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Challenge Cup Medals Fuel Czech Cenková
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International Gymnast Online's annual year-end tradition of holiday-themed features continues with this update on Czech gymnast Veronika Cenková, whose success in 2016 bodes well for progress in 2017.

When Veronika Cenková of the Czech Republic won two medals at the Challenge Cup of Szombathely, Hungary, in October, she recorded the unanticipated highlight of her year.

Veronika Cenková (Czech Republic)

"It was my first competition after summer holidays so I traveled to Szombathely with no ambitions to compete in a final or bring home a medal," said Cenková, who placed second on floor exercise and third on balance beam there. "I went to this competition only to test my routines after the holidays and get back into competing again. So I was really surprised and pleased with my result because I didn't expect it."

Born February 11, 1999, in Ostrava, Cenková has emerged as one of the Czech team's top seniors after a successful junior career.

She placed 21st all-around at the 2014 European Junior Championships in Sofia, and14th all-around and sixth on balance beam at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing.

Last year Cenková finished 36th all-around in qualifications at the Europeans in Montpellier and competed at the World Championships in Glasgow. This spring she was eighth on floor exercise at the Challenge Cup of Cottbus.

Although Cenková's performance in Szombathely and other recent performances demonstrated her ability to perform confidently, she admits she was not always self-assured and resilient.

"A few years ago I was always very nervous before competitions, and when I fell, I cried so hard and fell at least twice on the other events," she said. "But after years of competing I am psychologically stronger and more patient. I know how to hold up after one event didn't go as I planned and finish strong on my other events. But I think that in every single training I get mentally stronger because you have to always get up after you fall down, you have to always try again and you know that you can get better every day."

Cenková is content to rest and regroup as 2016 draws to a close. Following the Czech team championships, which was her last competition of the year, she felt pain in her left knee that was diagnosed as a small ligament tear.

"I have a few weeks off now, so my main goal is to stay healthy," Cenková said. "But I'm looking forward to the European Championships in April and hope I will qualify to the team for the World Championships in the fall. And outside of gym, my goal is to balance my school and gymnastics well."

Cenková plans to celebrate the holidays in her traditional manner.

"As in every year, I will spend Christmas with my family at home," she said. "We always have a traditional Czech dinner – carp fish with potato salad – and then we go unwrap our presents and watch Christmas films. For New Year's Eve I always spend time with my gym friends."

Missing from Cenková's agenda, however, are any New Year's resolutions.

"I have never tried these resolutions because I know I wouldn't fulfill them!" she said.

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