Shirai, Murakami highlight international field for 2018 American Cup
posted on 01/26/2018

© John Cheng

INDIANAPOLIS, Jan. 26, 2018 – Olympic team gold medalist and five-time World champion Kenzo Shirai and 2017 World floor gold medalist Mai Murakami, both of Japan, lead an impressive field of international competitors scheduled to compete at the 2018 American Cup. Competition is scheduled for March 3 at 10:30 a.m. CT at the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Ill. The American Cup is the USA’s most prestigious international invitational and part of the International Gymnastics Federation’s all-around World Cup series.

World all-around champion Morgan Hurd of Middletown, Del./First State Gymnastics, and 2017 World bronze-medalist Yul Moldauer of Arvada, Colo./University of Oklahoma, will compete for Team USA. The USA will have an additional men’s and women’s athlete competing as wildcard entries, which will be announced at a later date. All U.S. athletes are expected to show competitive readiness prior to the event.

Representing 10 countries, the gymnasts who have accepted invitations are listed below by country.
    Men
    Brazil: Francisco Barretto Junior
    China: Sun Wei
    Great Britain: James Hall
    Germany: Philipp Herder
    Japan: Kenzo Shirai
    Spain: Joel Plata Rodriguez
    Ukraine: Petro Pakhniuk
    USA: Yul Moldauer
    USA: Wildcard, to be determined

    Women
    Brazil: Fabiane Brito
    Canada: Brooklyn Moors
    China: Mao Yi
    Great Britain: Kelly Simm
    Germany: Elisabeth Seitz
    Japan: Mai Murakami
    Netherlands: Sanna Veerman
    USA: Morgan Hurd
    USA: Wildcard, to be determined
In the men’s field, Shirai helped Team Japan to the gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. He is also a five-time World championships gold medalist (2013, floor exercise; 2015, team, floor exercise; 2017, floor exercise, vault) and has a total of eight World medals. Joining Shirai are fellow Olympians Barretto (2016) and Pakhniuk (2016). Sun is making this third appearance at the American Cup, having captured the bronze medal in 2016. Hall and Plata Rodriguez competed at the 2017 World Championships in Montreal.

Murakami, who in addition to World floor gold finished fourth in the all-around at the 2017 Worlds, is one of three women in the field to compete at an Olympic Games, alongside Seitz (2012, 2016) and Mao (2016). Mao was a member of the Chinese teams that won bronze at the 2016 Olympic Games and silver at the 2015 World Championships. Moors made her World Championships debut last fall in Montreal, recording a 15th place finish in the all-around and taking fifth in the floor final. Simm was a member of the British team that won the bronze medal at the 2015 Worlds. Brito and Veerman are making their senior international debuts at this year’s American Cup.

Hurd won the World all-around title at the 2017 World Championships, where she also claimed the balance beam silver medal. The defending American Cup champion, Moldauer is the reigning U.S. all-around and floor exercise champion, and earned the World floor exercise bronze medal in Montreal, as well as finished seventh in the all-around.

The American Cup showcases many of the world’s best gymnasts, in a one-day, all-around competition on March 3 at 10:30 a.m. CT. On March 2, the Nastia Liukin Cup features some of the USA’s top Junior Olympic female gymnasts and kicks off the big weekend at 7 p.m. CT. The Elite Team Cup, a team event with many of the USA’s top junior men, wraps up the weekend’s events on Saturday evening at 5 p.m. CT.

Single-session tickets for each of the three events are available, and the price ranges listed are plus applicable fees: American Cup, $59-$79; Nastia Liukin Cup, $39-$49; and Elite Team Cup, $29-$39. All-session ticket packages are still available and range in price from $89-$149, plus applicable fees, and include tickets to all three of the weekend’s events. Ticket prices vary according to the event and seat location. To purchase tickets, visit www.SearsCentre.com, call 1-888-SEARS-TIX, or visit the Wintrust Box Office at the Sears Centre Arena. Group tickets may be purchased by calling 773-327-3778. Discounted tickets are available through gymnastics clubs participating in the gym club ticket program. For more information, go to americancup.com.

