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Written by John Crumlish    Saturday, 22 November 2014 19:03    PDF Print
Interview: Kristina Pravdina (Azerbaijan)
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

A world championships and World Cup medalist for Russia earlier in her career, Kristina Pravdina is preparing for her debut performance for Azerbaijan later this month.


Pravdina (left) in Baku with teammates Marina Nekrasova and Maria Smirnova

Pravdina, a native of Voronezh, was a mainstay on last decade's Russian team. Among her biggest accomplishments, she won a team silver medal and finished 24th all-around at the 2006 world championships in Aarhus, Denmark.

In qualifications at the 2007 worlds in Stuttgart, Pravdina placed 16th all-around, but was unable to advance to the all-around final. She was third among Russia's all-arounders, and therefore could not advance because of the two-gymnasts-per-country maximum. In the team final, Russia dropped from a probable medal to eighth place when a teammate balked on her vault in the last rotation and scored zero.

Pravdina's other best international results included the bronze medal on uneven bars at the 2006 World Cup of Shanghai; fifth place on balance beam and seventh place on uneven bars at the 2006 World Cup of Lyon; seventh place (tie) all-around and sixth place on balance beam at the 2007 European championships in Amsterdam.

In Russian domestic competitions, Pravdina was third all-around at the 2007 Russian championships; second on floor exercise at the 2007 Russian Cup; seventh all-around, second (tie) on floor exercise and third on uneven bars at the 2008 Russian Cup; and eighth all-around at the 2009 Russian Cup.

Pravdina, who will turn 24 on Dec. 28, shared details of the new phase of her career in this IG Online interview.


IG: When and why did you decide to return to competition, and for Azerbaijan?

KP: As you know, the first European Games will take place in Baku (in June 2015). Among the 20 sports will be gymnastics. At the end of 2013 the Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation coordinated a women's gymnastics team. My parents received the invitation to work in Baku, and I, based on family circumstances, moved with them. Then they offered for me to join the team of this country. I felt I could help and consequently agreed.


Pravdina at the 2006 World Championships

IG: When did you return to training, and who is coaching you?

KP: I got back into training in September. My father, Alexander Pravdin, and my mother, Nina Pravdina, who previously was my coach-choreographer, are coaching me.

IG: How much support are you getting from your former Voronezh teammates, Yulia Inshina and Marina Nekrasova, who are also competing for Azerbaijan?

KP: Seeing how we previously performed in the same team for the Voronezh gymnastics school named for Yuri Eduardovich Shtukman, we have developed very friendly relationships. We support each other and get along well, both in sports and in life.

IG: What's on your agenda, competition-wise?

KP: My next start will be Nov. 28 to 30 in Stuttgart, Germany (DTB Cup – Team Challenge). We plan to compete on two apparatuses - uneven bars and beam - with the kind of program that I will have time to restore.

IG: What is the most difficult aspect of your return? Is it something physical, or a combination of things?

KP: The most difficult thing was the first week of training, to force myself to continue when all of my muscles hurt. And at the moment it is a combination of intellectual and physical workloads after a long break.

IG: What do you wish to prove in this new phase of your career?

KP: I would like to put together competitively capable routines, with which it will be possible to compete for medals.

 
Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 18 November 2014 11:24    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Yelena Grosheva and Steve Barakatt
(10 votes, average 4.60 out of 5)



1996 Olympic silver medalist Yelena Grosheva of Russia and her husband, Canadian composer Steve Barakatt, are the first couple to be appointed Canadian Ambassadors to UNICEF.

1996 Olympic silver medalist Yelena Grosheva of Russia and her husband, Canadian composer Steve Barakatt, are the first couple to be appointed Canadian Ambassadors to UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund). They are in Russia this month on their latest humanitarian mission, which includes the Moscow debut of Barakatt’s symphonic work "Ad Vitam Aeternam" on November 19.

Preparing for the performance of "Ad Vitam Aeternam" in the Great Hall of the Tchaikovsky Moscow Conservatory, Grosheva and Barakatt have also enjoyed a visit to Grosheva’s hometown of Yaroslavl, where in 2010 Barakatt debuted the work as part of the city’s 1,000-year anniversary. Grosheva has also been able to connect with her gymnastics friends during their Russian trip.

Known for her elegance and precision, Grosheva was a mainstay for the Russian team during the mid-1990s. She competed at four world championships from 1994-1997, and helped Russia win the team silver at the 1996 Olympic Games. Following her competitive career, she was a performer with Cirque du Soleil. She and Barakatt now live in Quebec City with their daughter, Victoria.

