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Two Sooners Head Overseas For Competitions
December 02, 2004

NORMAN, Okla.-- Two members of the University of Oklahoma men’s gymnastics team will participate in seperate international competitions this weekend.  Freshmen Taqiy Abdullah-Simmons and Jonathan Horton will compete in their first international meets since becoming U.S. Senior National Team members.

“It is pretty rare for a collegiate program to have two athletes competing internationally in two different countries at the same time,” said Oklahoma head coach Mark Williams. “As a head coach on the collegiate level, I am excited to provide these kind of opportunities to our student-athletes.  This allows Taqiy and Jonathan to fulfill their personal goals of competing in international meets and working towards the next World Championships and Olympics.”

Abdullah-Simmons will be the lone American competing in the Chunichi Cup in Japan this weekend.  The all-around competition will take place on Saturday with the individual event finals to follow on Sunday.  He will be competing against some of the best gymnasts in the world including the Japanese team that took gold at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.  Also participating in the 2004 Chunichi Cup will be Australia, Belarus and Korea.

“The Chunichi Cup is a prestigious worldwide competition with Japan’s entire Olympic team in the competition and other Olympians from other nations,” said Williams.  “This is an opportunity for Taqiy to really step up the level of gymnastics that he is use to at the junior level and compete with the big boys.  I expect him to do well in the all-around and qualify for a couple of events on Sunday.”

Abdullah-Simmons does have international experience on the junior level.  He had a successful outing in the 2004 Pacific Alliance Championships where he placed first in the all-around and floor exercise, fourth on the parallel bars, fifth on the still rings and fifth on the vault.  Abdullah-Simmons was a member of the U.S. Junior National Team at the time of competition.

Jonathan Horton
Horton is looking to have success in his first international meet as a  U.S. Senior National Team member, when he takes the floor in Venezuela for the 2004 Pan American Championship.  Horton will be competing on the still rings, vault and high bar on Friday in the preliminaries and will look to qualify for the event finals on Saturday.  David Sender, also a U.S. Team member, will be the only other American competing against the likes of  gymnasts from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela

"Jonathan will be competing on his three strongest events and is hoping to make event finals in all three,” said Williams.  “This is his first senior international competition for USA Gymnastics and he will be competing against Olympians from other countries.  This is a great opportunity for him to gain valuable experience and step up to the elite level.”

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.

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