Gymnastics is always one of the most popular Olympic sports, and Pittsburghers will soon have the opportunity to get a sneak peak at some of top medal contenders for the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.
USA Gymnastics will hold its P&G Gymnastics Championships Aug. 21-24 at the CONSOL Energy Center.
Leslie King, vice president of communications for USA Gymnastics, said athletes will compete not only for the title of national champion, but also for a spot on the team that will go to the World Championships in Nanning, China in October.
“These are truly the crème de la crème, the cream of the crop,” King said. “There are many members of the media who say they actually think it’s harder to do well at the P&G Championships and to make the U.S. team than it is to compete at the world championships or even the Olympic Games.”
King said gymnasts who will ultimately compete in Rio de Janeiro are among this year’s national championship competitors.
“Really at two years out is when you start to see people who are going to be in the mix, people who will possibly become household names between now and when we select the Olympic team in 2016,” King said.
She said it’s hard to say who will excel at the next Olympic games, but that a few names stand out, including 17-year-old Houston native Simone Biles among the women, and 21-year-old California native Sam Mikulak among the men.
Tickets for the events range from $20-115 for single day passes, depending on the seat and the type of competition, which includes both junior and senior level competitions. King said gymnastics is family friendly entertainment, and that watching the athletes compete is inspirational for young and old alike.
“Not only do (the gymnasts) want to do well and win a title, but they also want to make the U.S. team and be able to represent their country,” King said. “There’s nothing like being at an event and watching young Americans stand on the podium as you hear the national anthem.”
Six women from Pennsylvania will compete in the junior competition; all of them are from either Allentown or Bethlehem.
King said USA Gymnastics chose Pittsburgh as the location for the national championship after bringing the 2012 Olympic team through for the Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions.
“(Pittsburgh) just hit a home run,” King said. “They were great.”
VisitPittsburgh vice president of communications Connie George said she expects around 15,000 people to converge on the Steel City for the event, including athletes, coaches, media and fans.
Additionally, they’re projecting $12.6 million in direct spending on transportation, lodging, retail, recreation, food and beverages, and more than 6,400 individual room nights at local hotels.
Beyond the economic impact, said George, is the less measurable impact on Pittsburgh’s visibility on the national stage.
“There will be lots of national news media here that will be covering not only the event, but will use Pittsburgh as the backdrop,” George said. “Also, (we will have) people here that have never been here before, who will then see what a beautiful city we have.”