Grosheva and Barakatt shared aspects of their mission, and Grosheva’s nostalgic visit to her homeland, in this IG Online interview.


IG: Steve, having performed your work in Yaroslavl in 2010, what motivated you to present it this year in Moscow?

SB: This Moscow premiere of "Ad Vitam Aeternam" is a combination of several desires. First, we wanted to do something special to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the fifth anniversary of "Lullaby, the UNICEF Anthem" I had the honor to compose in 2009. In the meantime, it was a dream to perform the symphony "Ad Vitam Aeternam" in one of the most prestigious concert halls in the world. So we simply decided to do it.


Grosheva at the 1996 Olympic Games

IG: What do you hope the performance on Nov. 19 will do to inspire not only the audience members, but worldwide listeners?

SB: "Ad Vitam Aeternam" is a musical experience inviting the audience to look at Life Experience with a new perspective - a time of introspection. We hope it can inspire more and more people. We will actually release a live recording and videos of this historic event. So yes, we hope to send a positive message to all citizens of the world!

IG: Yelena, how does this performance factor in terms of your and Steve's roles as Canadian Ambassadors for UNICEF?

YG: As UNICEF Ambassadors, we wanted to make sure that the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights for the Child would be celebrated, and we thought that a musical event is a good platform to pay tribute to the world's children.

IG: Which of your gymnastics friends have you been able to visit?

YG: For sure I contacted and hopefully will contact more with some of my friends from the gymnastics world. I would love to see all of them, but Russia is a big country, and for sure I will not have chance to see all my friends! Through the years we kept a great friendship with Sveta Khorkina, and every time I visit Russia we do our maximum and always find a way to see each other. In Yaroslavl I also have one of my best friends from the gymnastics world. For sure I will go to visit Aleksandr Timonkin, my coach. Unfortunately he is not with us in this world anymore, but I always visit him in his new home, the cemetery. And I know that a few of my friends and coaches will come to see the concert on November 19 in Moscow.

IG: How is your daughter, Victoria, enjoying the trip?

YG: She loves to come here and spend some time with grandmama and all her friends! She is going at the moment to a Russian preschool to improve her Russian, and she just loves it! I think this experience for her will be memorable as it will be for us!

IG: We have read some of Steve's interviews in Russian press. If you are serving as his interpreter, how are you enjoying this "job"?

YG: Yes I did, I do and will do this "job" of interpreter. I cannot say that it is easy for me, especially the radio interviews in Russian and English, but I kind of enjoy doing the newspaper interviews, especially if I have time and I do not have to rush. I think it’s very good exercise to improve my English also!

Read "Catching up with Yelena Grosheva," a profile in the June 2009 issue of International Gymnast magazine, and "Boldly Beautiful," an interview with Grosheva, in the March 1997 issue. To order back issues, or subscribe to the print and/or digital edition of International Gymnast magazine, click here.

 
Written by John Crumlish    Monday, 20 October 2014 19:22    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Alexa Moreno (Mexico)
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)



Seventh on vault at the world championships in Nanning earlier this month, veteran Mexican gymnast Alexa Moreno has a medal on her mind as she begins to prepare for the 2015 Worlds and Pan American Games. Pictured: Moreno, third from left, with her teammates in Nanning.

Seventh on vault at the world championships in Nanning earlier this month, veteran Mexican gymnast Alexa Moreno has a medal on her mind as she begins to prepare for the 2015 Worlds and Pan American Games.

Moreno, who turned 20 on Aug. 8, has been challenging for and winning medals on her best apparatus for the past few years. She placed seventh on vault at the 2011 worlds in Tokyo; second on vault first on vault at the 2012 Challenger Cup of Ghent; second on vault at the 2012 World Cup of Zibo, China; and fifth on vault at the 2013 University Games in Kazan.

In Nanning, Moreno also contributed significantly to Mexico quest to qualify for the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games. She was 39th all-around in qualifications, where she helped Mexico place 14th in team standings. The top 24 teams in Nanning advanced to the 2015 worlds in Glasgow, from which the top eight teams will qualify for the Rio Games. Four additional teams will earn Olympic berths at an event in Rio in early 2016.

IG caught up with Moreno about her performance in Nanning, as well as her goals for herself and her team next year.


