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Sweden's Castles Building For 'Happy Times Ahead'
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Although Swedish-British gymnast Jessica Castles is only nine months into her senior career, she told IG she hopes she can continue to add value to the Swedish team heading into this fall’s World Championships in Doha, Qatar, and other upcoming competitions.

Castles, a native of West Surrey, England, who turned 16 on July 16, is the daughter of a Swedish mother and a British father. She placed first all-around, first on balance beam and first on floor exercise at the Nordic Championships in Farum, Denmark, held June 30-July 1; and first all-around, first on balance beam and first on floor exercise at the Swedish Championships held July 6-7. Last month she placed seventh on floor exercise at the European Championships in Glasgow, Scotland.

In this IG Online interview, Castles details the balance she maintains between training and academic obligations in Sweden and England, and the merits she believes she can offer to the Swedish team in the future.

IG: As a first-year senior, how have your achievements so far in 2018 compared to your expectations at this point in your overall career?

JC: I didn't have very high expectations this year as I was doing my GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) exams and didn't want to put too much pressure on myself. My long-term goals were to become Swedish and Nordic all-around champion and make the Europeans team. So to have met these goals, and to even make a floor final in my first year as a senior is more than I could have asked for.

IG: Now that you have competed directly against the best gymnasts in Europe, what improvements do you plan to make between now and the World Championships in Doha, so you can fare as well as possible against all of the world's best?

JC: I have been working a few upgrades, so we will see if any of them are ready or consistent enough to compete at Worlds.

IG: When and why did you decide to compete for Sweden?

JC: My mum is Swedish and and my dad is British, and I have had dual citizenships my whole life. I decided to start competing for Sweden in March 2017 after competing at one of the trial competitions for the the European Youth Olympic Festival. I found that I got on really well with all the Swedish girls and coaches. I have also been given a lot of support and encouragement from my Swedish club, Eskilstuna Gymnastik Förening. The coaches there are amazing, and I feel I make constant improvements when I train there.

IG: What is your arrangement for training in England, and attending training camps and competitions in Sweden?

JC: In the U.K. I train at Heathrow Gymnastics Club under Vince and Michele Walduck and (1981 world floor exercise champion) Natalia Ilienko-Jarvis. In Sweden I am a member of Eskilstuna Gymnastik Förening where I train under Sebastian Melander and Helena Andersson Melander. My training arrangements vary depending on school, the competitions in hand and time of the year. My competition schedule is set by the Swedish national coaches, and my training in the U.K. supports this schedule.

School has up until last term dictated that the majority of my training is in England. However, I spend as much time as I can in Eskilstuna during the school holidays, together with all the scheduled national squad training sessions and checkpoints before the major competitions. I am currently considering homeschooling for my A-levels (exams) so that I can have additional flexibility and schedule more of my training in Sweden going forward.

IG: How are you are you with the Swedish language, so you can integrate better with the team?

JC: My mum has always spoken Swedish with me ever since I was born so I have always been bilingual. Holidays in Sweden and visiting family there through the years have also been helpful in keeping the Swedish language alive. Recently, with all the time I have been spending with the team in Sweden, my language skills have improved even more. My teammates and coaches have been very supportive in every possible way, and I do not feel language is an issue at all.

IG: What do you think you can offer to the Swedish team, not just in terms of your own gymnastics strengths, but what they might need overall?

JC: I hope that my strong pieces, being floor and beam, will help the team going forward. I also hope that my positive attitude to training and competitions, together with my happy personality, are assets to the team. The Swedish team already includes some great girls and we have all gelled together really well over the last year. I’m really excited for the times ahead of us.

International Gymnast magazine’s coverage of Swedish gymnastics includes:

“Swinging for Success” - Jonna Adlerteg feature (May 2015)

"Swedish History-maker” - Adlerteg profile (November 2010)

"Scouting Scandinavia" - feature on IG's visit to clubs in Sweden and Norway (March 2011)

"Swedish Upswing" - Swedish women's team feature (November 2010)

"Swedish Achiever" - Ida Gustafsson profile (June 3013)

"Sweden's Standout" - Mans Stenberg profile (March 2010)

“A Swedish Champ from Argentina” - Marcela Torres profile (October 2015)

Quick Chat: Veronica Wagner (November 2008)

"Veronica's Date: 2008" - Veronica Wagner profile (February 2005)

"Swedish Sojourn" - Karolina Bohman profile (February 2003)

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

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