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Written by John Crumlish    Wednesday, 25 May 2016 08:41    PDF Print
Austria's Ecker On Rio Berth: 'I Didn't Know Whether to Cry or Laugh'
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

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.

Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 24 May 2016 09:16    PDF Print
Spiridonova Sets Sights on Solo Gold in Rio
(6 votes, average 3.50 out of 5)

Russian gymnast Daria Spiridonova told IG that, after sharing the 2015 world title on uneven bars with three other gymnasts, she is working on every aspect of her routine for a chance to win outright at this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

“I need to do my routine maximally, cleanly and confidently,” said Spiridonova, who tied teammate Viktoria Komova, Madison Kocian of the U.S. and Fan Yilin of China for first place on uneven bars at the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow. “I am working on clean execution. It will be possible to try something event more. “

Spiridonova is next scheduled to compete at the European Championships that will take place in Bern from June 1-5.

Read “Soldiering On,” a profile on Spiridonova, in the May issue of International Gymnast magazine.

International Gymnast magazine’s recent coverage of Russian gymnasts includes:

“Reflections” - Dmitry Bilozerchev feature/interview (January/February 2015)

Natalia Bobrova tribute (May 2015)

“Life in Balance” - Svetlana Grozdova update (May 2016)

“Work in Progress” - Maria Kharenkova profile (June 2015)

“Mixed Fortunes” - Viktoria Komova interview (January 2016)

Komova update (July/August 2015)

“On Pace for Rio Gold” - Maria Paseka profile (March 2016)

“Tall Order” - Alla Sosnitskaya interview (March 2015)

“Soldiering On” - Daria Spiridonova (May 2015)

“A Rising Russian” - Yelena Yeryomina profile (September 2015)

Yelena Zamolodchikova interview/Hall of Fame induction feature (June 2015)

2015 World Championships special issue (December 2015)

2015 European Games coverage (July/August 2015)

2015 European Championships coverage (May 2015)

To subscribe or order back issues, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Monday, 23 May 2016 10:19    PDF Print
Germany's Toba Tumbles Toward Second Olympic Start
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

After leading Germany to Olympic qualification at the test event in Rio de Janeiro in April, German gymnast Andreas Toba told IG that he will need even more consistency and power in order to qualify for his second Olympic Games this summer.

“I think my difficulty is so far OK, but I need to work on my stability and do every skill more cleanly,” said the 25-year-old Toba (pictured here at the test event), who finished fifth all-around and first with his team at the test event. “It helps me a lot, of course, to see that the hard work from the past years paid off at the test event. So that's the reason why I have to work harder now to get even stronger, to get on the team for the Olympics.”

A member of Germany’s fourth-place team at the 2012 London Games, Toba placed seventh all-around at the 2013 Europeans Championships in Moscow and 16th all-around at the 2014 World Championships in Nanning. He was second all-around at the 2013, 2014 and 2015 German Championships.

Germany finished ninth at the 2015 Worlds in Glasgow, from which the top eight teams qualified directly to this summer’s Rio Games. The top four teams at the test event earned the remaining four berths to Rio.

Toba is now aiming for a steady individual performance and a successful team result at the European Championships that will take place in Bern from May 25-29.

“In Bern I want to do my routines more cleanly, to see if the way I trained in the last month was a good direction,” he said. “And for sure we want to try to make it into the team final.”

Toba said stamina and refinement will help him earn a spot on the German team for the Rio Games.

“I think I can offer to the team the experiences and the stability that I earned over the years in a lot of competitions,” he said. “So, from now, I need to practice more on my stability. That means more routines and especially working in a more detailed way.”

Toba said he continues to benefit from the advice and guidance provided by his father, three-time Olympian Marius Toba. The elder Toba placed 21st all-around for Romania at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, and made the rings finals for Germany at the 1996 Atlanta Games and 2000 Sydney Games.

“In a lot of situations in my career as a gymnast, in which I hadn't an answer, my father had one!” Toba told IG. “Also, in March, when I had surgery on my knee, I was very sad because I thought I wouldn't make it to the test event. He was there and told me I can do this, if I want it. He's an inspiration for me because he always kept going on, no matter how hard it was. So that is what I also have to do! And he's always watching to see if I do the right things to improve myself.”

International Gymnast magazine's 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)

"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)

"Seizing the Moment" - Elisabeth Seitz interview (July/August 2011)

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

Written by dwight normile    Sunday, 22 May 2016 09:48    PDF Print
20th Annual Induction Ceremony Is History
(5 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

The 20th annual induction ceremony for the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame added another vital chapter in preserving gymnastics history. And for the first time in a few years, the event, held in Oklahoma City on May 21, enjoyed sunny skies instead of tornado threats.

Emcee Bart Conner inducted four legendary gymnasts in the following order: Aurelia Dobre (Romania), Igor Korobchinsky (Ukraine), Jordan Jovtchev (Bulgaria) and Tatiana Lysenko (Ukraine).

Dobre, the first Romanian to win the world all-around title (1987), gave a wonderful acceptance speech. "I am very humbled and honored to be here tonight," she said, before mentioning all of the people that had supported her as a young gymnast, including her parents. "Nadia was also a great inspiration to me."

