Olympic, world medalists highlight field for Pacific Rim Championships
posted on 03/11/2008

Williams, Earnest, Dircks, Vercruyssen & their coach
© John Cheng

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind., March 11, 2008 — 2004 Olympic all-around champion Paul Hamm of Waukesha, Wis., 2006 pommel horse world bronze-medalist Alexander Artemev of Lakewood, Colo., and 2001 and 2003 world team silver-medalist Raj Bhavsar of Houston lead the U.S. Men’s Team for the 2008 Pacific Rim Gymnastics Championships presented by Gillette Venus, March 28-30, in San Jose, Calif. The women’s trampoline field boasts 2000 Olympic gold-medalist and five-time individual world champion Irina Karavaeva of Russia, as well as Canada’s two-time Olympic medalist Karen Cockburn. The international field includes seven 2004 Olympians and 13 world medalists.

"The Pacific Rim Championships is a great opportunity for fans to see gymnastics at its finest, including many of the countries that will be fielding teams and athletes in Beijing," said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics. "The field includes a strong combination of former Olympic and world medalists and rising stars."

The eight countries competing in the Pac Rim Championships that are sending teams or athletes to the Olympic Games are: Australia – men’s, women’s and rhythmic gymnastics; Canada – men and women in both artistic gymnastics and trampoline, and rhythmic gymnastics; China – men and women in both artistic gymnastics and trampoline; Colombia – men’s and women’s gymnastics; Japan – men and women in both gymnastics and trampoline; Mexico – women’s gymnastics; Russia – men and women in both artistic gymnastics and trampoline, and rhythmic gymnastics; and the USA – men and women in both artistic gymnastics and trampoline.

Those gymnasts in the field who have qualified by name for the Olympic Games are: Australia – Naazmi Johnston (rhythmic gymnastics), Samuel Simpson (men’s gymnastics) and Ben Wilden (men’s trampoline); Colombia – Jorge Hugo Giraldo and Nathalia Sanchez (men’s and women’s gymnastics, respectively); and Mexico – Marisela Cantu (women’s gymnastics).

In addition to Australia, Canada, China, Colombia, Japan, Mexico, Russia and the United States, the other countries sending athletes to the Pacific Rim Championships are Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines, Peru and Singapore.

Rounding out the U.S. Men’s Team are junior national team members Glen Ishino of Santa Ana, Calif., Danell Leyva of Miami, Fla., and John Orozco of Bronx, N.Y. In addition to 2007 U.S. trampoline champions Chris Estrada of Lafayette, La., and Brittany Dircks of Orland Park, Ill., the U.S. Trampoline Team includes: senior men – Michael Devine of Winnebago, Ill.; senior women – Alaina Williams of Amarillo, Texas; junior men – Jeffrey Gluckstein of Atlantic Highlands, N.J., and K.J. Heger of Rockford, Ill.; and junior women – Dakota Earnest of Plains, Texas, and Nani Vercruyssen of Honolulu, Hawaii. The U.S. Teams for women’s artistic and rhythmic gymnastics will be named closer to the event.

The seven 2004 Olympians in the international field are: men’s artistic gymnastics — Australia’s Philippe Rizzo, Canada’s Adam Wong and Colombia’s Geraldo; and women’s trampoline — Canada’s Cockburn, Japan’s Haruka Hirota, and Russia’s Natalia Chernova and Karavaeva.

In addition to Karavaeva and Cockburn, the other world medalists in the international field are: men’s artistic gymnastics – Australia’s Rizzo (2001 horizontal bar silver medal and 2006 horizontal bar gold medal), Canada’s Brandon O’Neill (2005 floor exercise silver medal), Russia’s Dmitry Gogotov, Sergei Khorokhordin and Yury Ryazanov (2006 team silver medal); women’s artistic gymnastics – Canada’s Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs (2006 balance beam bronze medal); men’s individual trampoline – Japan’s Tetsuya Sotomura (2005 bronze medal) and Yasuhiro Ueyama (2005 silver medal and 2007 bronze medal), and Russia’s German Khnychev (1998 gold medal); and women’s individual trampoline -- Canada’s Rosannagh MacLennan (2007 bronze medal); and Russia’s Chernova (2005 silver medal).

Men’s and women’s gymnastics will be held at the Event Center Arena at San Jose State University, with rhythmic gymnastics and trampoline scheduled for McEnery Convention Center. Artistic and rhythmic gymnastics will have team, all-around and individual event competitions. Each team will have six athletes with a maximum of three seniors each. The all-around and individual events will have both junior and senior champions, as will individual trampoline.

 


 

 

About the U.S. gymnasts

Men

Alexander Artemev was a member of the 2007 World Championships Team that placed fourth in the team competition. He won the pommel horse world bronze medal in 2006, the first U.S. man to do so since 1979. At the Visa Championships, Artemev won the pommel horse gold medal and the parallel bars silver medal in 2007 and was the all-around champion in 2006. He competed in the 2007-08 Tyson American Cup, finishing second in 2008 and fourth in 2007. At the 2008 Winter Cup Challenge, he placed first on pommel horse and third in the all-around. Artemev is a member of Team Chevron and trains at 5280 Gymnastics in Wheat Ridge, Colo.

Raj Bhavsar, an alternate on the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team, was a member of the U.S. Men’s Teams that won the team world silver medals in 2001 and 2003. He was second in the all-around and still rings at the 2008 Winter Cup Challenge and placed first on the vault and third on the parallel bars. Bhavsar was third on the parallel bars at 2006 Visa Championships and competed in the 2007-08 Tyson American Cup, finishing sixth in 2008. A member of Team Chevron, he trains at Houston Gymnastics Academy.

Paul Hamm returned to competitive gymnastics at the 2007 Visa Championships and won the floor exercise, his 10th career national title. He recently won the all-around, floor exercise and parallel bars at the 2008 Winter Cup Challenge, and won the all-around at the 2008 Tyson American Cup. Hamm became the first U.S. male gymnast to win the Olympic all-around title when he won the gold medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. Just one year earlier, Hamm made history by winning the United States’ first-ever men’s world all-around title at the 2003 World Championships, where he also tied for first on floor and won a team silver medal. He claimed a world bronze medal on floor exercise in 2002. Hamm was a member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic Team and the 2001 U.S. World Team that won an unprecedented team silver medal. Hamm won three national all-around crowns and six national individual event titles between 2002 and 2004. Hamm, a member of Team Chevron, took time off after the 2004 Olympic Games to earn his college degree at Ohio State University, where he trains.

At the 2007 Visa Championships, Glen Ishino won the still rings and placed second in the all-around, pommel horse and horizontal bar in the 16- 18