Daniel Furney and Cody Moore Earn Spots on the U.S. National Team
Las Vegas – Nearly 100 of the USA’s top male gymnasts battled for the 2002 Winter Cup Challenge all-around title and two open spots on the U.S. national team at the All-American Sports Park in Las Vegas last night. Taking the top spot was 2001 World Championship team alternate Todd Thornton (Team Chevron-HGA/Houston, Texas) with a total score of 53.85.
For Thornton, the 2000 junior national champion, the Winter Cup marks his first all-around win as a senior-level competitor. "It feels great," Thornton said of his victory. "I’ve grown a lot since  and I had some trouble adjusting at first. Rings was tough to get my strength back up, and parallel bars I had to kind of re-learn how to swing, but I think I’ve adjusted pretty well now."
On his way to victory, Thornton notched the highest score of the meet with a 9.8 performance on floor exercise. "I’ve been doing that routine for a while," Thornton said. " I guess everything just came together really well tonight for me."
2000 Olympian Paul Hamm (Swiss Turners Gymnastics/Waukesha, Wis.), placed second with a 53.55 total that included a 9.4 vault performance, which tied the top score of the night on that event.
In his first meet of 2002, Hamm, who finished seventh all-around at the 2001 World Championships last October, took the opportunity to debut new routines on several events, including floor exercise and pommel horse. Scheduled to participate in the prestigious American Cup next month in Orlando, Fla., Hamm used the Winter Cup to gauge his competition readiness.
"Honestly, I wanted to win," Hamm said after the meet, "so, I’m not completely happy, but I think I did what I wanted to do. You can’t go into a meet as big as the American Cup not having competed since World Championships if you want to beat the best people in the world."
Daniel Furney (University of Oklahoma/San Antonio, Texas) and Cody Moore (University of California at Berkeley/Scottsdale, Ariz.) claimed the two available U.S. national team positions by finishing third (53.15) and fourth (52.85), respectively.
" I wasn’t here to do anything but make national team," Furney said, "and it feels really good. This just motivates me to keep going and keep looking good. I only want to go up from here."
Moore was equally thrilled to join the national team ranks. "I’m just really, really happy," he said. " I can’t stop smiling. I’ve missed [making the national team] by a few tenths at a lot of competitions so I’m glad it finally happened for me."
The U.S. men’s senior national team consists of the country’s top 14 athletes. Furney and Moore replace San Juan Jones (Chevron OTC/Tallahassee, Fla.) and Mike Dutka (Macey’s Gymnastics/Fairless Hill’s, Penn.) who earned six month national team berths at the 2001 U.S. National Championships.
Men’s National Team Coordinator Ron Brant, who helped guide the U.S. team to a silver-medal performance at last year’s World Championships, their best-ever showing, was encouraged by the men’s performance at last night’s event. "The guys are working on two things," Brant said. "One, upgrading routines, so we’re seeing new skills, and new construction of routines, which will benefit us internationally. The bigger thing is the conditioning level of our athletes–how we’re executing skills. That’s the key to 2003: increased conditioning levels [and] increased execution performance of what we’re doing, so that when we do a 10.0 [Start Value] routine it will look easy.
"Our depth is increasing and that’s what we’re looking for. To maintain our world ranking we have to stay really committed to working hard and wanting to improve. If we sit back and relax, we’ll be passed up."
The 2002 Winter Cup Challenge concludes tonight with individual event final competition. Tonight’s competition, which begins at 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time, will feature the top six athletes on each of the six men’s apparatus. 2001 World Parallel Bar Champion Sean Townsend (Chevron HGA/Houston, Texas), the current U.S. national champion, is among those scheduled to compete.