Justin Spring placed in the top two on four events on day one at the Olympic Trials.
June 19, 2008
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - Former Illinois great Justin Spring made a strong case for selection to the 2008 Olympic Team Thursday night with an electrifying performance on the first day of the U.S. Men's Gymnastics Olympic Trials held at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, Pa. The current Illinois assistant coach finished in the top two on four events and led the all-around competition through five rotations with a score of 77.050, nearly a point above his nearest competitor (Spring does not compete on pommel horse).
"Tonight was one of those nights where Justin was in his zone," Illinois associate head coach and Spring's personal coach Jon Valdez said. "Everything worked out and he was on fire. By competing on five events, including floor for the first time in eight weeks, he improved his chances of being named to the team and showed the selection committee what he can do."
Spring started the evening off on still rings with a solid 14.700 score, good for seventh on the event. He then received a 16.050 on vault in the second rotation to finish second on the night. Then the Burke, Va., native moved on to the parallel bars, an event that he won gold on last month at the 2008 U.S. Visa Championships. The reigning National Champion brought the crowd to its feet with an incredible performance for a score of 15.700, the top score of the night on the event.
Spring then moved to the high bar, an event that he is a two-time National Champion on, and wowed the fans once again by hitting a high-flying routine for a 15.400, the second highest score of the night on the event. After sticking his triple back dismount, Spring received a standing ovation and drew the biggest reaction of the night from the Wachovia Center crowd.
"Hitting high bar tonight was crucial coming off of my performance at Visas," Spring said. "Tonight I showed the judges what I can do and it put me in second on the event."
In his final rotation of the evening, Spring surprised many by competing on floor exercise for the first time since injuring his ankle in April. He earned a 15.200 on the event, the second highest score of the night, despite not having performed a full floor routine - in competition or in practice - in over two months.
"Tonight was unreal," Spring said of his floor performance. "I hadn't trained for floor in eight weeks, but we practiced some passes on Tuesday and we knew that competing on floor would give me a complete overall package and a better chance at making the Olympic Team."
The 2008 Olympic Team will be chosen after the conclusion of the final day of competition on Saturday, June 21. Selection to the Olympic team is based on performance at the Olympic Trials as well as the 2008 Visa U.S, Championships, which were held May 22-24. The men's selection procedures specify that the top two all-arounders after Trials (40% USAs + 60% Trials) earn Olympic spots if they also finish in the top three on at least three events.
Scores from tonight's competition will be combined with the scores on Saturday for final Olympic Trial results. Competition resumes on Saturday at 2 p.m. CT, with televised coverage live on NBC from 3:30-5:00 p.m. CT. Fan can also watch a simulcast of the NBC TV coverage online at www.nbcolympics.com. A complete recap of Spring's performance at the final day of competition can be found at fightingillini.com.