10 Olympic medals highlight record year for USA Gymnastics
posted on 12/17/2008
© FIG, Volker Minkus, Todd Bissonette, Champion Images

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind., Dec. 16, 2008 – USA Gymnastics had a banner year in 2008, highlighted by the USA’s 10 medals at the Olympic Games in Beijing, China. In addition to the success at the Olympic Games, the nation’s best gymnasts earned medals throughout the year at various meets around the world.

“2008 has been an incredible year for USA Gymnastics,” said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics. “Our athletes have been impressive both on and off the field of play and have truly been outstanding ambassadors for our sport. Not only did they win medals and perform at the highest level, but they also demonstrated great poise, camaraderie and a sense of fair play in handling both triumph and adversity. We could not be more proud of them.”

Each of the five programs had a successful year in 2008. Among the top accomplishments are:

  • Men’s and women’s gymnastics. The United States earned 10 medals (two gold, six silver and two bronze) at the 2008 Olympic Games for its greatest Olympic medal haul since 1984 and the most medals earned by the USA in gymnastics in a non-boycotted Olympic Games.
    • It is the first time the United States has won team medals at consecutive Olympic Games for both men and women. The women earned their second straight silver medal, and the men also were repeat medalists, this time taking home the bronze.
    • The U.S. women won eight total medals (two gold, five silver and one bronze), including the team silver medal. Nastia Liukin of Parker, Texas/WOGA, led with five medals, followed by Shawn Johnson of West Des Moines, Iowa/Chow’s Gymnastics, with four.
    • Liukin and Johnson became the first U.S. gymnasts to go 1-2 in the all-around.
    • The U.S. men claimed the team bronze medal and Jonathan Horton of Houston/Team Chevron captured the silver medal on the horizontal bar.
  • Trampoline and tumbling. Trampoline qualified for both the men’s and women’s competition at the Olympic Games for the first time ever. Also, Kalon Ludvigson of Sterling, Utah/Team Revolution, won a silver medal in men’s tumbling at the World Cup Final, and set a world record for degree of difficulty in tumbling with a 14.80 at the Pan American Trampoline and Tumbling Championships. Erin Blanchard of Lafayette, La./USOTC Trampoline Team, and Alaina Hebert of Broussard, La./World Elite Gymnastics, claimed the USA’s first World Cup gold medal in synchronized trampoline at the 45th Nissen Cup.
  • Acrobatic gymnastics. At the 2008 World Championships, Kristin Allen and Michael Rodrigues, both of Livermore, Calif./West Coast Training Center, won a silver medal in mixed pair, the USA’s fourth consecutive world medal in mixed pair.
  • Rhythmic gymnastics. The USA won 14 medals, including the team gold medal, at the Pacific Rim Gymnastics Championships presented by Gillette Venus.

The year’s highlights for each program are listed below.

Artistic gymnastics

The USA has won team medals at three of the last four Olympic Games.

Men

    After 2004 Olympic team silver-medalists Paul and Morgan Hamm of Waukesha, Wis./Team Chevron, withdrew from the team due to injuries, many pundits thought the U.S. men were long shots to win a medal. However, the U.S. men never doubted that they were medal contenders, and their excitement and esprit des corps on the way to the bronze medal won the hearts of the audience and television viewers alike. The USA was one of the only teams at the Olympic Games that did not have an athlete with previous Olympic experience, a rarity in men’s gymnastics that made it an even greater accomplishment.

    The members of the bronze-medal team are: Alexander Artemev of Highlands Ranch, Colo.; Raj Bhavsar of Houston; Joseph Hagerty of Rio Rancho, N.M.; Horton; Justin Spring of Burke, Va.; and Kevin Tan of Fremont, Calif. David Durante of Garwood, N.J., was the replacement athlete, and both of the Hamms withdrew from the team due to injuries. All nine men are members of Team Chevron. Kevin Mazeika of Houston Gymnastics Academy was the head coach, and Miles Avery of Ohio State University was the assistant coach.

