Illinois graduate Paul Ruggeri will compete at the 2012 Visa Championships, beginning Thursday.
June 6, 2012
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Current and former Illini, including recent graduate Paul Ruggeri, junior Yoshi Mori, freshman C.J. Maestas and volunteer assistant coach David Sender, will compete this week at the 2012 Visa Championships, June 7-10, at St. Louis University's Chaifetz Arena. The men's competition is slated for Thursday at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday at 11:30 a.m. Results from both days will determine the 15-man senior national team roster and will help determine the five-member squad that will represent the United States at the 2012 Olympic Games.
"This is the first step," Illini head coach Justin Spring said. "It is half of their Olympic berth to London. It's a huge event that sometimes gets swept under the rug, but the routines here count for 50 percent of their chance of making the Olympic Games. The guys have been dedicated and really focused. They're done with training, and their routines are there, so they are ready to go."
Reigning NCAA still rings champion and three-time All-American Maestas finished second on rings and eighth in the all-around at last year's Visa Championships. After a stellar first-year campaign with the Illini, including helping Illinois to its first NCAA team title since 1989, the 2012 Big Ten Gymnast of the Year will look to make the U.S. senior national team for the fourth time in his career.
Ruggeri, a four-time individual NCAA champion and nine-time All-American, shared high bar bronze at the 2011 Visa Championships and posted top-10 finishes on floor and vault as well. The 2012 NCAA vault champion and 2011 Pan American high bar gold medalist will look to make his sixth senior national team.
Sender, an 11-time senior national team member, has a history of success at the Visa Championships, taking the all-around crown in 2008. He and Mori, a 2012 NCAA all-around and pommel horse All-American, round out the list of Illini competing in St. Louis.
Performances at the Visa Championships will determine the 15-man roster for the U.S. senior national team. The top-six all-around competitors and the top-four gymnasts in national team points will automatically earn spots. The national team points are awarded based on finishes in each event on both days of competition. The four national team point spots are reserved for athletes who do not finish in the all-around top six. In addition, the national team coordinator will select one gymnast, while the men's program committee will make the final four selections.
The U.S. Olympic Trials are set for June 28-July 1 at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., with the men competing on June 28 at 4 p.m. and June 30 at 2 p.m. The Trials will determine the five men who will represent the U.S. in men's gymnastics at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, subject to the approval of the U.S. Olympic Committee's board of directors. Two gymnasts will be named immediately following the Trials. Scores from four days of competition, including two at the Visa Championships and two at the Olympic Trials, will combine to determine the Olympic Team selections.
NBC will televise the men's final day of competition at the Visa Championships on Saturday from 12-2 p.m. CT and will re-air the footage from 7-9 p.m. CT on the Universal Sports Network.