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Townsend, Schwikert to Lead U.S. Against World at Pond

July 23, 2002|HELENE ELLIOTT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A competition matching U.S. gymnasts against an impressive field of international competitors will be held Aug. 22 at the Arrowhead Pond, a preview of the feats that will unfold at the Pond a year later during the World Gymnastics Championships.

The T.J. Maxx International Gymnastics Challenge, announced Monday, will be contested under a team format. Four U.S. men will compete against four men from the rest of the world and four U.S. women will compete against four international challengers, with each team competing in two events of its choice. A panel of celebrities and former world-class gymnasts will serve as judges.

The event will be taped for airing on NBC on Nov. 24. Tickets will go on public sale Monday through Ticketmaster and the Pond box office.

The U.S. teams will be led by the men's and women's national champions, Sean Townsend and Tasha Schwikert. They will defend their titles in the U.S. championships Aug. 7-10 at Cleveland.

Also on the U.S. men's team will be twin brothers Paul and Morgan Hamm, who competed in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and 2001 World Championships silver medalist Brett McClure. The rest of the women's team will be announced after the U.S. championships.

Russia's Svetlana Khorkina, a two-time world all-around champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist, leads the women's world team. She will be joined by Daniele Hypolito of Brazil, a silver medalist in floor exercise at last year's World Championships; Verona Van De Leur, the Dutch champion, and Brenda Magana, the Mexican national champion.

The men's world squad includes Sydney Olympic all-around gold medalist Alexei Nemov of Russia, Jordan Jovtchev of Bulgaria, winner of two medals at last year's World Championships, and Alexander Beresh of Ukraine, who won two medals at Sydney.

The World Championships on Aug. 16-24, 2003, are expected to draw 750 athletes from 60 countries to the Pond to vie for team and individual championships. The World Championships will determine qualifiers for the 2004 Athens Olympics.

"We set very optimistic goals over a year ago for where we would like to be with ticket sales a year out, and as of [Monday] morning, the response from the gymnastics community has been very favorable," said Tim Ryan, general manager of the Pond. "And we anticipate a tremendous demand once tickets go on public sale."

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