    In the individual event finals, Horton captured the silver medal on the horizontal bar, the USA’s second consecutive Olympic silver medal in that event. Artemev competed in the pommel horse finals and finished seventh. Tan was the first reserve athlete for the still rings finals, with Hagerty as the third reserve gymnast for horizontal bar. Horton and Artemev finished ninth and 12th, respectively, in the all-around. Horton’s all-around score was just four-tenths of a point shy from the silver-medal-winning score.

    At the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Gymnastics, June 19-22 in Philadelphia, Horton finished first in the weighted, combined all-around rankings from the Visa Championships and U.S. Olympic Team Trials, followed by Hagerty and Bhavsar.

    David Sender of Arlington Heights, Ill./Team Chevron, won the men’s all-around title at the 2008 Visa Championships, May 22-24, in Houston. The individual event champions for 2008 were: Steven Legendre of Flower Mound, Texas/University of Oklahoma, floor exercise; Yewki Tomita of Tucson, Ariz./Team Chevron, pommel horse; Tan, still rings; Sender, vault; Spring, parallel bars; and Hagerty, horizontal bar. In the junior division, Glen Ishino of Santa Ana, Calif./SCATS-HB, and John Orozco of Bronx, N.Y./World Cup Gymnastics, won the all-around in the 16-18 year-old and 14-15 year-old divisions, respectively. Ishino also won floor exercise, pommel horse, parallel bars and horizontal bar, with D.J. Repp of Albuquerque, N.M./Gold Cup, winning still rings and Jake Dalton of Sparks, Nev./Gymnastics Nevada, claiming the vault title. Winning individual event crowns in the 14-15 year-old division were: Orozco, vault (tie), parallel bars and horizontal bar; Sean Senters of Center Valley, Pa./Parkettes, floor exercise; Jacoby Rubin of Buffalo Grove, Ill./Buffalo Grove Gymnastics, pommel horse (tie); C.J. Maestas of Albuquerque, N.M./Gold Cup, pommel horse (tie) and still rings; and Matthew Del Junco of Santa Ana, Calif./New Hope Academy, vault (tie).

    At the Pacific Rim Gymnastics Championships presented by Gillette Venus, March 28-30, in San Jose, Calif., the U.S. men earned a total of 10 medals (five gold, three silver and two bronze). The USA won the men’s team title, and Hamm and Danell Leyva of Miami, Fla./Universal Gymnastics, won the men’s all-around titles in the senior and junior divisions, respectively. Artemev earned the silver in the men’s senior all-around. In the senior division, Hamm claimed gold on pommel horse and parallel bars, silver on floor exercise and bronze on horizontal bar. For the juniors, Ishino was the silver medalist on the horizontal bar, and Leyva was third on the parallel bars.

    In his first international competition since winning the all-around at the 2004 Olympic Games, Paul Hamm won the all-around at the Tyson American Cup, March 1, in New York City. Artemev finished second, with Horton in fifth and Bhavsar in sixth.

    Leyva won three medals, gold on horizontal bar and silver on pommel horse and parallel bars, at the PAGU Individual Event Championships in November. At the Toyota Cup in November, Alvarez and Legendre claimed bronze medals on floor exercise and vault, respectively.

    Tan earned the silver medal on still rings at the World Cup held in Cottbus, Germany, in April. The USA won the team competition in the USA vs. Canada meet in February, and Guillermo Alvarez of Denver/Team Chevron won the all-around competition and Leyva finished third.

    The U.S. men won 23 medals in international competition in 2008: two at the Olympic Games (one silver, one bronze); 10 at the Pacific Rim Gymnastics Championships presented by Gillette Venus (five gold, three silver, two bronze); two at the Tyson American Cup (one gold, one silver); three at the USA vs. Canada competition (two gold, one bronze); three at the PAGU Individual Event Championships (one gold, two silver); two bronze medals at the Toyota Cup; and one silver at the World Cup in Cottbus, Germany.

