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Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 19 May 2015 09:13    PDF Print
Gold in Varna Pulls Käslin Out of Slump
(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Swiss gymnast Ilaria Käslin told IG that winning gold and bronze at the recent World Challenger Cup of Varna helped compensate for a recent competitive slump.

“My goals were to make it to the beam, floor and bars finals,” said Käslin, who placed first on floor exercise and third on balance beam at the meet held May 7-9. “In the qualifications on bars it wasn't really good, because I fell on the dismount. I was sad and quite negative, but then with the help from the team I found the positivity and I forgot what I did in the past which wasn't good. In the beam and floor finals, I was more positive, and it was a good thing because I did well.”

Käslin, who finished 22nd in the all-around final at the 2013 world championships in Antwerp, is back on track after mediocre results at last fall’s worlds in Nanning and last month’s European championships in Montpellier.

In Nanning Käslin placed 84th in the all-around qualifications. In Montpellier she was 31st in all-around qualifications – fourth among the four Swiss all-arounders.

“In Nanning and Montpellier I made a lot of mistakes,” Käslin said. “After Nanning I started to be very negative, and it started to be difficult to believe in myself and in what I do. If I think about Nanning I don’t have a positive memory about my performances. In Montpellier I don't know why I performed like that. It was a bad day.”

Käslin said she was not disheartened by her overall experience in Montpellier, where teammate Giulia Steingruber became the first Swiss woman to win the European all-around title.

“Montpellier wasn't good for me, but for the others girls it was really good, and especially for Giulia,” Käslin said. “She did amazing! So when I came back to Switzerland I was really motivated.”

Käslin’s next target is a solid performance at this fall’s worlds in Glasgow, where the top eight teams will earn berths to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Four additional teams will earn berths to the Games at a test event, also in Rio, early next year. At the 2014 worlds, Switzerland finished 19th in team qualifications.

“I will give the best of myself in training to be ready in Glasgow,” Käslin told IG. “The team and I want do better than in Nanning and qualify for the test event, and continue in the Olympic Games qualifications.”

Read about Giulia Steingruber’s historic win at the European championships in the May 2015 issue of International Gymnast magazine, which also features her on the cover.

International Gymnast magazine's coverage of Swiss gymnasts includes:

"No Turning Back" - Claudio Capelli profile (June 2011)

"Swiss Hit" - Ariella Käslin profile (December 2008)

"Swiss Thrill-seeker" - A. Käslin short profile (January/February 2007)

"A New Swiss Standout" - Ilaria Käslin profile (December 2013)

Giulia Steingruber cover photo (May 2015)

"Full Force" - Steingruber interview (June 2013)

"A New Hit for the Swiss" - Steingruber profile (December 2009)

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

 
Written by dwight normile    Sunday, 17 May 2015 09:14    PDF Print
Hall of Fame Grows to 87 Members, 22 Nations
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)


The week after tornadoes ripped through central Oklahoma, the 19th induction dinner for the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame braced for another round of severe weather on May 16 as five individuals were honored in Oklahoma City. The event was held at the Petroleum club, which sits on the 34th floor of the Chase Tower and offers panoramic views of the region, not to mention any developing weather patterns.

Quipped emcee Bart Conner, whose back faced the windows, "If anyone sees a funnel cloud behind me, let me know."

On this evening, however, even a few dramatic bolts of lightning and heavy rain could not dampen the spirits of the gathered guests, who marveled at the accomplishments of each honoree.


2015 honorees (l-r): Philippe Silacci, Johanna Quaas, Abie Grossfeld, Yelena Zamolodchikova, Valery Belenky

Valery Belenky became the first gymnast from Azerbaijan to be inducted into the Hall, and Yelena Zamolodchikova became the 16th from Russia.

Also honored were Philippe Silacci of Switzerland, retired FIG Media Relations Officer (AAI International Order of Merit); Johanna Quaas of Germany, at 89 the oldest competitive gymnast in the world (Nadia Comaneci Sportsmanship Award); and Abie Grossfeld of the U.S., a two-time Olympian and coach of the gold-medal U.S. men's team at the 1984 Olympics (Frank Bare Award).

The stories of Zamolodchikova and Belenky followed similar paths; both trained at modest gyms as kids and credited their personal coaches for much of their success.

Zamolodchikova won two gold medals, on vault and floor exercise, at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. And had she not fallen on floor exercise in the all-around, she probably would have won that gold, too. That she was Olympic champion on vault and floor was ironic, since her gym in Moscow was too small to include a vault runway or a complete floor exercise mat. Her coach, Nadezhda Maslennikova, was also a parental figure and saw the immense potential and toughness in Yelena. The rest is history.

In Oklahoma City, Zamolodchikova's tone was one of humility and gratitude as she joined a Hall of Fame that included so many legends of the sport.

