By Jenny Peter
A select group of eight athletes from the men’s gymnastics team will head to Las Vegas this weekend for the Winter Cup Challenge, a re-ranking meet for the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team. Over 100 gymnasts, including six members of the 2010 World Championships Team and three Olympians, are contending for spots on the Senior National Team.
Representing Stanford at the event are seniors Alex Buscaglia, Josh Dixon, Tim Gentry and Ryan Lieberman, redshirt senior Nick Noone, redshirt sophomore John Martin and freshmen Cale Robinson and Chris Turner.
“The seniors–Tim, Alex, Ryan and Josh–are motivated to have a successful senior campaign and use the year as a springboard to the international level,” said Stanford head coach Thom Glielmi.
The preliminary round of competition was yesterday, with the final competition scheduled to take place tomorrow.
“Spots on the National Team are getting more and more competitive as we get closer to the Olympic Games, so it really comes down to who delivers when the time is right,” Dixon said.
The Stanford men are hoping for strong performances for personal as well as team-oriented reasons, as the meet helps determine the 15 men who will make up the Senior National Team in the 2011 Visa Championships in St. Paul, Minn., from Aug. 17-20. However, a good showing will also reflect favorably on Stanford’s name in the national and world gymnastic circles.
“When a Stanford gymnast wins an event, or places high on the event, it reflects well on the work being done in our gym,” Glielmi said. “The guys’ training has been going extremely well, and their hard work has benefited their preparation.”
“Showing up at such a high-caliber meet with eight guys, the most from any club or collegiate program, speaks to the strength and depth of the Stanford program,” Dixon added..
The competition also counts the individual event scores toward participants’ NCAA averages, so Stanford will be able to compare itself against the rest of the nation.
“It is a great experience, not just to see how they stack up against the other collegiate gymnasts but also against the best gymnasts in the United States,” Glielmi said.
Although seven members from the 2010 World Championships Team have already earned their berths onto the national team, eight other spots are still up for grabs. The Winter Cup will help determine those spots based on the following criteria: the highest-ranked all-around athlete who is not a member of the World Team, the top four gymnasts based on the National Team Point Program, two athletes chosen by the Men’s Program Committee and one athlete selected by the national team coordinator.
The National Team Point Program is a ranking system used for advancement to the final round. The top 42 gymnasts in the all-around and the top two gymnasts from each event will advance, and the all-around and individual event champions will then be decided based on a combined two-day score.
The Cardinal squad will be joined by some familiar faces when it heads to Vegas this weekend. Stanford alumnus David Durante, a 2002 graduate of the men’s team, will be at the event conducting interviews for the USA gymnastics website as well as sending tweets during the competition. Durante is the 2007 U.S. All-Around Champion and an alternate to the 2008 Olympics. Stanford graduate Sho Nakamori ’09 will also be competing at the event.
The Winter Cup Challenge wraps up this Saturday, and the Cardinal will continue team competition on Feb. 12 at the Gold Country Classic in Oakland.