2011 Visa Championships begin on Aug. 17 in Saint Paul
posted on 08/16/2011

SAINT PAUL, Minn., Aug. 16, 2011 – The USA's best gymnasts are gathered in Saint Paul, Minn., for the 2011 Visa Championships, Aug. 17-20, the national championships for USA Gymnastics. The four-day event features competition in men's, women's and rhythmic gymnastics, and the field, which includes a mixture of veterans and rising stars, for all three disciplines combines for six Olympic and 22 World medals, along with 38 U.S. titles. The event kicks off at 11:30 a.m. on Aug. 17 with an opening ceremony in Rice Park featuring Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics, who will officially rename two streets, Back Flip Blvd. (Washington Street) and Somersault Street (Market Street).

"The Visa Championships is the place to be this week," said Penny. "So much is happening in Saint Paul – world class gymnastics, lots of fun activities, the Taste of the Visa Championships, and the USA Gymnastics National Congress and Tradeshow. The Visa Championships is a wonderful celebration of our sport and a tremendous demonstration of talent of these athletes. We invite everyone to join us."

Six veterans in the field combined for the six Olympic and 22 World medals.

  • Rebecca Bross, Plano, Texas/WOGA: World – all-around, balance beam and team silver medals, and all-around and uneven bars (2) bronze medals
  • Mackenzie Caquatto, Naperville, Ill./Legacy Elite Gymnastics: World – team silver medal
  • Jonathan Horton, Houston/Team Hilton HHonors: Olympics – horizontal bar silver medal and team bronze medal; and World – all-around bronze
  • Shawn Johnson, West Des Moines, Iowa/Chow's Gymnastics: Olympics – balance beam gold medal and all-around, floor exercise and team silver medals; and World – team, all-around and floor exercise gold medals
  • Chellsie Memmel, West Allis, Wis./M&M Gymnastics: Olympics – team silver; and World -- all-around, uneven bars and team (2), and silver – uneven bars, balance beam and team
  • Alexandra Raisman, Needham, Mass./Brestyan's American Gymnastics: World – team silver medal
  • Alicia Sacramone, Winchester, Mass./Brestyan's American Gymnastics: Olympics – team silver medal; and World – vault, floor exercise and team gold medals, vault, floor and team (2) silver medals, and vault (2) bronze medals

Men's and women's gymnastics will be held at Xcel Energy Center Aug. 17-20, and rhythmic gymnastics will be at Roy Wilkins Auditorium Aug. 19-20. A brief overview of each of the competitions is included below.

Tickets for the four-day event are on sale now. Tickets may be purchased at the Xcel Energy Center Box Office, Ticketmaster Ticket Centers, by phone at 800-745-3000, and online at www.ticketmaster.com. In recognition of Visa's long-time support, USA Gymnastics is proud to accept only Visa at the 2011 Visa Championships, along with cash. For ticket and event information, go to www.usagym.org/visa.

At Rice Park, people can start the day with a morning fitness session, watch gymnastics demonstrations and participate in Painting in the Park during the noon hour, and enjoy the Visa Fan Fest, complete with gymnastics demonstrations, visits from well-known gymnastics celebrities, interactive booths, food and music (post-competition on Aug. 19-20 and from 3:30-6:30 p.m. on Aug. 20). The Taste of the Visa Championships features 14 restaurants in downtown Saint Paul that have created special, gymnastics-themed entrees that will be judged by a panel led by legendary gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi. More details on the fan activities are listed below, and complete schedule of fan activities will be available at www.usagym.org/visa.

Also, it will be easier than ever to follow the competition and fan events online. To help accomplish the goal of making this year's Visa Championships the greenest to date, schedules and general information for both fan and competition activities, start lists, live scoring and more will be available at www.usagym.org/visa, which is easily viewable on smart phones and other digital devices. In addition, this year's event program will be produced digitally and available to those both in and out of the arena to view and enjoy.

USA Gymnastics are connecting with fans on Facebook (facebook.com/USAGymnastics) and Twitter (@USAGym), providing live updates and exclusive content including videos and photos from the Visa Championships. Gymnastics fans can follow the action easily on Twitter by using the official hashtag of the 2011 Visa Championships, #visachamps.

 

Competition overview

Women's gymnastics

    Defending U.S. all-around champion Bross, who is also the 2010 World all-around bronze medalist, 2010 U.S. and World vault champion Sacramone, 2011 AT&T American Cup champion Jordyn Wieber of DeWitt, Mich./Gedderts' Twistars USA, and 2011 CoverGirl Classic all-around champion Raisman headline the 48-woman field that features both veterans and rising stars in the junior and senior divisions.

