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Written by dwight normile    Friday, 22 July 2016 13:14    PDF Print
Interview: Wanda Hernandez, Mother of Lauren Hernandez
(7 votes, average 4.71 out of 5)

Due to high media interest, USA Gymnastics conducted an interview with Wanda Hernandez, mother of 2016 U.S. Olympian Lauren Hernandez. Following is the full transcript.

On the Olympic selection process…

Oh my gosh, it is a tough process. I was just trying to contain my emotions. There was a lot of praying, breathing and believing. I keep telling Laurie, ‘Just pray, breathe and believe.’ I found myself having to practice this philosophy a lot with all of the emotion and excitement.

On waiting for the team to be announced…

They were the longest 30 minutes of my life. I was trying to keep myself distracted a little bit by talking to my friends or my husband. It was definitely the longest minutes of my life, and I just filled the time with prayer because I needed to stay calm. The hardest thing to do is stay calm.

On learning Laurie made the team…

Wow! I can’t even describe it. There are no words. I felt like I was in a dream, and I couldn’t believe this dream was real. We were just so happy. We are just so happy for Laurie and the team. It is such an honor that Laurie and her teammates can represent the USA.

On family sacrifices for Laurie’s gymnastics…

The sacrifices have been incredible and so many people work together for Laurie. Sometimes Jelysa [her sister] takes her to the gym, and Marcus [her brother] picks her up. Sometimes Maggie, her coach, drives her to the gym. We all work together.

There are a lot of things that go on outside of the gym. There is also a lot of self-care required for Laurie, like physical therapy and acupuncture. We also have to make sure Laurie is keeping up with her schoolwork because she is homeschooled. A lot of people have the weekends where the children can relax and do certain things, but we just keep moving. Due to our busy schedules, we had to say no to family and friends a lot of times, but they understood our commitment.

On Laurie’s relationship with coach Maggie Haney…

Laurie just loves Maggie. They have an awesome relationship, and Laurie understands Maggie is no nonsense. Maggie is very disciplined, determined, and has a tremendous passion for the sport, especially Laurie’s gymnastics. What makes this relationship work is we all come together to do what we feel is best for Laurie. We work as a team to keep her safe and healthy.

On Laurie’s success in 2016…

As a parent, you always want your child’s dream to come true, but it's so difficult. These girls are all working so hard for only five spots. You just have to hope for it, and you just have to have faith. Laurie and Maggie have been working so hard, and I noticed after P&G Championships that something seemed to come to life in Laurie.

I think it was her trusting herself, her training and her faith. God has a plan and if it is His will, then it will happen. Her belief of faith and her training give her confidence. She has such an incredible drive and determination. She has a fire in her eyes and a drive to succeed that is so obvious, even when facing adversity.

I am beyond proud of Laurie. That girl has taught me tons of lessons. She inspires me. She inspires everyone in the family.

On life after Olympic Trials…

As a family, nothing really has changed. We are still stable and grounded and are appreciative of everyone who has come out and supported her. Maggie always tells us, ‘Don’t jump to any sort of conclusion until she is out there on the floor doing what she needs to do.’ We are just praying that all the girls stay healthy and hoping for the best. It's just staying grounded and wishing the best for everyone who is going to be competing. It is not over yet.

On community reaction to Laurie…

The support and the love for Laurie touched our hearts. There was a celebration for Laurie at the local high school, and the community reaction was amazing. It was incredible! There were people that drove from Florida, Washington D.C., and all over to see Laurie. There were so many people waiting in line that I couldn’t even believe it. I was in awe and touched by all of the support to see Laurie.

The phone is ringing off the hook, and the support is wonderful.  It was also beautiful to see the caring support and well wishes from our community.

On the media and fan reaction to Laurie…

Her smile is so contagious. Her presentation is beautiful, and she looks like she is just having fun. She goes out there, and she just enjoys herself.

Also, I love the way that Maggie puts her routines together to showcase her personality. Her personality shines through in everything she does. She seems to bring a lot of joy to people lives when they watch her.

On family’s plans for Rio…

Laurie’s father and I are going. Jelysa and Marcus are going to stay home. We made Team Laurie shirts to show our support for her.

