USAs best gymnasts head to Houston for 2008 Visa Championships
posted on 05/14/2008

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind., May 14, 2008 - The USA's best gymnasts in men's gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics and trampoline and tumbling are heading to Houston for the 2008 Visa Championships, May 22-24, at Reliant Park. 2007 U.S. men's all-around champion David Durante of Garwood, N.J./Team Chevron, 2006-07 U.S. rhythmic all-around champion Lisa Wang of Buffalo Grove, Ill./North Shore Rhythmic, and 2007 U.S. trampoline champions Chris Estrada of Lafayette, La./OTC Trampoline Team, and Brittany Dircks of Orland Park, Ill./Ultra Twisters, seek to retain their titles. Also slated to compete are Jonathan Horton of Houston/Team Chevron, who finished fourth in the all-around at the 2007 World Championships, 2004 Olympic all-around champion Paul Hamm of Waukesha, Wis./Team Chevron, and 2004 Olympic team silver-medalists Morgan Hamm of Waukesha, Wis., and Blaine Wilson of Columbus, Ohio.

For men's gymnastics and trampoline, the Visa Championships serve as part of their Road to Beijing: for the men, it is the qualifying event for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Gymnastics, June 19-22 in Philadelphia; and for trampoline, it is the third of four events where athletes earn points toward Olympic selection. One man and one woman will represent the USA in trampoline at the 2008 Olympic Games.

Below are quick snapshots of the fields for rhythmic gymnastics and trampoline and tumbling. The men's field was previously released, but is also recapped. The complete field for the 2008 Visa Championships is listed below by state.

Rhythmic gymnastics

Wang is the defending U.S. champion in the all-around, hoop and clubs. Other rhythmic gymnasts in the field include Rachel Marmer of Los Angeles/Eurogymnastics, the 2007 U.S. rope champion, and Julie Zetlin of Bethesda, Md./Rhythmflex, the 2007 U.S. ribbon champion. Marlee Shape of Buffalo Grove, Ill./North Shore Rhythmic, who competes in the junior division, earned four medals, including three gold medals in the all-around, hoop and ribbon, in 2007.

The rhythmic field breaks down into 23 seniors and 26 juniors, representing 11 states.

Trampoline and tumbling

Eight athletes who claimed medals at the 2007 World Championships are scheduled to compete at the Visa Championships: Susannah Johnson of Roanoke, Va./Capital Gymnastics, Leanne Seitzinger of Stafford, Va./Novaks' Gymnastics Center, and Kaitlin Tortorich of Fredericksburg, Va./Capital Gymnastics (women' tumbling team gold medal); Kalon Ludvigson of Sterling, Utah/Team Revolution, Andrew Muzzarelli of Rockford, Ill./Gymnastics Academy of Rockford, and Stephen Raymond of Byron Center, Mich./Great Lakes Griffins (men's double mini-trampoline team silver medal); Aubree Balkan of Carlsbad, Calif./Bounce California, and Sarah Prosen of Apple Valley, Minn./Gleason's Gypsy Flyers (women's double mini-trampoline team bronze medal). Ludvigson also won an individual bronze medal in men's double mini.

In addition to Dircks and Estrada, the other defending U.S. champions in the trampoline and tumbling senior division are: Alaina Williams of Amarillo, Texas/OTC Trampoline Team, women's synchronized trampoline; Logan Dooley of Lake Forest, Calif./OTC Trampoline Team and Steven Gluckstein of Atlantic Highlands, N.J./Ultra Twisters, men's synchronized trampoline; and Ludvigson, men's tumbling and double mini. Erin Blanchard of Lafayette, La./OTC Trampoline Team, and Alaina Hebert of Broussard, La./OTC Trampoline Team, claimed the U.S. women's trampoline titles in 2006, and in 2001 and 2005, respectively.

The trampoline and tumbling field of 79 represents 19 states and includes 32 seniors and 47 juniors (two athletes are competing as seniors in one event and juniors in another).

