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Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 17 April 2012 00:11    PDF Print
Five-Medal Haul Boosts Bouallegue's Confidence
(9 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

After winning two gold and three silver medals at last week's African championships in Tunis, Wajdi Bouallegue of Tunisia told IG that success in front of his home crowd has boosted his confidence for this summer's Olympic Games.

Wajdi Bouallegue (Tunisia)

"I'm very happy with the floor and vault gold medals because many fans were expecting me to be the in the pole position, so I thank them for their immense support," said Bouallegue, who has won the African title on floor exercise six times since 2000. "Secondly I demonstrated that I'm the king of floor in the history of the African continent. I'm really proud."

Bouallegue, who placed second all-around to Egypt's Mohammed El Saharty in Tunis, said competing well there was also a source of validation as he prepares for his second Olympic start in London.

"I had a strong feeling to honor my country," said the 30-year-old Bouallegue, who competed at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and is the only Tunisian gymnast qualified for London. "For Tunisians, I was confident because I have always been an example of a serious gymnast for them, so it was my job to prove that I deserve this honorific place. It was not easy but I am working hard for that, especially in this Olympic year."

Bouallegue said he is now shifting his aim to London, where he intends to make a strong impact on floor exercise, his best event. He has won several World Cup medals on the event, including the title at the 2007 Ghent World Cup.

"The London Olympics is absolutely a different job," he told IG. "I will focus on my floor exercise routine. I feel really confident about that, and I look to be ready to take part in the floor final."

Read "Tenacious Tunisian," an in-depth interview with Bouallegue, in the March 2012 issue of International Gymnast magazine. To order back issues, click here.

Written by Amanda Turner    Thursday, 12 April 2012 12:56    PDF Print
Hypolito Optimistic for Olympics After Surgery
(7 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Two-time world floor exercise champion Diego Hypolito (Brazil) will sit out this weekend's international event in São Bernardo following recent knee surgery, but plans to compete again before the month is up.

Hypolito, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right meniscus March 16, resumed training April 9 following two weeks of physical therapy.

Diego Hypolito (Brazil)

"The movement is completely perfect, even better than the other knee," Hypolito, 25, told a Brazilian newspaper. "I don't have any pain. I was very dedicated during the recovery period, not losing any focus."

The oft-operated-on Brazilian said his fifth surgery went well. His past operations included knee and foot surgeries, as well as another meniscus repair on the same knee before the 2008 Olympics.

"This surgery was fairly simple, similar to 2008," he said of his recent repair. "But it's important to note that this time, the recovery was very good, even better than 2008. I started physical therapy the same day. The incision site is the same for the meniscus. But I found that my body responded much better. It's not so swollen, there's no edema, which was could have hindered the recovery."

Hypolito is scheduled to compete April 27-29 at the FIG Challenger Cup in Osijek, Croatia. He will be on hand in São Bernardo to cheer on his teammates and sister Daniele Hypolito at this weekend's tournament, which features gymnasts from Argentina, Canada, Colombia, France, Korea, Portugal and Venezuela.

Hypolito is training at the new national training center in Rio de Janeiro, which officially opened April 4. The gym, centered in a velodrome, cost R$450,000 (approximately $250,000) to convert the space and purchase equipment from Spieth.

"The gym is excellent," Hypolito said of the new facility. "I was very thrilled the first time I saw it. It's a great happiness. We never would have imagined a center with Olympic standards. If it's not the best gym in the world yet, it will be, because everything we've asked for they are putting in."

The Brazilian women qualified a full team to this summer's Olympic Games in London. The Brazilian men narrowly missed qualifying a full team to London, though Hypolito, Arthur Zanetti and another individual to be named will attend.

"The goal is to offer the best for our athletes to prepare not only for London but also for the 2016 Olympics," said Carlos Nuzman, president of the Brazilian Olympic Committee, on the new training center. "We needed this space to not only give a great leap forward to the 2016 Olympics, but to help in this final stretch of preparation for London."