IG: What aspect of your performance in Nanning gave you the most satisfaction, and why? Was it making the vault final again, your all-around finish, your team finish or something else?

AM: There were various things that make me feel satisfied with my work. Our team participation was a lot better than we were expecting. We did not have big failures, we showed constancy and I think we looked kind of like a strong team.

IG: How would you compare your all-around result to your vault result?

AM: I was able to compete all-around and I was so happy because, in my previous world championship participations, I was not able to compete in everything. I was especially glad when I competed on beam and did my routine with just little errors. Lately I was having trouble with that, and doing it right makes me feel very good. And of course, achieving my goal of being in the first eight on vault let me realize that I am on the correct path, and if I keep training hard I can go further.


Moreno on vault in Nanning

IG: What caused the problem you had on your second vault in the final, and what do you think you need to work on to avoid it in the future?

AM: For that I was pretty upset at first. Why? Maybe the nerves or maybe I wasn't thinking very clearly. I really don't know. But what I have to do is go out and compete more. That is what, I believe, I need to do. Competing is a way to train mentality.

IG: Since the Tokyo worlds you added an extra full twist to your second vault. What improvements or upgrades do you plan so you can keep making vault finals?

AM: What is most important is gaining height. After accomplishing this I can do whatever change I need. I have to improve my execution, too. And if I can do this, then I can start thinking about upgrading my vaults.

IG: What are your plans for upgrades on the other events?

AM: I will work to be in the top 24 in the all-around next year. I have to get better E notes in everything, so I have lot of work to do. And I will try to improve my D notes, too, just a little more. I believe I have good abilities for tumbling.

IG: 2015 will be an important year for you individually, as well as for the Mexican team. What are your personal goals for next year?

AM: Indeed it will be an important year. We are looking to be in the top 16 teams next year, but if we work hard we can think in being in the top 12. I will be training to be stable in my all-around, maybe increasing to 55 or 56 points, and next year I will be looking for the top three on vault. Those are the goals I have in mind.

International Gymnast Magazine features on Mexican gymnasts and coaches include:
Elsa Garcia update (December 2013)
"On the Mend" – injury updates including Elsa García (April 2008)
Elsa García cover photo and interview (May 2007)
Elsa García profile (May 2006)
"A Life that Makes Sense to Me" – Daniel Corral profile (December 2013)
"Mexican Maestro" - Daniel Corral profile (November 2010)
Karla Salazar on cover photo collage (July/August 2010)
"10 Questions with Coach Antonio Barraza" – interview (April 2010)
"10 Questions with FIG Technical Committee Member Naomi Valenzo" – interview (September 2009)
"Catching up with... Tony Piñeda" (May 2009)
"Catching up with... Denisse Lopez" (April 2007)
"Mexican Revolution" – Denisse Lopez profile (February 2000)
"Mexican Evolution" - Brenda Magaña profile (November 2002)

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

 
Written by Amanda Turner    Tuesday, 14 October 2014 13:41    PDF Print
FIG President Wants Scoring Overhaul
(7 votes, average 2.71 out of 5)



International Gymnastics Federation President Bruno Grandi is calling for an overhaul of the sport's scoring system – again.

International Gymnastics Federation President Bruno Grandi is calling for an overhaul of the sport's scoring system – again.

Grandi, who famously lobbied for the current open-ended system to reward more difficulty, now says difficulty needs to take a backseat to artistry. Grandi made the comments Sunday following the conclusion of the 2014 World Championships in Nanning, China.

The gymnastics he saw in Nanning was "too much of its acrobatic part and not too much artistry," he said. "Gymnastics is artistic gymnastics, the definition I don't want to lose."

The sport lost its iconic "Perfect 10" with the introduction of the current scoring system in 2006. Each mark consists of the sum of the Difficulty (D) score (including required components) and the Execution (E) score (out of 10.00). In FIG competition, separate judging panels evaluate Difficulty and Execution. The highest score in Nanning was Dutch gymnast Epke Zonderland's winning 16.225 (7.7 D/8.525 E) for his high bar routine in apparatus finals.

Grandi championed the new scoring system following the judging scandal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. In the men's all-around final in Athens, U.S. gymnast Paul Hamm won the all-around title over Korean gymnast Yang Tae-Young after Yang's parallel bars routine was evaluated out of a maximum 9.9 instead of the correct 10.0. However, the incident stemmed not from the judging system in place, but from the judges failing to correctly calculate Yang's start score.