On Laurie’s heritage…

Laurie is very proud of being a second generation Puerto Rican. The community support has been so huge. Last year, Laurie was getting on the bus after P&G’s and the bus door closed. There was this little Latina girl who was standing by the bus with her parents and looked like she was ready to cry. I asked the girl who she was waiting for, and she said, ‘I’m waiting for Laurie. I really want her to sign my bag.’ I got the bag and knocked on the door of the bus, and Laurie signed it. Ironically, I ran into that same family at Olympic Trials, and she was still carrying the bag that Laurie signed. The mother told me, ‘My daughter has been such a tremendous fan but when your Laurie signed her bag, we had to travel six hours to come and see her at Olympic Trials.’ How incredible is that? What I'm noticing is a lot of Latina families who were not previously following gymnastics are so excited to see Laurie.

Written by John Crumlish    Wednesday, 20 July 2016 08:26    PDF Print
South Africa’s Patterson Sets Sights On Olympic Finals
(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

As the first South African male gymnast to compete at the Olympic Games in 50 years, Ryan Patterson aims to not only take part but to advance to one or more finals at the Games that begin Aug. 5 in Rio de Janeiro.

Born January 10, 1994, in Johannesburg, South Africa, Patterson moved to the U.S. when he was 4 years old. He holds dual citizenship with South Africa and the U.S. “My immediate family is the only family we have in the U.S., so it has been awesome to be able to compete for my home country and see my family when I go back,” he says.

Patterson trains at the University of California-Berkeley, under head coach and 2004 Olympic team silver medallist Brett McClure, and assistant coach JT Okada. “JT will be my coach in Rio, and he has been my coach on the international scene for the past two-plus years,” Patterson says. He earned his berth to the Rio Games through his 44th-place all-around finish at the Olympic test event in Rio in April.

In this IG Online interview, the ambitious Patterson details his plans for all-around and apparatus success in Rio.

IG: How satisfied were you with your performance at the test event, and, based on your performance there, what will be the focus of your training until the Games?

RP: I was extremely satisfied with my performance at the test event. I had been training for almost a full year, focusing solely on peaking at that competition, and I was able to do just that and hit all six routines. Since then, my coaches and I have put together a training plan that pushes my start value on floor and vault with sights set on event finals and the all-around final.

IG: How did you manage to coordinate your academic and gymnastics obligations to Cal with the travel and competition logistics of the test event?

RP: We knew almost one-and-a-half years in advance that I would need to narrow my focus to gymnastics in the months leading up to the test event. This allowed me to bulk up my course load in the spring of my junior year and the summer before my senior year. By really pushing academics in [those] semesters I was able to take a reduced course load of only two classes during my fall and spring semesters of senior year. This was not quite enough, and I chose to take the year off of NCAA competition and did not travel with the team to away competitions.

IG: What are your goals and expectations for the Rio Games?

RP: At the Games I am really focused on hitting all six of my routines. By doing this I will be in the best position to qualify into an event final and/or all-around final. The same focus and goals have been successful so far in my career, and I believe following through in the same way, once again, is the best bet.

IG: South Africa has not been represented often at the Olympic Games, so how are you managing the expectations that the national program has for you?

RP: It is true that a South African male gymnast has not been at the Olympic Games in 50 years, but instead of letting the expectations and stress consume my focus, I look at it as an opportunity to start a string of qualifiers into the coming Olympic cycles. Gymnastics has picked up steam in South Africa and the amount of talent rising to the top of the competitive field is impressive. Having any impact whatsoever in inspiring the next generation would give me great joy, and I don't believe we will see another 50 years before we have another men's Olympic gymnastics competitor.

Written by John Crumlish    Wednesday, 13 July 2016 09:06    PDF Print
Marine Brevet: 'I Was Able to Recapture the Pleasure of Training'
(7 votes, average 3.86 out of 5)

Four years after an ill-timed injury kept her out of the Olympic Games in London, veteran French gymnast Marine Brevet is ready to captain her team in her Olympic debut next month in Rio de Janeiro.