Hypolito, sixth on floor exercise at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, said he is not discouraged by going under the knife so soon before the Olympic Games.

"I have not considered this a hardship — quite the contrary," he said. "It's just motivated me even more to rise up and meet the challenge. I'm returning to training with great dedication and will do everything to achieve my greatest dream in London, which is to win an Olympic medal. If this happens, I want to make sure that I did my best."

External Link: Brazilian Gymnastics Confederation

Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 10 April 2012 00:47    PDF Print
Israel's Aronovich Aims for Final Pre-Olympic Test
(7 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Although Israeli gymnast Felix Aronovich legitimately earned a berth for this summer's Olympic Games in London, he told IG this week he is cautiously optimistic that he can pass the final standard set for him by the Olympic Committee of Israel.

Olympic qualifier Felix Aronovich (Israel)

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) awarded Aronovich an individual spot for the Games based on his performance at the Olympic test event in London in January.

To participate in London, however, Aronovich said his country's Olympic committee requires him to prove himself again next month's European championships in Montpellier, France.

"In terms of the FIG and all, I am already qualified," said the 23-year-old Aronovich. "But the Olympic Committee of Israel is requiring me to do their own criteria (at Europeans) - either finaling on an event, or making the top 12 in the all-around."

Aronovich, who moved with his family from Ukraine to Israel when he was 2, is one of three Israeli gymnasts who have qualified for London.

The other two gymnasts are Alexander Shatilov, who received an automatic berth from the FIG based on his bronze medal-winning performance on floor exercise at the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo; and Valeria Maksyuta, whom the FIG nominated based on her results at the test event.

"The European championships are the one and only chance as a criteria that the committee gives me," said Aronovich, who also competes for Pennsylvania State University, where he is a junior. "It's not just me. Valeria is in the same situation."

Aronovich said he is ready to give his best at Europeans, which will take place May 21-27. The women's competition will take place May 9-13 in Brussels.

"I am going for the all-around, since finaling on an event is extremely difficult and my strength is the all-around," he told IG. "I believe I can do it. If I will do the same as in practice, not more and not less, I believe it should be enough for the top 12."

International Gymnast Magazine Related Features:
"Aiming High" - Shatilov profile (January/February 2009)
"Maximizing Her Options" - Maksyuta profile (January/February 2010)

To order back issues of IG magazine, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 06 April 2012 17:03    PDF Print
Pegg Puts Pre-Olympic Focus on Consistency
(7 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Returning to form after suffering a hand injury last fall, recent Cottbus Tournament of Masters medalist Dominique Pegg told IG she is newly optimistic about her chances of making the Canadian team for this summer's Olympic Games in London.

"My performance in Cottbus was a comeback competition from my hand injury," said Pegg, who placed third (tie) on floor exercise, fifth on vault and eighth on balance beam in Cottbus, an FIG Challenger Cup series meet held March 22-25. "I was just focusing on getting back into the competition mode and trying some new routines. The good result has given me the confidence I needed to help myself get back out there again."

Canada's Dominique Pegg at the FIG Challenger Cup in Cottbus, where she tied for the bronze medal on floor exercise

Pegg broke a bone in her right hand at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara last October, shortly after she helped the Canada team place 11th at the World Championships in Tokyo. Two weeks prior to Cottbus, she placed fourth all-around in the Senior Cup division at the Gymnix International in Montreal.

The 18-year-old Pegg is now turning her attention toward making the team for this summer's Olympic Games, taking place in July.

"I plan to contribute to the team on all four events," said Pegg, who trains under coaches Dave and Liz Brubaker at Bluewater Gymnastics Club in Sarnia, Ont. "I have been working really hard in the gym trying to upgrade all my routines. I'm confident that my hard work will pay off, and I will be able to help out my team to the best of my ability."

