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U.S. Ready to Rise to Challenge in Chicago
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The four Americans slated for the upcoming Tyson American Cup expressed confidence Wednesday about their prospects at the competition, to be held Feb. 21 in Chicago.

2008 Olympic team medalists Bridget Sloan and Joseph Hagerty, 2008 U.S. senior men's all-around champion David Sender and 2008 U.S. junior women's all-around champion Jordyn Wieber will represent the attempt to keep the American Cup in U.S. hands this year.

David Sender (U.S.)

"My first goal for 2009 was to go to the American Cup, and I've accomplished that," said Sloan, a member of the silver medal-winning U.S. team at last summer's Olympic Games in Beijing. "My next is to do well at the American Cup."

Joining Sloan as the other U.S. female competitor at the American Cup will be 13-year-old Wieber of DeWitt, Mich. Wieber, who placed first all-around at the Top Gym meet for juniors in Belgium last fall, said training with older U.S. teammates has benefited her.

"When I go to the ranch (U.S. team training center in Texas), I learn a lot from those girls, and I look up to them as they train," Wieber said. "They're great role models for me."

Wieber said she is looking forward to competing in front of her relatives in Chicago.

"My whole family is coming — my mom, dad and siblings," Wieber said. "I'm really excited because they don't get to see me compete for the U.S. very often."

The women's field will also include Kim Bui (Germany), Becky Downie (Great Britain), Youna Dufournet (France), Kristina Goryunova (Russia), Jessica Lopez (Venezuela), Amelia Racea (Romania), Brittany Rogers (Canada) and Koko Tsurumi (Japan).

Hagerty, who won the all-around title at the recent Winter Cup (a U.S. men's ranking competition in Las Vegas), said he has gained confidence since competing at the Olympics, where the U.S. team won the bronze medal.

"I feel I'm ready to compete with the best right now," Hagerty said. "I think I'm mentally stronger. My biggest focus is being consistent. Most of my routines are what I did at Olympics.. I haven't really focused on upping my Start Values yet. I'm just trying to lower my deductions and be consistent."

Sender, who hails from Arlington Heights, Ill., said he is eager to compete in his home state, following a frustrating 2008. He won the U.S. all-around title last summer, but injured his ankle at the Olympic Trials.

"I took a few weeks off to rest the ankle, get healthy and take a bit of mental break, but after that, I re-evaluated things and got back in the gym," Sender said. "I don't like to dwell on any bad events. I just want to move on, and I've done that."

Sender, a 2008 graduate of Stanford University, said he is not focused on the London 2012 Olympics at this point.

"I'm taking in one year at a time," said Sender, who is in the process of applying to veterinary schools. "I'm looking to do at least this year, but I don't like to look too far ahead. It can get a little daunting."

Other men's competitors include 2008 Olympic all-around bronze medalist Benoit Caranobe (France), Adrian Bucur (Romania), Fabian Hambüchen (Germany), Luis Rivera (Puerto Rico), Yuri Ryazanov (Russia) and Koji Uematsu (Japan).

— John Crumlish

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