    At the recent CoverGirl Classic, Raisman increased the difficulty in her floor routine and executed a Yurchenko two-and-a-half on vault to win the all-around title. Sacramone won vault and tied for first on balance beam, as well as gave a dramatic performance in her first floor exercise routine since the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Wieber won the uneven bars and tied with Sacramone for top honors on the balance beam. 2008 Olympic team silver-medalist and 2005 World all-around champion Chellsie Memmel of West Allis, Wis./M&M Gymnastics, made an impressive return to competition on the national stage and finished second in the all-around.

    Several first-year senior competitors are expected to challenge the veterans for U.S. titles and medals: Bridgette Caquatto of Naperville., Ill./Legacy Elite; Gabrielle Douglas of Virginia Beach, Va./Chow's Gymnastics; McKayla Maroney of Laguna Niguel, Calif./All-Olympia Gymnastics; Sabrina Vega of Carmel , N.Y./Dynamic Gymnastics; and McKenzie Wofford of McKinney, Texas/Zenith Elite Gymnastics Academy. Senior national team member Amanda Jetter of Milford, Ohio/Cincinnati Gymnastics, is also competing.

    Two former collegiate standouts will also compete in Saint Paul: Casey Jo Magee of Eugene, Ore./Capital Gymnastics, who finished second all-around at the 2010 NCAA Championships for the University of Arkansas; and Anna Li of Naperville, Ill./Legacy Elite, a member of UCLA's winning 2010 NCAA Championships team. Caquatto, who is a current member of the senior national team, just completed her first year as a member of the University of Florida's team.

    Leading the junior division is 2010 U.S. junior all-around champion Kyla Ross of Aliso Viejo, Calif./Gym-Max Gymnastics, who also won the junior all-around title at the 2011 CoverGirl Classic. Joining Ross in an impressive junior field are several of her junior national teammates: Kennedy Baker of Flower Mound, Texas/Texas Dreams Gymnastics; Brenna Dowell of Odessa, Mo./GAGE; Ericha Fassbender of Katy, Texas/Stars Gymnastics Training Center-Houston; Sarah Finnegan of St. Louis, Mo./GAGE; Ariana Guerra of League City, Texas/Stars Gymnastics Training Center-Houston; Katelyn Ohashi of Newcastle, Wash./WOGA; Elizabeth Price of Coopersburg, Pa./Parkettes; and Lexie Priessman of Cincinnati/Cincinnati Gymnastics.

Men's gymnastics

    Defending champion Horton is shooting for his third straight U.S. all-around title, a feat no man has accomplished since 2004 Olympic champion Paul Hamm won three national titles in a row (2002-04). Horton faces tough competition in Saint Paul from his 2010 World Championship and Team Hilton HHonors teammates Chris Brooks of Houston; Chris Cameron of Winter Haven, Fla.; Steven Legendre of Flower Mound, Texas; Danell Leyva of Miami, and Brandon Wynn of Voorhees, N.J..

    Leyva, who finished fifth on the horizontal bar at the 2010 World Championships, recently earned the all-around bronze medal at the 2011 Japan Cup, where he competed against World all-around champion Kohei Uchimura.

    Wynn, Legendre and Cameron wrapped up their collegiate gymnastics careers earlier this year. Fresh off back-to-back NCAA national titles on the still rings for the Ohio State Buckeyes, Wynn helped the U.S. Team to a silver medal at the 2011 Puerto Rico Cup, where he also took the still rings gold and all-around silver medals. Legendre was the eighth place finisher on the floor exercise at each of the last two World Championships. Second at the recent men's qualifying event in Colorado Springs, Cameron's trademark Thomas flairs and stylish work on all six apparatus could land him among the top finishers.

    The University of Oklahoma's Jake Dalton of Sparks, Nev., won the 2011 Winter Cup all-around, floor exercise and vault titles, in addition to taking the bronze medal at the 2011 AT&T American Cup.

    Other senior national team members in the field are: Andrew Elkind of Cherry Hill, N.J./Team Hilton HHonors; Glen Ishino of Santa Ana, Calif./University of California – Berkeley; C.J. Maestas of Corrales, N.M./University of Illinois; Tyler Mizoguchi of Houston/University of Illinois; Alexander Naddour of Gilbert, Ariz./University of Oklahoma; Paul Ruggeri of Manlius, N.Y./University of Illinois; and Jesse Silverstein of Spring Valley, N.Y./Team Hilton HHonors.

