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Written by John Crumlish    Sunday, 31 December 2006 15:06    PDF Print
Wagner: Family, Food and Fun for the Holidays
In the latest of IG Online's holiday features, Swedish Olympian Veronica Wagner describes her family's yuletide customs and festivities.
Veronica Wagner

Wagner, the sole Swedish qualifier to the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, said her family rotates its Christmas gathering among three locations every three years: the first with her mother's relatives at her aunt's house; the second with her father's relatives; and the third at her parents' house, with relatives from both sides of the family. This year, Wagner and family members gathered at her aunt's house.

Christmas Day brings the family and friends together for games and food.

"We meet some different people that day, friends and others," Wagner told IG. "We play games like Monopoly, and none of us will be the loser without a big fight. We have lot of fun, because all of us like to win. Or, should I say, we can be silly in my family, because no one can take a loss very well. If I get the time, I will also make gingerbread. I love to make my own."

Wagner said ice-skating is another wintertime activity she and other Swedes enjoy.

"We try to go and skate on a lake a few minutes from our home," she said. "In Sweden almost every kid and parent can skate. Maybe that's why we are Olympic and world champions in that sport right now. But right now the weather is too hot to go and skate on real lakes, so we are still waiting for the snow and the cold to come."

Above all, Wagner said she is looking forward to quality time with loved ones.

"The thing I enjoy most is being with my family and friends, because I love them all, and Christmas is the time to take care of those you love!" she said.

Coached by Staffan Soederberg, the 19-year-old Wagner placed 55th all-around in preliminaries at the 2004 Olympics, and 30th all-around in preliminaries at the 2005 World Championships in Melbourne.

In 2006, Wagner was 13th all-around at the European Championships in Volos, Greece; and 62nd all-around at the World Championships in Aarhus, Denmark. She was also a finalist in three World Cup competitions: the Cottbus Cup in Germany (vault, balance beam), the French International in Lyon (balance beam, floor exercise) and the Ghent World Cup (vault).

Wagner had a training break from Dec. 22-27, and returned to full training Dec. 28-30. Wagner and her teammates will not train on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day, but they have a national training camp beginning Jan. 2.

"We have one more day (off) than normal, and I'm excited," Wagner said. "But I know myself. After a few days I will do a lot of stuff to keep me busy - not too much though, because I need the rest, too! But I have the time to hang out with my friends, and that will be fun. I hope we will have a big, great party on New Year's Eve. If we have a dance floor, I'll be there!"

Wagner, who aspires to become a chiropractor, said her goals for 2007 include winning a World Cup medal and qualifying for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The social Wagner said World Cup competitions will also give her the opportunity to mingle with her competitors.

"I will also enjoy meeting all the girls at all the World Cups this year – and some of the boys, too!" she said. "I miss many of them, and we do have such a great time. I really hope to meet Alicia Sacramone because we always have so much fun! I will take this chance to wish her a late happy birthday (Dec. 3). I wish everyone a happy, fun, and great Christmas. Take care, and enjoy the new year. I know I will! Let us hope 2007 will be the best year ever!"

A Wagner Family Christmas

The family has lunch at 1 p.m. on Christmas Eve, leaving time to prepare for another Swedish tradition that begins at 3 p.m., Wagner said. "In Sweden, at 3 o'clock, everyone young and old will watch Donald Duck, and many short (cartoons) like Santa and Mickey Mouse, and so on," she said. "That is tradition for everyone."

Wagner said the typical Swedish Christmas menu includes ham, smoked salmon, boiled egg halves with caviar, meatballs, small sausage, chipolata, herring and potatoes. "We have many different kinds of herring, such as pickled in mustard," she said.

Wagner noted several menu items that are unique to Sweden, including:

Porridge mixed with a single almond: "The one who gets that in their bowl will make a wish and will have some good luck," she said.

Glögg (mulled wine with sugar and herbs): "We drink it with almonds and raisins in it, which we add for the taste," she said.

Julmust: a cola-type soda unique to Sweden, which kids drink while their parents enjoy glögg.