She and her husband, Fariborz Mofid, have four boys, the oldest a recent graduate from Iowa, where he competed on the gymnastics team. They also run Dobre Gymnastics Academy in Gaithersburg, Md. "Gymnastics has affected me in so many positive ways," Dobre said in closing. And it's a sure bet that her elegant gymnastics inspired a whole generation of kids around the world.

Korobchinsky took the podium with the confidence he displayed as the 1989 all-around world champion. He began by revealing his start as a gymnast. "I saw (Nikolai) Andrianov (Hall of Fame Class of 2001) on high bar, and I said to my mom, 'I want to be like Andrianov.'" Had the Berlin Wall not come down just weeks after his amazing all-around victory in Stuttgart, Germany, Korobchinsky might have matched Andrianov's accomplishments. But as the Soviet Union dissolved into separate republics, and government funding for sports began to disappear, Korobchinsky forged on and eventually competed for his native Ukraine. "I am proud to be here (at the Hall of Fame dinner), because it's the best of the best of gymnastics." Korobchinsky, who now lives in Houston with his wife and two daughters, certainly fits right in.

Jovtchev, the only six-time Olympian in men's gymnastics, was always a man of few words; he let his gymnastics speak for itself. But his brief acceptance speech came straight from the heart. He began by saying he thought he was through with gymnastics after the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, when he and two teammates decided to stay in the U.S. to find a better life. He ended up moving to Norman, Okla., and working at the Bart Conner Gymnastics Academy, where his career experienced a jump start that including four more Olympic Games. He specifically thanked his wife, Boriana, for all of the sacrifices she made along the way. "How thankful and proud I am tonight," said Jovtchev, the second Bulgarian to be inducted, after Stoyan Deltchev.

Lysenko provided a magnanimous close to the evening with a speech that was as complete as one of her routines. She began by wondering why Bart Conner (IGHOF Chairman of the Board) had called her in the first place. "This was the last thing I expected," she said of her induction. She marveled at "seeing my life unfold" during the video collage of her career, which was shown on large screens for all of the inductees. "I had to pause a minute to digest it."

Lysenko credited her coach, Oleg Ostapenko, for her success, and thanked everyone involved in the sport, even the officials. "Some of you have judged me," she began, looking in the direction of Jackie Fie, a former international judge. "Thank you for your generosity [laughter]." But then she got serious again. "What a big deal this is … I still feel in awe."

Prior to the the induction of the four athletes, the 1996 women's Olympic team was recognized for winning the first team gold for the U.S. in the Olympics. Five of the Magnificent 7 were in attendance: Jaycie Phelps, Amanda Borden, Amy Chow, Dominique Moceanu and Shannon Miller. Absent were Dominique Dawes and Kerri Strug, who had other commitments. Sports Illustrated Senior writer Greg Bishop was on hand taking notes, and said there will be an eight-page feature on that memorable team.

Bill Sorenson, who founded American Athletic, Inc., was the recipient of the Frank Bare Award, which last year went to Abie Grossfeld. After his video was shown, with photos of his one-room school in Iowa (which had an average of nine students) to the large Olympic arenas filled with AAI equipment, Sorenson was visibly moved. "You know how to bring tears to my eyes," he said, before sharing his honor. "I accept it on behalf of the employees."

Read complete coverage of the 20th Hall of Fame induction, along with interviews of each inductee, in the June issue of International Gymnast.

Written by dwight normile    Friday, 20 May 2016 08:02    PDF Print
Dobre, Jovtchev, Korobchinsky and Lysenko Set for Hall of Fame Induction
(5 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

The International Gymnastics Hall of Fame will grow to include 91 individuals from 22 nations on May 21 in Oklahoma City. The class of 2016 comprises Aurelia Dobre (Romania), Jordan Jovtchev (Bulgaria), Igor Korobchinsky (Ukraine) and Tatiana Lysenko (Ukraine).

Bill Sorenson, who founded American Athletic, Inc., will receive the Frank Bare Award, and the 1996 women's Olympic team, which won the first gold medal for the U.S., will be honored as special guests at the 20th annual induction dinner.

Dobre stole the show at the 1987 World Championships in Rotterdam, where she became the first Romanian all-around champion. She also led her team to an upset victory over the Soviet Union, and won a third gold medal in the balance beam final.

Jovtchev will be remembered as the first (and only) male gymnast to compete in six Olympic Games (1992-2012), in which he won four medals. In 16 World Championships, however, he earned 13 medals, including four golds.

Korobchinsky made his mark in 1989, when he won the USSR Cup in April, the European Championships in May, the USSR Nationals in September and, finally, the World Championships in October.

Lysenko's career included two gold medals at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics (team, balance beam), and medals in three consecutive World Championships: 1991 (team gold); 1992 (floor bronze); and 1993 (all-around bronze). Her most impressive competition, however, might have been the 1990 World Cup, where she defeated reigning world champion Svetlana Boginskaya for the all-around gold.

Read complete coverage of the induction ceremony in the June issue of International Gymnast.

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