    Two current junior national team members are competing as seniors: John Orozco of the Bronx/U.S. Olympic Training Center, who posted impressive scores at the 2011 Japan Cup on the pommel horse, parallel bars and horizontal bar; and Dylan Akers of Kingwood, Texas/Cypress Gymnastics.

    Last year's junior champions who are expected to compete are: Trevor Howard of Columbus, Ohio/Hocking Valley Gymnastics Center, still rings (tie), 16-18; Sean Melton of Orlando, Fla./Orlando Metro, all-around, floor exercise and pommel horse, 14-15; Adrian de los Angeles of Long Beach, Calif./SCATS HB, still rings, 14-15; Stacey Ervin of Taylor, Mich./Mills Gymnastics USA, vault, 14-15; Maximillian Mayr of Miami/Universal Gymnastics Inc., parallel bars; and Jake Martin of Oviedo, Fla./Orlando Metro, horizontal bar (tie), 14-15.

    Junior national team members who are competing in the junior division are: De Los Angeles; Jonathan Deaton of Longmeadow, Mass./ Tim Daggett Gold Medal Gymnastics; Ervin; Jesse Glenn of Northridge, Calif./SCATS Gymnastics; Martin; Melton; and Timothy Wang of Riverside, Calif./South Coast Gymnastics.

Rhythmic gymnastics

    Defending U.S. all-around champions Julie Zetlin of Bethesda, Md./Capital Rhythmics, and Rebecca Sereda of Staten Island, N.Y./Isadora, (junior), will headline a field of the country's top rhythmic gymnasts. Also in the field are the 2011 U.S. Rhythmic Classic all-around champions Shelby Kisiel of Missouri City, Texas/North Shore Rhythmic, and Jazzy Kerber of Highland Park, Ill./North Shore Rhythmic, (junior).

    In addition to Zetlin and Kisiel, the members of the senior national team competing at the Visa Championships are: Olga Pavlenko of Flushing, N.Y./Isadora; Claire Skach of Portland, Ore./Rose City Rhythmics; Anastasia Torba of Loma Linda, Calif./Allegro; and Hannah Walter of Angola, N.Y/ Gymnastics Unlimited.

    Current junior national team members who are competing as seniors are: Polina Kozitskiy of Fountainville, Pa./Philadelphia Rhythmic Academy; and Alexis Page of New York City/Aviator Sports. In addition to Sereda and Kerber, the remaining members of the junior national team in the field are: Julia Garbuz of Eden Prairie, Minn./NorthWest Rhythmic; Cindy Lu of Staten Island, N.Y./Isadora; and Yasmeen Sidqi of Brooklyn, N.Y./Isadora.

    Zetlin, an all-around finalist at the 2010 World Championships, won the all-around, rope, and ball titles at the 2010 Pan American Championships. She also took top honors for the all-around title, hoop, and ribbon titles at the 2011 Rhythmic Challenge. Since then, she has competed in the finals at the World Cup event in Montreal, Quebec, where she was sixth in ribbon. Kisiel won the all-around, hoop, ball, clubs and ribbon titles at the 2011 U.S. Rhythmic Classic, as well as claimed the silver medal in ribbon and bronze in hoop at the 2010 Pan American Championships. She finished second in the all-around at the 2011 Rhythmic Challenge and won the clubs title.

    For the juniors, Sereda won the all-around title at the 2011 Rhythmic Challenge, as well as hoop and ribbon and five international medals, including gold in ball in Romania, and all four event titles at the 2011 U.S. Rhythmic Classic. Kerber won the all-around title at the 2011 U.S. Rhythmic Classic and four other international medals this year, including gold in clubs in Montreal.

    At the 2010 World Championships, the U.S. rhythmic group passed the first round of Olympic qualification by advancing to the 2011 World Championships with their top 24 finish and went on to earn two event silver medals at the 2010 Pan American Championships, where they also qualified the United States into the group competition for the 2011 Pan American Games. This year they achieved the highest U.S. World Cup finish in Nizhy Novgorod, Russia, where they finished sixth in the all-around and fifth in 5 Balls. The U.S. group, which trains at North Shore Rhythmic Gymnastics in Chicago, includes: Sydney Sachs, Megan Frohlich, Jessica Bogdanov, Sofya Roytburg, Michelle Przybylo, Aimee Gupta, and Rachel Anderson.

