JACKSONVILLE, Fla., March 2, 2007 — 2006 U.S. junior all-around champion Shawn Johnson of West Des Moines, Iowa, and defending Tyson American Cup champion Jonathan Horton of Houston were the top U.S. finishers in the qualification round of the 2007 Tyson American Cup at the Jacksonville (Fla.) Veterans Memorial Arena. Johnson led the women’s field with a score of 62.100, while Horton finished second with a score of 90.150. Germany’s Fabian Hambuechen topped the men’s field in the qualification round. Saturday’s field features eight men and eight women, which includes two U.S. men and two U.S. women, vying for the coveted all-around titles. Competition begins at 11:30 a.m.
Also advancing to Saturday’s finals for the USA are 2006 team world silver-medalist Natasha Kelley of Katy, Texas, and 2006 pommel horse world bronze-medalist Alexander Artemev of Morrison, Colo. Kelley finished second in the women’s competition with a score of 61.200, while Artemev placed third for the men with a 90.100.
The United States swept the women’s top sports in the qualifying round with Shayla Worley of Orlando, Fla., in third, Bianca Flohr of Creston, Ohio, in fourth and Samantha Peszek of McCordsville , Ind., in fifth. Competition format allows only the top two U.S. finishers for both the men and women to advance to the final round. Mexico’s Elsa Garcia was the top international woman who advanced to the final round, finishing sixth in the qualifier.
Johnson started slowly on her first event, vault, before earning the day’s highest scores on floor exercise and balance beam. She powered through her final three events to qualify for the finals in her first senior-level competition. Johnson’s beam score of 16.100 was the highest women’s score of the day.
“I did pretty well,” Johnson said. “I was very nervous because I wanted to show that I could compete on the senior level. I need to fix my mistakes for tomorrow and show an even bigger audience that I can do it. I love competing. I don’t think I could love it more.”
Kelley clinched a beam routine under pressure, scoring 15.550 on her final event to earn second place and a spot in the final round of competition. She finished with an all-around score of 61.200.
In addition to Johnson’s results on the balance beam and floor exercise (15.650), the other top women’s scores were Peszek on vault with a 15.250 and Dariya Zgoba of Ukraine on uneven bars with a 15.800.
In 10th place after a tough pommel horse routine, Horton came back to finish second all-around with his highest scores of the day, earning a 15.600 on both vault and parallel bars.
“I struggled a little bit today on pommel horse, so when I got to high bar, I was pretty nervous because I have a very risky routine,” Horton said. “I had a couple falls on pommel horse, so I fell behind but finished strong. I feel confident for tomorrow.”
Top scores of the day for the men were Horton on floor with a 15.500; the USA’s Guillermo Alvarez on pommel horse with a 14.550; Belarus’ Dzmitry Savitski on rings with a 15.700; China’s Lu Bo on vault with a 16.200; Horton and Lu tied for the top score on parallel bars with a 15.600; and the high score on high bar went to Hambuechen with a 15.700.
The final round of the Tyson American Cup begins at 11:30 a.m. on March 3. It will be shown live on NBC at 1 p.m. ET. Tickets are $50, $35 and $19.50 and are subject to applicable fees. Tickets may be purchased through Ticketmaster and its outlets; by phone at (904) 353-3309; online at www.ticketmaster.com; at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena box office; or through participating gymnastics clubs in the Jacksonville area.
About JEDC Sports & Entertainment
The JEDC Sports & Entertainment office enhances the region”s economy by attracting special events and sports organizations to the First Coast. The sports office helps develop and coordinate sporting and entertainment events and actively promotes the facilities owned by the City of Jacksonville, and serves as an in-house event production, marketing and advertising agency for regional sporting events, bringing millions of dollars to the region each year. For more information, please visit www.jaxdevelopment.org.
About Tyson Foods
Tyson Foods, Inc. [NYSE: TSN], founded in 1935 with headquarters in Springdale, Arkansas, is the world’s largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef, and pork, the second-largest food company in the Fortune 500 and a member of the S&P 500. The company produces a wide variety of protein-based and prepared food products, which are marketed under the “Powered by Tyson™” strategy. Tyson is the recognized market leader in the retail and foodservice markets it serves, providing products and service to customers throughout the United States and more than 80 countries.
The company has approximately 110,000 Team Members employed at more than 300 facilities and offices in the United States and around the world. Through its Core Values, Code of Conduct and Team Member Bill of Rights, Tyson strives to operate with integrity and trust and is committed to creating value for its shareholders, customers and Team Members. The company also strives to be faith-friendly, provide a safe work environment and serve as stewards of the animals, land and environment entrusted to it.
About USA Gymnastics
Based in Indianapolis, USA Gymnastics is the national governing body for gymnastics in the United States. Its mission is to encourage participation and the pursuit of excellence in the sport. Its disciplines include men”s and women”s artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, trampoline and tumbling, and acrobatic gymnastics. For more information, log on to www.usa-gymnastics.org.
Athletes advancing to 2007 Tyson American Cup final round on March 3 (in finishing order)
1. Shawn Johnson, USA/West Des Moines, Iowa
2. Natasha Kelley, USA/Katy, Texas
3. Elsa Garcia, Mexico
4. Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs, Canada
5. Zhou Zhuoru, China
6. Daria Joura, Australia
7. Dariya Zgoba, Ukraine
8. Kristina Pravdina, Russia
1. Fabian Hambuechen, Germany
2. Jonathan Horton, USA/Houston, Texas
3. Alexander Artemev, USA/Morrison, Colo.
4. Takuya Nakase, Japan
5. Dzmitry Sav