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Written by dwight normile    Tuesday, 01 December 2015 09:09    PDF Print
Why Doesn't Texas Have Division I Gymnastics?
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

The 2016 NCAA season will kick off in January and run through April. In the U.S., college gymnastics remains the pinnacle of team competition, complete with a revolving door of rivalries. In our annual NCAA preview, which appeared in the November issue, we asked the men's and women's coaches this question: With the strong gymnastics tradition in Texas, why doesn't the University of Texas-Austin have a gymnastics team?

In 2009 IG published "Texas Tumble: Texas is ripe for college gymnastics, but who will force the issue?" At the time, the last two women's Olympic all-around champions, Carly Patterson and Nastia Liukin, had both trained in Texas. Texas had the most gymnastics clubs in the U.S., and the second-most competitive gymnasts in the country, after California. Texas also has a robust high school gymnastics program.

Said Oklahoma men's coach Mark Williams in that story: "I believe if UT were to add both men's and women's gymnastics, they would be competitive with the top programs in a very short period of time."

While researching the story, IG learned that a Title IX-related lawsuit in 1993 sought the addition of four women's sports at UT-Austin: soccer, gymnastics, rowing and softball. Women's gymnastics had been a varsity sport at Texas until it was dropped in 1981. From 1993-97, soccer, rowing and softball were added, but not gymnastics.

Women's Athletics Director Chris Plonsky told IG that adding gymnastics is "not in our wheelhouse right now. It's not new. We're very aware of the club situation and the interest." Plonsky also said that women's gymnastics doesn't coincide with the mission of UT athletics, which strives to develop teams whose athletes "have a chance to be the U.S. national team and Olympic team members … and gymnastics is just not that way. It is for an athlete who probably is either younger or [who] trains year round…."

That's no longer true. The majority of men's national team members compete collegiately, and two current women's senior national team members, Kyla Ross and Brenna Dowell, are deferring college in an attempt to make the 2016 Olympics. Ross, a world and Olympic champion, signed with UCLA, and Dowell, a 2015 world team member, competed for Oklahoma last season. Half the 2008 U.S. women's Olympic team competed (or is still competing) collegiately, as well: Alicia Sacramone (Brown), Samantha Peszek (UCLA) and Bridget Sloan is in her senior year at Florida. Sloan, for example, has helped Florida win the NCAA team title the last three years. And three-time world champion Simone Biles had signed with UCLA before turning pro.

If Texas, or any other university in the Lone Star State, really wants to be competitive at the NCAAs, gymnastics would be the ticket. Following are responses from the gymnastics coaches in the IG NCAA Preview.

Stanford men's coach Thom Glielmi:

"It is so odd that no Division I school in Texas has men's or women's gymnastics. I think the athletic directors of the schools in Texas do not comprehend the pool of talent available to them and the instant success they would have if they started a program."

Iowa men's coach J.D. Reive:

"Without scholarships, they could probably win a national championship in its second full generation of recruiting."

Penn State men's coach Randy Jepson:

"They would be a top-six team within four years!"

Oklahoma women's coach K.J. Kindler:

"With the Texas tradition in club gymnastics, it seems like an obvious choice and one that would result in great success at UT."

UCLA women's coach Valorie Kondos Field:

"This is the million-dollar question. Not only is Texas the hotbed for gymnastics in the U.S., but UT could easily get a quality experienced coaching staff. UT's reputation for excellence is extremely well known, respected and coveted.

Nebraska women's coach Dan Kendig:

"Great question. I believe they would be an instant success if they were to add gymnastics to their program."

Alabama women's coach Dana Duckworth:

Alabama has certainly benefitted from Texas' strong gymnastics tradition, and I think any Division I school in the state would have a great opportunity for early success if they could keep some of that talent at home."

By proximity alone, the University of Oklahoma has gained several Texas recruits through the years. Its 2015-16 rosters include five Texas gymnasts on the men's team (out of 13) and seven of 16 on the women's team.

Since gymnastics requires a dedicated training facility, it is less costly to add a sport like rowing to a program that is not compliant with Title IX, which most universities with a football team are not. And the statistics reported to the U.S. Department of Education ( each year reveal how rowing is used in an effort to balance the participation numbers.

The figures reported by UT-Austin from Sept. 1, 2014, to Aug. 31, 2015, show a full-time undergraduate population of 36,072: 17,167 men, 18,905 women. Yet under "Unduplicated Count of Participants": 301 men, 262 women. Texas listed 77 members on its rowing team, but its current roster includes 45. (See the figures here.) The year before, Texas listed 102 on the rowing team.

