Kids from the Rebounders and Gym Plus clubs were going through their gymnastics exercises to the delight of the noontime crowd at Harborplace. Later, Henry Rosenberg was talking about "raising awareness" for the sport and, undoubtedly, the display had done wonders.
Then came the speaking portion of the news conference to officially launch the countdown to the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials here next June. The crowd began to disperse.
Take note. If the Trials to pick Uncle Sam's 16-person gymnastics squad for next year's Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, are to be a rip-roaring success at the Baltimore Arena, just run the kids out for noontime shows a dozen times or so.
Rosenberg, chairman of the local organizing committee, said the event's budget will come to about $250,000 and, already, Crown Central Petroleum and USAir are in as major sponsors.
Baltimore, through the efforts of the Sports Promotion wing of the Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development, beat out the cities of Memphis and Columbus, Ohio, to land its first-ever Olympic Trials in any sport. The fact the city did a first-class job with the U.S. National Figure Skating Championships a couple of years ago certainly helped.
The Trials are a two-part week-long event that starts with the rhythmic gymnastics preliminaries and finals June 6-7. That's the event where women dance and prance with ropes, hoops, balls, clubs and ribbons. Sort of Swan Lake with muscles.
June 11-13, the women perform compulsory and optional exercises on four apparatus and men do likewise on six. Seven women and seven men (each team includes an alternate) and two rhythmic competitors will constitute our Olympic representatives.
Also on hand for yesterday's kickoff and providing an interesting past/future contrast as far as their gym careers are concerned were tiny Dominique Dawes, Maryland's great hope for success as a gymnast, and Tim Daggett, one of the mainstays on our most successful team ever, the 1984 gold medalists.
Dawes, a 4-foot-7, 75-pound dynamo from Silver Spring, said she's just about recovered from an ankle injury suffered three weeks ago and is working overtime toward making a good showing in the World Championship Trials in Indianapolis later this month. The Worlds are slated for the same city in mid-September.
"I'm ranked No. 9 in the country right now and with two solid weeks of training ahead, I'm hoping I'll push ahead enough to make our team for the Worlds. It will have six regulars and two alternates," said Dawes.
"One of the things that gives Dominique an excellent chance is the fact she's ranked No. 4 in the optionals," said one of her coaches, Blane Jefferson. "She's only 13th in the compulsories, but we can pick that up in no time."
Daggett was the man who, on the night of the big showdown against the world champion team from China, scored the perfect 10 on the high bar that clinched the gold for the U.S. team in 1984. He also medaled on an apparatus before a series of injuries set him back but never kept him from his quest of becoming the best.
"I competed for 17 years," Daggett said yesterday. "And believe me, those attending the Trials here will never see more exciting athletic feats."
Daggett, who will work as a gymnastics commentator for NBC next year both here and at the Olympics, competed in two Trials and was ranked No. 1 in the years between the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles (1984) and Seoul (1988).
In between, he suffered serious neck and leg injuries when he fell directly on the top of his head from a height of 15 feet and totally shattered both bones below his right knee. He was a good man for Dominique Dawes to discuss rehabilitation from injury with.
Tickets for the Trials are now on sale in three packages: Rhythmic only, $20 to $50; men's and women's compulsories and optionals, $30 to $200; and both packages, $40 to $250. They are being handled by Ticketmaster, and for more information call 1-800-800-TRIALS (the extra digits are correct).