INDIANAPOLIS – The world’s top gymnasts have confirmed their participation in the 2003 World Gymnastics Championships, Aug. 16-24 in Anaheim, Calif. With nearly 600 athletes – including 54 men’s teams and 37 women’s teams – entered in the Championships, the hunt for medals is expected to be fiercely competitive.
"This World Championships is by far the most important gymnastics event held since the 2000 Olympics as it serves as the only qualifier for the 2004 Olympic Games," said USA Gymnastics President Bob Colarossi. "We are delighted with the response we have received and the caliber of athletes who will make their way to Anaheim in two weeks to compete."
Several renowned gymnasts are vying for medals in the men’s competition. Leading the team from Belarus, which won the team gold in 2001, is Ivan Ivankov. Ivankov has won eight world medals since 1993, and was the all-around World Champion in 1994 and 1997. He was runner-up to China’s Feng Jing in 2001, and with Feng Jing absent from the competition this year, Ivankov may be looking to reclaim his World Champion status.
Perennial favorite Alexei Nemov of Russia won’t bow out easily however, as he has 10 Olympic medals and 8 World medals under his belt.
Other stand-out athletes include Romania’s Marian Dragulescu, who won both the 2001 and 2002 World Championships titles on Floor, and Bulgaria’s Jordan Jovtchev, who finished third on Floor in 2002 and tied Dragulescu in 2001 for the gold. Romania’s Marius Urzica will be looking to win his third-straight gold on pommel horse, while Greece’s Vlasios Maras will try to win his third-consecutive gold on high bar.
Many expect the U.S. athletes to compete well, especially with a deep team that includes three Olympians. Paul Hamm, challenged for the all-around title in 2001, but experienced a surprising fall on his final event. Hamm is likely to remember how close he came to capturing the crown in 2001 when he competes this year.
Blaine Wilson brings the most experience to the U.S. men’s team as a two-time Olympian, four-time Worlds Team member, and USA Gymastics’ only five-time consecutive National Champion. Jason Gatson, who was on the 1997 Worlds Team as a 17-year-old, has re-emerged on the gymnastics scene and may challenge for an all-around medal as well.
In the women’s competition, Russia’s Svetlana Khorkina will attempt to add yet another World Championships all-around title to her collection. Khorkina, the reigning World and European champion, is known for her unique moves and interesting combinations. She has won 13 World medals since 1994 and three Olympic medals; seven of those were gold medals on the uneven bars.
Other international gymnasts who may be contenders include Romania’s Oana Ban, who also has World Championship experience, and Andreea Munteanu, who won this year’s Romanian National Championships. Other competitors include Brazil’s Daniele Hypolito, who finished fourth in the all-around in 2001, Spain’s Sara Moro, who finished eighth in the all-around. Netherlands’ Verona Van De Leur will all be contender for the floor exercise gold, as she is coming off a silver medal win in 2002.
U.S. gymnasts vying for medals include the reigning uneven bars World Champion Courtney Kupets and Ashley Postell, who won gold on the balance beam in 2002. Annia Hatch, the seven-time Cuban national champion, and Tasha Schwikert, 2000 Olympian and two-time U.S. national champion, also have World Championship experience.
The 2003 World Gymnastics Championships will award individual event gold medals as well as team titles in both men’s and women’s artistic gymnastics disciplines. The World Championships also serve as the only route for athletes and countries to qualify for the 2004 Olympic Games.
The 2003 World Gymnastics Championships mark the 100th Anniversary of this celebrated event, and the third time that it has been hosted in the United States.
"There is no greater event in gymnastics than to host a World Championships in the year before the Olympics," said USA Gymnastics President Bob Colarossi. "We’re very pleased with the level of support the event is receiving in the local community and hope that everyone will come out to cheer on these world-class athletes as they prepare for the Athens Olympics."
Individual ticket prices range from $22-$75 depending on the date and session. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.com, the Arrowhead Pond box office, by phone at 714-740-2000, and at all Ticketmaster outlets.
he World Championships will be televised nationally on NBC Sports on Aug. 23 and 24 from 2-4 p.m., plus one hour of primetime coverage from 7-8 p.m. Aug. 24.