"I had several friends who were recruited to row for Texas, although they had never been in a boat, let alone rowed," said one UT student in the IG story.

In the Houston Chronicle story, 1984 Olympic champion Mary Lou Retton said, "I've told them that we'll come up with the money. I'll help you find a head coach. I'll lend my name. You'd have a national champion within five years."

Retton is married to former UT quarterback Shannon Kelley, and they live in Houston with their four daughters. Retton's daughter McKenna Kelley is currently a freshman gymnast at LSU.

Meanwhile, the state of Texas, a fertile garden for gymnastics, remains a vast desert for the sport collegiately.

Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 27 November 2015 17:14    PDF Print
Inspired by Worlds Finish, Seitz Sees Potential For Rio
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Germany's Elisabeth Seitz told IG that her 10th-place all-around finish at the recent world championships in Glasgow reflected her potential for better results at next year's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Germany's Elisabeth Seitz told IG that her 10th-place all-around finish at the recent world championships in Glasgow reflected her potential for better results at next year's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Seitz, who qualified 23rd to the all-around final in Glasgow, said she was particularly pleased with her performance on uneven bars in the all-around final, where she had the top score.

"Of course I was very happy with my bars," said Seitz, who finished 10th all-around at the 2012 Olympic Games in London and 15th all-around at the 2013 Worlds in Antwerp. "I showed everyone that I have a great bars routine and that I'm a contender for the bars final. 15.233 points is the best score on bars at a world championships for me. That was the most satisfying aspect in the final."

Seitz said she was also glad to perform her balance beam routine without major errors in qualifications and the all-around final, but admitted that floor exercise continued to be a problem for her in Glasgow. She performed on floor exercise in the first rotation of the all-around final, and her score ranked her 24th out of the 24 gymnasts on the apparatus.

"Floor was the biggest challenge for me," Seitz said. "After my surgery last year and the problems with my foot in the last six years, including surgeries in 2010 and 2014, I always have problems with my landings. And that was again where I lost points. But I stayed focused after floor, and I knew I could do it better on beam, vault and bars." 

Seitz is eager to solidify her performance between now and the Olympic test event in Rio in April, from which she hopes to qualify for the Rio Games.

"There are not many new things which will be in my routines in Rio, but there are many things I have to work on," she said. "Especially on my flexibility and my landings on floor, I have potential. And of course I want to do a Yurchenko double twist on vault again."

Seitz also hopes her team can earn one of four berths to the Rio Games that are on the line at the test event. Germany placed ninth in Glasgow. The top eight teams earned automatic berths to the Games; the next eight teams qualified for the test event.

"I think the German team has much potential and we also have good juniors being seniors next year" she told IG. "Our routines are good, but we mustn't make as many mistakes as we did in Glasgow. That's how we can qualify, I think."

Read in-depth coverage of the 2015 World Championships in the December issue of International Gymnast magazine.

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)
"New View from the Top" - Lisa Katharina Hill profile (July/August 2013)
"Quick Chat: Pauline Schäfer" (January/February 2015)
"Calm, Clean Style" - Sophie Scheder profile (December 2013)
"Seizing the Moment" - 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 Amanda Turner    Monday, 23 November 2015 12:37    PDF Print
Soviet Legend Valentin Mogilny Dies at 49
(1 vote, average 5.00 out of 5)

Five-time world champion Valentin Mogilny has died at age 49, the Russian Gymnastics Federation announced Monday.

The federation stated Mogilny died Sunday of a heart attack in France, where he has lived the past 20 years.

Known for his artistic mastery and flair, Mogilny was born December 18, 1965 in Kokhanivka, Dnepropetrovsk Oblast, Soviet Ukraine. He began gymnastics in Dobropillia, Donetsk region, before moving to Leninsk-Kuznetsk in Siberia to train with Vladimir Astafyev at the boarding school set up by coaches Innokenty Mametyev and Galina Mametyeva. Mogilny later moved to Moscow to train under coach Alexander Alexandrov.

Mogilny amassed six world and 10 European championship medals from 1985 to 1990. He was a five-time world champion, winning three golds in 1985 (team, pommel horse,parallel bars) and two in 1989 (team and pommel horse). He was the alternate to the Soviet team to the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. He was also the world all-around silver medalist at the 1989 Worlds in Stuttgart, where he scored three of the competition's four perfect 10.0s in the men's competition.

