Shawn Johnson
© Steve Lange

BOSTON, Mass., June 5, 2008 – Defending U.S. all-around champion Shawn Johnson of West Des Moines, Iowa/Chow’s Gymnastics, leads the senior women’s all-around at the 2008 Visa Championships at Agganis Arena at Boston University after the first of two days of competition. The 2008 Visa Championships is the women’s qualifying event for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Gymnastics, scheduled for June 19-22 in Philadelphia. The Visa Championships wraps up on Saturday, June 7.

“I had a great routine on beam but when I got to my dismount, I cut it short a little bit,” Johnson said. “It’s a mistake and I can fix it. It’s something that I can work on tomorrow (during training) for Saturday. I definitely think there are quite a few things I can improve on.”

Johnson, who is the 2007 world all-around champion, finished tonight’s competition with an all-around score of 63.450. Nastia Liukin of Parker, Texas/WOGA, is second with a score of 62.300, followed by Chellsie Memmel of West Allis, Wis./M&M Gymnastics, in third at 61.050.

Johnson grabbed an early lead after the first rotation with a score of 16.050 on floor exercise. She hit her difficult Yurchenko two-and-a-half vault and earned a 16.000. She scored a 15.400 on uneven bars and a 16.000 on balance beam. She had the highest score of the evening on both vault, 16.000, and floor exercise, 16.050

With a score of 17.050 on uneven bars, Liukin moved into second place after three rotations. Her routine had a start value of 7.700, the highest of the competition on any event, and included a double front dismount with a half out. She earned a 14.900 on vault and a 14.250 on floor exercise. Liukin finished the day on balance beam and scored a 16.100. She had the highest score on both uneven bars, 17.050, and balance beam, 16.100.

“I was really hoping that it would happen today,” Liukin said about scoring at least a 17.000 on uneven bars. “It’s really hard to say with the judging because the judging is different at every meet. I was excited with the outcome of the meet. It was a little bit of a rough start on floor, but I fought my way through the rest of the events.”

With her score of 16.050 on the balance beam in the third rotation, Memmel moved from fifth place into a tie for third. Memmel’s uneven bars routine, which had a 6.800 start value, included a jam to invert and a double front dismount to earn a 16.000. She posted a 13.900 on vault and a 15.100 on floor exercise.

“I was really excited about bars,” Memmel said. “It was my first full bars routine since 2006. I didn’t do everything at the competitions in China and Japan. I didn’t have my whole routine, so it really was my first full bars routine in a big competition.”

Rounding out the top five were Samantha Peszek of Indianapolis, Ind./DeVeau’s, in fourth with a 60.750 and Jana Bieger of Coconut Creek, Fla./Bieger International Gymnastics, in fifth with a 59.950.

Peszek’s high score of the day was a 15.400 for her balance beam routine that included a standing full to back pike. She also scored a 15.000 on vault, a 15.150 on uneven bars and a 15.200 on floor exercise.

For her uneven bars routine that included a stalder half to stalder reverse hecht, Bieger earned a 15.450 for her best score of the night. Her other scores included a 14.500 on vault, a 14.950 on balance beam and a 15.050 on floor exercise.

The final day of senior women’s competition is June 7 at 3:30 p.m., and NBC Sports is carrying the event live from 4-6 p.m. ET.

Scores from both days of competition are combined to determine the U.S. champions, and the top 12 gymnasts in the all-around will be named to the U.S. Senior National Team. Additional athletes may be added to the national team by the selection committee at the conclusion of the competition. The members of the senior national team will advance to the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.

About the event
Single-session ticket prices range from $25-120 and may be purchased charge by phone at 617-931-2000; online at; at all Ticketmaster outlets; or at the Agganis Arena Ticket Office. Visa is the only card accepted for the 2008 Visa Championships. Visa is the only card accepted for the 2008 Visa Championships.

The remaining schedule for the Visa Championships is: Saturday, June 7 — final day of competition, juniors at 10:30 a.m. and seniors at 3:30 p.m.

In 2007, Johnson joined an impressive list of gymnasts who have earned the coveted title of U.S. all-around champion. The roster of former all-around champions is a veritable who’s who in gymnastics, including Carly Patterson, Courtney Kupets, Shannon Miller, Dominique Dawes, Kim Zmeskal and Mary Lou Retton.

The Visa Championships traces its history back to 1931 for the women.

About Agganis Arena at Boston University
Opened in January 2005, Agganis Arena at Boston University is the next generation in Boston sports and entertainment. It is a state-of-the-art, multipurpose sports and entertainment center. A 290,000-square-foot premier venue with 6,300 seats for hockey and ice shows, the Arena is expandable to over 7,200 seats for concerts, sporting events, and family shows. In addition to exciting Boston University hockey action, Agganis Arena hosts Boston University events, concerts, family shows, sporting events, trade shows and conferences throughout the year.

About the Massachusetts Sports Partnership
The Massachusetts Sports Partnership (MSP) serves as the official sports commission for the Commonwealth. Founded in 1992, MSP is a private, not-for-profit organization which works to attract and support world class sporting events and meetings throughout the Massachusetts.

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.

2008 Visa Championships
Agganis Arena at Boston University