Women

    The U.S. women’s eight medals (two gold, five silver and one bronze) at the Olympic Games topped China’s six (two gold and four bronze) and Romania’s two (one gold and one bronze). Liukin garnered the most medals of any female gymnast at the 2008 Olympics with five. Johnson was second with four medals, followed by China’s Cheng Fei and Yang Yilin at three each.

    Liukin tied the U.S. gymnastics record of five medals at one Olympic Games that was set by Mary Lou Retton, who earned one gold, two silver and two bronze at the 1984 Olympic Games, and matched by Shannon Miller, who claimed two silver and three bronze at the 1992 Olympic Games. Liukin’s Olympic medal haul includes one gold (all-around), three silver (team, balance beam and uneven bars) and one bronze (floor exercise). Liukin also surpassed the four medals won by her father, Valeri, at the 1988 Olympic Games (two gold and two silver). Johnson earned four medals at the Olympic Games: gold on balance beam, and silver in the team competition, all-around and floor exercise.

    The women’s all-around set two USA firsts: Liukin and Johnson became the first U.S. women to go one-two in the all-around; and this is the first time the USA has won the all-around title for two consecutive Olympic Games. Liukin joins Mary Lou Retton (1984) and Carly Patterson (2004) as the only U.S. women to win an Olympic all-around title.

    The U.S. women also won five medals in three individual event finals. Johnson is only the second U.S. gymnast to win an Olympic gold medal on the balance beam (Miller, 1996). Liukin finished second on balance beam, making this the first time the USA has won two medals in this event at the same Games. On the uneven bars, Liukin posted the same score as gold-medalist He Kexin of China, but was awarded the silver medal due to a tiebreaker. Alicia Sacramone of Winchester, Mass./Brestyan’s, just missed earning a medal on vault with her fourth-place finish.

    Along with Johnson, Liukin and Sacramone, the members of the U.S. Olympic Team for women’s gymnastics are: Chellsie Memmel of West Allis, Wis./M&M Gymnastics; Samantha Peszek of Indianapolis, Ind./Sharp’s Gymnastics; and Bridget Sloan of Pittsboro, Ind./Sharp’s Gymnastics. Johnson trains at Chow’s Gymnastics, and Liukin’s gym is WOGA. The three replacement athletes were: Jana Bieger of Coconut Creek, Fla./Bieger International Gymnastics; Ivana Hong of Blue Springs, Mo.; and Corrie Lothrop of Gaithersburg, Md./Hill’s. Liang Qiao of Chow’s Gymnastics was head coach, with Valeri Liukin of WOGA serving as assistant coach.

    Johnson and Liukin finished first and second, respectively, in the all-around at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Gymnastics. Rounding out the top five were Memmel in third, Peszek in fourth and Hong in fifth.

    At the Visa Championships, held June 5-7, in Boston, Johnson successfully defended her U.S. all-around and floor exercise titles. Liukin claimed two individual event titles: her fourth consecutive on the uneven bars and her third career on the balance beam. Sacramone won her fourth straight U.S. vault crown. In the junior division, Jordyn Wieber of Dewitt, Mich./Geddert’s, won the all-around, vault and floor exercise, and Samantha Shapiro of Los Angeles/All Olympia Gymnastics Center finished first on the uneven bars and balance beam.

    The U.S. women claimed a total of 14 medals, including the team gold, at the Pacific Rim Gymnastics Championships presented by Gillette Venus. Liukin won gold and Bieger claimed silver in the senior all- around, and Rebecca Bross of Plano, Texas/WOGA, and Shapiro finished first and second, respectively, in the junior all-around. In the individual event finals for the seniors, Bieger and Liukin went 1-2 on the uneven bars, while Liukin and Bieger placed first and third, respectively, on the balance beam. Darling Hill of Mount Laurel, N.J./Will-Moor, won the floor exercise title. For the juniors, Bross claimed gold medals on vault, balance beam and floor exercise, and Shapiro won the uneven bars.

