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Final Alterations Completed on Warmup Gym, Pond

August 13, 2003|Helene Elliott | Times Staff Writer

Workers on Tuesday finished modifying the warmup gym for the World Gymnastics Championships in Anaheim after athletes had tested the temporary facility and discovered the floor was uneven, which threw the apparatus off-level.

The warmup gym, in the parking lot on the northwest side of the Arrowhead Pond, will get its first use today. The men's teams will loosen up there before they enter the arena for podium training, during which they practice on the apparatus installed for the competition.

The World Championships are the qualifying event for the 2004 Athens Olympics. Admission to Friday's opening ceremony at the Pond will be free, but there will be a $5 parking charge. The competition will begin Saturday with the men's team preliminaries. The top eight men's and women's teams will advance to the team finals; the top 12 men's and women's teams will qualify for the Athens Games.

The warmup gym was built on sloping ground, a wrinkle that wasn't taken into account when equipment was installed. The competition area in the Pond also required minor fixes, and work was completed in both places about 4 p.m. Tuesday, Pond spokeswoman Julie Hoekwater said.

According to Mike Milidonis, managing director of the World Championships, the carpeting in the Pond where the still rings and pommel horse are located was re-cut after athletes complained of a hump in the area where they landed. The carpet was similarly smoothed in the area of the parallel bars and, he said, lights were adjusted in the arena for the benefit of TV, spectators and athletes.

Members of the U.S. men's team, the Arizona State club team and gymnasts from the SCATS gym found the flaws Sunday after they were invited to test and break in the equipment. The U.S. men's presence in the Pond spawned a flurry of Internet-fueled rumors that they had held an illegal training session and thus gained an unfair advantage by getting the feel of the apparatus before anyone else, but Milidonis said they had been asked to test the setup as a matter of custom and safety. He said female gymnasts would test the women's apparatus before podium training Thursday.

"We have to chalk up the bars, we have to break in the leather on the pommel horse, things like that," Milidonis said.

One problem that wasn't so easy to fix was the legacy left by the previous tenant.

A circus occupied the Pond and parking lot area until Aug. 3, and USA Gymnastics spokesman Brian Eaton joked that the flies remained, even after the elephants and other animals were long gone.

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