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Larson Confident After Classic Comeback
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After winning the recent CoverGirl Classic, Mattie Larson told IG she is confident for continued momentum at the upcoming Visa (U.S.) Championships and other events leading to this fall's world championships in Rotterdam.

"Before the meet I didn't feel any pressure because nobody had really seen me compete in a while, so they didn't really know what to expect," said Larson, who placed first all-around at the CoverGirl Classic, a Visa Championships qualifying meet that was held July 24 in Chicago. "But it was funny seeing articles after the meet, saying 'Mattie's comeback was really good.' I never thought of this as a comeback, but I guess it ended up like one."

Larson placed seventh all-around at the 2008 U.S. Championships and seventh all-around at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials, but injury prevented her from competing at last year's Visa (U.S.) Championships.

"I was really happy with a lot of things, but it definitely showed me that I have work to do to be where I want to be in time for nationals and worlds," said Larson of her victory in Chicago. "But it boosted my confidence."

Larson's only significant error in Chicago was a fall on her 2-1/2 twist dismount on balance beam – a mistake she vowed not to repeat.

"That was pretty much a fluke," Larson said. "I misjudged where I was in the air. Watching it on TV, I was like, 'Ugh, I so could have saved that if I knew I was that under-rotated.' Now I'm definitely paying attention to that in practice. I learned from it, but I had to learn the hard way."

Larson, who trains under coaches Galina Marinova and Artur Akopyan at All Olympia Gymnastics Center in Los Angeles, said she is focusing on consistency as she trains for the national championships, Aug. 11-14 in Hartford.

"It's a lot about fine-tuning," Larson said. "It's not about adding more skills into my routines. It's about doing more numbers, and not just doing more numbers, but more numbers efficiently and the right way. I am trying to make as few mistakes as I can, as do as many good numbers in a row as possible."

Larson said Marinova and Akopyan have been enthusiastic and practical since she won the CoverGirl Classic.

"They came up to me and said, 'Congratulations, my girl, but now the work starts,'" Larson said. "That's exactly what they said. I knew it was exactly true. They really want me to focus on execution, because the new Code of Points leans more toward execution than difficulty. I'm trying to make everything more elegant, from my toes to my fingers."

Larson said she hopes her performance in Chicago impressed U.S. national team coordinator Marta Karolyi.

"I think Marta talked to my coaches, and I think she's happy with how I did," Larson told IG. "But I think she knows I have a lot more progress to make before nationals, and hopefully the trials for worlds, and worlds. I think Marta told my coaches she was happy that my practices were more consistent than in the past. I'm going in the right direction, but she knows and I know I still have work to do."

Marinova said she and Akopyan are cautiously optimistic that Larson's training partner, Samantha Shapiro, will be able to compete in Hartford. Shapiro was among the leaders at the CoverGirl Classic before she hyperextended both knees on the landing of her vault in the third rotation.

"The doctor gave her a good exam and released her, so now we are starting to progressively use the legs," Marinova said. "We are doing bars and beam, but not strong landings. We want to try to compete at least on bars and possibly beam at nationals, and we'll see from there. That's the plan."

Mattie Larson and Samantha Shapiro are featured in the following issues of International Gymnast magazine:
July/August 2009: "All for One" (All Olympia profile)
October 2006: "Substance and Style" (Shapiro profile)
November 2005: "Meet a Real Show-stopper!" (Larson profile)

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

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