Indianapolis – World Champions Ashley Postell of Mitchellville, Md., and Courtney Kupets of Gaithersburg, Md., lead the list of seven men’s and women’s athletes named Wednesday to the 2003 VISA American Cup roster.
“We are thrilled to have two local world champions participating in the meet this year,” said Bob Colarossi, President of USA Gymnastics. “These two young ladies took the world by complete surprise last fall in Hungary and are an indication of the depth of our talent. This is setting up to be a great year for USA Gymnastics.”
The 2003 Visa American Cup, one of the most prestigious international competitions on the gymnastics calendar, is scheduled for March 1 at the Patriot Center on the campus of George Mason University. This world-class event, held for the sixth time in Fairfax, is the first stop on the road to the 2003 World Championships in Anaheim, Calif., and the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.
Postell, 16, who trains at Capital Gymnastics NTC, took gold on the Balance Beam at the 2002 World Championships in Debrecen, Hungary. The six-time U.S. National Team member also took sixth on the Vault.
“I’m really excited to be invited. It’s nice to compete around your hometown and have a lot of support from the community,” Postell said. “The VISA American Cup will be a good preview for the upcoming World Championships in the U.S. It’s important for the American audience to see how well we’re doing against the world-level competition and to look forward to having the World Championships in the U.S.”
Kupets, 16, a World Championships gold medalist in the uneven bars, trains at Hill’s Gymnastics. She finished second on the uneven bars and the all-around at the 2002 VISA American Cup.
“It’s just an honor to be invited to compete at the VISA American Cup, especially being in my hometown, and all my family and friends will be there to cheer me on,” Kupets said. “The VISA Cup is a world-class competition. There will be a lot of good competitiors.”
Rounding out the strong U.S. women’s roster is veteran Tasha Schwikert of Las Vegas, Nev., and Carly Patterson of Allen, Texas. Schwikert, 18, is the two-time U.S. national champion and the defending VISA American Cup champion after taking first on the uneven bars and balance beam a year ago.
Patterson, who turns 15 on Feb. 4, captured the 2002 U.S. Junior National all-around title, plus the all-around titles at the USA/Ukraine/Brazil team meet, and USA/Mexico dual meet.
All four athletes have accepted their invitations to compete, and will be evaluated at the Women’s Training Camp in February to ensure they are prepared for the competition.
On the men’s side, the USA turns to two-time Olympian Blaine Wilson, 2001 parallel bars World Champion Sean Townsend, and 2002 U.S. National Champion Paul Hamm. The fourth U.S. competitor will be named following the Men’s Winter Cup Challenge, Feb. 7-8 in Las Vegas, Nev.
Wilson, 28, of Columbus, Ohio, is the 2001 VISA American Cup all-around champion after finishing first on the pommel horse and still rings. The five-time U.S. national champion and 10-time U.S. National Team member also won U.S. titles on the rings and high bar at the 2002 U.S. National Championships.
Townsend, who turns 24 on Jan. 20, of Houston, Texas, is coming off a first-place team finish at the 2002 Pacific Alliance meet. The 2000 Olympian also took top honors on the parallel bars at the 2002 U.S. National Championships, and finished second in the all-around at the 2001 VISA American Cup.
The youngest on the men’s side, Hamm, 20, of Waukesha, Wis., placed second at the 2002 VISA American Cup. He is building off a very successful 2002 in which he won the 2002 U.S. National Championships all-around, pommel horse and vault titles, plus the all-around, vault and high bar golds at the Pacific Alliance Championships.
2003 marks the return of the VISA American Cup to the D.C. area. Virginia hosted the event from 1986 through 1990 when Bela Karoyli‘s star gymnasts Kristie Phillips (1986-87), Phoebe Mills (1988) and Kim Zmeskal (1990) were crowned champions. Additionally, Chesapeake Region’s own Dominique Dawes, Olympic Gold Medalist and 1994 Visa American Cup Champion, will serve as co-chair of the 2003 Visa American Cup.
The competition features America’s rising stars challenged by the world’s best for the coveted all-around title. The international roster featuring several former and reigning world champions will be announced the week of January 20.
The 2003 Visa American Cup will be televised live on NBC. Tickets are on sale now through Ticketmaster on-line or (202) 432-SEAT, local gymnastics clubs or the Patriot Center Box Office. For ticket information see VISA American cup Ticket Info.