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Bijak Still Considering Beijing
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Although German veteran Daria Bijak missed this year's World Championships in her home country, she may still contend for the 2008 Olympics. "Only time will tell," she told IG this week.
Daria Bijak

Bijak, a sophomore at the University of Utah, placed 20th all-around at the 2003 World Championships in Anaheim, and eighth all-around at the 2005 World Championships in Melbourne.

Bijak's rank in Melbourne remains the highest all-around finish by a German woman in World Championships competition since East Germany's Dorte Thümmler placed sixth all-around at the 1987 Worlds.

Bijak did not compete at the 2007 World Championships (held Sept. 1-9 in Stuttgart) because she was recovering from a knee injury. The German women earned a team berth to the 2008 Olympic Games with their 10th-place finish.

Bijak, whose German residence is Cologne, said she intends to try for a spot on the German team bound for Beijing.

"That is still my goal and I am working towards it, but I think the most important thing for me is to stay healthy," said Bijak, who will turn 22 on November 12. "I've had quite a few injuries in the past four years. So I guess only time will tell."

Germany's top performers in Stuttgart were Marie-Sophie Hindermann, who placed 14th all-around and fifth on uneven bars; Anja Brinker, who placed 18th all-around; and Oksana Chusovitina, who placed sixth on vault. The team also included Katja Abel, Joeline Möbius and Jenny Brunner.

"I am very happy they qualified for the Olympics next year," Bijak said. "The qualification was their biggest goal, so I think they did a great job."

Bijak said she and her German coaches plan to keep one another well-informed as her 2007-2008 NCAA season progresses. At the University of Utah, Bijak is coached by Greg Marsden, Megan Marsden, Jeff Graba and Mary Wright.

"Right now I'm talking to my club coach, Shanna Polyakova, a lot," Bijak said. "I let her know about everything I plan to compete here, and we also discuss our plans for my (international) routines. And once our season here in Utah starts, both my club coach and the German head coach will watch my routines online."

Bijak's career since her success in Melbourne has included injuries to both knees, but she wants to remain confident.

"It's not easy to stay positive, and there are times when I am pretty down and frustrated because of injuries, but that's sports, isn't it?" Bijak said. "It's all about getting through the hard times and then enjoying the good times. I think I have kind of learned how to deal with injuries, and I know people that help me get through it. I just love doing gymnastics and especially competing in front of a big crowd. I think that's what keeps me motivated."

Bijak has optimistic goals for both NCAA and international competition in 2008.

"My hopes for the new season? To win NCAAs with my team," she said. "That would be great. And for Germany? To have a healthy and good team at the Olympics, in order to show off some big skills."

IG Magazine Related Features
"It Was All Academic" - short Bijak profile (January/February 2007)
"Standing Our For Germany" - Hindermann profile (November 2007)
"Breaking In" - Brinker profile (November 2007)
"Double Break" - Abel profile (July/August 2006)
"On Good German Terms" - short Chusovitina profile (January/February 2007)

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