COUNTDOWN TO CHAMPIONSHIPS
The U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics hosted a teleconference call yesterday with eight gymnasts who are gearing up for the 2006 Visa Championships, Aug. 16-19, in St. Paul, Minn. David Durante, the 2005 Visa Championships all-around bronze medalist, Justin Spring, the 2006 Big Ten Gymnast of the Year and Nissen-Emery Award winner, and Todd Thornton, the 2005 Visa Championships all-around champion, took part in the call. Female gymnast Natasha Kelly, the 2005 Visa Championships junior national champion, Chellsie Memmel, the 2005 all-around world champion, Samantha Peszek, the 2005 Visa Championships vault champion, and Alicia Sacramone, the 2005 world floor exercise champion, also participated.
To read information on the men’s teleconference, reference Inside Gymnastics’ web update.
The women were much more quiet and conservative in their responses as compared to the men participating in the call. To begin the teleconference, Memmel and Sacramone (pictured left) shared their excitement of recently graduating from high school. Sacramone, who originally gave a verbal commitment to UCLA, explained why she decided instead to pursue her education at Brown University.
“After worlds and after we had such great success it really opened my eyes,” Sacramone reflected. “I still have unfinished business here, and I wanted to keep training. My parents and coaches said they would stand behind me with whatever I decided to do. So I applied to Brown because I still have that goal of making the Olympics.”
As for Memmel, who decided to turn pro shortly after her triumphant performance at this year’s worlds, she admitted she feels more pressure going into this year’s nationals because of her world champion status. “[I’m going to prepare] just the same as I always do,” Memmel said. “[But] now there is a little more pressure, and I just try to overlook that.”
Memmel said her goal is to win the Visa Championships and said her foot is completely healed after having surgery. She also discussed this year’s World Champions, which will feature the team competition. “All the focus is on the team this year, and [one] of the most fun competitions I’ve ever been to was the 2003 worlds because we’re all in it together and working for the same thing.”
Sacramone said she believes the centralized team camps help with team unity and enjoys attending them once a month. “I think it was a great decision to come down and train together for a week at a time because it helps with the team unity, and I think it has helped us the past couple of years because we’ve been working together as a team,” Sacramone said. “Everyone is trying to help each other out. Sometimes your own coach isn’t even helping you out and another coach is. It’s really neat.”
And as for Kelley (pictured right), who will compete in her first senior Visa Championships, she explained why she knows she belongs in the senior ranks. She said she has gained confidence after winning last year’s junior all-around title, and her goal is consistency, as is often cited.
“I think I have just as good of a chance as everybody else [to win],” Kelley said.
Peszek, who will be competing as a junior, also said she has recently gained more confidence after competing in international competitions following last year’s championships. The recent middle school graduate explained how she plans to keep a normal life as a high school student. In addition to balancing a social life (likes to attend movies and spend time at the lake) with her elite gymnastics, Peszek will attend high school for nearly full days.
“I’ll stay pretty much the whole day in high school, until about 1:20 p.m.,” Peszek said.
And not surprisingly the Code of Points was discussed.
“Training hasn’t really changed much, but routines certainly have,” Sacramone said. “The Code isn’t completely different from the last one, but there is a change. It will be strange not to see a 10, but I think the Code is a good thing. I personally [however] like the old code better, but maybe it’s just because I’m not use to the new one.”
And so with gymnasts polishing their routines and adjusting to the Code, who will come out on top this year? Stay tuned to Inside Gymnastics as we will be bringing you complete coverage of the 2006 Visa Championships.