NEW YORK, N.Y., March 1, 2008— Paul Hamm of Waukesha, Wis., and Nastia Liukin of Parker, Texas, won the all-around titles at the 2008 Tyson American Cup in front of a crowd of 9,318 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Hamm was crowned champion in his first international competition since he claimed the all-around gold medal at the 2004 Olympic Games, and Liukin won her second Tyson American Cup after winning in 2006.
“I’m happy with how I did today,” said Hamm. “It was a tough situation to be in, but everything turned out really well. It feels good to be back. I stuck to my game plan, which was to hit clean routines.”
“There are always little things to improve upon and I’m always striving for perfection,” Liukin said. “Most of the time, I’m just competing against myself. I know if I just go out and do my job, I’ll be okay.”
Hamm and Alexander Artemev of Lakewood, Colo., went 1-2 in the men’s competition. Hamm and Artemev posted total scores of 94.400 and 91.150, respectively, followed by Japan’s Hisashi Mizutori at 90.950 and China’s Lu Bo at 90.200. Jonathan Horton of Houston, the 2006-07 Tyson American Cup champion, finished fifth with a score of 89.600, and Raj Bhavsar of Houston placed sixth with a score of 89.550.
Liukin led a U.S. sweep of the top four women’s spots with a total score of 63.425, followed by 2007 all-around world champion Shawn Johnson of West Des Moines, Iowa, in second with a 63.100. Samantha Peszek of Indianapolis, Ind., and Shayla Worley of Orlando, Fla., rounded out the top four with final scores of 62.075 and 60.400, respectively.
The women began the competition on vault with the USA posting the top four scores. Johnson attempted a difficult Yurchenko two-and-a-half vault and earned a 15.175, followed closely by Peszek’s 15.150. Worley was third with a score of 15.050 for her Yurchenko one-and-half vault, and Liukin was fourth with a 15.025.
Liukin moved into first place after the second event by scoring a 16.600 on uneven bars. Johnson earned a 15.625, and Worley and Peszek scored a 15.525 and a 15.425, respectively.
On balance beam, Johnson earned the top score with a 16.325, but Liukin’s 16.200 kept her in the overall lead. Johnson’s dismount of a full-twisting, double -tuck is one of the most difficult in the world. Liukin’s beam routine was rock solid, including the new additions of a switch-leap-with a half turn and her front pike to a one-leg hold (scale) in the middle of her routine. Peszek scored a 16.100 on her routine that included a standing full twist into a back pike, and Worley posted a 14.750.
Heading into floor exercise, the final event, Liukin was first with a 47.825 and Johnson was second with a 47.125. In third was Peszek at 46.675 with Worley in fourth at 45.325.
On the floor exercise, Johnson scored a 15.975 with Liukin posting a 15.600. Peszek and Worley earned a 15.400 and a 15.075, respectively. Both Johnson and Peszek performed a double twisting, double back in their floor exercise routines. Liukin’s floor routine includes a double-front and her trademark dance moves. Worley debuted a new floor routine and new music.
The top scores of the day for the women were: Johnson on vault, balance beam and floor exercise with scores of 15.175, 16.325 and 15.975, respectively; and Liukin on uneven bars with a 16.600.
On the men’s side, Hamm opened the competition with a score of 15.700 for his floor exercise routine that included a whip half to double front full. Hamm maintained his lead throughout the rest of the competition with strong scores, including a 16.200 on his Kasamatsu one-and-a-half vault.
After five events, Hamm had earned 78.550 points, a 2.300-point lead over Artemev’s 76.250. He ended the competition with a strong horizontal bar routine that earned a 15.850. Hamm’s ring routine has increased in difficulty since the 2004 Olympic Games, most notably on his strength moves which have been a focus.
Bhavsar’s highest score was a 16.000 on his still rings routine, and he also earned a 15.550 on vault. Horton earned his highest scores on still rings and parallel bars with scores of 15.800 and 15.750, respectively.
The men’s high scores of the day all were posted by the USA: Hamm on floor exercise, parallel bars and horizontal bar with scores of 15.700, 16.050 and 15.850, respectively; Artemev on pommel horse with a 15.150 and vault with a 16.250; and Bhavsar on still rings with a 16.000.
The FIG International Gymnast of the Year awards were presented at the Tyson American Cup to Johnson and Germany’s Fabian Hambuechen for their accomplishments in 2007. Hambuechen was scheduled to compete in the Tyson American Cup, but pulled out due to illness. For the women, Venezuela’s Jessica Lopez was added to the line-up when China’s Xiao Tingting withdrew` after suffering an injury during Friday’s training.
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