2012 Olympian Jimmy Verbaeys (Belgium) recalls his surprising entry into the Olympic all-around final, and how he plans to continue proving himself a worthy all-around contender heading into the 2013 Worlds in Antwerp.
Originally designated as third reserve for the 24-gymnast all-around final at this summer's London Olympic Games, Jimmy Verbaeys of Belgium optimized the opportunity he was given to compete after three qualified gymnasts above him declined to compete in the final. Verbaeys jumped into the competition, and bettered his qualification score by 1.667 points to finish credibly in 21st place.
Verbaeys's performance in London represented a big leap for the Belgian men, whose Olympic presence has been scarce. As only the second Belgian male gymnast to compete at the Olympic Games since 1960, Verbaeys earned the best Olympic all-around ranking for the Belgian men since 1948.
Born Aug. 26, 1993, in Uccle, Verbaeys lives in the city of Forest. He trains under coach Dirk Van Meldert at Blauwput Omnisport Leuven. Prior to the London Olympics, Verbaeys finished 93rd all-around in qualifications at the 2010 World Championships in Rotterdam, 37th all-around at the 2011 European championships in Berlin, and 67th all-around in qualifications at the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo. Earlier this year he was fifth on floor exercise at the FIG Challenger Cup in Doha.
In this IG Online interview, the candid Verbaeys recalls his surprising entry into the Olympic all-around final, and how he plans to continue proving himself a worthy all-around contender heading into the 2013 Worlds in Antwerp.
IG: Take us back to the moment in London when you saw that you were "only" third reserve for the all-around final. How did your performance in qualifications measure up to your expectations going into the competition?
JV: I was really relaxed before my qualification, because for me, I was at the Olympics just for the experience and I didn’t think I could make a final. My qualification went really well. I did my first five events almost perfectly but on the last event, pommel horse, things went wrong. I fell twice and lost my dismount, so I lost points. But I was happy about my competition, so I didn’t have any regrets, even my big mistake on pommel horse.
IG: Now take us back to the moment when you learned that you would indeed be competing in the all-around final. Where were you, and who told you the news? How did you react to the news?
JV: I heard the news on the bus going back to the Village. I had just watched the women’s team final. My coach was somewhere to hear if they were gymnasts that said no for the all-around final, and he called me and said, "Jimmy, you’re in!" I Said, "What?!" And he said, "Well, do you want to?" and I immediately said, "Yes!"
Verbaeys celebrates a hit routine at the 2012 Olympics in London
IG: You did not have much time to prepare for the all-around final, so how did you quickly get back into "competition" mindset?
JV: Indeed, I didn’t train after my qualification, and I heard the news that I could do the all-around final the day before, so I didn’t train for about three days. Normally we train almost every day, so it was a little bit scary to do the final without having trained in three days, so in the warm-up gym my coach asked if there was still a training session. They said no, but he explained my situation so they said OK. I trained for an hour and a half, and after this little training, I felt ready for the final because I was in my best shape ever.
IG: Looking back at your performance in the all-around final, what was most satisfying and what was least satisfying for you?
JV: My most satisfying is my result that I made. It was my best ever in competition. Least satisfying was my fall on high bar. I don’t really care about the fall, but just because of the fall, I didn’t make the "perfect competition."
IG: How much pressure do you feel, not only trying to perform your best but also performing with the expectations of the Belgian public?
JV: Well, I am a really relaxed guy, so I don’t have the pressure at the time I'm competing, but the pressure before the Olympics was a bit more because your family and friends want you to do perfectly, but that is very difficult. So the pressure is just that you don't want to disappoint them and yourself because it's a competition that you are training for a lot, and you want to look back and say, "Yes, I did a great Olympics."
IG:In recent years, you and (world and European pommel horse finalist) Donna-Donny Truyens have become successful at the international level. Before, the Belgian men were not so strong. What do you think is the reason for your country's recent success in gymnastics?
JV: In Belgium they made a big center that exists for around 10 years, so it take times to understand how everything can work well, and you need the right athletes with strong characters. I really think we are now on the right way to become a good and famous team.
IG:Next year Belgium will host the world championships. How are you preparing to handle the extra incentive, and extra pressure, of competing for your 'home' fans?
JV: I'm really looking forward to this event. For sure there will be more pressure. I think that we all now can handle this pressure, but right now there is no pressure, so I'm cool. But I think it’s a dream for every athlete to compete at your home country. It's different from in another country, because a lot of your family and friends come to watch you, so you want to show what you have been doing all the time you haven’t been with them.
IG: What areas of your gymnastics are you focusing on, so that, in 2013, you can legitimately qualify for the top 24 all-around final, and perhaps not rely on qualified gymnasts to drop out?
JV: In 2013 I indeed want to be at the top 24 and then in the final want to make a very good result, but I also really would like to make an event final. I don't really know where, but my strongest events are pommel horse and parallel bars.
External Link: Belgian Gymnastics Federation