"I became one of them, and I give a big thank you to my coach," she said through translator Rustam Sharipov, the 1996 Olympic champion on parallel bars.

Belenky started gymnastics late, at age 10, when Alexei Orehkov discovered him at his school. And as Belenky improved, he turned down invitations to move to Moscow to practice with other coaches. He remained in Baku with Orehkov.

Belenky was part of the gold-medal 1992 Olympic team, the last time the Soviet Union competed together. In 1993 he competed under the FIG flag at the Birmingham world championships, since Azerbaijan was too small to sponsor a program. Belenky had a second career representing Germany, where he used the training system he grew up with to win the world title on pommel horse in 1997.

He praised the leadership of 2011 Hall of Fame inductee Leonid Arkayev, and how his strict training regimen had produced impressive results.

"What we went through makes us who we are," Belenky said through Sharipov.

Belenky is now a coach in Germany, and groomed Marcel Nguyen to the all-around silver at the 2012 Olympics. When he began coaching Nguyen years earlier, however, he was told by a German official that "not every great gymnast can be a good coach." Belenky's response: "If you don't give me the chance, you'll never know."

Silacci opened his speech with his memory of his first world championships in 1987 in Rotterdam. He recalled sitting through "two full days of compulsory exercises to the same piano music," which made him vow never to return to such an event. But he did, and soon came to appreciate not only artistic gymnastics, but all the disciplines under the vast umbrella of the FIG.

That Silacci was rarely seen or noticed at major events was testament to the efficiency of his work. His behind-the-scenes efforts and attention to detail always made the experience seamless for the media.

"It's a great honor to be recognized by your prestigious institution," Silacci said in English, one of five languages he speaks.

Quaas was an inspiration to everyone at the dinner for her bright smile and boundless energy. Thanks to the Internet, her two exhibition routines at the 2012 Cottbus Tournament of Masters were uploaded to YouTube, and each drew more than 3.5 million views. She has been on a celebrity tour of sorts ever since.

"It was a wonderful surprise when I received the news that I was receiving the Nadia Comaneci Award," she said through translator and IGHOF Board member Lieve Olivera. "I never have been a European or world champion. However, I was the German champion for 11 years," she said.

Throughout the evening, Quaas was grinning ear-to-ear.

"My heart is beating with happiness," she said. "I am having a grand time in Oklahoma City."

To close her acceptance speech, she ended with perhaps the wisest words of all: "You are never too old to learn something new."

Grossfeld, a master story-teller with an endless supply of jokes, closed the evening with an entertaining combination of both. But above that stood his heartfelt comments about his life in gymnastics.

"Gymnastics has provided me with many opportunities and experiences I would otherwise never had," said the two-time Olympian (1956, 1960) and long-time coach at Southern Connecticut State University.

Grossfeld also spoke of his insecurities as a young coach, believing he would never create an Olympian. He did that more than once, and then overachieved as coach the 1984 men's Olympic team, whose victory in Los Angeles "made me a believer in miracles."

Grossfeld ended the night with a fitting charge that revealed a deep love and respect for the sport that has defined his life: "If you love your kids, let them do gymnastics."

Read more on the Hall of Fame dinner and in-depth interviews with the five honorees in the June issue of International Gymnast.

 
Written by dwight normile    Friday, 15 May 2015 13:07    PDF Print
Zamolodchikova, Belenky to be Inducted Into International Gymnastics Hall of Fame
(5 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)


On Saturday evening in Oklahoma City, Valery Belenky (Azerbaijan) and Yelena Zamolodchikova (Russia) will be inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame. It will be the 19th annual induction ceremony of the IGHOF, bringing the total membership to 87 individuals from 22 countries.

Also receiving awards are Philippe Silacci (Switzerland), Johanna Quaas (Germany) and Abie Grossfeld (United States).


2015 honorees (l-r): Philippe Silacci, Yelena Zamolodchikova, Johanna Quaas, Valery Belenky, Abie Grossfeld

Silacci, longtime media relations director for the International Gymnastics Federation, will receive the International Order of Merit.

Quaas, at 89 the oldest living competitive gymnast, will be the second recipient of the Nadia Comaneci Sportsmanship Award. (Jordyn Wieber received it in 2013.)

Grossfeld, a two-time Olympian, successful college coach and coach of the victorious 1984 Olympic U.S. men's team, will received the Frank Bare Award.

A native of Baku, Belenky was a member of the gold-medal 1992 Olympic team, the last games in which the Soviet Union competed together (as the Commonwealth of Independent States). Belenky also was a two-time world pommel horse champion, representing two countries: Soviet Union (1991) and Germany (1997).

Born in Moscow, Zamolodchikova won two golds (vault and floor exercise) at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. She also won two world titles on vault, in 1999 and 2002.

