Athletics & Recreation / Magazine Feature

Pioneers gymnasts qualify for 2008 Olympic Games

Two Pioneers gymnasts, junior Jessica López and freshman Annamari Maaranen, have qualified as individuals to compete in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. López will compete for Venezuela, and Maaranen will compete for Finland.

López and Maaranen qualified at the 40th World Gymnastics Championships, held in Stuttgart, Germany, Sept. 2–9.

Twenty-four teams competed at the World Championships; 12 qualified a full squad of six gymnasts to the Olympics. Teams that placed 13–15 earned two spots at the Olympics; teams that placed 16–18 earned one spot at the Olympics for their country.

López and Maaranen were among the 15 all-around gymnasts who didn’t qualify with teams but earned spots as individuals.

López will be the lone representative for her native Venezuela at the Games next summer. She was a three-time All-American last spring for the Pioneers, finishing in the top 10 on balance beam, floor exercise and uneven bars at the NCAA National Championships.

Maaranen became the first Finnish athlete in 44 years to qualify as a gymnast to the Olympic Games. She will compete for the Pioneers beginning with the 2008 season.

“We’re all so proud of Annamari and Jessica for what they have accomplished and the opportunity to represent their country, DU and their teammates at the Olympics in Beijing,” Gymnastics Head Coach Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart says. “As a gymnast, this is every little girl’s dream. I am proud of the commitment, dedication, perseverance and attitude they have put forth to accomplish such a tremendous goal. Our team will benefit from their athletic ability and experience. No matter what happens in Beijing, both athletes have a tremendous amount to be proud of.”

The 2008 Summer Olympics will take place Aug. 8–24.

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