USA adds four gold, six silver to gymnastics medal haul at Pan Am Games
posted on 07/17/2007

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, July 17, 2007 - 2007 Pan Am women's all-around champ Shawn Johnson of West Des Moines, Iowa, wowed the near capacity crowd at the Rio Olympic Arena at the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where she added two gold medals and a silver to the team and all-around gold medals she collected earlier. Justin Spring of Burke, Va., won the parallel bars title, and Rebecca Bross of Plano, Texas, turned in a gold-medal performance in the floor exercise. In addition, the USA won six silver medals in individual event finals.

The USA's remaining medalists in the individual event finals are: Guillermo Alvarez of Denver, silver on floor exercise; Sean Golden of Camden, N.J., silver on still rings; Nastia Liukin of Parker, Texas, silver in both uneven bars and balance beam; and Amber Trani of Richlandtown, Pa., silver on vault.

This brings the USA's medal tally for artistic gymnastics to six gold, seven silver and three bronze for the 2007 Pan Am Games.

"These few days have provided a terrific opportunity for our athletes to represent their country and sharpen their competitive skills," said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics. "We are proud of all of them."

Led by Johnson, the U.S. women went one-two in three of the four events. Johnson and Liukin were first and second on both the uneven bars and balance beam. Bross and Johnson took the top two spots, respectively, in the floor exercise. Trani was the USA's only entry in the vault and captured a silver medal.

"These young girls rose to our expectations based on systematic preparation and showed absolute consistency, which is the key to success," said Martha Karolyi, women's national team coordinator.

"Certainly the performances in Brazil have heightened our awareness of the intensity that comes with international competition," said Karolyi.

Vault was the first event and Trani started the USA off with a silver medal. Trani, the only American woman to try for an individual vault medal, scored an average of 14.725 for her two vaults, to place behind Brazil's Jade Barbosa's 14.912. Brazil's Lais Souza claimed the bronze with a 14.650.

"It is amazing (to win an individual medal)," said Trani. "It is a great feeling. I am so happy to come out and place my first time in an individual event. I hit the best two vaults I could do."

Johnson and Liukin went one-two in both the uneven bars and balance beam. On the uneven bars, Johnson was rock solid and posted a 15.475. Liukin received a 15.450 for her routine. On the balance beam, again the two Americans gave the two top performances, earning 16.150 and 15.900, respectively.

"I feel so proud of every thing and that the hard work has really paid off," said Johnson. "My coaches, parents and teammates have helped me get through the good times and the hard times. It is pretty amazing."

"I was pretty pleased with my performance, and it (getting the silver medals) was good," said Liukin. "I am really excited to get back out there (in competition) and especially do beam, because I haven't done it in a while. My main goal this year is the Visa Championships and the World Championships, and this was good preparation. I look forward to doing all four events in August."

In the floor exercise, the two Americans were two of the last three competitors. Brazil's Jade Barbosa stepped out of bounds to earn a 15.025 earlier in the rotation. Johnson was third from the last and had the crowd going with her routine that earned at 15.225. Bross was the last to go and she nailed all of her skills to move past Johnson for the gold medal with 15.250.

"It was great to win the gold medal," said Bross. "I trained and worked really hard and I'm very excited."

For the men, Alvarez picked up the first silver on the floor exercise. He earned a 15.625 for his floor routine to win the silver medal. 2005 world floor champion Diego Hypolito thrilled his countryman with his routine that earned a 15.875 and secured the Pan Am gold medal. Chile's Enrique Gonzales was third at 15.550. The USA's Spring had a break in his floor routine and placed seventh.

"Getting second place behind the best guy in the world, I feel good about it," said Alvarez. "My routine went better than in practice, although my scale was a little shaky and worried me a bit, but I felt comfortable and I am glad to have this medal."

On the still rings, both David Durante of Garwood, N.J., and Golden competed in the final. Golden posted his 15.275 early in the rotation and held on to capture the silver medal. He finished behind Venezuela's Regulo Carmona. Durante was fifth at 14.900.

"The crowd was very motivating," said Golden. "I thought I did it better today (than in the team competition), even though I didn't score as well. It feels great to win my first international individual event medal."

Spring and Alvarez both competed in the parallel bars finals. Spring earned a 15.550 to take the top spot, followed by Jorge Giraldo of Colombia and Luis Vargas of Puerto Rico. Alvarez finished eighth.

"There were some misses in the finals and I wasn't a shoe-in, but I knew if I hit my routine that I had a chance," said Spring. AcaAA gold medal is nice, and that the crowd cheering was even better. It was an exciting meet and it was great to come out and represent the USA and for the men to get a gold medal."

Spring joined countryman Todd Thornton of Houston in the horizontal bar finals. With Brazil's Mosiah Rodrigues holding the lead, the crowd was very vocal as Spring went to the bar as the last competitor. He was well into his high-flying routine when his arm folded and he dropped to the floor. He ended up with a 14.175 that landed him in sixth place. Thornton was seventh at 13.975. Rodrigues won the event with a 14.625.

"This is the most exciting competition I have ever competed in," said Spring.