Austrians Aim High for 2010 and Beyond
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As Austrian gymnastics continues to work for better international results, Austrian champion Fabian Leimlehner told IG he is confident for next month's world championships in Rotterdam after a solid performance in last weekend's tri-meet with Hungary and the Czech Republic.

Fabian Leimlehner (Austria)

"I'm satisfied about my performance at this early point of World Championships preparation," said Leimlehner, who placed second all-around to Hungary's Vid Hidvegi at the tri-meet held Saturday in Linz. "My aim was not do all of my top difficulty elements, but to show six stable routines. This worked."

Leimlehner was the only Austrian among the top eight all-around finishers in Linz. Hidvegi placed first (85.45), followed by Leimlehner (84.30) and six Hungarian gymnasts.

Leimlehner said he was particularly pleased with her performance on vault, where he did a double-twisting Kasamatsu for the first time in competition and scored 15.65.

"In Rotterdam, I think this new vault together with my full routines on the other apparatuses will help me to reach my big goal, the all-around final," he said.

If Leimlehner achieves his goal in Rotterdam, he will be the first Austrian to make the world championships all-around final.

Austrian national team head coach Petr Koudela said he is also confident in his team's abilities as it prepares for Rotterdam.

"We have a realistic chance to reach the top 24 teams in Rotterdam which qualify for a team slot at the 2011 world championships in Tokyo," said Koudela, who formerly coached the Czech team.

For the Austrian women, Elsa Hämmerle's 12th-place all-around finish at last month's Youth Olympic Games in Singapore has helped offset the retirement of 19-year-old Kathrin Nussbacher and 19-year-old Andrea Rührlinger this summer.

Nussbacher made event finals at World Cup meets in 2008 and 2009, and Rührlinger won the bronze medal on floor exercise at the 2008 World Cup of Szombathely, Hungary.

Another leading Austrian woman, Canadian-based Barbara Gasser, will not compete in Rotterdam because of an injury, said Robert Labner, spokesperson for the Austrian Gymnastics Federation (ÖFT).

"Our female team at present is living through a generation change," Labner told IG. "We'll still send a complete team to Rotterdam but do not really know how good they will be. But from next year on, many hopeful junior gymnasts will enter our national team, led by Elisa. She will be able to compete at the Tokyo worlds, and her aim is to qualify for London 2012."

Labner said that, if either Hämmerle or Leimlehner earn berths to London, Austria will be represented in Olympic artistic gymnastics competition for the first time since 1968. (In rhythmic gymnastics, Austrians have competed in three Olympics since the discipline was introduced at the 1984 Games.)

Austria is in the process of evaluating the current state of gymnastics in the country, and achieving a higher international standard in the future.

"The Austrian Gymnastics Federation will face many big challenges in the coming months," Labner said. "We are having an intense discussion about structures and future goals, which we hope will result in a situation that will, with additional help from the government, improve the position and resources of top-level gymnastics in our country."

Labner said the ÖFT's "Turn10" program, which offers gymnastics competition for all ages and levels beyond artistic gymnastics, is helping stimulate growth of the sport in Austria and beyond.

Approximately 500 ÖFT member clubs participate in the program, and competitions have also taken place in Italy, Luxembourg and Germany. Labner said Margaret Sikkens Ahlquist, president of the International Gymnastics Federation's "Gymnastics for All" committee, is considering Turn10 as a development program in Africa.

"It seems possible that Turn10 will be the basic platform of a new trans-Europe apparatus gymnastics competition program," Labner said.

External Link: Turn10

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