© Marlenia Thornton, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind., March 3, 2011 – USA Gymnastics and Special Olympics have joined forces to host the first USA Gymnastics Special Olympics Championships, scheduled for May 7, 2011, at the Cobb County Gymnastics Center in Marietta, Ga. The annual national event will feature competition in artistic gymnastics (men, women and unified), rhythmic gymnastics (individual, group and unified) and TeamGym.

" USA Gymnastics is proud to partner in organizing these championships for Special Olympics athletes," said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics. "This event will give these athletes a chance to compete at the national level and be recognized for their hard work and achievements."

"This is a great opportunity for Special Olympics to work collaboratively with USA Gymnastics to expand ways in which our gymnasts compete at the national level," said Bob Gobrecht, President & Managing Director of Special Olympics North America. " The inclusion of unified pairs into the championships allows athletes with and without intellectual disabilities to work together as a team in gymnastics and furthers our mission of unity through the power of sport."

The artistic competition is for skill Levels A, 1, 2, 3 and 4, with rhythmic gymnastics for Levels A, B, 1, 2, 3 and 4. Competition includes both individual and unified gymnasts. A unified gymnast is a partner without intellectual disabilities who will compete the same routine as the Special Olympics athlete, and the pair’s scores will be combined for a team total. For rhythmic group, there are an equal number of Special Olympics athletes and unified partners in each group. TeamGym may have both unified partners and Special Olympics athletes.

TeamGym is a competitive version of group gymnastics that features squads of athletes performing together in two events – group floor exercise and group jump.

The deadline for entries is April 8. For more information on the entry process and fees, please go to www.usagym.org/specialolympics. Men’s and women’s gymnastics and rhythmic gymnastics will follow Special Olympics rules, while TeamGym will use USA Gymnastics rules.

The USA Gymnastics Special Olympics Championships is hosted locally by Chattooga Gymnastics, Special Olympics Georgia and Cobb County Special Olympics.

About Special Olympics
Special Olympics is an international organization that changes lives by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities, promoting acceptance for all, and fostering communities of understanding and respect worldwide. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown from a few hundred athletes to nearly 3.5 million athletes in over 170 countries in all regions of the world, providing year-round sports training, athletic competition health screenings, and other related programs. Special Olympics now takes place every day, changing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities in all regions of the world and in community playgrounds and ball fields in every small neighborhood’s backyard. Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities continuing opportunities to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and experience joy and friendship. Visit Special Olympics at www.specialolympics.org. #