Men's gymnastics

The senior men's 44-man field also includes all seven members of the 2007 World Championships Team. The U.S. champions and the 2008-09 U.S. Men's National Team will also be determined in Houston.

The seven members of the 2007 World Championships Team that finished fourth are: Guillermo Alvarez of Denver/Team Chevron; Alexander Artemev of Lakewood, Colo./Team Chevron; Sean Golden, Camden of N.J./Team Chevron; Sho Nakamori of Albany, Calif./Stanford University; Kevin Tan of Fremont, Calif./Team Chevron; Durante and Horton. At the 2007 World Championships, Horton placed fourth in the all-around, and Alvarez and Tan finished fourth in the floor exercise and still rings, respectively.

In addition to the seven world team members, Paul Hamm and Wilson, the members of the U.S. Men's Senior National Team in the field are: Raj Bhavsar of Houston/Team Chevron; Joseph Hagerty of Rio Rancho, N.M./Team Chevron; David Sender of Arlington Heights, Ill./Stanford University; Justin Spring of Burke, Va./Team Chevron; Yewki Tomita of Tucson, Ariz./Team Chevron; and Sean Townsend of Houston/Team Chevron.

At the 2004 Olympic Games, Paul Hamm became the first U.S. man to win the all-around Olympic crown. Both Hamms were also members of the 2000 U.S. Olympic Team, and Wilson is a three-time Olympian (1996, 2000 and 2004). Since returning to competitive gymnastics at the 2007 Visa Championships, Paul Hamm won the all-around at the 2008 Winter Cup Challenge, the 2008 Tyson American Cup and the 2008 Pacific Rim Gymnastics Championships presented by Gillette Venus.

The junior men's field includes 2007 U.S. junior champions Glen Ishino of Santa Ana, Calif./SCATS - Huntington Beach, who won the still rings in the 16-18 year-old division, and John Orozco of Bronx, N.Y./World Cup Gymnastics, who claimed the all-around, still rings, parallel bars and horizontal bar titles in the 14-15 year-old division. Jake Dalton of Sparks, Nev./Gymnastics Nevada, and Donothan Bailey of Lake Forest, Calif./Azarian Gymnastics, won the floor exercise and pommel horse, respectively, in the 14-15 year-old division at the 2007 Visa Championships and are competing in this year's 16-18 year-old division. Sam Mikulak of Newport Coast, Calif./SCATS - Huntington Beach, who finished first on vault in 2007, is again competing in the 14-15 year-old division.

The men's field breaks down into 44 seniors and 35 juniors, 17 in the 14-15 year-old age group and 18 in 16-18 year-old age bracket.

About the Visa Championships
Single-session tickets are still available and range from $20-85 for men's gymnastics, with those for rhythmic gymnastics and trampoline selling for $15 and $20. Tickets may be purchased charge by phone at 713-629-3700; online at; at all Ticketmaster outlets; or at the Reliant Stadium South Box Office. Visa is the only card accepted for the 2008 Visa Championships.

The schedule for men's artistic gymnastics is: Thursday, May 22-senior men's first day of competition at 7 p.m.; and May 24-junior men's all-around and individual event finals at 12:30 p.m., and the final day of the senior men's competition at 6 p.m. On May 23, Reliant Arena will host the U.S. Classic, a women's gymnastics event. To view a participant list for the U.S. Classic, Click here.

The schedule for rhythmic gymnastics and trampoline is: Thursday, May 22-junior rhythmic all-around prelims and individual event finals at 10 a.m., and senior rhythmic all-around prelims and individual event finals at 2:30 p.m.; Friday, May 23-junior trampoline and tumbling prelims at 10 a.m., and senior trampoline and tumbling prelims at 2:30 p.m.; and Saturday, May 24-junior rhythmic all-around and trampoline and tumbling finals at 10 a.m., and senior rhythmic all-around and trampoline and tumbling finals at 2:30 p.m.

The Visa Championships traces its history back to 1897 for the m