NORMAN, Okla.-- Two members of the University of Oklahoma men’s gymnastics team participated in separate international competitions last weekend. Freshmen Taqiy Abdullah-Simmons and Jonathan Horton travelled overseas for their first international meets since becoming U.S. Senior National Team members.
Horton put together an impressive performance at the 2004 Pan American Championships in Venezuela. He qualified for the event finals by finishing in the top eight on Friday in all three events he was competing on (still rings, vault and high bar). During Saturday’s competition, Horton took first place on the vault with a 9.365 score. In addition, he then went on to place second on rings (9.40) and third on high bar (9.25).
Unfortunately for Abdullah-Simmons, he suffered a minor injury to his left ankle and did not compete at the 2004 Chunichi Cup in Japan. He is expected to be back to 100 percent when the Sooners open the season next month.
“I was pretty impressed with his (Horton’s) performance,” said Oklahoma head coach Mark Williams. “It is especially nice to see he did so well in his first competition as a U.S. Senior National team member. Jonathan brought home three medals and he is really starting to fit in with the rest of the Olympians that have been doing so well over the years.
“It was disappointing that Taqiy was not able to compete. However, it was a still valuable experience for him to watch the Japanese National Team and go overseas and see how the competition was run. He will be ready to go by the time the season gets going.”
Horton was a member of the 2003 Pan American Games’ team that won a bronze medal and he also took fourth in the all-around as a junior national team participant.
“It was a great experience and I really enjoyed it,” said Horton. “This was my first competition as a senior national team member and I learned a lot from everyone there and the competition was fun to watch.
“I basically expected to do what I did on the vault and still rings and I put together two pretty good routines on both. However, I was disappointed to not win the high bar competition, an event I expected to win. I made a mistake early in my high bar routine but made up for it with a more difficult dismount. The crowd really got into it when I stuck my landing and that was probably the most exciting part of the competition.
“My ultimate goal is to compete in the Olympics, so this international experience was a great opportunity for me. The more experiences like this the better, because it shows the United State committee that I can compete internationally and that I am becoming a more rounded gymnast.”
The No. 1 Sooners will open up the 2005 season with the Rocky Mountain Open in Colorado Springs, Colo., on January 14 and 15. OU will compete in its first home meet on Jan. 28 when the Air Force Academy comes to the Lloyd Noble Center.