INDIANAPOLIS – U.S. Rhythmic gymnast Mary Sanders is on the brink of making history for USA Gymnastics at the 2003 Rhythmic World Championships in Budapest, Hungary.

Sanders, the 2003 Pan American Games champion, currently stands 12th in the All-Around competition. She needs to finish among the top 10 individuals not competing in the team event in order to guarantee an automatic spot in the Olympic Games. Currently, she is ranked first among athletes not competing as part of a team (6 athletes).

Earlier in the day, Sanders took seventh in the Hoop event with a score of 23.475 – the best-ever finish for an American in an individual event at the World Championships – after qualifying for the event final in sixth place. The U.S. has never before qualified an athlete for an event final. Sanders also finished 10th in the Ball preliminary competition. The top eight athletes in each event preliminary advance to the event final.

Sanders, of Toronto, swept the event finals of hoop, ball, clubs and ribbon at the Pan American Games and 2003 U.S. Championships, and as recently as 2002 won the Canadian National Championships. The two-time reigning U.S. National Champion, recently declared that she will compete solely for the United States as of 2003. Sanders is carrying on the gymnastics legacy of her father, Fred, the 1963 NCAA Champion in Trampoline, who passed away 10 years ago.

The 2003 Worlds Championships awards group, individual event and all-around medals. The Championships also serve as the qualifier for the 24 individuals and 10 groups (6 athletes) selected to the 2004 Olympic Games. The top eight groups, plus the host nation and one nation selected by FIG based on continental representation qualify for the Games, along with the first 10 athletes in rank order not already qualified by the group rankings. Four more athletes are selected by the FIG to bring the total number of Rhythmic athletes to 84, with a maximum of eight per country.