Marine Brevet (France)

Brevet, who was born November 23, 1994, in Viriat, has been a member of the French national team for nine years. She placed first all-around at the 2010 French Championships, and second all-around at the 2011 and 2012 French Championships. Key in helping France qualify a team to the 2012 London Games, she finished 31st all-around in qualifications at the 2010 World Championships in Rotterdam, where France placed 11th; and 33rd all-around in qualifications at the 2011 Worlds in Tokyo, where France placed 10th. Brevet was fourth all-around at the Olympic test event in early 2012, where France qualified for the Games by virtue of its third-place finish.

In June 2012, a month prior to the London Olympics, Brevet dislocated an elbow. The following year she tore an Achilles' tendon, but recovered and regained her status on the French squad aiming to qualify for the 2016 Rio Games.

Brevet placed fourth all-around at the 2014 French Championships and third all-around at the 2015 French Championships. She earned France's top all-around ranking (32nd in qualifications) at the 2014 Worlds in Nanning, where France finished 13th. Brevet was also France's top all-arounder (29th in qualifications) at the 2015 Worlds in Glasgow, where France placed 10th and advanced to the Olympic test event in Rio in April. There, she placed 33rd all-around and seventh on balance beam, and helped France earn a berth to the Rio Games via its fourth-place finish.

Brevet shared her pre-Rio thoughts in this IG Online interview.

IG: This year you have had a lot of success: sixth on beam and floor and a team bronze at the European Championships, and three finals at the World Challenge Cup in Varna. From your perspective, what makes you stronger and more determined than before?

MB: In the previous cycle I was very young and I got an injury before the Olympic Games that deprived me of my dream. Then a year later I ruptured my Achilles' tendon, and I wanted to quit. I was disgusted by gymnastics. At the end of 2013 a new staff came to INSEP (National Institute of Sport, where she trains). I tried, and with the help of my family and my best friend, Kevin Menaldo, who was also at INSEP, I was able to recapture the pleasure of training in gymnastics with a mentality that was very different from before. I take pleasure from each moment of my life as a gymnast. I am no longer "subjected" to training, and I come to training with a smile. I have become very different.

IG: Why didn't you compete at the French Championships last month?

MB: I did not participate in the French Championships so I could rest a little before the final preparation (for Rio). However, I took the risk to allow myself to be passed by my teammates, but I took the risk, and the points I accumulated since the beginning of the year protected me.

IG: Many gymnasts would have decided to retire in circumstances such as the one you faced before London. Where did you find the courage and determination to continue until Rio?

MB: My family, my friends and my coach (Nellu Pop) are the ones who have put me back on the path of gymnastics. I thank them again and again because, thanks to them, I am following it. My family never pushed me and they also lived through my injuries and my character which was not very agreeable during the 2012 Olympic Games. And for courage, you can say that I succeeded to make myself happy.

IG: On your team, there are gymnasts both young and experienced. As the veteran, what role will you play, to assure team spirit and the confidence of all the girls?

MB: I am the oldest on the team, and the captain. The youngest is 15. They have experience at international competitions, but not as much as I have. I show them the way and give them little techniques so the stress won't rise. We are a nice team with a smile. We have a nice cohesion, even with the coach, and this is what gives us our strength.

Written by Amanda Turner    Sunday, 10 July 2016 07:26    PDF Print
'Double Dutch' Name 2016 Olympic Squads
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Sanne Wevers and Epke Zonderland will lead strong Dutch squads for the upcoming Olympic Games, the Royal Dutch Gymnastics Union (KNGU) announced Sunday.

Sanne Wevers and Epke Zonderland will lead strong Dutch squads for the upcoming Olympic Games, the Royal Dutch Gymnastics Union (KNGU) announced Sunday.

Epke Zonderland

The Netherlands qualified both men's and women's teams to this summer's Olympic Games, the first for the Dutch women since 1976 and for the men since 1928.

The Dutch women's team consists of Céline van Gerner, Vera van Pol, Eythora Thorsdottir, and twins Lieke Wevers and Sanne Wevers. Van Gerner competed as an individual at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Sanne Wevers, the silver medalist on balance beam at the 2015 World Championships, is the Dutch women's top medal hope in Rio. She and Lieke finished 1-2 on balance beam at the Olympic test event, held in April in Rio de Janeiro.

The Wevers sisters join the rare club of Olympic gymnastics twins who competed together, which includes Bulgarians Plamen and Rumen Petkov (1980), Chinese Li Xiaoshuang and Dashuang (1992), and Americans Paul and Morgan Hamm (2000 and 2004).