Pegg, the 2008 Canadian junior all-around champion, has been a steady member of the Canadian team during the current Olympic cycle. She placed third all-around at the 2009 and 2010 Canadian senior championships, and seventh all-around at 2011 the Canadian senior championships prior to her injury.

Unlike the 2010 and 2011 Worlds, where teams consisted of six gymnasts, only five gymnasts will comprise teams in London. Pegg said she plans to avoid dwelling on the fact that one fewer gymnast per team will qualify for London.  

"I'm not letting the pressure of making the team get to me, because the pressure will always be there," she said. "I can't make it go away. I can only continue to focus the way I have been over the years, such as being in the best shape of my career and pushing myself to my highest level in the gym."  

Pegg credits the Brubakers for helping her concentrate and encouraging her, particularly in this pressure-filled Olympic year.  

"Dave and Liz have continued to give me the same solid advice as they have in the past, because they know exactly what works best for me," she said. "However, lately they remind me to let this new pressure be the motivation for my training, and to excel with it. Also, we have been working together to get me in the best physical condition of my career."  

Pegg flies to Brazil on Monday for an international tournament in São Bernardo do Campo. She and Bluewater teammate Talia Chiarelli are among the gymnasts who will be competing for Canada.

Following the Olympics, Pegg has new academic and competitive goals.

"After London, I plan to return to my high school and complete my last few courses for graduation, and then I am considering an NCAA scholarship in the (United) States," she told IG. "There is also a possibility that I may compete at another world championships."

Written by John Crumlish    Thursday, 05 April 2012 17:38    PDF Print
France's Willig Willing, Able for Olympic Success
(8 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

After helping the French men qualify a full team for this summer's Olympic Games in London, three-time world championships competitor Arnaud Willig told IG he is ready to again serve his team reliably in London.

"For the team, I have often been present in big competitions because I have the profile of an all-arounder, bring secure base scores and am rather consistent," he said. "It's by being an all-arounder that I want to place myself on the team for the Olympics, which is the absolute objective of every athlete."

Arnaud Willig (France)

Born May 27, 1985, in Rosny sous Bois, Willig showed early promise when he won the French junior all-around title in 2002. As a senior, he placed second all-around at the 2008 French championships and third all-around at the 2010 French championships.

Willig was a member of the French team at the past three world championships in which team competition took place (2007, 2010 and 2011), as well as the Olympic test event in London in January.

At the test event, France placed second in team standings and thereby earned a team berth for the London Games.

Willig, who finished fourth in the high bar final and 18th in all-around standings at the test event, said his confidence is growing as he fortifies his performances for the Olympics.

"As far as my preparation is concerned, I feel physically and morally well," said Willig, who placed sixth all-around at last weekend's Stella Zakharova Cup in Kiev. "For starters, the motivation is to make you feel that you can conquer the Olympic year. I'm preparing some new routines with start values that will allow me to rival the best."

Willig said he is determined to win a place on the French team in London, where teams will consist of five gymnasts. At the 2010 and 2011 Worlds, teams consisted of six gymnasts.

"With only five places for the Olympic team, it's necessary to be strong because the competition is tough," said Willig, who trains at INSEP in suburban Paris under coaches Laurent Guelzec, Sébastien Darrigade and Denis Charlieux. "But I am going to prepare myself the best way. I will give the best of myself so I won't regret anything."

Willig said the French men have strong medal prospects in team and individual apparatus competitions in London.

"I think we can compete well at the Olympic Games, in spite of the (leg) injury to (2008 Olympic vault silver medalist and 2010 world vault champion) Thomas Bouhail, who was our best chance for a medal," he said. "In terms of technique, we are among the best in the world."

Willig, who is studying to become a coach, is already looking ahead to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. His immediate target, however, is London.

"For my part, I am working in hopes of marching onto the Olympic podium with my teammates," he told IG. "What will be the different is that the force of the group makes the individual shine. It's necessary to be very strong at the right moment and seize my chance."


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