© Brian Kincher

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., April 15, 2012 – The 2012 World Acrobatic Gymnastics Championships are set for their North American debut tomorrow, as competitors from 23 countries prepare to flip, twist and dance their way to World titles and berths to the 2013 World Games. The competition, which brings the 2010 World champions for men’s and women’s pairs and women’s group back to defend their titles, runs April 16-18 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex’s HP Field House, located at the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Later in the week, the 2012 World Age Group Competition will be held April 20-22 in conjunction with the World Championships.

Along with world titles, the gymnasts will also be vying for spots to the 2013 World Games, the multi-sport global competition for non-Olympic sports, in Cali, Colombia. The 2012 World Championships will include all acro disciplines: men’s, women’s and mixed pairs, as well as men’s and women’s groups.

The United States has brought a young, talented team that will compete in the women’s pair, women’s group and mixed pair events. The U.S. Team features:

  • Women’s pair – Beth Landeche, New Orleans, La., and Nicole Barrilleaux, Metairie, La., of Crescent City Gymnastics
  • Women’s group – Sienna Colbert, Riverside, Calif., Holli Morris, Beaumont, Calif., and Crystal Johnston, Riverside, Calif., of Empire Gymnastics
  • Mixed pair – Kelianne Stankus, Riverside, Calif., and Dylan Maurer, Colton, Calif., of Empire Gymnastics

In women’s pair, Kateryna Sytnikova and Anastasiya Melnychenko of Ukraine, the 2010 World champions, will attempt to defend their title against a strong crop of challengers, including Sviatlana Mikhnevich and Yana Yanusik of Belarus, who won this month’s Maia Acro World Cup in Portugal.

The reigning women’s group gold-medalists Aigul Shaikhutdinova, Ekaterina Stroynova and Ekaterina Loginova are also back for another round and have presented strong performances in recent competitions.

Great Britain’s Edward Upcott won the 2010 World men’s pair title with then partner Douglas Fordyce, and he hopes to repeat with his new partner, Adam Mcassey. China’s Tang Jian, Wang Lei, Zhou Yi and Wu Yeqiuyin enter the World Championships as the world’s top-ranked men’s group and will attempt to claim the top place on the podium.

Competition begins with two days of qualification rounds, which decides the team medalists and the athletes who advance to Wednesday’s finals. In the finals competition, gold, silver and bronze medals will be up for grabs with live, web streaming coverage available on ESPN3.com, beginning at 4 p.m. ET.

The complete schedule is (all times Eastern):

    Qualification rounds
    April 16
    Session 1: 10 a.m. (Women’s Group Balance, Mixed Pair Dynamic)
    Session 2: 2 p.m. (Women’s Pair Balance, Men’s Group Dynamic)
    Session 3: 3:30 p.m. (Men’s Pair Dynamic)
    Session 4: 6 p.m. (Women’s Group Dynamic, Mixed Pair Balance)
    April 17
    Session 5: 10 a.m. (Women’s Pair Dynamic, Men’s Group Balance)
    Session 6: 11:30 a.m. (Men’s Pair Balance)
    Session 7: 2 p.m. (Women’s Group Combined, Mixed Pair Combined)
    Session 8: 4:45 p.m. (Women’s Pair Combined, Men’s Group Combined)
    Session 9: 7 p.m. (Men’s Pair Combined)

    Finals – April 18
    Session 10: 4 p.m. Women’s, Men’s and Mixed Pairs, and Men’s and Women’s Group

Tickets for the event are available by visiting the ESPN Wide World of Sports Box Office. Qualification tickets are available for $20, with tickets to the finals priced at $35. An all-session (qualification and finals) package is available for $50.

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

This is 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.

Background information

  • ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, which hosts more than 350 events a year, is the leading multi-sport venue for amateur and professional sports in the United States, accommodating 70 different sports and athletes from more than 70 countries. Designed to take youth sports to the next level, the 250-acre facility features the ESPN Innovation Lab, a real-world testing ground for the ESPN Emerging Technology Group to develop ground-breaking on-air products like Ball Track and ESPN Snap Zoom, as well as development of its new 3-D television channel. In addition, the complex features 56 high-definition cameras (42 robotic, 10 hand-held and four studio) and 40 high-definition video screens, including three jumbo screens, that can capture and display footage from any event taking place at the complex. The camera and video screens, as well as a 20-zone audio system, are controlled through the state-of-the-art HD and 3-D Broadcast Center that features eight edit bays and links to ESPN facilities in Bristol, Conn., New York and Los Angeles. For more information, visit www.wdwnews.com for press releases, photos and videos. Follow us on Twitter at @DisneySports.

  • International Gymnastics Federation (FIG): The International Gymnastics Federation is the governing body for gymnastics worldwide. It is the oldest established international sports federation and has participated in the Olympic Games since their revival in 1896. The FIG governs seven disciplines: gymnastics for all, men’s artistic, women’s artistic, rhythmic, trampoline, aerobic and acrobatic. It counts 130 national affiliated federations and boasts a 25-person staff at its international seat in Lausanne, Switzerland, host city of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).