MILWAUKEE – Uneven bars World Champion Courtney Kupets secured her place on the 2003 World Championships Team by winning her first U.S. Gymnastics Championships All-Around national title in front of 7,133 fans at Milwaukee’s U.S. Cellular Arena on Saturday.
During the last rotation, Kupets (Hill’s), Schwikert (Gymcats) and Hollie Vise (WOGA) were neck-and-neck for the national title, with Vise in the lead. Kupets nailed a beam routine that earned her a 9.650, which put her just above Schwikert and Vise, who finished in a rare tie for the silver medal, 74.950 to 74.725.
“I knew that if I did my routine like I did yesterday, I would be fine,” Kupets said. “I knew that if I just made that routine, I would have a chance at winning. I don’t have to say I finished eighth at Nationals anymore, now I can say that I am the national champion and that’s pretty cool.”
Kupets, 16, of Gaithersburg, Md., was a relative unknown in the gymnastics world until she captured the uneven bars world title at the 2002 World Championships in Debrecen, Hungary, in November. She finished second against a strong international field in the Visa American Cup on March 1.
The 2003 U.S. Gymnastics Championships, June 19-22 at the U.S. Cellular Arena and the Midwest Airlines Center, is the most prestigious national gymnastics competition of the year, featuring the top stars in the sport vying for coveted national All-Around and individual event titles.
The U.S. All-Around title is determined using Thursday’s All-Around preliminary score plus Saturday’s All-Around Final scores. The top three all-arounders were automatically named to the 2003 World Championships Team, which is headed to the 2003 Worlds, Aug. 16-24 in Anaheim, Calif.
Schwikert, on the mend from a knee injury sustained in mid-2001, was ranked sixth Thursday after falling on bars but finished first in Saturday’s half of the competition.
“My whole competitive self just came back,” Schwikert said. “Thursday was the last time that I’ve competed since Nationals last year.”
Vise, 15, the 2002 uneven bars and balance beam junior champion, led the competition until the last rotation and said she was pleased with the results.
“I couldn’t ask for anything else,” Vise said. “My goal was to make the top three. I’m pretty happy.”
The top 18 women from the U.S. Gymnastics Championships were named to the National Team immediately after Saturday’s awards ceremony. USA Gymnastics also gave special awards to three women after the competition. Kupets’ coach Kelli Hill was named Coach of the Year, Liz Tricase was voted Sportsperson of the Year by her peers for her strong comeback from knee injuries, and Kupets was awarded Athlete of the Year.
Competition concludes Sunday with Rhythmic Individual Event Finals at 10 a.m. and Senior Men All-Around Finals at 2 p.m. The U.S. Championships will be televised by NBC Sports and will air the women’s Senior All-Around Finals at 3-5 p.m. EDT Sunday.
U.S. Gymnastics Championships All-Around Medalists
AA – 1, Courtney Kupets, 74.950. 2T, Tasha Schwikert, 74.725. 2T, Hollie Vise, 74.725. 4, Ashley Postell, 74.300. 5, Annia Hatch, 74.025. 6, Terin Humphrey, 73.775.