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Austria's Ecker On Rio Berth: 'I Didn't Know Whether to Cry or Laugh'
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Perseverant Austrian gymnast Lisa Ecker earned a berth to this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro while posting her best international all-around total at the Olympic test event in Rio in April, but she told IG she is aiming for even higher scores at the Rio Games.

“It will be my last competition and I hope it will be the best I have ever done,” said Ecker, who posted an all-around total of 53.132 points to place 37th all-around at the test event. “My coach (Johanna Gratt) and I expect to reach 54 points and we hope it is good enough to be in the top 35. Our goal is to compete healthy and to have fun.”

Ecker said she felt mixed emotions when she realized her performance at the test event was enough to advance her to the Games.

“That feeling was indescribable,” said Ecker, a veteran of the last six World Championships. “I did not know if I should cry or laugh. I did not know what to do! I just hugged Johanna, and both of us started to cry because we realized that we did the unexpected thing. Our dream has come true. I will compete at the Olympic Games.”

Ecker said her successful bid for the Rio Games was a true team effort.

“I am really satisfied with my competition,” she said. “I am so proud of my coach, my medical team — Dr. Robert Kandelhart and physiotherapist Siegrid Egger — and of course, myself. I think we all did a very good job. I could not realize how great this competition was.”

Born Sept. 19, 1992, in Linz, Ecker represents ASKÖ Kleinmünchen, but trains at TGW Trainingscenter in Linz. Her coaches are Johanna Gratt on all apparatuses, and Tanja Gratt on beam and “floor expression.” Her choreographer is Julia Nica, who designed her beam and floor routines and with whom she takes ballet twice weekly.

Perseverance has kept Ecker on track for Rio despite setbacks, including a torn anterior cruciate ligament in 2011, a torn posterior cruciate ligament in 2013, knee problems in 2015 and a broken fourth metatarsal in March this year.

Outside of the test event, Ecker’s best results this year include third place on vault, fourth place on uneven bars and fourth place on floor exercise at the Challenge Cup of Baku in February; and sixth place on vault at the Challenge Cup of Varna on May 14.

Ecker, who is set to compete at the European Championships in Bern early next month, is upgrading and finessing her routines for maximum results in Rio.

“I hope I can improve my performance,” she said. “I am working on a higher start value, and we are really working hard to improve my expression on floor and beam. We are also trying to reach a higher amplitude on gymnastic jumps. At the test event I had little problems with my landings on floor, so we are trying to control them.

Although Ecker is the only Austrian artistic gymnast to qualify for the Rio Games, she is eager to share her Olympic experience.

“I am really proud to be the only gymnast who has the possibility to represent Austria,” she told IG. “I'm really looking forward to celebrating this event with the whole Austrian delegation, so I don't think I will be there alone. I think we will be a big family having fun together at the Olympic Games.”

International Gymnast magazine's coverage of Austrian gymnasts includes:

“Rocking to the Top” - Marco Baldauf profile (July/August 2006)

“From Torn to Reborn” - Lisa Ecker profile (July/August 2013)

“Fueled and Focused” - Barbara Gasser profile (April 2012)

“Central European Sojourn” – includes IG's visit with Carina Hasenoehrl in

Graz, Austria (January/February 2010)

“The Courage of Carina” - Hasenoehrl memoire (July/August 2007)

To order back issues, or subscribe to the print and/or digital edition of International Gymnast magazine, click here.

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