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Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 21 June 2019 09:02    PDF Print
Morgans: Australian Title ‘More Than I Had Hoped For’
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

First-time Australian men’s all-around champion Mitchell Morgans hopes his recent national victory will lead to global success at this fall’s World Championships in Stuttgart and ultimately a berth to next summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Born September 23, 1992, in Wahroonga, NSW, Morgans has been a mainstay on the Australian senior scene since 2011. As a junior he trained under coach Robert Hong, and when he began his senior career he trained under coach Sergei Chinkar. Morgans currently trains under coach Vladimir Vatkin. Morgans won the all-around title at the Australian Championships in Melbourne in late May by a convincing 2.467-point margin of victory.

Morgans has earned his top international results on high bar, on which he finished second at the 2017 World Cup of Melbourne, fourth at the ’17 World Cup of Doha, fifth at the ’17 World Cup of Cottbus, seventh at the ’17 World University Games in Taipei, and second at the ’18 World Cup of Cottbus. He made his World Championships debut in Montreal in 2017, and also competed at the 2018 Worlds in Doha.

In this IG Online interview, the optimistic Morgans shared his thoughts on winning the Australian all-around title, his role on the determined Australian team and his finals-focused plans for upcoming international competitions.

IG: Going into the Australian Championships, what was your goal in terms of placement and performance, and how did you measure up to those expectations?

MM: This year was a little different to previous years as it was also the Oceania Championships. This meant Australia was competing against New Zealand in order to qualify a team into this year’s World Championships. As such, my primary goal was to help team Australia finish first, while getting back into the all-around and making all six of my routines. I knew achieving this would put me in good contention for the all-around title. However, having not competed in an all-around competition for two years, I wasn’t expecting to win. I was hoping to use this as stepping stone to the World Championships, so coming away with that win was more than I had hoped for and it being my first one made it even more exciting.

IG: You won the all-around by a comfortable margin; how did you stay as competitive as possible knowing you did not have anyone especially close to you challenging for the title?

MM: As the team result was more important, that was what drove me to stay competitive throughout the competition. However, I never think about how far in front I am. I want to be the best I can be, which means pushing as hard as I can, all the way until the end. I guess it did help having my main two events at the back end of the competition as I was really hoping to make the finals.

IG: How much pressure do the recent injuries to (Australian team standouts) Chris Remkes and Clay Stephens place on you to lead the Australian team?

MM: Not having Chris and Clay was a massive loss to the strength of our team and, although it was really unfortunate for them, I’m incredibly proud of my fellow teammates who were able to put aside all the pressure and handle the competition like the champions they are. I always knew it was going to be hard but I was confident the team could rise to the occasion.

IG: What improvements have you and the team made since last year's World Championships in Doha?

MM: Leading into the World Championships last year a lot of our team members were either coming back from an injury or had just sustained an injury. This year, we will be focusing on staying fit and healthy. We have been working closely with our extended coaching and support team to ensure we can compete to the best of our ability.

IG: What are your personal and team targets for the World Championships in Stuttgart?

MM: My personal targets are to compete in the all-around and hopefully qualify for the Olympics. I would also like to either make a final or finish as close to making a final in one of my two main events. As for the team, we are really hoping to pull together some really solid and clean routines, finishing as high as we can. I know many of my teammates will be hoping to finish as close to the finals as they can.

IG: Historically you have achieved your best results on the "bar" events. What makes you especially suited to parallel bars and high bar?

MM: I’ve always loved high bar and p-bars. It was something my junior coach always tried to encourage me to do more of, as it was something I really enjoyed doing as a kid. I wouldn’t say my physique is suited to these events; I just enjoy doing them.

IG: What will your competition agenda look like between now and Tokyo?

MM: I definitely plan on trying to qualify for the Olympics so I would like to finish off the last part of the World Cup series. This would give me some more competition experience leading into the Games and if all goes well, give me an opportunity to qualify. I would also like to compete at the Toyota Cup in Japan later this year. This competition will allow me to get a feel for the atmosphere in Japan and the equipment they will use at the Games. If I’m lucky enough to qualify, my main focus will be staying fit and healthy.

IG: With a long trail of success behind you, what are your thoughts on staying on through the next Olympic cycle and trying for Paris 2024?

MM: I would love to consider continuing on for another Olympic cycle. I guess it would depend on whether my body can keep up with the demand. Even if I have to cut back on the all-around and specialize on a few events, I would consider it.  If I had it my way I’m sure I would do another two cycles!

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

 
Written by John Crumlish    Wednesday, 19 June 2019 07:51    PDF Print
Höck on Tokyo: ‘I Will Take All The Chances I Have’
(6 votes, average 3.67 out of 5)

Since winning the 2014 European junior title on rings, Austria’s Vinzenz Höck has been hovering close to major senior finals on his best apparatus, and he continues to push closer to the top as he aims for next summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The 23-year-old Höck was second reserve for the rings final at the European Championships in Szczecin, Poland, in April, an improvement of one rank from his performance at last year’s Europeans in Glasgow. He finished among the top 20 on rings at the 2017 and 2018 World Championships.

