The future of gymnastics: WOGA Classic brings top-level talent to Frisco
Nastia Liukin competes in the 2006 WOGA Classic as part of an exhibition routine with the 2005 U.S. national team. Photo by Kelsey Kruzich.
Gymnastics isn't a sport that most people follow year-round, but in Frisco it's a little different.
That's because the city is home to a 32,000-square-foot gymnastics facility, WOGA Frisco. The gym is an official U.S. National Team training center and is part of a North Texas gymnastics chain that has helped produced Olympic gymnasts such as gold-medal winners Nastia Liukin and Carly Patterson.
Feb. 15-17, the organization will host its annual WOGA Classic at the Dr Pepper Arena & Frisco Conference Center. The competition is one of the largest of its kind in the U.S., and it typically draws a field full of Olympic-caliber gymnasts.
"For many years the WOGA Classic has served an important role in helping our local gymnasts [compete] with some of the highest-level competition," said Yevgeny Marchenko, a co-founder of WOGA and coach for the organization. "Gymnasts from countries around the world come here to the beautiful city of Frisco and get a taste of the U.S. competition."
In addition to U.S. gymnasts, this year's event will feature top gymnasts from Russia, the Ukraine, Belgium, England, Canada, Latvia, Mexico and Austria. More than 1,500 competitors are expected to take part in the meet.
Being hosted a year after the Olympics, a lot of well-known gymnasts are taking a break to recuperate, Marchenko said, but the event will still host top-ranked competition.
"This year we're more focused on the young stars," he said. "We have the best junior from Belgium coming, the second-best junior from England coming and a lot of great athletes from the U.S. It's kind of an opening of the long season for the athletes, who try new skills and new programs."
For those elite gymnasts, the WOGA Classic will serve as a qualifying meet for the Nastia Liukin Cup, a large international meet that will take place March 1 in Worcester, Mass. That meet will take place at the same arena as this year's American Cup, an International Gymnastics Federation World Cup event.
"It's a very big deal in the world of gymnastics," Marchenko explained. "It opens the way to big-time competition. These athletes will be competing in the same arena, with the same equipment that the best in the world will use. On Saturday [at the WOGA Classic] it's an elite qualifying meet. It's one of the first big competitions for the young athletes to become elite athletes. It's a very big start in a gymnast's life, those who are ready to become elite athletes."
Tickets for the 2013 WOGA Classic's regular sessions are $15 for adults and $8 for children ages 11 and younger. For the elite session, which will take place 6:30 p.m. Feb. 16, tickets are $23 for adults and $13 for children ages 11 and younger.
Following the elite session, Nastia Liukin (2008 Olympic all-around champion), Carly Patterson (2004 Olympic all-around champion) and Rebecca Bross (six-time world medalist) will hold an autograph session.
Marchenko said gymnastics is booming following the success of the U.S. women winning the team competition in last year's Olympics, along with Gabby Douglas becoming the Olympic all-around champion.
"That brought a lot of kids to gyms around the country," he said. "It's been great publicity, and it allowed a lot of kids to be exposed to Olympic Games -- it's extremely important. We're expecting several thousand spectators this year, and we hope everybody will attend the main event -- it's a lot of fun."
Want to go?
What: WOGA Classic
When: Feb. 15-17
Where: Dr Pepper Arena, 2601 Avenue of the Stars, Frisco
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