The U.S. athletes that competed at the World Championships
© John Cheng

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., April 18, 2012 – Teams from Belgium, China, Great Britain, Russia and Ukraine won gold medals as the 2012 World Acrobatic Gymnastics Championships concluded today in HP Field House at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports located at the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Fifteen medals were up for grabs with Team USA having representatives in three of the five disciplines – women’s pair, women’s group and mixed pair.

The first final to take center stage was the women’s pair where Beth Landeche of New Orleans, La./Crescent City Gymnastics, and Nicole Barrilleaux of Metairie, La./Crescent City Gymnastics, represented the USA. Their finals routine, which is a combined routine of dynamic flipping elements and intricate balance holds, began with a toe-pitch double pike and earned 26.956 points for fifth place.

"It was really nerve-wracking, but really exciting," Barrilleaux said, with Landeche adding, "This raises our confidence so much – probably 10 times higher."

Ukraine’s Anastasiya Melnychenko and Kateryna Sytnikova captured the first gold medal of the Worlds, scoring 28.259. Belarus’ Yana Yanusik and Sviatlana Mikhnevich (27.853) and Great Britain’s Poppy Spalding and Alanna Baker (27.800) won the silver and bronze medals, respectively.

In the men’s pair competition, Russia’s Konstantin Pilipchuk and Alexey Dudchenko scored 28.653 to narrowly beat out defending champions, Great Britain’s Edward Upcott and Adam McAssey, who posted 28.552. Belarus’ Ruslan Fedchanka and Yauheni Kalachou won the bronze with 27.903.

Team USA’s women’s trio of Sienna Colbert of Riverside, Calif., Holli Morris of Beaumont, Calif., and Crystal Johnston of Riverside, Calif., who train at Empire Gymnastics, performed toe-pitch double layout and toe-pitch double front. After their routine, the trio embraced on the podium, waving to the supportive hometown crowd.

"You can’t beat this," Morris said, "We may never have another World Championships in the United States in my career – and we had half of the stadium here cheering us on today."

Colbert, Morris and Johnston scored 26.890 to finish seventh place.

"It was amazing – we’ve just put in so much work. It felt great to be out there," said Colbert, who cried tears of joy following her performance.

Johnston added, "This is just a stepping stone for us to a long career – there’s more to come."

Russia’s Aigul Shaikhutdinova, Ekaterina Stroynova, and Ekaterina Loginova scored 28.653 to win Russia’s second gold medal of the competition. Belgium’s Sanne van Overberghe, Lara Schollier and Camille van Betsbrugge (28.054) and Belarus’ Yuliya Khrypach, Hanna Kobyzeva and Julia Kovalenko (27.601) took the silver and bronze medals, respectively, in the women’s group competition.

In the mixed pairs, the United States’ Kelianne Stankus of Riverside, Calif./Empire Gymnastics, and Dylan Maurer of Colton, Calif./Empire Gymnastics, opened with a handstand balance, first with both arms and then one, scoring 25.990 for eighth place.

"It’s an unbelievable feeling. Everything we’ve worked for over the last year, it all comes down to this," Maurer said, "I feel like we had a strong performance, and I couldn’t be happier."

"The crowd was amazing," said Stankus, "They gave us so much confidence and support."

Belgium’s Nicolas Vleeshouwers and Laure de Pryck topped the standings, scoring 28.520 to win the gold medal, followed close by Russia’s Tatiana Okulova and Revaz Gurgenidize in second (28.453). Ukraine’s Inna Batuyeva and Denys Iasynskyi rounded out the podium with 28.308 and the bronze medal.

The last final of day was in men’s group, where Great Britain’s Dorian Walker, Jesse Heskett, Matthew Evison and Richard Hurst and China’s Tang Jian, Wang Lei, Zhou Yi and Wu Yeqiuyin tied for the gold medal, scoring identical 28.050 totals. Russia’s Valetin Chetverkin, Maksim Chulkov, Anton Danchenko and Dmitry Bryzgalov (27.704) took the bronze.

Local organizations assisting with the event included the Central Florida Sports Commission, Cirque du Soleil/La Nouba and the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

This was the first time the World Acrobatic Gymnastics Championships has been held outside of Europe since its inception in 1974. The World Acrobatic Gymnastics Championships, since they came under the FIG umbrella in 1999, have been held in Ghent, Belgium (1999); Wroclaw, Poland (2000, 2010); Riesa, Germany (2002); Lievin, France (2004); Coimbra, Portugal (2006); and Glasgow, Scotland (2008).

Acrobatic gymnastics combines the beauty of dance with the strength and agility of acrobatics. Routines are choreographed to music and consist of dance, tumbling, and partner skills. At the elite level, each pair or group performs a balance, dynamic and combined routine. Pyramids and partner holds characterize the balance routine, while synchronized tumbling and intricate flight elements define the dynamic exercise. An acrobatic gymnastics pair consists of a base and a top. A women’s group is comprised of a base, middle and top partner, while a men’s group has a base, two middle partners and one top partner.