Olympic high bar champion Zonderland returns for a third consecutive Olympics along with first-time Olympians Bart Deurloo, Frank Rijken, Yuri van Gelder and Jeffrey Wammes.

"I am proud that the Netherlands is represented in gymnastics for both the women and the men with full teams at the Olympics," said Hans Gootjes, technical directory of the KNGU. "This is the result of years of intensive training of many more stakeholders than just the currently selected athletes and guidance. Gymnasts and coaches not selected, and everyone else involved have put the same energy into achieving this unique result. For me this is the ultimate 'One Team One Dream' outcome."

The team was selected following Saturday's final qualifier in Heerenveen. The competition featured international guests, including the Brazilian women's team, along with individual Olympic qualifiers Emily Little (Australia), Dennis Goossens (Belgium), Sherine el Zeiny (Egypt), Kévin Crovette (Monaco), Barbora Mokošová (Slovakia), and Emma Larsson (Sweden).

Thorsdottir won the women's all-around, tied with Brazil's Rebeca Andrade. Sanne Wevers missed uneven bars but soared on beam with a 15.400 (6.7 Difficulty score).

Deurloo won the men's all-around, nearly 3 points ahead of Rijken.

The Dutch delegation plans to depart for Rio on July 26. The Netherlands competes in the first of three sessions of qualification, while the women compete in the fourth of five qualification sessions.

External Link: Royal Dutch Gymnastics Union

2016 Dutch Olympic Trials
July 9, Heerenveen

Women's All-AroundVTUBBBFXTotal
1.Eythora Thorsdottir5.815.1505.713.5506.214.5505.714.00057.250
1.Rebeca Andrade5.815.1506.214.3505.713.9005.713.85057.250
3.Lieke Wevers5.014.1506.013.8005.814.9505.614.15057.050
4.Céline van Gerner5.013.9005.614.4505.913.5005.414.10055.950
5.Vera van Pol5.314.4505.914.0505.212.9505.413.45054.900
6.Tisha Volleman5.814.7505.013.5505.012.7505.613.50054.550
7.Lorrane Oliveira5.814.8005.813.8505.513.2505.612.50054.400
7.Carolyne Pedro5.014.1005.614.2505.312.9005.513.15054.400
9.Emma Larsson5.014.2005.212.5005.913.9005.513.50054.100
10.Reina Beltman5.213.1005.413.8505.713.9505.512.75053.650
11.Milena Theodoro5.314.0005.612.4005.213.1005.413.20052.700
12.Barbora Mokošová5.014.0005.413.6504.412.5004.911.75051.900
13.Kirsten Polderman5.214.0005.413.5504.510.0504.912.35049.950
14.Sherine el Zeiny5.013.9003.47.4004.411.8004.011.90045.000
15.Daniele Hypólito5.314.2006.414.4505.813.40042.050
16.Jade Barbosa5.014.1506.114.1505.513.00041.300
16.Emily Little5.815.2005.512.5005.513.60041.300
18.Mara Titarsolej5.213.7005.414.0505.312.95040.700
19.Sanne Wevers5.111.6006.715.40027.000
20.Julie Kim5.513.0505.712.55025.600

Men's All-AroundFXPHSRVTPBHBTotal
1.Bart Deurloo6.515.0006.214.9005.814.4005.614.7505.814.2007.215.15088.400
2.Frank Rijken6.014.3005.514.4505.114.1005.614.6006.114.6005.913.65085.700
3.Michel Bletterman6.113.8505.814.5505.213.4005.213.9506.514.8005.414.15084.700
4.Casimir Schmidt6.815.1506.114.5005.913.9005.614.6005.513.7505.112.75084.650
5.Jeffrey Wammes6.514.9004.311.4005.313.9005.614.9505.213.4506.414.60083.200
6.Boudewijn de Vries4.711.9006.214.1004.813.7504.413.3505.213.9505.813.30080.350
7.Kévin Crovette4.512.6504.111.3004.912.654.413.1504.612.4004.612.00074.150
8.Rick Jacobs5.113.3505.613.4005.212.65039.400
9.Epke Zonderland5.414.2506.613.80028.050
10.Dennis Goossens6.615.55015.550
11.Yuri van Gelder6.615.35015.350
12.Justen Zuidema6.414.00014.000
Written by John Crumlish    Wednesday, 08 June 2016 08:41    PDF Print
Russian-Born Sazonova Realizes Olympic Dream In Iceland
(6 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