"The recipe is so secret that only one person knows the exact things to put in it," Wagner said. "Many years ago people made their julmust the Christmas before they were going to drink it, and they opened the bottle one year later," Wagner said. "Now you can buy it in any store in Sweden. If you want to try it you can certainly buy it in Ikea, too!"

Pepparkaka: hard gingerbread biscuits. "If you have tried them you will for sure eat a lot of them during this time of yea," Wagner said.

Is chocolate: a sweet, softer kind of chocolate that is popular on Christmas.

Knäck: a taffy/toffee-like sweet. "The taste is wonderful!" Wagner said.

Lussebulle: roughly translated as "Lucia bread," this is a saffron bun resembling a figure eight. Served with coffee, it is usually eaten from December 13-24, but sometimes throughout the winter.

Jansson's frestelse: roughly translated as "Jansson's temptation," this is a gratin type dish of herring, onion and sliced potatoes.

Veronica Wagner is featured in the following issues of International Gymnast magazine:

February 2005: "Veronica's Date – 2008" (profile)
November 2004: "Just Getting Started" (short Olympic profile)

To subscribe to IG magazine or order back issues, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Sunday, 31 December 2006 15:04    PDF Print
Hard Work Ahead for Hopfner-Hibbs
In the latest in IG Online's series of holiday features, 2006 world balance beam bronze medalist Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs (Canada) shares her new years resolutions.
Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs

Hopfner-Hibbs, the first Canadian woman to win a world championships medal, has gymnastics-related resolutions for 2007.

"My New Year's resolution is to continue working hard in the gym, and work on the 'performance' factor of my gymnastics," she said.

Hopfner-Hibbs, who is enjoying a nine-day training break for the holidays, celebrated Christmas Eve with her mother's side of the family.

"We all get together and have a gift exchange and a big Christmas dinner," she said. "This is actually my favorite day of the entire year!"

The family festivities continued on Christmas Day, Hopfner-Hibbs said. "We open gifts and have a big Christmas breakfast at my house. This is only with my immediate family. In the afternoon, my sister and I go to my dad's house for another Christmas celebration!"

In addition to her Worlds medal, the 17-year-old Hopfner-Hibbs had a memorable competitive year in 2006. At the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, she finished second all-around and first on uneven bars and balance beam. At the Pacific Alliance Championships in Honolulu, she was fourth all-around and third on balance beam and floor exercise. Hopfner-Hibbs also placed first all around at the Canadian Championships.

Earlier this month, Hopfner-Hibbs finished fifth on balance beam at the World Cup Final in Sao Paulo.

Hopfner-Hibbs, who trains at Sport Seneca in Toronto under coaches Carol-Angela Orchard, Brian McVey and Lawson Hamer, said her favorite Christmas tradition is getting together with her family.

"We have so much fun together," she said. "Because I travel so much for gymnastics, I don't get to see them very often, so I really enjoy the time I get to spend with them."

Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs is featured in the following issues of International Gymnast magazine:

December 2006 World Championships special issue
June 2006: Pacific Alliance Championships coverage
May 2006: Commonwealth Games coverage
March 2006: "One Step Towards 2008" (short profile)

Written by John Crumlish    Saturday, 30 December 2006 14:59    PDF Print
No Holiday Downtime for Garcia
In the latest of IG Online's holiday features, Elsa Garcia of Mexico describes her holiday season full of travel and training.
Elsa Garcia

Garcia, the top Mexican performer at the 2006 World Championships, spent Christmas with her parents and sister in Monterrey. On New Year's Eve, she is traveling to Veracruz for a get-together with her father's side of the family (including his brother and sister) and one of her mother's sisters.

"We usually play card games like UNO, and the food is a variety of traditional Mexican dishes," Garcia told IG. "We stay up late talking about just about everything!"

Garcia enjoyed a very successful competition year in 2006. Coached by the husband-and-wife team of Antonio Barraza and Teresa Lopez, she placed fifth all-around at the American Cup in March; first all-around at the Central American and Caribbean Games in the summer; and 33rd all-around in preliminaries at the World Championships, held in Aarhus, Denmark, in October.

Although Garcia is busy outside the gym during the holidays, she has been training regularly (with the exception of December 24, 25 and 31). She expects to join other members of the Mexican national team at a training camp that begins January 2 in Cancun.

