All systems go for the U.S. Men’s Gymnastics team as they begin to look ahead to the start of the team competition on Thursday at the 2001 World University Games in Beijing, China. The men’s gymnastics team arrived last Thursday and have held many practices during the past week, which has resulted in a team now confident with their new enviroment and the competition equipment they’ll be using.

At the close of today’s podium training, a mock rehearsal of sorts, head coach Kevin Mazeika (Houston, Texas) stated that he was very pleased with the way his team has progressed since their arrival in Beijing. With a good balance of both young gymnasts and veteran leadership, Mazeika feels his team is poised for success come Thursday.
Just how much success, no one is exactly saying. “Our expectations are purely performance based,” Mazeika affirmed. “We want them to each have good, consistent performances and be able to do their routines with no major flaws or breaks. If our team can come up with that type of performance, then we’ll be happy.”
The two elder Olympic statesmen of the team, Stephen McCain and Sean Townsend, both echoed the coach’s sentiments. “I think this early in the quadrennium, you don’t go into a major international competition pinning your hopes on medals,” said McCain. “None of the teams know what to expect from one another and nobody knows what a great team is. With the gymnasts that have retired following the Olympic Games in Sydney and the new rules, there is nothing really established yet. So that is why we’ll base our success on our overall team performance. We’re going to go out there and control what we can control, and let the pieces fall where they may.”
“We can’t get ahead of ourselves thinking about medals,” said Townsend. “We need to do our jobs and if it starts to go bad, never give up and just fight your way through it.”
Those new rules McCain mentioned, should have a major impact on this week’s competition. New rules such as the re-defined scoring criteria and the use of the vaulting table, instituted following the Olympic Games last year, will be tested for the first time in a major international competition. The new scoring criteria has forced gymnasts to establish more difficult routines and combinations while the vaulting table will bring a whole new level of excitement to the vault, as gymnasts are able to pull off much more difficult and dynamic maneuvers.
Team USA is led by Townsend and McCain and the two Houston natives will be called upon to provide leadership and stability to the rest of the U.S. squad.
Townsend is poised to join the elite gymnasts of the world following his recent performance at the U.S. Championships in which earned his first national title. Townsend will compete in the all-around competition for the U.S. team and will be a definite force in the parallel bars, rings and vault.
Asked on how winning the U.S. Championships has changed his mindset for this event, Townsend replied: “It gives me a lot more confidence when I get out there. By winning, I know that if I hit my routines that I should be able to finish high in the rankings.”
McCain is another veteran of the 2000 U.S. Olympic Team and exhibits the leadership ability worthy of him being named the team captain. McCain, a 1999 WUG team member, was third behind Townsend at the U.S. Championships held two weeks ago and will compete in the all-around competition as well. His strongest events include the horizontal bar and pommel horse.
The rest of the 2001 WUG team includes: Raj Bhavsar (Houston), member of the Ohio State Buckeye team that captured the 2001 national title; Cody Moore (Berkeley, Calif.), a California Golden Bear sophomore who was named the co-2001 Moutain Pacific Sports Federation Gymnast of the Year; Jason Furr (Houston) and alternate Daniel Diaz-Luong (Harrisburg, Pa.).
Nearly 30 teams will be competing during this week’s gymnastics competition and many teams are using this event in preparation for the World Championships in October. Defending Olympic gold medalists China is expected to field a very strong along with Russia, and the Ukraine.
The U.S. team will be paired with Great Britain, Latvia, Sweden, Chinese Taipei and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and will compete at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at the Capital Gymnasium. Men’s all-around finals will be held Saturday, August 25 at 7:30 p.m., while apparatus finals take place Sunday, August 26 beginning at 3 p.m.