchenko – which produced back-to-back Olympic all-around champions Carly Patterson (2004) and Nastia Liukin (2008); Kurt Thomas, the first U.S. male gymnast to win a world gold medal; Kim Zmeskal-Burdette, the first U.S. woman to win the world all-around title; and the 2008 U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Team.
“USA Gymnastics is proud to commemorate the accomplishments of these men and women in the city they call home,” said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics. “There is no better place to recognize the historic impact of each of these athletes, as well as celebrate the incredible success of the 2008 Olympic Team.”
On Thursday, Aug. 13, on the first night of women’s competition, USA Gymnastics will honor the Olympic accomplishments of WOGA, home to 2004 Olympic All-Around Champion Patterson, 2008 Olympic All-Around Champion Liukin and their coaches Marchenko and Valeri Liukin. WOGA gymnasts have earned an impressive 21 world and Olympic medals, including Patterson’s two world and four Olympic medals and Liukin’s nine world and five Olympic medals.
“Nastia and Carly’s back-to-back accomplishment is virtually unprecedented,” said Penny. “It is one thing for athletes to come from the same country, but another for them to come from the same country, city and club. It is important to bring special attention to this unique achievement.”
Thomas, the inventor of the famed “Thomas Flair” on pommel horse, will be honored Friday evening, following the men’s competition. At the 1978 World Championships, the Indiana State University graduate won the first U.S. men’s world title (floor exercise). Just one year later, Thomas won six medals at the World Championships, including the gold medal on both floor and high bar; the silver in the all-around, parallel bars and pommel horse; and a bronze medal in the team competition. Thomas was also the first U.S. gymnast to medal in the all-around at a World Championships. A member of the 1976 Olympic Team, Thomas retired in 1980 when his Olympic hopes were dashed due to the U.S. boycott. Thomas now owns and runs Kurt Thomas Gymnastics in Frisco, Texas, with his wife Beckie.
Saturday, Aug. 15, the final night of the women’s competition will include recognition for Zmeskal-Burdette and the 2008 U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Team.
Trained by world-renowned coach Bela Karolyi, Zmeskal-Burdette made U.S. gymnastics history when she became the first U.S. athlete to win an all-around world title at the 1991 World Championships in Indianapolis, Ind. Zmeskal-Burdette was a member of the women’s U.S. Olympic Team that won the team bronze at the 1992 Games in Barcelona. Her resume includes an impressive six World and Olympic medals and several firsts: the first and only U.S. female gymnast to win three consecutive senior all-around national titles; the first U.S. gymnast to hold three world titles at once; and the first American gymnast to win world titles on both the balance beam and floor exercise. In 2000, Zmeskal married gymnastics coach Chris Burdette, and together they run Texas Dreams Gymnastics in Coppell, Texas. Zmeskal-Burdette has served the sport in many capacities including as a national team coach, member of the Board of Directors, member of the Athletes’ Council, and as a Brevet judge. On Saturday, during the women’s final, USA Gymnastics will recognize her accomplishments and contributions.
At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, the United States amassed with its greatest medal haul since the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. The 10 medal tally – two gold, six silver and two bronze – is the most earned by the USA in gymnastics in a non-boycotted Olympic Games.
Liukin and teammate Shawn Johnson won a total of seven individual medals (three gold, three silver, one bronze), as well as a team silver medal. Along with Johnson and Liukin, the members of the silver-medal U.S. Olympic Team for women’s gymnastics are Chellsie Memmel, Samantha Peszek, Alicia Sacramone, and Bridget Sloan. The three alternates are Jana Bieger, Ivana Hong, and Corrie Lothrop. Liang Qiao of Chow’s Gymnastics was head coach, with Valeri Liukin serving as assistant coach.
The members of the bronze-medal U.S. Olympic Team for men’s gymnastics include horizontal bar silver-medalist Jonathan Horton, Alexander Artemev, Raj Bhavsar, Joseph Hagerty, Justin Spring and Kevin Tan. David Durante was the replacement athlete. Kevin Mazeika of Houston Gymnastics Academy was the head coach, and Miles Avery of Ohio State University was the assistant coach.
Erin Blanchard and Chris Estrada were members of the U.S. Olympic Team for trampoline.