Invitations to compete in the 2018 American Cup, which became a FIG all-around World Cup event in 2011, are based on team results from the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. All of the U.S. gymnasts will demonstrate readiness prior to competing. The competitors for the Nastia Liukin Cup and Elite Team Cup will be announced in 2018.

In addition to the upcoming events in 2018, the Sears Centre has played host to the U.S. Classic for four years (2013-15, 2017) and the American Cup in 2009.

Background information
  • American Cup. 2017 U.S. all-around champion Ragan Smith of Lewisville, Texas/Texas Dreams, and Moldauer won the women’s and men’s titles at the 2017 American Cup at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. The impressive list of former American Cup champions includes: Simone Biles, Bart Conner, Tim Daggett, Gabby Douglas, Paul Hamm, Jonathan Horton, Shawn Johnson, Danell Leyva, Nastia Liukin, Sam Mikulak, Shannon Miller, Carly Patterson, Mary Lou Retton, Kurt Thomas, Peter Vidmar, Jordyn Wieber and Kim Zmeskal-Burdette. Past sites for the American Cup include: New York, N.Y. (1976-80, 1982-84, 2004, 2008, 2012); Ft. Worth, Texas (1981, 1996-98); Indianapolis, Ind. (1985); Fairfax, Va. (1986-90, 2003); Orlando, Fla. (1991-94, 2000-02); Seattle, Wash. (1995); St. Petersburg, Fla. (1999); Uniondale, N.Y. (2005); Philadelphia, Pa. (2006); Jacksonville, Fla. (2007, 2011); Hoffman Estates, Ill. (2009); Worcester, Mass. (2010, 2013); Greensboro, N.C. (2014); Arlington, Texas (2015); and Newark, N.J. (2016-17).
  • Nastia Liukin Cup. The 36 participants in the Nastia Liukin Cup are selected through the Nastia Liukin Cup Series, which features many of the country’s top gymnastics invitationals held throughout the United States. A total of 18 junior and 18 senior gymnasts advance to the Nastia Liukin Cup. Senior athletes must be 16 years of age or older, and junior athletes must be 15 or younger. Gymnasts who compete in the Nastia Liukin Cup receive a Nastia Liukin-designed leotard and a warm-up from GK Elite; two tickets to the Nastia Liukin Cup; and the opportunity to meet Liukin and participate in a team photo. The Nastia Liukin Cup is named after Nastia Liukin, the 2008 Olympic all-around champion who has five Olympic and nine World medals to her credit. The annual event is held the night before the American Cup and made its debut in 2010. Past sites include 2016 and 2017, Newark, N.J.; 2015, Arlington, Texas; 2014, Greensboro, N.C.; 2013 and 2010, Worcester, Mass.; 2012, New York City; and 2011, Jacksonville, Fla.
  • Elite Team Cup. In its third year, the Elite Team Cup features nine men’s Regional Teams. The country’s best junior elite male gymnasts compete, representing their respective regions. The junior elite gymnasts must be between 13-18 years of age as of Sept. 1, 2017, and will be selected from the Regional Elite Team Program. The junior elite gymnasts will follow the USA Gymnastics/International Gymnastics Federation competition rules. The event was first held in 2016 in Newark, which also hosted the 2017 edition.
  • International Gymnastics Federation. The International Gymnastics Federation is the governing body for Gymnastics worldwide. It is the oldest established international federation of an Olympic sport and has participated in the Olympic Games since their revival in 1896. The FIG governs eight sports: gymnastics for all, men’s and women’s artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, trampoline – including double mini-trampoline and tumbling -, aerobics, acrobatics, and parkour. It counts 148 national member federations and has its headquarters in the Olympic capital of Lausanne, Switzerland.
  • Sears Centre Arena. Sears Centre Arena is an 11,000-seat multipurpose family entertainment, cultural, and sports arena located in Hoffman Estates’ Prairie Stone Business Park. The Sears Centre Arena, which opened in 2006, is designed to accommodate a variety of events including concerts, family shows and sporting events. For more information regarding the Sears Centre Arena and upcoming events, please visit the arena’s website at www.searscentre.com.
  • 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, acrobatic gymnastics and Gymnastics for All (formerly known as group gymnastics). For more complete information, visit www.usagym.org.