INDIANAPOLIS – Just nine days remain before the nation’s top men and women artistic gymnasts will compete at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, June 24-27 at The Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim in Anaheim, Calif.
Sixteen women and 17 men will challenge for spots on the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team. With so much depth on each team, it is nearly impossible to predetermine which 12 gymnasts – six men and six women – will compete in Athens.
“I want to express how excited we are about the depth of our teams right now as we look back at our Visa U.S. Championships last week and forward to Trials and Athens,” USA Gymnastics President Bob Colarossi said. “I can’t think of a time when our program was so deep. I’m excited, and a little bit scared, that we have to get the right kids on the floor. It’s important to realize that the athletes will be chosen by the value they add to the team score, not their value in individual competitions.”
Courtney Kupets and Carly Patterson are top contenders for Olympic berths based on their performances in 2003-2004. The pair recently tied for all-around gold at the 2004 Visa U.S. Gymnastics Championships, June 2-5 in Nashville, Tenn. Each went on to win individual gold medals as well – Kupets on balance beam and Patterson on floor exercise.
The Visa Championships was the first major competition for Kupets, the 2002 uneven bars World Champion, since she tore her Achilles tendon Aug. 18 at the 2003 World Championships. As Kupets watched from the sidelines, Patterson earned silver in the all-around and gold with the team.
“I don’t think it will have an effect on me,” Kupets said of her return to Anaheim. “What happened, happened, not because of where I was, it was going to happen no matter where. I’m going in with the same intensity as at Championships and stay confident that I can achieve my goals.”
Two Kansas City gymnasts will also figure into contention. Terin Humphrey and Courtney McCool, who finished third and fourth respectively at the Championships in Nashville, both train at Great American Gymnastics in Lee’s Summit, Mo.
California is well represented in Championships’ fifth-place finisher Allyse Ishino and seventh-place finisher Tabitha Yim. Ishino and Yim – both of Orange County – train at Charter Oaks Gymnastics in Covina. Ishino burst onto the international scene with an all-around victory at the Pacific Alliance Championships in Honolulu in April, and Yim, on the mend from a broken leg, finished as high as second in the U.S. Championships just two years ago.
On the men’s side, twin brothers Paul and Morgan Hamm are looking to repeat what they did four years ago and make a second Olympic team. Paul, the 2003 World All-Around Champion, recently solidified his title as the best gymnast in America once again, winning his third all-around gold at the Visa Championships. Morgan is a 2003 World team silver medalist and finished third in Nashville – his best all-around finish at the national championships to date.
Brett McClure from Mill Creek, Wash. and Todd Thornton from Houston, Tex. are certainly not ones to forget. Finishing second at Championships in the all-around and first on the pommel horse, McClure is made his bid for a spot on the Olympic Team, as did Thornton, who finished Championships in fourth place.
“I am pretty satisfied with my work at Nationals,” McClure said. “I did leave some room for improvement. My consistency is picking up and it will carry on to Trials. I am not looking at places, I am focusing on getting through my routines and letting the selection committee pick the team.”
Five-time U.S. national champion Blaine Wilson will also be among those to watch at the Trials. Though he did not compete in Championships due to a torn left bicep tendon, he has all intentions to compete in Anaheim, and Athens.
Also sitting on the sidelines at Championships due to injuries was Jason Gatson. Gatson, from Upland, Calif., tweaked his back in early April and decided to rest through early June in order to be 100 percent for Trials.
The top two men using the 40 percent from the combined all-around score at Championships plus 60 percent of the combined all-around score from Trials are automatic to the Olympic Team. For the women, the top two women from Trials are automatic to the Olympic Team, pending verification of readiness at a July selection camp. Additional members to each team will be nominated by a selection committee to ensure the highest possible team scoring formula.
Single-session and all-session tickets for the Trials are on sale at the Arrowhead Pond box office, at Ticketmaster.com, by phone at 714-740-2000, at all Ticketmaster outlets and through participating gymnastics clubs listed at www.usa-gymnastics.org.
Men’s all-around preliminaries are slated for 7 p.m. PT Thursday, June 24, with women’s all-around prelims at 7 p.m. Friday, June 25. Weekend start times are at 3 p.m. each day for men’s all-around finals on Saturday, June 26 and women’s all-around finals on Sunday, June 27.
The Trials will be broadcast by NBC Sports with the women’s prelims from 8-10 p.m. ET on June 26, the women’s finals from 7-9 p.m. June 27, and the men’s finals scheduled to air from 1-3 p.m. on July 3, 2004.
For more information on the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, log on to www.usa-gymastics.org or www.2004gymnasticstrials.com.