DALLAS -- The 2009 Artistic Gymnastics World Championships, which began Tuesday in London, should give Dallas, Texas-area gymnasts Rebecca Bross and Ivana Hong a chance to reintroduce themselves to the international community.
Cheers, as the Brits say.
The 16-year-olds from World Olympic Gymnastics Academy in Plano make up half of the four-member U.S. women's team -- along with Bridget Sloan, the national all-around champion and a 2008 Olympian, and newcomer Kayla Williams. Steven Legendre, a WOGA product from Flower Mound now at Oklahoma, will compete for the six-member men's team.
The championships are being held in The 02 arena, the same venue that will host gymnastics for the 2012 Olympics.
This meet could be a preview of sorts for those Games, as the first year after an Olympics is always a time for the United States to evaluate who's next. Chellsie Memmel and Parker's Nastia Liukin finished 1-2 in the all-around at the 2005 worlds. Both were members of the 2008 silver medal U.S. Olympic team, and Liukin, of course, won the all-around gold.
The look beyond the established is only more obvious with 2008 Olympians Liukin, Memmel and Sam Peszek withdrawing their names, one by one, from consideration for the team.
This year's championships feature only all-around and individual event competition, with no team scoring. Sloan, who comes in as the headliner, and Bross will represent the United States in the all-around. Hong will probably compete on uneven bars and balance beam. Williams is the national champion on vault.
"Consistency is very important," said Martha Karolyi, the U.S. national team coordinator, on a recent conference call. "We want this to be a good experience, and hope they will be representing us at next year's world team championships."
Neither Bross nor Hong -- both coached by Valeri Liukin, Nastia's coach and father -- are untested in major international competition. But it's fair to say they're different gymnasts this time around.
Bross represented the United States at the 2007 Pan American Games even though she was 14 and not old enough to compete at the 2008 Beijing Olympics -- she was widely considered good enough.
She finished second in the all-around, behind only 2008 Olympic medalist Shawn Johnson, and won gold in the floor exercise.
"That was a little like a runner-up to this," Bross said. "There are always going to be nerves, but you have to use them to your advantage."
Bross held the lead going into the final day of competition in her first senior national championships in August at American Airlines Center. But she fell on bars and wobbled badly on beam, dropping her down to third.
Bross, who was competing on a sprained right ankle, said she's used the last two months to improve.
"I've just been working hard every day and making the routines a little cleaner, and a little better," Bross said.
Hong returns to the world championships after competing for the gold medal-winning U.S. team at the 2007 worlds, albeit in a minor role. Since then, she suffered the disappointment of being named only an alternate for the 2008 Olympics, overcame a lingering ankle injury and switched coaches, moving from Kansas City to work with Liukin.
"I've learned a lot," said Hong, who suffered from the flu while contending for a spot on the world team.
Karolyi sees a different Hong from a year ago.
"I even mentioned last year during the (Olympic) selection process that she needed more confidence," Karolyi said. "And I can see it. Her routines are getting better and better."
Legendre, the 2009 NCAA all-around champion, is known for performing one of the highest-scoring floor routines in the world.
2009 Artistic Gymnastics World Championships
Site: The 02 arena, London
Format: Gymnasts must compete in qualification rounds to advance to the all-around and event finals. The top 24 compete in the all-around on Thursday (men) and Friday (women). The top eight on each apparatus advance to the event finals Saturday and Sunday. A maximum of two gymnasts per country can advance to the finals.
U.S. men's team: Jake Dalton, Wesley Haagensen, Jonathan Horton, Steven Legendre, Danell Leyva, Tim McNeil.
U.S. women's team: Rebecca Bross, Ivana Hong, Bridget Sloan, Kayla Williams