    Liukin led a U.S. sweep of the top four women’s spots at the Tyson American Cup for her second career title at the prestigious event. Johnson, Peszek and Shayla Worley of Orlando, Fla./Orlando Metro, rounded out the top four in second, third and fourth, respectively.

    The U.S. women claimed a total of 74 medals in international competition in 2008: eight at the 2008 Olympic Games (two gold, five silver and one bronze); 14 at the Pacific Rim Gymnastics Championships presented by Gillette Venus (10 gold, three silver, one bronze); 14 at the Gymnix International (six gold, three silver, five bronze); 11 at the Friendship International Exchange (four gold, four silver and three bronze); eight at the PAGU Individual Event Championships (four gold, four silver); seven at the Top Gym competition (five gold, one silver, one bronze); six at the Italy-Spain-Poland-USA friendly competition (four gold, one silver, one bronze); and three at the Tyson American Cup (one gold, one silver, one bronze); three at the International Artistic Gymnastics Challenge (one gold, one silver, one bronze).

Awards

    U.S. athletes also won several awards in 2008. Liukin became just the second gymnast ever, and the first since Mary Lou Retton in 1984, to win the Women’s Sports Foundation’s individual Sportswoman of the Year Award. She also was named the International Gymnastics Federation’s Athlete of the Year and the USOC’s Female Athlete of the Month for August for her Olympic accomplishments. In early January, the 2007 U.S. Women’s World Championships Gymnastics Team that won the team gold medal was named the U.S. Olympic Committee’s 2007 Team of the Year. Horton won the Nissen-Emery Award as the nation’s top collegiate gymnast and was named one of five finalists for the Sullivan Award, which is given annually to the country’s top amateur athlete.

Trampoline and tumbling

The USA competed in the Olympic Games in women’s trampoline for the third straight Olympiad and in men’s trampoline for the first time. Erin Blanchard of Lafayette, La./USOTC Trampoline Team, finished 13th for the women, and Chris Estrada of Colorado Springs, Colo./USOTC Trampoline Team, placed 15th for the men. This was the first Olympic Games for both Blanchard and Estrada, both of whom trained at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., with Dmitri Poliaroush, the Olympic coach.

Ludvigson claimed the silver medal in tumbling at the World Cup Final in September. Also in international competition in 2008, Blanchard and Hebert claimed the USA’s first World Cup gold medal in synchronized trampoline at the 45th Nissen Cup in June.

Estrada claimed his fourth straight U.S. senior men’s trampoline title at the Visa Championships in Houston. Hebert won senior women’s trampoline to add a second U.S. crown to her 2005 title. Logan Dooley of Lake Forest, Calif./World Elite Gymnastics, and Steven Gluckstein of Atlantic Highlands, N.J./Head Over Heels, defended their men’s synchronized trampoline crown. Ludvigson won senior men’s tumbling for the third straight year. Also winning senior titles were: Hebert and Blanchard, women’s synchronized trampoline; Aubree Balkan of Carlsbad, Calif./Bounce California, women’s double mini-trampoline; Austin White of Irvine, Calif./World Elite Gymnastics, men’s double mini; and Kaitlin Tortorich of Fredericksburg, Va./Capital Gymnastics, women’s tumbling.

The U.S. junior women’s champions were: Savannah Vinsant of Newton, Texas/Twist N Shout, trampoline; Brittany Caddell of Levelland, Texas/Acrospirits, and Shaylee Dunavin of Amarillo, Texas/All American, synchronized trampoline; Sarah Gandy of Paris, Texas/Texas T&T Institute, double mini-trampoline; and Kiara Nowlin of Oxnard, Calif./Waller’s GymJam Academy, tumbling. The U.S. junior men’s winners were: Jeffrey Gluckstein of Atlantic Highlands, N.J./Head Over Heels, trampoline; Casey Gesuelli of Middletown, N.J./Head Over Heels, and Gluckstein, synchronized trampoline; Aaron Cook of Detroit, Mich./All World Gymnastics, double mini-trampoline; and Maurice Dunker of Marenge, Ill./Gymnastic Academy of Rockford, tumbling.

