INDIANAPOLIS Forth Smith will play host to 291 of the nation’s top up-and-coming trampoline and tumbling gymnasts when the Winter Classic gets underway Thursday through Sunday at the Fort Smith Convention Center .

The Winter Classic draws the nation’s best male and female athletes from 27 states in the high-flying gymnastics disciplines of trampoline, synchronized trampoline, double-mini trampoline, and tumbling in search of national ranking points. Athletes with the most points at the end of the season secure their place on the National Team the following year.

The Classic is even more important as an elite early-season test in 2005 as the World Championships loom on the horizon, Sept. 15-18 in Eindhoven , The Netherlands.

“The Winter Classic is very important for the next wave of talented gymnasts,” said Ann Sims, Trampoline & Tumbling Senior Program Director for USA Gymnastics. “Now is the time when the next crop of Olympians is starting to make their names known, and events such as the Classic are the first step toward making the U.S. National Team.”

Top athletes from the Winter Classic advance to the Elite Challenge meet, June 24-26 in Phoenix and the U.S. National Championships, July 26 – Aug. 3 in Houston .

Competition begins at 3 p.m. Friday at the Convention Center, located at 55 S. 7 th St. The Classic runs through the weekend, with the marquee event – Senior Women’s and Men’s Trampoline finals – slated for 3:15-5:30 on Saturday, March 5.

Trampoline made its Olympic debut in Sydney in 2000, and was contested by the maximum of 16 male and 16 female athletes at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens .

For more information, a complete list of qualifiers and detailed schedule, visit: