Going for the Gold

The olympic trials are coming up in a few months. One of the qualifying championships will be in Houston. As Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports, three local men are competing for spots on the U.S. team.

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Raj Bhavsar was born and raised in the Houston area. He started learning gymnastics when he was four.

"The amount of furniture that I climbed and probably broke and flipped off of is synonymous to why I'm in the sport of gymnastics. My dad told me when I was really young I was just a really active kid. I had this natural ability to climb things, was doing flips, stuff like that. So my dad asked one of his co-workers what do I do with this kid, he's just a bundle of energy. And his co-worker said try out a gymnastics class. And I think ever since then at a very young age there's just something I loved about gymnastics."

Bhavsar is now 27. He's preparing for his final Olympics run. He and teammates Sean Golden and Sean Townsend will compete in the Visa Championships at Reliant Park in May.

"It's right here in our back yard. We don't have to drive more than a couple miles down the road. And we're going to be in part of one of the largest competitions contributing toward the whole Olympic selection process. It's a very big meet for all of us. Us Houston athletes are very fortunate that we have it right here because in some way, shape or form it kind of alleviates the pressure. We don't have to travel anywhere, we have the comfort of our own living arrangements. And it's going to be an exciting meet."

Coach Kevin Mazeika led the U.S. Men's team in the 2004 Olympics. He's a likely candidate to lead the team again this summer. He says the road to Beijing starts here in Houston on May 22nd.

"I'm certainly hopeful that I get the call again to be the head coach for the Olympic team. We'll find out this week. And if I get the opportunity I'll certainly be grateful to lead the men's team, which I think is going to be a fantastic team - a team that will contend for a spot on the medal podium for sure."

Some of the most famous gymnasts were trained in Houston by world-renowned Coach Bela Karolyi. Karolyi says he's watched this team and they could be the ones to put Houston back at the top of the sport.

"These guys are definitely Olympic medal contenders. No doubt about it. Golly, what guys, what a big heart and what great personalities! And I'm telling you, we've got to be proud of them."

The Visa Championship is the qualifying event for the Olympic trials. It's scheduled for May 22nd through the 24th. Tickets go on sale this week.

Laurie Johnson. Houston Public Radio News.

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