For more information about the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame, visit www.ighof.com.

 
Written by John Crumlish    Wednesday, 13 May 2015 15:22    PDF Print
Cournoyer Confident Heading Into Canadian Championships
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Preparing for the Canadian championships later this month, 2014 Canadian all-around bronze medalist René Cournoyer told IG he wants to build on his recent progress and challenge for the gold medal.

“I believe that my chances to win the all-around are excellent if I perform as expected,” said Cournoyer of the championships that will take place May 26-31 in Gatineau, Quebec.

Cournoyer said he is aiming for a consistent performance that will help him earn a spot on the Canadian team for this summer’s Pan American Games in Toronto.

“My main goal is a competition without falls or major mistakes,” he said. “Equally, an average of 14.50 points per apparatus is possible and will assure me a place on the team for the Pan Am Games.”

Born April 23, 1997, in Repentigny, Quebec, Cournoyer trains under coach Jean-Sébastien Tougas at Gymnika in his hometown.

Last year Cournoyer placed third all-around at the Canadian championships; and sixth on vault and seventh on high bar at the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, where he was also first reserve for the all-around final.

Cournoyer said he wants to continue the momentum he established at the Elite Canada meet earlier this year, where he placed second all-around.

“Since Elite Canada I have greatly added to my stability, particularly on rings and vault,” he said. “I have also worked hard on my dismounts, to avoid deductions that are easy to avoid.”

Cournoyer said he is also hopeful that Canada can earn a berth to next summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The top eight teams at this fall’s world championships in Glasgow, and four additional teams at a test event early next year in Rio, will qualify for the Games.

“To earn this in Glasgow will be far from easy,” Cournoyer told IG. “Our team must perform absolutely at our best if we want to have a chance. Stability in the routines and an impeccable care are necessary to the team.”

IG magazine's recent coverage of Canadian gymnasts includes:

"Aiming to Top the Charts" - Maegan Chant interview (October 2013)

"Canadian Promise" - Ellie Black chat and Robert Watson profile (July/August 2014)

"Canadian Diversity" - Ellie Black profile (July/August 2013)

"Black to Business" - Ellie Black interview (November 2012)

"Candid Canadians" - Madeline Gardiner and Jackson Payne interviews (September 2011)

Chat with Christine Peng-Peng Lee (April 2015)

Christine Peng-Peng Lee interview (April 2011)

Gael Mackie profile (July/August 2011)

"Sudden Impact" - Victoria Moors interview (January/February 2013)

"Making Tracks" - Scott Morgan profile (December 2013)

Isabela Onyshko profile (July/August 2014)

"Confident Canadian" - Brittany Rogers interview (May 2012)

"Canadian Diversity" - Hugh Smith profile (July/August 2013)

"Catching up with... Lori Strong Ballard" (June 2012)

Aleeza Yu two-page photo spread (May 2014)

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

 
Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 08 May 2015 07:59    PDF Print
Berger Getting 'Better And Better' After Knee Injury
(1 vote, average 5.00 out of 5)

2012 Olympic vault finalist Janine Berger of Germany told IG she is progressing well as she continues to recover from ager a knee injury she suffered last Jane.

“I am still doing my rehabilitation but my knee is getting better and better,” she said. “But it’s a long time and a hard way.”

Berger, who tore her left ACL when landing a double-twisting Tsukahara vault at the German championships last June, said she is able to do limited training but hopes to soon increase her workload.

“I can do bars and dismounts on bars,” she said. “I can do beam but no floor and vault. I think that in three months I can do vault again.”

Berger said she was impressed by the German team’s performance at last month’s European championships in Montpellier, where Pauline Tratz placed 18th all-around and Pauline Schäfer placed seventh on balance beam.

“Germany did a good job,” she said. “We have a lot of injured girls and they did really well there.”

Berger said she is cautiously optimistic that she can return to competitive form in time for next summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

“I hope to be back soon, and my goal is to be back really fast but sure,” she told IG. “My goal is the Olympics, so I have time and I don’t want to risk a torn ACL again.”

International Gymnast magazine's recent features on German gymnasts include:

“Shooting Star” - Tabea Alt profile (May 2015)

“Tough Lesson" - Janine Berger interview (October 2012)

Kim Bui interview (April 2013)

Maike Enderle profile (September 2014)

"Renaissance Man" – Fabian Hambüchen cover story (December 2013)

"New View from the Top" - Lisa Katharina Hill profile (July/August 2013)

"Leaps and Bounds for Germany" - Nadine Jarosch profile (January/February 2012)

"Silver Streak" – Marcel Nguyen interview (November 2012)

"Quick Chat: Pauline Schäfer" (January/February 2015)

"Calm, Clean Style" - Sophie Scheder profile (December 2013)

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

 
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