My classmates and I won’t be landing London to cover the 2012 Games for another 46 days, but our work behind the scenes is already well underway. And another chapter in our preparation for the London Games will take place this week with the Visa Championships at Chaifetz Arena on the campus of Saint Louis University.
Being from St. Louis really helps, because Chaifetz Arena is just a short drive down I-64 and having this fantastic opportunity is beyond what words can describe.
The Visa Championships will feature men’s and women’s gymnastics, with gymnasts in both the junior and senior divisions. This week-long event will determine the U.S. champions, as well as which gymnasts advance to the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, which are scheduled for June 28-July 1 in San Jose, Calif.
This year’s event marks the second time the Visa Championships have been held in St. Louis; the last time was in 2000.
Today is media day, with multiple training sessions open to reporters as well as opportunities to interview the gymnasts prior to competition, which begins Thursday and concludes on Sunday.
As I sit alongside the balance beams and bars sifting through the profiles of all these remarkable athletes, I take a minute to reflect on what I’m doing and how I got here. I’m within a few feet of these athletes who could be heading to London to compete for a gold medal. These are the best gymnasts this country has to offer. How cool is that? I’m most looking forward to having the opportunity to interview a few of these athletes and write about them.
One gymnast that caught my attention is Brenna Dowell of Odessa, Mo. Dowell is a member of Great American Gymn. Express and has been on the women’s national team for one year. Dowell brings a hefty résumé into the Visa Championships. She tied for fifth in vault, placed sixth in the all-around, uneven bars and came in eighth in the floor exercise in the junior division during the 2011 Visa Championships in St. Paul, Minn. Dowell tied for third in vault and placed fifth in the all-around uneven bars in the 2011 CoverGirl Classic in Chicago. Dowell also competed in the 2010 Visa Championships in Hartford, Conn., placing fourth in the uneven bars in the junior division. In 2009, Dowell tied for first in the vault and tied for second in the all-around free exercise during the Women’s Junior Olympic Level 10 National Championships.
Another athlete that caught my eye is Sarah Finnegan, a native of St. Louis. Finnegan, also a member of Great American Gymn. Express, will compete in the women’s artistic program. Finnegan placed second in the free exercise during the 2012 Secret U.S. Classic in Chicago. She also finished third in the all-around junior division during the 2011 Visa Championships in Saint Paul, Minn.
So as I continue to sit along media row, I ponder the possibilities of what I can accomplish on this day, the interviews I can conduct, the precious stories I can write and I can’t forget about the athletes, who’s stories are so remarkable. From just skimming the roster, I’ve noticed a pair of athletes from my home state, which is awesome. Having the opportunity to go to the U.S. Olympic Trials by winning the Visa Championships in your home state has to be exciting.
After all, the Visa Championships are in my own backyard and I’m looking forward to taking full advantage of every interview I get, every story I write and every connection I make.