"Antonio is planning a training camp in Cancun because the weather is going to be too cold here for us to train, (since) we don't have a heater in our gym," Garcia explained.

At the 2006 Worlds, Mexico placed 18th. The top 12 teams at the 2007 Worlds (to be held in Stuttgart in September) will qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, and teams 13-18 will qualify two individuals each for Beijing. Garcia's gymnastics goals for 2007 include Olympic qualification.

"My New Year´s resolution will be to train as hard as I can so I can be in the best shape possible for Worlds," she said. "This will help Mexico fight and achieve a place among the first 18 countries, so we can send at least two gymnasts to Beijing. Although finishing among first 12 countries would be like a dream come true, I think that (top 18) will be the goal for most of the girls on the national team."

No matter what, Garcia said she wants to be content throughout the new year.

"A personal resolution would be to enjoy every moment as it were my last, because it's not coming back," she said. "I want to make the most out of everything."

Read a profile on Garcia in the May 2006 issue of International Gymnast magazine.

Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 29 December 2006 14:55    PDF Print
Horton Ready to Bring On New Year
(1 vote, average 5.00 out of 5)
Continuing IG Online's series of holiday features on gymnasts around the world, American Jonathan Horton talks about his plans in and out of the gym.
Jonathan Horton

Horton, a member of the 13th-place U.S. team at the 2006 World Championships, is looking forward to Christmas with his family in Texas.

"I am going to be in Houston with my family until January 2," Horton told IG. "It is exciting for me to be home for so long because I spend all year in Norman, Oklahoma, for school. My whole family meets at one house and we spend all day together. I have a pretty large family, and it can be a pretty interesting day when everyone is opening gifts and going crazy at the same time."

A junior at the University of Oklahoma, Horton finished first all-around at the 2006 NCAA Championships. He finished second all-around at the 2006 U.S. Championships.

Horton said he plans to train during the holidays, with the exception of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve (his 21st birthday) and New Year's Day. "Other than that, I am still training a lot in the gym and doing routines to prepare for next season," he said.

Horton added that he does not have a resolution for 2007.

"I've never had a New Year's resolution before," he said. "I don't think I have anything for this year, either."

Jonathan Horton is featured in the following issues of International Gymnast magazine:

May 2006: cover photo, NCAA Championships coverage
October 2006: U.S. Championships coverage
October 2005: U.S. Championships coverage
May 2005: NCAA Championships coverage

To order back issues of IG magazine, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Thursday, 28 December 2006 14:53    PDF Print
Mys Family Prefers Mystery
(6 votes, average 3.33 out of 5)

Continuing IG Online's series of holiday features on gymnasts around the world, Gaelle Mys of Belgium talks about her family-filled Christmas gathering.

Gaelle Mys

Mys celebrated Christmas with her family at her grandmother's house.

A week before Christmas, Mys said, her family members each pick a name out of a box, which dictates for whom they must buy a present. On Christmas Eve, the gifts are placed under the Christmas tree.

"Everybody gets a present from a family member, but we don't know which one," Mys, 15, told IG. "We all pick a number to know who will open a present next. After we've opened our present we have to guess who it's from. That's not always easy, if you've gotten a pair of socks or pajamas!"

At the 2006 European Junior Championships, held in Volos, Greece, Mys won the bronze medal on floor exercise and placed sixth all-around. She also finished sixth on balance beam and seventh on vault. In 2005, Mys won the junior all-around title at the Stella Zakharova Cup in Ukraine.

Mys, who trains under coach Gerrit Beltman at the Belgian national team training center in Ghent, had a training break from Dec. 22-27, and will resume training from Dec. 28-31. On New Year's Eve, Mys will train in the morning, and then celebrate the new year at her parents' home.

Mys, who will return to training on Jan. 2, said she has ambitious plans for the new year.

"I'm going to try to train harder and do my best to get a good result at the world championships in 2007," she said. "Of course I'll try to have fun and have a good year."

Gaelle Mys is featured in the following issue of International Gymnast magazine:

October 2005: "Mighty Mys" (profile)

To order back issues of IG magazine, click here.


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