Fan activities

    For four days, Saint Paul's Rice Park will become the place for fan activities during the 2011 Visa Championships and play host to a variety of fun, including morning fitness, gymnastics demonstrations, Painting in the Park and the Visa Fan Fest. In addition, 14 downtown Saint Paul restaurants are participating in the Taste of the Visa Championships.

    Here's a quick overview of the fan activities available during the Visa Championships.

    • Morning fitness. Downtown workers, fans and USA Gymnastics National Congress and Trade Show attendees will start the day off right, Thursday, Aug. 18, through Saturday, Aug. 20, with a 60-minute workout that includes exercises for strength and cardio conditioning and flexibility. Held at Rice Park, the 6:30 a.m. sessions will be hosted by Olympian John Macready, Denise Brumsey, and a HealthPartner trainer each day.

    • Lunch-time activities. From Aug. 17-19 from 11 a.m-1 p.m., gymnastics demonstrations and Painting in the Park are scheduled during the lunch hour at Rice Park.

    • Painting in the Park. Gymnastics fans and citizens of the Twin Cities can help create an original painting that will become a part of the history of the 2011 Visa Championships. Interested individuals will have the opportunity to dip their hands and/or feet into paint and do handstands, cartwheels or walk across the canvas, developing a communal piece of art. Painting in the Park will be available to the public from 11 a.m.–1 p.m. on Aug. 17-19 and from 3:30-6:30 p.m. on Aug. 20. The finished canvas will be featured during the final session of the Visa Championships on Aug. 20. Painting in the Park is presented by Art of the Olympians, founded by Cathy Oerter and her late husband, Al, who was a four-time Olympic discus champion. Works of Al Oerter provide the background in the signage and visual imagery for the 2011 Visa Championships.

    • Taste of the Visa Championships. The Taste of the Visa Championships features 14 Saint Paul-area restaurants that have created a special, healthy entrée that will be judged during Visa Championships week. The goal is to produce a tasty, but nutritionally sound meal that will dazzle a panel of judges led by legendary gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi. The restaurants are American Burger Bar, Cork's Irish Pub (Embassy Suites), Eagle Street Grille, Great Waters Brewing Company, Headwaters Café (RiverCentre), Kincaid's, Liffey Irish Pub, M St. Café (Saint Paul Hotel), Pazzaluna Urban Italian, Restaurant 11 (Crowne Plaza), Sakura, Senor Wong, St. Paul Grill (Saint Paul Hotel), and Tom Reid's Hockey City Pub. Karolyi will officially announce the contest winner during the Visa Fan Fest at Rice Park on Saturday, Aug. 20. The Taste of the Visa Championships is a joint effort between Visit Saint Paul, USA Gymnastics and St. Vincent Sports Performance to promote healthy eating in conjunction with the 2011 Visa Championships, USA Gymnastics' national championships that feature men's, women's and rhythmic gymnastics.

    • USA Gymnastics Fitness Zone. Kids can have fun and gain knowledge about the importance of fitness through the interactive USA Gymnastics Fitness Zone. The zone features activities in building strength, flexibility and cardiovascular exercise, along with teaching a handstand in recognition of the Year of the Handstand (including a world record attempt for simultaneous handstands on National Gymnastics Day, Sept. 17, and as a possible fundraiser for Children's Miracle Network). The Fitness Zone will be featured on the concourse at Xcel Energy Center and at the Visa Fan Fest on Saturday, Aug. 20.

    • Visa Fan Fest. Fans can gather for fun between the women's gymnastics sessions on Aug. 20 and post-competition on Aug. 19-20. Following the competition on Aug. 19-20 (Friday and Saturday nights), the Visa Fan Fest will be a great place to mingle and enjoy interviews, food, music, fun activities; and celebrate the great competition earlier in the evening. Rice Park will be the place to be after the chalk dust has settled in the arena. Also, on Aug. 20 at 3:30 p.m. at Rice Park, fans can enjoy music, autographs, food, Painting in the Park, the USA Gymnastics Fitness Zone and other fun activities, as well as buy merchandise, during the break between the junior and senior women's competition.

    • WGYM. Two-time Olympic gold-medalist Shannon Miller and 2007 U.S. all-around champion David Durante will host WGYM, the in-house radio broadcast for men's and women's gymnastics. WGYM provides running commentary on the competition, as well as fun facts about the sport and the competitors. Radios will be available at Xcel Energy Center.