After a lengthy career competing in and for her native Russia, Irina Sazonova of Iceland has reached the highest destination of her gymnastics journey — a berth to this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Sazonova, who began competing for Iceland last year, earned her spot for the Rio Games through her performance at the Olympic test event in Rio in April, which served as the second and final qualifying meet for the Games. She will be the first female artistic gymnast to represent Iceland in Olympic competition.

Born September 2, 1991, in Vologda, Sazonova competed steadily for her native country earlier this decade. She placed 12th all-around at the 2010 Russian Cup, 13th all-around at the 2011 Russian Championships and 14th all-around at the 2012 Russian Championships. Among Sazonova’s international credentials for Russia, she placed sixth on floor exercise at the 2010 DTB Cup in Stuttgart; and seventh all-around, sixth on uneven bars and third with the Russian team at the 2011 University Games in Shenzhen.

Sazonova’s career has flourished since she relocated to Iceland and subsequently received Icelandic citizenship. She placed fourth all-around (50.950), first on uneven bars and third on floor exercise at the Northern European Championships in Limerick in September 2015; and 98th all-around in qualifications (50.398) at the World Championships in Glasgow in October. This spring she finished 39th all-around (52.931) at the Olympic test event, and 19th all-around in qualifications (52.057) at the European Championships in Bern.

In this IG Online interview, Sazonova details her journey from Russia to Rio, via her adoptive country of Iceland.

IG: When did you realize you qualified for Rio, and what emotions were you feeling at that moment?

IS: I knew about my advancement to the Olympic Games right after the performances at the test event, when they showed the final results. Even now I cannot believe that I will compete on the Olympic podium and compete with the best gymnasts in the world. This was my dream since childhood.

IG: Between Bern and Rio, what will be the focus of your training?

IS: Bern was one more test of my possibilities. In general I am pleased with my performances, but there is still work to do, to finish my program and bring it up to the necessary level for the Games. This month I will go to a training camp in Stuttgart, where I can concentrate only on training and make my program more difficult. It will be, in its own way, a dress rehearsal before the Olympic Games!

IG: How, when and why did you decide to compete for Iceland?

IS: I began my career in Vologda, at the Children’s/Youth Specialized Sport School of Olympic Reserve No. 1, with coach Olga Kovalyova. Then, when I was 15, I left for Saint Petersburg, in order to continue my training there at the School of Olympic Reserve No. 1. There, spouses Svetlana Kolomenskaya and Yury Kolomensky coached me. In Iceland I am coached by my compatriot Vladimir Antonov.

My coach from Saint Petersburg, Svetlana Kolomenskaya, was working in Iceland, and took me there with her. I simply wanted to try something new. Soon she left to return home, and I decided to remain. I liked this country so much that I did not want to leave. Iceland became my home. At first I competed only for the club “Armann,” but having received citizenship on August 13, 2015, there was for me the possibility of representing the country on the big podium.

IG: Your life in Iceland must be quite different from your life in Russia. How are you doing with the transition, in terms of lifestyle, culture and language?

IS: I cannot compare how I lived in Russia with how I live now. Everything is different. I was a child, and here I have plunged into adult life. In Iceland I not only continued my sports career, but I also began my coaching activities, and for the first time began to work as a coach, precisely in Iceland. The Icelandic language is hard, but I think that soon I can grasp it.

IG: To what do you attribute your betterment as a gymnast since you moved to Iceland?

IS: I’m better probably because I became more adult, and of course have gained experience. Now I can allocate my time adequately so that everything I do goes to my advantage.

IG: What are your post-Rio plans?

IS: Rio will be my first Olympic Games, but I hope not my last. I am going to continue training and prepare for the next Games in 2020.

Read “Icelandic Warm-up,” a feature on IG’s visit to gym clubs in Iceland, in the November 2012 issue of International Gymnast magazine. To order back issues or subscribe, click here.

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