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Canadian Champions Counting Down to Worlds
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2007 Canadian champions David Kikuchi and Kristina Vaculik told IG they are fine-tuning their routines for the upcoming World Championships, Sept. 1-9 in Stuttgart.

Kikuchi, who this spring won his second consecutive Canadian men's all-around title, said he and his teammates aim to qualify a full team for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. To accomplish that goal, they need to finish among the top 12 in Stuttgart. The Canadian men finished a historical-best sixth place at the 2006 World Championships, held in Aarhus, Denmark.

"We have been training hard, and we know what we have to do," Kikuchi said. "In Stuttgart we will have to compete well, with our main goal being to qualify for Beijing."

Kikuchi was the top Canadian all-arounder at the 2003 Worlds in Anaheim, where he finished 20th. He was a member of the 11th-place Canadian team at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Kikuchi is married to 2000 Olympian Crystal Gilmore, a member of Canada's 2006 women's world team that placed 14th.

Kikuchi said winning the Canadian title again has boosted his confidence for future competitions, both at home and abroad.

"Last year I wasn't expecting to win, with a lot of our young guys like Adam Wong and Nathan Gafuik really improving," he said. "This time the focus was on getting a good start on qualifying for the Worlds team, and not on defending my title, so that made it easier. Winning again this time is icing on the cake. Having been within a tenth or two a couple of times before made it that much sweeter. Also, the experiences of being a close second helped me to focus."

The 15-year-old Vaculik, a first-year senior, was recently named to the Canadian women's team for the upcoming Worlds. She and 2006 world balance beam bronze medalist Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs are expected to be among the Canadian team leaders in Stuttgart.

Coached by 1980 Olympic all-around champion Yelena Davydova and Valery Vahchybekov at Gemini Gymnastics Club in Ontario, Vaculik said she was pleased with her performance at the recent Canadian team trials. She finished first all-around, and said she wants to improve her performances by Worlds.

"I need to perfect my routines and make then tighter," she said. "Like on bars, I need tighter handstands, and just to clean up my routines in general."

At the Worlds trials, Vaculik said she had a problem on a beam combination (flip-flop, tucked full) that she attempted for only the second time in competition.

"I didn't stick it, but it was almost there," Vaculik said. "I just need more practice and repetition, and it will be there."

Vaculik said her consistency and power on all four events are the result of balanced workouts.

"When I train, I train on every event equally," she said. "Time and repetition on each event has brought me that all-around 'thing'!"

Vaculik, who spent last weekend relaxing with her family at their summer cottage, said she enjoys viewing Davydova's classic performances online.

"Sometimes I go on YouTube and watch," she said. "Gymnastics was so different back then!"

IG Online Related Features
Canada Names Women's Worlds Team (July 17, 2007)
Vaculik, Kikuchi Win Canadian Championships (May 24, 2007)
Hard Work Ahead For Hopfner-Hibbs (December 31, 2007)
Gilmore, Kikuchi Enjoy Holiday Honeymoon (December 27, 2007)
Interview: Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs

International Gymnast Magazine Related Features:
Davydova interview (July/August 2007)
2007 International Gymnastics Hall of Fame Induction - featuring Davydova (June 2007)
"All In A Day's Work" - Hopfner-Hibbs profile (March 2007)

To subscribe to IG Magazine or order back issues, click here.

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