Hampered by an elbow injury that prevented her from challenging for a spot at the 2008 Olympic Games, 2007 Canadian all-around champion Kristina Vaculik outlines her plans for new success at the collegiate, international and Olympic level.
Vaculik placed second all-around to Dominique Pegg at Elite Canada, a Canadian team ranking meet held last December. In the Elite Canada event finals, she finished first on uneven bars, and tied Pegg for first place on floor exercise. (Read more on Pegg in an upcoming issue of International Gymnast magazine.) The competition marked Vaculik’s return from competition following a long period of rehabilitation following elbow surgery.
Coached by 1980 Olympic all-around champion Yelena Davydova and Valery Yahchybekov at Gemini Gymnastics in Oshawa, Ontario, the 17-year-old Vaculik has great expectations for 2010 and beyond. She intends to enroll at Stanford University in the fall, and continue competing internationally with the goal of qualifying for the 2012 Olympics in London. In this IG Online interview, Vaculik describes how injury and frustration have given her new incentive to prove herself.
Kristina Vaculik at the 2007 Worlds in Stuttgart
IG: Congratulations on your excellent performance at Elite Canada last month. What were your goals for that competition, and how close to meeting your expectations did you come?
KV: I didn't have any expectations going into my first major competition after a one-year absence. I just wanted to experience competition again and feel through my routines in a competitive frame of mind. I wanted to prove to myself that I still have what it takes mentally and physically to compete and belong with the best gymnasts in Canada.
IG: What exactly was the injury that kept you from making a stronger bid for the Beijing Olympics?
KV: I was managing a few injuries throughout the Olympic selection process, including a sore elbow. Early in 2008, it was confirmed that I had developed osteochondritis dissecans (a condition in which the blood supply to the area at the end of the bone is cut off) in my right elbow. After the Canadian nationals, it was strongly recommended that I take time off, so I was forced to withdraw from the Olympic team reserve position. After a few months, the injury showed no signs of healing and led to surgery in December of that year. Fortunately, I had an excellent surgeon, Dr. Jason Smith, who is the team orthopedic surgeon for the Toronto Blue Jays. I took the right amount of time to recover which allowed me to return to full training in July 2009.
IG: What was the process that gave you the motivation you needed to return to competition following the Olympics?
KV: The motivation came from within me, from my love of the sport. It has always been there, and it is what has kept me going for close to 14 years. Being off for so long made me realize just how much I missed gymnastics, and this is what gave me the motivation and inspiration to fight my way back.
IG: What suggestions or encouragement did Yelena give you, so you could find the motivation to continue your international career?
KV: Yelena told me that, even though I was out for so long, I still had people around me that would support me and do anything to help me get back to where I was before, and where I want to be in two years. I still have goals and dreams that I want to achieve. Yelena also had several injuries that put her out of competition, so she's been there and can give me encouragement based on her experiences. I also received immense support from my gymnastics club and the Canadian gymnastics community, which I am extremely grateful for.
IG: What are your competitive goals for 2010?
KV: I would like to regain my competitive edge and compete internationally again. I am looking at a couple of opportunities for international exposure including the Pacific Rim Championships and World Cups. These events will serve as good preparation for the 2010 World Championships in the Netherlands.
IG: What thought are you giving to the 2012 Olympics, in relation to perhaps other pursuits? For example, are you looking to compete for a U.S. university? If so, when would you be enrolling, and would you still try for London?
KV: I recently accepted a full scholarship at Stanford University, where I will be joining my former team mate, Alyssa Brown. I am very excited about this opportunity and competing in the NCAA. I am enrolled for the 2010 fall semester and will study for a year. After that, I plan to defer a year and return to Canada to prepare for the 2011 worlds. The goal is to qualify a full team for the 2012 Olympics.
Read "Ready for the World," a profile on Vaculik, in the September 2007 issue of International Gymnast magazine. To order back issues, click here.