November 14, 2005

US confident of medals in Melbourne

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (Reuters) - Stability at home and turmoil
in rival teams should help the United States to win every
women's event at next week's world gymnastics championships,
coach Mihai Brestyan believes.

"Look at the results from the World Cup meets," said
Brestyan. "We've shown that this generation right behind the
Olympic team is at the same level. I think the U.S. can win
every single event.

"We are the only system in the world staying on top in all
of the meets," Brestyan said. "I believe our system will win
this time."

The Americans' traditional rivals Russia and Romania have
both had problems ahead of next week's world championships in

Russia are having to rebuild a team now missing three-times
world all-round champion Svetlana Khorkina while the Romanian
women's team was disbanded in August after three leading
members quit and two others went night-clubbing without

Catalina Ponor and Floarea Leonida, who will represent
Romania in Melbourne, now train at their local clubs rather
than in a national program.


Brestyan coaches Alicia Sacramone, one of several new faces
competing for the U.S. at the worlds, which will feature
all-round and individual apparatus events but no team

"Missing the Olympic team gave me the push that I needed,"
said Sacramone, 17. "I stepped it up a couple of notches and
did my stuff."

Sacramone was the 2004 World Cup finals vault champion and
won the vault and floor titles at the 2005 Pan American Games.

The U.S. women's team will feature none of the 2004
Olympians, such as all-round champion Carly Patterson who has
not competed since Athens.

"I don't think in this case that we had to re-build at all
since the Olympics," said Sacramone. "We had a big, strong
group of girls and it was hard for them to pick that team."

Sacramone's fellow team mates -- Chellsie Memmel, Nastia
Liukin and Jana Bieger -- have impressive resumes.

Memmel, the 2004 World Cup asymmetric bars champion, was a
member of the 2003 world champion team but was injured before
the Athens Olympics. Memmel also shared the 2003 world title on
the bars.

Liukin, the new U.S. national all-round champion, is the
daughter of Soviet Olympic champion Valeri Liukin, and is
coached by him. Bieger is also an international medallist.


Liukin and Memmel, who are both especially good on beam and
bars, should be the two all-rounders for the meeting, while
Sacramone will compete in her two strongest events.

"I'd definitely like to medal in the all-around, and on
bars and beam too," said the 17-year-old Memmel. "I know it's a
big goal but I think it's possible."

U.S. national team coordinator Marta Karolyi, who selected
the squad, said that the quartet's recent international
experience should help them in Melbourne.

"They are able to go out in different conditions and
different situations and perform just as good as they do on
their home turf," she said. "If the girls come into (the
worlds) in good shape, the results will come."

The U.S. men are much more of an unknown quantity with only
one member of the silver-medal winning Olympic team, Jason
Gatson, competing.

Olympic all-round champion Paul Hamm and his twin brother
Morgan, another Olympian, are taking the year off from

Fellow Olympian Brett McClure and a promising youngster,
Sasha Artemev, are both recovering from injury.

The team will include new national all-round champion Todd
Thornton, Sean Golden, Yewki Tomita, Justin Spring and Kevin
Tan. Only Thornton will compete in the all-round and Gatson
will just take part on parallel bars.