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June 23, 2004

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, June 23, 2004

They're gym dandy They're gym dandy (June 23, 2004)

Stanford's Gill, Durante take their shot at Olympic team

by Nathan Kurz

Dan Gill and Dave Durante will soon discover how they'll spend their summer of 2004. Both are hoping it will be in Athens, Greece.

Gill and Durante, both former members of the Stanford men's gymnastics team, will vie for a spot on this year's U.S. Olympic team when they compete at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials beginning Thursday in Anaheim.

The top two men and women from the all-around finals format will be nominated to the U.S. Olympic team. The remaining four members and two alternates of each team will be announced the week of July 11-18.

Gill and Durante qualified for the 14-man U.S. Trials based on performances at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships earlier this month in Nashville, Tenn.

Gill, for one, will be up against five Olympic veterans.

"I can't say I'm a favorite (to make the team) because I've only been on the National Team for a year," Gill said. "But, I'm improving very, very quickly."

Gill's rapid ascent up the U.S. Gymnastics ladder began his freshman year at Stanford. After setting the all-time national high school record in the all-around as a senior at Robinson High in Fairfax, Va., Gill earned All-American honors as a freshman at the 2001 NCAA Championships. He improved his all-around score at the NCAA meet all four years on The Farm.

"I think I have a lot more style now, better technique, and it shows through my scores," Gill said. "It has been a very rewarding process the whole four years."

Gill's standout collegiate career came to an end a few months back at the NCAA Championships, where he placed second in the all-around - just .350 points behind Penn State's Luis Vargas - and captured five more All-American honors.

He graduated this month as one of nine Cardinal gymnasts in school history to win an individual NCAA title - winning the vault in 2002. Earlier this year, Gill was honored with the Nissen-Emery Award, the Heisman Trophy of the sport for the nation's best senior gymnast.

Gill has spent the past three years developing under the tutelage of coach Thom Glielmi, who trained three-time Olympian John Roethlisberger before taking over the Stanford program at the start of Gill's sophomore season. Gill credits Glielmi, who also is training Durante, for much of his success.

"He has made all the difference for me in terms of teaching me to be a confident competitor and forcing me to train consistently," Gill said. "He did a lot of work making us believe that if we put in the numbers, if we trust our training and perform when it counts, that we are Olympic contenders now. And I'm starting to believe it myself.

"He's incredibly motivating. Between him and Dave Durante, it's the difference between where I was and where I am."

Part of Gill's current confidence stems from his performance at a World Cup qualifying event in Lyon, France, in March. There, Gill medaled on the high bars.

"It just sort of clicked that I'm finally at a place where I can compete with the best in the world," Gill said. "Instead of the Olympics just being a dream, within the last six to eight months it's becoming something I train consistently toward because it's a realistic goal now."

For now, at least, Gill is embracing the role of sleeper.

"I very much am the underdog," Gill said. "I think it's a lot more fun that way. You have less to lose and everything in the world to gain, so I just have a great time doing it. I love to compete."

Gill was the only NCAA-eligible athlete on this year's U.S. Senior National Team. At the 2004 U.S. Championships in Nashville, he took second place on floor exercise, ninth place on high bar and 11th in the all-around competition.

Gill was named the 2004 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Gymnast of the Year after capturing the conference all-around title. He helped Stanford to an eighth-place NCAA finish this season, leading the squad with top-six finishes in the all-round, on pommel horse, horizontal bar, vault and floor exercise.

Durante, a three-year member of the U.S. Senior National Team, was a volunteer assistant coach at Stanford this season while competing for Team Gattaca-Palo Alto.

At the 2004 U.S. Championships, Durante took second place on parallel bars, sixth place on pommel horse and ninth in the all-around.

While on The Farm, Durante competed as an all-arounder, helping to lead the Cardinal to the 2001 NCAA Championship. He graduated from Stanford in 2003 with a degree in human biology.

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