He also won six gold medals at the European championships, including the all-around title in 1990.

He was married in 1986 to fellow world champion Olga Bicherova. The couple moved to France, where Mogilny acquired citizenship and hoped to continue his career. The couple had a son, Alex Moguilnyi, who was a national-level gymnast in France and is now a coach. Bicherova and Mogilny later divorced.

Valentin Mogilny worked as a coach in France but was plagued by poor health in later life.

Written by John Crumlish    Thursday, 19 November 2015 09:15    PDF Print
Garcia 'Making the Best Out of It' After Injury
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Although 2012 Mexican Olympian Elsa Garcia was unable to compete at the recent world championships in Glasgow after she injured her knees in training there, she told IG she is optimistic that she can recover in time for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Garcia at the 2014 World Championships in Nanning

"I am working to give myself a second Olympic experience, learning from past mistakes and making the best out of it," she said.

Garcia injured her knees when she landed a 1-1/1 twisting Yurchenko vault in the warm-up hall during Mexico’s day of podium training in Glasgow.

"When I landed, both of my knees went backwards," she said. "My left knee did go back but not as much as my right knee. I have been wearing a knee brace for about three-and-a-half weeks, and am now starting the strength and mobility process."

Garcia said the diagnosis for her left knee was a minor hyper-extension of her lateral ligaments, which are now fine. Her right knee, however, "ad more things going on," she said.

"I ruptured my medial collateral ligament, and the outer lateral collateral ligament also got damaged but not as much," Garcia said. "My ACL was fine and that was a relief, but the posterior cruciate ligament got a bit injured as well, and my bones got swollen up because of the impact."

Garcia said she is slowly regaining power in her right knee, and looks forward to resuming training in the next several weeks.

"I have been working on my strength conditioning a lot since I got back from Glasgow," she said. "It´s the only thing I´ve been able to do. The first step was to immobilize the right knee with a knee brace (cast) for about three-and-a-half weeks. Second is to regain mobility and gradually work on the strength. I think I will be able to start with gymnastics gradually, by late December or the first of January."

Although Garcia did not compete in Glasgow, she said seeing her rivals perform there helped her clarify the improvements and changes she wants to make to her routines on all four apparatuses.

"I think I have to mainly strengthen both of my vaults," she told IG. "I can upgrade my bars routine, if all goes well, work on consistency and cleanliness on beam, and add a few upgrades on floor. All of this can be possible with a strong mind and a healthy body, and I am working on both of them very much."

Read in-depth coverage of the 2015 World Championships in the December 2015 issue of International Gymnast magazine. To order back issues, or subscribe to the print and/or digital edition of International Gymnast magazine, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Sunday, 15 November 2015 20:37    PDF Print
Komova: 'I Will Fight for the Top Step of the Pedestal'
(12 votes, average 3.67 out of 5)

Russia's Viktoria Komova told IG that her performances at the recent world championships in Glasgow will help her better prepare for next summer's Olympic Games.

Russia's Viktoria Komova told IG that her performances at the recent world championships in Glasgow, which included a share of gold on uneven bars, enabled her to study her rivals and better prepare for next summer's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

"The key to victory was probably the same as for everyone - a lot of work," said Komova, who shared the title on uneven bars with teammate Daria Spiridonova, Madison Kocian of the U.S. and Fan Yilin of China. "I really wanted to compete at these championships and perform successfully, because this was the last world championships before the Olympic Games. For me it was necessary to psychologically test myself, assess the competitors, see their programs, draw certain conclusions and set tasks for myself for training towards the Olympics."

Komova, the 2012 Olympic all-around silver medalist, said she is eager to earn gold of her own in Rio, after sharing the top spot on the medal podium in a historic four-way tie in Glasgow.

"Four gymnasts on the pedestal is not probable, and most likely will not happen anymore," she said. "I don't know what will happen in Rio, because the Olympic Games aren't predictable. But if I make it to the final, I will fight for the top step of the pedestal."

Komova, who also placed fourth on balance beam and competed on vault in Glasgow, said she hopes to contend for an all-around medal at next summer's Games. She did not compete on floor exercise in Glasgow.

"For Rio I will try to prepare not only for individual apparatuses, but also prepare such a program for the all-around so as to fight for medals of the highest merit!" she told IG.

Read IG's in-depth coverage of the 2015 world championships in the December 2015 issue of International Gymnast magazine. To subscribe to the print and/or digital editions, click here.

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