    • Merchandise. Fans can purchase everything gymnastics from event-specific tees to the newest adidas leotards at both Xcel Energy Center and the Visa Fan Fest. USA Gymnastics is proud to accept only Visa.

Television and webcast coverage

    Universal Sports television will broadcast the men's and women's senior competitions live on Aug. 18 and 19 beginning at 8 p.m. ET. NBC Sports will broadcast live, prime-time coverage of the final day of the senior women's competition at 8 p.m. ET on Aug. 20. In addition, NBC Sports will carry action from the men's competition at 4:30 p.m. ET on Aug. 21. Competition in the first day of the senior women's competition will be simultaneously webcast on UniversalSports.com, while the final day of both the men's and women's championship will be available for on-demand streaming following the television broadcast. To find a Universal Sports channel in a specific area, go to universalsports.com.

    "Around the Gym," which provides commentary, recaps and interviews, will air on Universal Sports half an hour before and immediately following the Universal Sports telecasts on Aug. 18 and 19, as well as after the conclusion of the NBC Sports broadcast on Aug. 20. 2008 Olympic all-around champion Nastia Liukin and three-time Olympic team member John Roethlisberger serve as hosts for the show.

Background information

  • Art of the Olympians. Art of the Olympians is dedicated to demonstrating the very real relationship between art and sport to the general public. The athlete artists have the ability to express this because of their many years of well-directed training for sport and the transfer of this discipline to their art. The Art of the Olympians Center of Excellence celebrates the constant challenge to achieve greatness in physical, artistic, and educational endeavors. In recognition of founder Al Oerter's long-standing commitment to the ancient Olympic ideals and his contribution to Olympic sport, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) granted Art of the Olympians legal use of the word "Olympian," which is actually protected by an act of Congress. The Art of the Olympians Museum and the Al Oerter Center for Excellence are located in Fort Myers, Fla. For more information, call 239-332-5055.

  • Al Oerter. Considered one of the greatest modern Olympic competitors, Al Oerter was the first athlete to win four gold medals at four successive Olympiads and the only athlete to set four consecutive Olympic records. He won the discus gold medal in Melbourne (1956), Rome (1960), Tokyo (1964) and Mexico City (1968). Oerter retired after the 1968 Games to help raise his two daughters and continue his management career in the computer industry. He resumed training in 1976 at age 40 and, in May 1980, threw his best official throw ever, 227 feet 11 inches. This throw could have won the 1980 Olympic gold medal, but the United States did not participate in the Olympic Games in Moscow. Oerter worked in data processing management for almost 30 years and enjoyed his career in promotions and as a successful motivational speaker. A member of 18 Halls of Fame, he was the first athlete recipient of The Olympic Order, the highest award issued by the International Olympic Committee. Oerter was a successful abstract artist and founder of Art of the Olympians. His heroes were the abstract artists who broke new ground in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s. Oerter died in 2007.

  • USA Gymnastics National Congress and Trade Show. The USA Gymnastics National Congress and Trade Show is held in conjunction with the Visa Championships and will be conducted next door at Saint Paul RiverCentre. The USA Gymnastics National Congress and Trade Show is the annual gathering of professional members that offers educational and business sessions, a large exhibitor's hall and other business and educational opportunities.

  • Xcel Energy Center. Regarded as one of the finest arenas in the world, Xcel Energy Center is home to the NHL's Minnesota Wild, the NLL's Minnesota Swarm and a multitude of premier sports and entertainment events annually. The one-of-a-kind, multi-purpose facility is located in the heart of downtown Saint Paul, owned by the City of Saint Paul and managed by Saint Paul Arena Company, an affiliate of Minnesota Sports & Entertainment.

  • Saint Paul RiverCentre. Saint Paul RiverCentre is the city's premier convention center that overlooks the bluffs of the Mississippi River. Featuring more than 250,000 square feet of versatile event space and flexible room configurations that include the Grand Ballroom and The Legendary Roy Wilkins Auditorium, Saint Paul RiverCentre is the preferred choice for hundreds of events each year including star-studded galas, trade shows and conventions.

  • Visit Saint Paul. The mission of Visit Saint Paul is to generate economic growth for Saint Paul by effectively marketing the RiverCentre campus, Saint Paul and the region as a preferred convention and tourism destination.