Indianapolis to host 2015 national gymnastics championships
The nation's top gymnastics stars were on hand as USA Gymnastics announced Friday that Indianapolis will host the 2015 Visa Championships.
City leaders have been working to bring the next big Super Bowl-like event that will put Indianapolis back in the national spotlight.
The Visa Championships will bring the next generation of gymnastics' "golden girls and boys," the next role models, and the next Gabby Douglas to our city.
Douglas' star was steadily rising in St. Louis this summer. Her performance at the Visa Championships there was part of her route to the London Olympics and sweetheart status.
"I just wanted to show everyone how great I can be and to put me in a good position. I had more confidence going into trials knowing, you know, 'Okay, I can do this'," Douglas said.
Four members of the gold medal-winning "Fierce Five" attended the announcement, which is a big coup for Indianapolis. Bankers Life Fieldhouse will host the event.
Gymnastics great Nastia Liukin says the national championship is "extremely important, especially the year before the Olympics."
Liukin is the 2008 Olympic individual all-around Champion, the 2005 and 2007 World Champion on the balance beam, and the 2005 World Champion on the uneven bars.
"You'll definitely get a preview of what's to come the next year," she said, and added that she has fond memories of Indianapolis, where she won her first senior national championship in 2005.
"I'm looking forward to coming back in a few years and watching the competition," said Liukin.
Gymnastics is big business. Two million people in the USA are involved in some sort of recreational gymnastics. Those who make it to the nationals are likely in the top 100 or less.
"I think in the women's field it's probably gonna be about 20 to 30 athletes competing and vying for a spot on the national team. The national championships are so important because not only do you make it onto the national team and represent Team USA at future competitions, but it's also like I said a preview for the next year," said Liukin.
"Nationals is one of the most important competitions of the year. It's where we try out for the national team and if you make the national team, you can represent U.S.A. in different competitions across the world. So it's very important," said Jordyn Wieber, Olympic gold medalist.
The championships are four days of men's and women's elite competition in a pre-Olympic year.
"It would definitely be a very important year for USA Gymnastics and for Indianapolis, because you'll be able to see just, you know, the athletes on their way to go to Rio just a year later," said Liukin. "You'll have a good idea of who might be able to make that Olympic team just a year later."
Liukin and the other gymnasts will participate in the Kellogg's Tour of Gymnastic Champions event at Bankers Life Fieldhouse Friday night.
"It's very different than a competition. It's a lot of dancing, high energy, I love it, it's a lot of fun," said Aly Reisman of the Kellogg's tour event.
Marta and Bela Karolyi were also in town for the announcement.
"Of course, you know, 2015 for Indiana, for Indianapolis, will be very important, because it is going to be right in the middle of the Olympic quadrivium. That is when we are going to see the first signs of up and coming big, big names and new people and new faces," Bela Karolyi said.
Behind the scenes is a new celebrity in Indianapolis. Nicole Pechanec will be working on the event organizing committee. She's Colts quarterback Andrew Luck's girlfriend from Stanford, slowly taking a new public position and starting with a familiar sport.
"I was a gymnast before I was anything else in my life," she said Friday.
Pechanec doesn't yet know what her committee role will be, but the Stanford gymnast is flexible with what may come.
"Just get the word out. No problem," she said.