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Käslin Counting Down to Beijing
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After her recent sweep of the Swiss Championships, three-time world all-around finalist Ariella Käslin told IG she is now focusing on qualifying for the 2008 Olympics.

Ariella Käslin

"I am really pleased about winning five titles," Käslin told IG. "I was also very excited by this honor, because this success is also a part of gymnastics history. It is rare for a gymnast to achieve a 'Grand Slam.'"

Käslin said her performances at the Swiss Championships (held Oct. 20-21) were an improvement from those at the World Championships, held Sept. 1-9 in Stuttgart, where she placed 22nd around. Annik Salzmann was the last woman to sweep the Swiss Championships, when she won every event in 2000.

"Compared to the world championships, I performed more stably, but not at the absolute top level," Käslin said of her national championship performance.

Käslin said she and her teammates found it difficult to compete for their national title so soon after the World Championships, which served to qualify teams and individuals for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

"From the view of the athletes, the timing of the national championships was unfavorable, but the situation was the same for everyone," said Käslin, who turned 20 on October 11. "All of us on the team were very tired, because we had such an intensive time behind us. And so, I can say that luck and experience in competition helped me very much."

Käslin also noted that she and her teammates are still adjusting to new coaches. Earlier this year, national team coaches Eric and Cécile DeMay were replaced. Former British coach Zoltan Jordanov is the new national team head coach, and his wife, Snejana, works with the team on balance beam and choreography. Fabian Martin is the team's assistant coach.

Because the Swiss women's team placed 18th in Stuttgart, they earned only one individual berth for the Beijing Olympics. Käslin, a leading candidate for that berth, said the selection procedures as still being negotiated between the Swiss Gymnastics Federation and the Swiss Olympic Association.

For 2008, Käslin said she plans to upgrade her routines on every event. Among the new skills she is training is a layout Rudi vault.

"On vault I have surely not yet exhausted all my capacities," said the 5-foot, 3-inch Käslin. "This is a difficult vault for my body size, but I think it is feasible. On floor I can still increase my Start Value, and on beam I must work on stability. How things will go on bars, I do not know for sure at the moment, because I am recovering from a shoulder injury. Once I know how the recovery goes, I can plan for this event. Of course, it would be wonderful for me to still increase my A-score on bars, too."

Käslin said her Olympic candidacy will be based largely on her performance at the 2008 European Championships, to be held in Clermont-Ferrand, France, in April. Swiss qualifying competitions for Europeans will begin in February, she said.

Swiss team in Stuttgart

"The results in the European Championships will surely weigh heavily for Olympic qualification," said Käslin. "Then still other national and international competitions will follow. The European Championships will be a first test regarding Beijing. I aim for a reasonably good place in the all-around final there. On vault and bars, a place in the finals is nearly an obligation for me. If everything goes well, I wish for a good result in the all-around final at the Olympic Games."

Although Käslin was the Swiss women's top all-arounder in Stuttgart, she said she is not taking an Olympic berth for granted. Käslin said she is counting on competition from within her own team to drive her performances between now and the Games.

"Obviously, my goal is qualification for Beijing," she said. "I want the others on the team to push me and motivate me to give my best performances. These are just what I will need next year."

IG Magazine Related Feature
"Swiss Thrill-seeker" - Käslin profile (January/February 2007)

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