© Marvin Sharp

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind., Oct. 10, 2009 — A record-breaking 73 countries and more than 1,200 gymnasts, coaches and officials are expected to participate in the 2009 World Gymnastics Championships, which features competition in the all-around and individual events, in London, England. Scheduled for Oct. 13-18, the O2, the gymnastics venue for the 2012 Olympic Games, is playing host to the World Championships.

2008 Olympic medalists and reigning U.S. all-around champions Bridget Sloan of Pittsboro, Ind., and Jonathan Horton of Houston headline the U.S. Team. The U.S. Men’s Team includes: Jake Dalton of Sparks, Nev./University of Oklahoma; Wesley Haagensen of Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Olympic Training Center; Horton of Houston/Cypress Gymnastics; Steven Legendre of Flower Mound, Texas/Oklahoma; Danell Leyva of Miami/Universal Gymnastics; and Tim McNeill of Falls Church, Va./University of California – Berkeley.

The U.S. Women’s Team is comprised of: Rebecca Bross of Plano, Texas/WOGA Gymnastics; Ivana Hong of Allen, Texas/WOGA Gymnastics; Sloan of Pittsboro, Ind./Sharp’s Gymnastics; and Kayla Williams of Huntington, W.Va./Gym Nest Inc.

“This is an especially interesting Worlds because it is being hosted in the next Olympic city,” said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics. “The opportunity for these athletes to compete in the Olympic venue this far in advance is a special opportunity. We are looking forward to an exciting week of gymnastics here in London.”

Qualification rounds on Oct. 13-14 determine advancement to the all-around and apparatus finals. The top 24 men and women compete in the all-around finals on Oct. 15-16. For individual events, the top eight on each apparatus from the qualification rounds advance to the finals (Oct. 17-18). The event will preview the up-and-comers for the 2012 Games in London.

The field includes several Olympic champions: China’s Zou Kai, who won three gold medals in Beijing on floor exercise, high bar and in the team competition; Cheng Yibing, the rings champion from China; China’s uneven bars gold medalist China He Kexin; and the People’s Republic of Korea’s Hong Un Jong, who made history for her country by winning its first Olympic title on vault.

Here’s a quick snapshot of how the World Championships are shaping up.

Men’s gymnastics

The USA’s entries in the all-around are expected to be Horton, who finished ninth all-around at the 2008 Olympic Games and recently won the 2009 Visa Championships, and McNeill, who was second in the all-around at the Visa Championships and is competing in his first World Championships. The field includes 2008 Olympic all-around silver-medalist Kohei Ushimura of Japan and bronze-medalist Benoit Caranobe of France; Germany’s Fabian Hambuechen, who won the all-around silver medal at the 2007 World Championships and is the current European champion; and Yury Riazanov of Russia, the 2009 European bronze medalist. Others to watch include Japan’s Kazuhito Tanaka; Belarus’ Dmitri Savitski; Kazakstan’s Yernar Yerimbetov; Israel’s Alexander Shatilov; Romania’s Fravious Kozci; and Spain’s Sergio Munos.

Floor exercise
Russia’s Anton Golotsutskov, the bronze medalist on floor at the 2008 Olympic Games, and Brazil’s Diego Hypolito, who took sixth on floor at the 2008 Olympics and won the title at the 2007 World Championships, are in the field. The USA’s Legendre, who won floor at the 2009 Visa Championships, is competing in his first Worlds. Also watch for: Hambuechen, who was fourth on floor at the 2008 Games, and Romania’s Marian Dragulescu and Alexander Shatilov, who finished seventh and eighth on floor at the Games.

Pommel horse
Britain’s Louis Smith, who was third in Beijing, is the only 2008 Olympic pommel horse medalist to compete in London. The field includes China’s Zhang Hongtao; the 2007 World silver medalist Krisztian Berki of Hungary; Korea’s Kim Jihoon; and Great Britain’s Daniel Keatings. The USA’s Haagensen, who was third in the all-around at the Visa Championships, is making his World Championships debut.

Still rings
2008 Olympic champion and two-time World titlist Chen Yibin of China leads this event’s field, along with his teammate Yang Mingyong. Joining the USA’s McNeill in the field are a number of recognized veterans: former two-time World champion Jordan Jovtchev of Bulgaria; Olympic bronze-medalist Olexander Vorobiov of the Ukraine; Danny Rodrigues Piheiro of France; Mateo Morandi and Andrea Copolino of Italy; Robert Stanescu of Romania; Regulo Carmona of Venezuela; and Alexander Safoshkin of Russia.

2008 Olympic silver medalist Thomas Bouhail of France and bronze-medalist Anton Golotsutskov of Russia are expected to compete, along with 2004 Olympic silver-medalist Jevgenijs Sapronenko of Latvia. The USA’s Dalton, who won the 2009 U.S. title and is competing in his first World Championships, will also face Marian Dragulescu of Romania, Caranobe, Dzmitry Kaaspiarovich of Belarus, Flavius Koczi of Romania, Isaac Botella of Spain and PRK’s Ri Se Gwang, who won bronze in vault at the 2007 World Championships.

