INDIANAPOLIS – The international stars of the 2003 World Gymnastics Championships are on their way to New York after accepting invitations for the 2004 Visa American Cup to be held at 2:30 p.m. Feb. 28 at Madison Square Garden.
The men’s roster features 2001 and 2003 World fifth-place all-arounder and two-time Visa American Cup champion Eric Lopez of Cuba, 2003 World all-around sixth-place finisher and four-time world medalist Marian Dragulescu of Romania, 2003 French all-around champion and four-event medalist Benoît Caranobe, and 2003 Japanese national all-around bronze medalist Ryota Suzuki.
The international women are led by 2003 World all-around fourth-place finisher and 2002 World beam bronze medalist Irina Yarotskaya of Ukraine, 2003 World all-around fifth-place finisher and floor exercise bronze medalist Elena Gomez of Spain, 2003 World all-around 12th-place finisher and team bronze medalist Monette Russo of Australia, and Canadian all-around bronze medalist and three-event medalist Kylie Stone.
“The Visa American Cup annually features the top names in the world of gymnastics, and 2004 will be no different,” said USA Gymnastics President Bob Colarossi. “We’re very pleased to bring a solid line-up of World medalists to New York City to kick off what should be an amazing Olympic year for USA Gymnastics.”
Team USA enters the contest fresh off its historic success at the 2003 World Championships in which the U.S. women won the nation’s first-ever World Championships women’s team gold, and Paul Hamm won the USA’s first ever men’s all-around gold medal. The United States won seven medals in all, including five golds. U.S. athletes will be evaluated in February to ensure competition readiness.
The U.S. lineup includes World Championships team gold medalist and All-Around silver medalist Carly Patterson, gold medal teammate Chellsie Memmel, and Pan American Games gold medalist Courtney McCool. The men’s lineup features 2003 World All-Around gold medalist Paul Hamm, along with his 2003 World silver medal teammates Blaine Wilson, Jason Gatson, and Morgan Hamm. The fourth female athlete will be named following the Women’s National Team Training Camp on Feb. 24.
“This event is all about the athletes – and success for us here at the Visa American Cup is seeing those athletes compete at the highest level,” said Jennifer Hemmer, Director of Event and Sponsorship Marketing for Visa USA. “This year’s Visa American Cup is even more important, as 2004 Olympic hopefuls will take part in the competition. Visa is proud to have a relationship with USA Gymnastics and the Olympic Games, and the Visa American Cup allows our Member Banks to connect with the spirit and excitement of competition.”
The 2004 Visa American Cup format features four of America’s rising stars challenged by four of the world’s best for the coveted all-around title, and a total prize purse of $45,000. Each male and female all-around champion will win $10,000. The 2004 Visa American Cup will be broadcast live on NBC Sports from 4-6 p.m. EST on Feb. 28.
Tickets are on sale now to the general public through www.ticketmaster.com and Ticketmaster outlets, by calling 212-307-7171, at www.thegarden.com, by visiting the Madison Square Garden box office, or through local gymnastics clubs listed at www.usa-gymnastics.org.
This world-class event, held for the eighth time in Madison Square Garden, is the first stop on the road to Athens for the 2004 Olympic Games.
The Visa American Cup enjoyed a five-year run at Madison Square Garden from the inception of the event in 1976 through 1980, and returned to MSG in 1982-1984. The event is responsible for launching the careers of such stars as Bart Conner, Nadia Comaneci, Mary Lou Retton and Kurt Thomas.