In this IG Online interview, Höck describes the work and strategy he is employing in his quest to qualify for the Tokyo Games.

IG: You came very close to making the rings final in Szczecin, but what do you think you could have done better, in order to make it into the final?

VH: This year I tried to push my D-score to 6.2. It is the highest D-score I have shown in competition yet, but as everyone knows a high D-score does not guarantee an event-final qualification. As you said, it was close for me to make the final, but unfortunately I made a few costly mistakes at the end of my routine, thus could not advance to the final.

IG: Over the past few years you have been close to making the rings final at the World Championships and other major competitions. There are many strong rings guys, so what improvements or changes to your routine will you make in order to make the Worlds final?

VH: Until now I mainly focused to improve my D-score, but now that I finally achieved a D-score above 6.0, I try to work on my execution and details. In my opinion, working on very small details is the only way to reach a major championships final in the future. Therefore I don’t plan any changes in my routine this year, but to improve my execution.

IG: What are your target competitions between now and Tokyo?

VH: The first step is the Universiade next month in Italy. It will be my first all-around competition in two years. The next target is the World Championships in Stuttgart in October. After Stuttgart I will know if I have the chance to participate in Tokyo and so any further plans can only be made after Stuttgart.

IG: What is your plan for trying to qualify for Tokyo as an individual? What chance do you think you have?

VH: I know that the qualification process is tough, and so I will take all the chances I have. I am returning to the all-around stage and trying to secure an all-around spot in Stuttgart. Since the places for pure event specialists are still very limited I think the all-around is my highest chance to qualify for the Games.

IG: Although you are known mainly for your expertise on rings, you are also an all-arounder. Going forward, do you plan to remain an all-arounder, or narrow your focus to competing on only rings and/or a few other apparatuses?

VH: I thought a lot about continuing in the all-around because it is very entertaining to practice and compete, but rings is a very special event and needs a lot of time to practice. Therefore I am thinking of narrowing my focus on rings and trying to become a true specialist in the future. However, until the World Championships in Stuttgart this year, I will focus on the all-around and try to qualify for Tokyo.

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

 
Written by John Crumlish    Wednesday, 05 June 2019 07:41    PDF Print
Nedoroscik: ‘I’ve Learned To Trust My Training’
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Following his international debut this spring, U.S. pommel horse specialist Stephen Nedoroscik has made substantial upgrades as he aims for titles at this summer’s World University Games in Naples, this fall’s World Championships in Stuttgart and the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The 20-year-old Nedoroscik, a Massachusetts native who is heading into his senior year at Penn State University, placed first on pommel horse at the 2017 and ’18 NCAA Championships, and second on pommel horse at the ’19 NCAA Championships. He was seventh on pommel horse at the ’17 U.S. Championships and ninth on pommel horse at the ’18 U.S. Championships.

Following his victory on pommel horse at the U.S. Winter Cup Challenge in February, Nedoroscik was named to the U.S. national team. He finished sixth on pommel horse at the World Cup of Doha in March, which was his first international start. In April he was named to represent the U.S. at the World University Games in Naples in July.

The ambitious Nedoroscik, who participated in the recent training camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, shared his thoughts in this IG Online interview.

IG: With only one international meet behind you, and having completed a long NCAA season, how are you physically and mentally preparing yourself for the challenge of competing at the World University Games?

SN: I am extremely excited for World University Games. I have continued to train just as rigorously as I did during the NCAA season. I’ve managed to escape injury thus far and feel great physically, good enough to upgrade my routine by six tenths. With the progression of my upgrades and consistency of my routines during the season, I feel confident going into the World University Games.

IG: Looking back on Doha, what do you think caused your fall in the final, and what steps have to taken since to avoid it going forward?

SN: During the competition at Doha, I experienced a nervousness I had never felt. Despite the complicated feelings going into competition, I was able to hit a solid routine in the preliminaries, qualifying for finals. Going into finals, I knew I was against the strongest horse competition in the world, but I wasn’t nervous about it. I was excited. I made a mistake during preliminaries on my Russian flop so I focused a lot during warm-ups to correct it. During my competitive routine I executed a phenomenal first half and was certain I’d finish the rest. It was my own confidence that diverted my focus and I accidentally rushed my reverse Roth, resulting in an unrecoverable front loop, and I fell. Since that competition, I’ve warmed up every skill equally. More specifically I’ve learned to trust my training despite how warm-ups feel and to stay focused throughout the routine.

IG: With two NCAA titles, a World Cup final and now World University Games participating to your name, what do you feel you can offer to the U.S. team in Stuttgart and Tokyo?

SN: I believe I can offer the USA a really good shot at the pommel horse title in Stuttgart and Tokyo. Although my international career is extremely young, so was my NCAA career when I won in my freshman year. Besides my gymnastics abilities, a (Penn State) teammate of mine, Samuel Zakutney, labeled me as a teammate that can keep the momentum rolling regardless that I only compete a single event. Whether it’s helping Team USA strive for a pommel horse medal, or it’s cheering and applauding my teammates, I offer Team USA a great teammate to have.

