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Texan dominates U.S. juniors - again

Associated Press
Published June 6, 2004

NASHVILLE - Competing more against herself than the rest of the competition, Nastia Luikin wrapped up her second straight junior title at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships with ease.

The 14-year-old Texan went 8-for-8 on her routines over two days and established herself as the prime up-and-coming gymnast to watch when she becomes a senior next year.

"Everything can always be a little better, but it's pretty good," Luikin said, in summing up her performance.

The all-around gold goes with golds she won on floor, beam and bars in event finals Thursday. That's the same medal total she recorded last year.

Thus far, Luikin has had a storybook career with only one big question mark. Her age puts her in a strange situation: not old enough to make the Olympic team in 2004 and too far away from 2008 to know if she'll still be one of the nation's best.

"I'm just trying to take it one day at a time," she said.

Luikin won the meet with a score of 75.950, 1.75 ahead of silver medalist Shayla Worley.

HATCH WITHDRAWS: Annia Hatch withdrew from the all-around senior finals, not wanting to risk injuring her surgically repaired knee. Hatch tore a ligament and the meniscus in her left knee 10 months ago. She finished ninth in Thursday's preliminaries, and her husband and coach, Alan Hatch, said that proved she is healthy enough to contend for a spot on the Olympic team.

She won the vault title, scoring 9.625. Hatch said her knee was at 95 percent, but when she woke up, she was sore. When she withdrew, she filed an injury petition for the Olympic trials, which take place June 24-27. USA Gymnastics is likely to let her in.

"Right now, it's important to be better for trials," she said. "Now, I'll have two solid weeks to get to 100 percent."

Hatch turns 26 June 14, a senior citizen in a sport of teenage pixies. The seven-time Cuban national champion was retired for five years, but she resumed training in 2001.

MORE INJURIES: The president of USA Gymnastics insists Blaine Wilson and Jason Gatson, who will file injury petitions directly into Olympic trials, will have to prove themselves to make the team.

"Guys like Jason and Blaine have been showing what they can do for a long time," Bob Colarossi said. "They've stepped up and gotten it done. They've still got to execute their routines at a level that makes a difference."

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