The new scoring system was put into place despite significant criticism and backlash from members of the gymnastics community and the sport's fans. The FIG countered that the "Perfect 10.0" could still be achieved through the Execution mark — although few gymnasts have scored anywhere close to 10 in Execution since 2006 — and that fans would find new excitement as gymnasts achieved "world records" in Difficulty.

The latter concept was quickly dropped, and the Code of Points and routine requirements have been tweaked and evaluated several times.

Eight years after it was introduced, the open-ended scoring system has produced less-pleasing gymnastics, Grandi said.

"At this moment, we have noted that the difficulty increased too much," said Grandi, who was elected in 1996. "Very, very much. And the execution of the athlete doesn't follow the same criteria. We need to change the mentality."

Grandi, who suggested that the Difficulty points be cut in half, was backed up by FIG Secretary-General André Gueisbuhler. Gueisbuhler said gymnasts "do difficult exercises in order to win" under the current system.

"The weight should be, as the president said, on artistry and beauty and perfect execution as you have in diving," he said.

In Nanning, the Chinese men won a controversial gold medal over Japan in the team final, coming from behind to take the title by .1 after a jam-packed routine on high bar from Zhang Chenglong. Chinese coach Wang Hongwei acknowledged that his gymnasts were not as polished as their Japanese rivals.

"When it comes to the Execution score, we are not as good as the Japanese gymnasts," he said.

In the women's competition, the U.S. team and top gymnast Simone Biles defended their titles. Biles, who racks up points for her difficulty, added titles on balance beam and floor exercise.

Said Marta Karolyi, the U.S. women's team coordinator, "Artistry is nice. We always like artistry."

Should the scoring system be overhauled to reward artistry and execution over difficulty? Leave a comment below!

 
Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 19 September 2014 09:00    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Céline van Gerner
(5 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Although 2012 Olympic all-around finalist Céline van Gerner returned to serious training only three months ago, she is already eager to take the next step in her comeback at next month's world championships in Nanning.

Van Gerner, who finished 12th all-around at the 2012 London Olympics, won the all-around title and helped the Dutch women win the team title at a tri-meet against France and Austria that took place this past weekend in Rouen.

This week she was among seven gymnasts named to the Dutch team for Nanning. The other gymnasts include Shirley van Deene, Vera van Pol, Maartje Ruikes, Lisa Top, and twins Lieke Wevers and Sanne Wevers.

In this IG Online interview, van Gerner explains the challenges she has faced as she prepares for Nanning, and how she views Nanning in terms of her competitive future.



Céline van Gerner at the 2012 Olympics

IG: What are your thoughts heading into Nanning, based on how well you did in Rouen?

CVG: First of all, I'm very happy being able to compete again at the international highest competitions! I'm feeling great, loving the sport, and I hope people can see that feeling back in my routines.

IG: What exactly were the injuries/reasons that you have not competed in so long?

CVG: I've had to overcome two hard years, being injured and not really knowing how to see the future. When I was getting back in shape in the summer of 2013, I broke my right ankle on the same spot as it was broken on my left ankle at the end of 2011. Surgery was necessary, which went really well, but my ankle had to heal by staying rested. That was taking a few months, and I was kind of tired of being injured all the time. So I took a step back from gymnastics and took some time to think about what I really wanted.

In June 2014 I decided to start serious training again. Both of my ankles were and are still feeling really good, so I asked myself a question. If I wanted to do gymnastics again, I had to start now! It was an easy decision, because I still wasn't done with gymnastics. I knew I had to start all over again, but I had set my first goal on Nanning 2014.

I came a long way in four months, but it was all worth it. It feels good to be back, so my thoughts heading into Nanning are most of all thankful.

IG: Between now and Nanning, what will be the focus of your training?

CVG: The focus of my training will most of all be on the dismounts, especially my full-in from bars, which an important missing skill.

IG: What do you think you will need to show in Nanning, in order to regain your high international ranking as in the past?

CVG: I see Nanning as a great first step in this cycle for me. Because it has been a short period of time, I won't pressure myself too hard for being in a final. I know that, for a high ranking, my routines need to be upgraded. But that's for something for after Nanning. Right now I am more than happy to compete again!

Read "Just Verdict," a profile on van Gerner, in the July/August 2012 issue of International Gymnast magazine. To order back issues, or subscribe to the print and/or digital versions of International Gymnast magazine, click here..

 
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