IG: What is your plan for bolstering your pommel horse routine for a better chance to make the U.S. teams for Stuttgart and Tokyo?

SN: Currently I am training a 16.8 start-value routine. I am upgrading to a Mikulak, G-Flop and Bezugo, a total of six tenths added from my previous routine. It has been two weeks of working the routine, and I have already gained consistency in all of my upgrades and even hit a routine last week. I have also been focusing on my swing in general, trying to eliminate any further deductions.

IG: Considering the competition to earn a spot on the U.S. team for Tokyo, what plans do you have for trying to earn an individual spot through participation in the World Cup series?

SN: To further my chances of making it to Tokyo, I must earn points through World Cups this coming year. My plan is to gain consistency with my new routine to increase my chances of winning at these World Cups. If I were to win three World Cups on pommel horse, scoring higher on average than the gymnast from Taipei who already has won three times, then I believe I would guarantee myself an individual spot for Tokyo. For now, my goal is to make the U.S. national team once again, and for that I need consistency and execution. I have goals that may seem improbable, but I trust with these goals in mind, I will pursue my dreams.

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

 
Written by dwight normile    Monday, 03 June 2019 08:12    PDF Print
‘Commander In Chief’
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

President and CEO of USA Gymnastics, Li Li Leung has a plan to get gymnastics back on the right track.

Leung was born August 20, 1973, and grew up in Ridgewood, New Jersey. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in psychology at Michigan, where she was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten conference gymnast. She won Michigan’s Athletic Academic Achievement award in 1994 and 1995.

As a volunteer assistant coach at the University of Massachusetts, she got two master’s degrees: she received her MBA and master of science in sports management. She competed in many USA Gymnastics events, and was a member of a U.S. junior national team and represented the U.S. in the 1988 Junior Pan American Games.

The following excerpts are engaging, and you can read the entire interview in the 2019 June issue of International Gymnast.

IG: It helps that you were a gymnast. Do you have a strategic plan to revert the path that the sport is currently on?

LL: I am in the middle of a “listening and learning tour,” where I am speaking with individuals throughout the gymnastics community—former and current athletes, coaches, judges, club owners, administrators, media and other stakeholders, both supporters and critics.  I need to hear from them and understand their thoughts and perspectives before I can begin to write a strategic plan. To write one without a 360-degree perspective would be a mistake.

IG: You said, “For me, this is much more than a job: it is a personal calling, for which I stand ready to answer.” What did you mean by that?

LL: I felt compelled to give back to the sport that has shaped me and has been a part of my life for more than 35 years. It broke my heart to see what had happened to the gymnasts, and I want to help make the changes needed to rebuild USA Gymnastics into an organization of which we can all be proud. Going forward, I believe I can make a positive impact, and we will be more athlete-centric as an organization, with their safety and well-being at the forefront.

IG: Do you consider yourself outspoken in what you truly believe?

LL: Yes, but it took me a while to find my voice. I had a very positive coach who stressed emotional, mental and physical toughness rather than punishment. I still made decisions that probably weren’t the best decisions for me, such as competing through injuries. I wish I would have had the tools when I was a gymnast to be aware of what was right and wrong in those environments. To be able to say, ‘Okay, I need to stop now. If I go beyond this point, then I will be pushing myself beyond the point of injury and not be able to come back.’ Our athletes’ voices are important, and I want to help give them the tools to know what is the right thing to do and that they have a voice to speak up.

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

 
Written by dwight normile    Tuesday, 28 May 2019 12:06    PDF Print
'Amazing Grace: Valorie Kondos Field Has Had Quite A Ride'
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

IG: Are you religious or spiritual?

VK: I am both religious and spiritual.

IG: What do you like to do to escape the gym?

VK: I love to have lunch or an early dinner on one of our many outside gorgeous patio restaurants near campus with friends. One thing I’m always grateful for living in LA, we don’t have a lot of bugs so sitting outside for a meal is heaven on earth.

IG: As a dancer in Sacramento and Washington D.C., what types of dances did you perform?

VK: Mainly the classics, Nutcracker, Giselle, Swan Lake, Coppelia.

IG: How did you beat cancer?

VK: I beat cancer because I live at a time that has the chemo for my particular type of breast cancer. Had I gotten diagnosed 10 years earlier they had nothing for this type. Also, my doctors believe my extremely positive and grateful attitude had a lot to do with it.

IG: How do you think your emotions will play out after retiring?

VK: I know I’m really going to miss seeing the girls on a daily basis. However, I’m going to be really busy so I don’t think it will set in until next Fall when I don’t report to UCLA for the next season.

IG: How will you remember Katelyn Ohashi?

VK: First of all, Kate and I have a lot of gigs already set up together for after NCAA’s. Gymnastically, I will remember Kate as one of the most talented and fun competitors I’ve ever coached.

Read the entire interview in the 2019 June issue of International Gymnast. To subscribe to the print and/or digital edition, or to order back issues of International Gymnast magazine, click here.

 


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