Parallel bars
2008 Olympic silver and bronze medalists Korea’s Yoo Won Chul and Uzbekistan’s Anton Fokin, respectively, are in the field. The USA’s Danell Leyva, who has medaled on the event in international competition, is competing in his first World Championships. The field also includes Germany’s Hambuechen; Slovenia’s Mitja Petkovsek, who won the gold medal at the 2007 World Championships; France’s Yann Cucherat, the current European champion; 2004 Olympic champion Valery Goncharov of Ukraine, and Uzbekistan’s Anton Fokin.

Horizontal bar
2008 Olympic silver-medalist Horton faces still competition that includes 2007 World and three-time European champion Hambuechen; 2004 Olympic champion Igor Cassina of Italy; current European and 2001 World champion Vlasios Maras of ; 2005 World silver-medalist Yann Cucherat of France; 2006 World champion Philippe Rizzo of Australia; along with Japan’s Takuya Nakase and Netherlands’ Epeke Zonderland. Newcomer USA’s Leyva, who tied for first at the Visa Championships and won the event at the PAGU Individual Event Championships, could provide a spectacular ending to this World Championships.

Women’s gymnastics

2009 U.S. all-around champion Sloan and Bross, who was third at the Visa Championships, are expected to compete in the all-around for the USA. Sloan, who was a member of the USA’s Olympic silver medal team, finished 11th all-around in prelims at the Olympic Games but could not advance to the all-around finals due to the two-per-country rule (Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson advanced for the USA, where they finished first and second in the all-around). Sloan also recently won the uneven bars and floor exercise titles at the 2009 Visa Championships. Bross, who was not age-eligible to compete at the Olympic Games, won the junior all-around title at the 2008 Pacific Rim Championships and was second in the all-around at the 2007 Pan American Games. Olympic bronze-medalist Yang Yilin of China and Russia’s Ksenia Semenova, who finished fourth and is the European champion, are expected to challenge for the title. Other contenders to watch include: Great Britain’s Rebecca Downie, and Australia’s Georgia Bonova and Shona Morgan.

As of press time, the USA had not decided which gymnasts would be competing on specific apparatus in addition to the two all-around gymnasts. Hong, an alternate on the 2008 Olympic Team, was a member of the 2007 World Championships and Pan American gold-medal teams. She also won the U.S. balance beam title at the 2009 Visa Championships, where she was second in the all-around. At the 2007 Pan Am Games, she was third in the all-around. Williams won the vault title at the Visa Championships, where she was fourth in the floor exercise. London is Williams’ first World Championships.

Olympic champion Hong of the PRK will compete along with the European champion Ariella Kaeslin of Switzerland, who finished fifth in Beijing. The USA’s Williams, who won the 2009 Visa Championships vault title, is competing in her first World Championships.

Uneven bars
Olympic uneven bars champion He Kexin of China hopes to repeat her Beijing success. The mix includes Britain’s Beth Tweddle, the 2006 World and European champion and World Cup Finals winner; Russia’s Ksenia Semenova, the 2007 World champion on bars; Yang Yilin, the Olympic bronze medalist; and Ukrainians Anastasia Koval and Daria Zgoba, who finished fifth and eighth, respectively, in Beijing. Sloan is the 2009 U.S. bars champion.

Balance beam
Romania’s Gabriela Dragoi, who placed fifth on beam, is the highest ranked gymnast on this event from the 2008 Olympic Games. Russia’s Ksenia Afanasyeva was seventh and Japan’s Koko Tsurumi was eighth in Beijing. Australia’s Lauren Mitchell won the 2008 World Cup Final in Madrid and Romania’s Ana Maria Tamarjian is the European silver medalist on beam. The USA’s Hong won beam at the 2009 Visa Championships, where Bross finished third.

Floor exercise
With the recent withdrawal of Romania’s Sandra Izbasa, there are no floor finalists from Beijing scheduled to compete in London. The USA’s Sloan won the title at the 2009 Visa Championships, with teammate Bross finishing a close second and Williams in fourth.

USA Gymnastics finalized the U.S. Men’s World Championships Team for the 2009 World Gymnastics Championships, following the team’s preparation camp.


How to follow the 2009 World Gymnastics Championships on TV, Web

U.S. fans will have more opportunities to enjoy the action from the finals of the 2009 World Gymnastics Championships in London than ever before – online and on both cable and broadcast television. Universal Sports will provide a live webcast, with a delayed telecast of the program on its network, from Oct. 15-18. NBC Sports will broadcast coverage from the World Championships on Oct. 24-25.

Web/TV schedule (all times Eastern)

Date Event universalsports.com Universal Sports TV NBC Sports
Oct. 15 Men’s all-around finals
1:30 p.m.
8 p.m.
Oct. 16 Women’s all-around finals
1:30 p.m.
Oct. 17 Individual event finals
7:55 a.m.
11 p.m.
Oct. 18 Individual event finals
7:55 a.m.
8 p.m.
Oct. 24 World Championships coverage    
1:30 p.m.
Oct. 25 World Championships coverage    
2 p.m.
Oct. 28 Women’s all-around finals  
8 p.m.

The webcast will be available at universalsports.com. To find the channel for Universal Sports cable network, CLICK HERE. Universal Sports will also provide encore coverage of the NBC shows; please check universalsports.com/tvschedule for more information.

For the World Championships, usa-gymnastics.org is a great source for information, including a complete schedule, start lists, results, photos, event coverage, etc. The World Championships begin on Oct. 13 with the men’s preliminary round and conclude on Oct. 18 with the second day of individual event finals. The World Championships features competition in the men’s and women’s all-around and individual events.