The USA earned 18 medals in international competition in 2008: 10 in the senior division at the Pan American Trampoline and Tumbling Championships (five gold, three silver, two bronze); three at the Pacific Rim Gymnastics Championships presented by Gillette Venus (one gold, one silver, one bronze); three at the Grenzland Cup (one gold, one silver, one bronze); one gold at the World Cup in Switzerland; and one silver medal in men’s tumbling at the World Cup Final.


Acrobatic gymnastics

Allen and Rodrigues continued the USA’s international success in acrobatic gymnastics by tying for the silver medal at the World Acrobatic Gymnastics Championships, held Oct. 10-12 in Glasgow, Scotland. DeShey Eisenmenger and Hayley Lemmons, both of Boerne, Texas/Boerne Gymnastics Center, won the silver medal in the 11-16 year-old division at the Acrobatic Gymnastics World Age Group Competition, held in conjunction with the World Championships.

Winning U.S. all-around titles at the Acrobatic Gymnastics National Championships, held July 27-31 in Des Moines, Iowa, were: senior women’s group - Mariah Spray, Hannah Busha and Steffi Scheid of Livermore, Calif./West Coast Training Center; senior mixed pair - Allen and Rodrigues; senior women’s pair - Alexis Thibodeaux of Harahan, La., and Nicole Barrilleaux of Metairie, La./Crescent City Gymnastics; junior women’s group - Amanda Plumer of Walnut Creek, Calif., Liselle Kitchens of San Ramon, Calif., and Amy Slater of Danville, Calif./San Ramon Valley Dance Academy; junior mixed pair - Kyle Bloom and Madeline Bones, both of San Jose, Calif./Aerial Tumbling & AcroGymnastics; and junior women’s pair - Tiana Terry and Monica Simikowski of San Jose, Calif./Aerial Tumbling & Acro Gymnastics.

Mallory Henthorn of Independence, Mo., and Savannah Shields of Grain Valley, Mo., who train at Acro Explosion, claimed the gold medal in senior women’s pair, and Bloom and Bones won the junior mixed pair title at the Maia Cup, March 8-9, in Maia, Portugal.


Rhythmic gymnastics

Lisa Wang of Buffalo Grove, Ill./North Shore Rhythmic, won her third straight U.S. all-around title at the Visa Championships in Houston, her last competition before retiring to focus on college. She won all four gold medals in the individual events (clubs, hoop, ribbon and rope). In the junior division, Marlee Shape of Buffalo Grove, Ill./North Shore Rhythmic, won the all-around, rope, ball and ribbon, and Rebecca Sereda of Las Vegas, Nev./Lido Isadora Sports School, won hoop.

The USA won 14 medals, including the team gold medal, in rhythmic gymnastics at the Pacific Rim Gymnastics Championships presented by Gillette Venus. Shape won the junior all-around crown and Anastasia Torba of Orinda, Calif./Allegro Rhythmics, won the bronze medal. In the senior all-around, Wang claimed the silver medal and Rachel Marmer of Los Angeles/Eurogymnastics earned the bronze medal. In the senior individual event finals, Wang claimed the gold medal in hoop, silver in rope and ribbon, and bronze in clubs, while Marmer earned the bronze medal in ribbon. In the junior individual event finals, Shape placed first in hoop and rope and finished third in ribbon, and Torba placed third in ball.

In other international competitions in 2008, Marmer claimed the bronze medal in rope at the Madiera International Tournament in February, and junior national team member Michelle Milstein of Eagan, Minn./International Gymnastics Of Minnesota, earned the bronze medal in the all-around at the Baver Cup in April. The U.S. Senior National Team Group from North Shore Rhythmic claimed the silver medal in the all-around at the Marbella Tournament in April.