Las Vegas, NV (9/9/2023) – – The World Acrobatics Society (WAS) celebrated its 27th anniversary (1996-2023) at its annual “Hall of Fame” banquet on September 9, 2023, at the Tuscany Casino & Suites in Las Vegas. An audience of nearly 110 people led by Emcee Donny Ray Evins, former gymnast, and now Las Vegas entertainer, honored the Class of 2023 inductees who were selected for their high level of accomplishment and contributions to the acrobatic community. WAS President Scott Crouse announced, “This year’s event was a complete success! For all in attendance as well as for our stellar group of newly inducted athletes and acrobats.”
Including these 12 honorees, the WAS Hall of Fame has inducted 328 individuals from around the world. These outstanding individuals have been selected for their excellence in their specific disciplines, with many continuing to stay involved in a professional and exemplary manner. In addition, they have contributed to society and the growth of acrobatics on a national and worldwide basis.
The 2023 Inductees are:
- PROFESSIONAL ACROBATICS – The Flying Españas– The Españas family has one of the most influential aerial acrobatics and action sports legacies in the circus world. Since their debut in 1973, 14 members of the extended Españas family have performed professionally in myriad circuses, festivals, theme parks, theatre, television, and film, including the world-famous Sydney Opera House, The Greatest Show on Earth, Le Grand Cirque, Circus Festival Madrid, Six Flags Over America, Disneyland’s Circus Fantasy, Fox-TV’s KISS Concert, NBC’s Death-Defying Thrills, as well as being featured in the Lear Levin/Walt Disney Pictures documentary “Circus.” Throughout the family’s many generations, they have demonstrated a wide range of expertise in performing trampoline, tumbling, hand-balancing, web, and trapeze acrobatics, and received many prestigious circus honors and awards. Today, sixth-generation Españas are continuing their family’s acrobatic tradition. Cousins Elan, Noemi, Zore and Sian España are all actively performing in a variety of professional circuses and acrobatic productions, including with the famed Cirque d/Hiver in Paris, France, and Roncalli’s Apollo Varieté in Düsseldorf, Germany. The Españas family has one of the most influential aerial acrobatics and action sports legacies in the circus world. Throughout the family’s many generations, they have demonstrated a wide range of expertise in performing trampoline, tumbling, hand-balancing, web, and trapeze acrobatics, and received many prestigious circus honors and awards.
- LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD – Masayuki “Mas” Watanabe – Competing for the Japanese Men’s National Team for five years, Mas moved to the U.S. in 1969, and became a guiding force for U.S. men’s artistic gymnastics.
- GOLDEN ACHIEVEMENT AWARD – Rich Kenney– Competing for the University of Michigan’s men’s artistic gymnastics team, Rich went on to teach studio art and art history, and coached gymnastics as an owner of a gym club. Kenney was Production Editor and photographer for Gymnast Magazine (1973) and International Gymnast (1975-1979), as well as Marketing, Communications, and Sponsorship Director for the United States Gymnastics Federation (USGF), and co-founded the AeroED Group.
- ACROBATIC GYMNASTICS – Morgan Stanley Smith (1950-2000)– Morgan was an athlete, coach, and author, and contributed to the growth of acrobatic gymnastics in the early years of its development in England and the USA.
- ACTION SPORTS – Ryan Dole–A freerunner, martial artist, coach, and actor from Liverpool, England, and a founding athlete of the World Freerunning and Parkour Federation.
- ARTISTIC GYMNASTICS – Daniela Silvas – Competing for the Romanian women’s artistic gymnastics team, Daniela was best known for medaling in every single event at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
- DIVING – David Boudia – A gold medal platform diver representing the U.S. who became an author, starred in a TV reality show, and is currently the Associate Diving Coach at Purdue University.
- TRAMPOLINE/TUMBLING – Tracy Kontur-Richter– Tracy was the youngest person to win the U.S. Senior National Tumbling Championships (1980) and the World Tumbling Championships (1980). In addition, she was a four-time Varsity Letterman in artistic gymnastics for the University of Illinois, winning the Big Ten Championship in 1990.
Established in 1996, the World Acrobatics Society (WAS) is an exciting, growing worldwide not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization whose members share a love of acrobatics. The mission is to advance the education, communication, and cooperation among all individuals and organizations interested in fostering the growth, development and safety of the various acrobatic disciplines along with preserving their histories.
The major acrobatic disciplines recognized by WAS include Acrobatic Gymnastics & Cheerleading, Action Sports, Artistic Gymnastics, Diving, Professional Acrobatics, and Trampoline & Tumbling, in addition to the Golden Achievement Award, Lifetime Achievement Award, Acrobatic Excellence, and the Charlie Pond Service Award.
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