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Swedish Women Set for Northern European Title Defense
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Led by defending all-around champion Ida Gustafsson, the Swedish women are cautiously optimistic in their potential to retain the team title at this weekend's Northern European championships in Glasgow, head coach Sebastian Melander told IG.

Ida Gustafsson

"Last year we had a stronger team than this year," Melander said. "We have some of the best gymnasts recovering and building up new programs for the next (Olympic) cycle. We have to hit routines, and we cannot afford mistakes."

Melander said Wales, who placed second to Sweden at the 2011 competition that the Swedes hosted in Uppsala, could be his team's strongest opponent in Glasgow.

"We believe that Wales will have improved a lot since last year when they just had started with a new German coach, Dieter Koch," he said. "Now one year later, I'm sure they have improved. We are looking forward to it."

The Swedish team in Glasgow includes Gustaffson, Emma Larsson and Lovisa Estberg from Eskilstuna; and Ece Ayan Leksand and Saga Svantesson from Stockholm. Lele Mattsson is the team's assistant coach.

Melander said each member of the team offers unique strengths.

"Ida is strong on uneven bars and has clean lines," he said. "Emma is also strong in the all-around, and on floor, vault and beam. Lovisa is strongest on beam. I believe Ece Ayan's best is beam, and Saga (is strongest) on vault. Last year we had three good gymnasts on bars - Ida Gustaffson, (2012 Olympian) Jonna Adlerteg and (2011 all-around silver medalist) Kim Singmuang. It made a difference!"

Melander said success at the Northern European championships can boost the Swedes as they head into the 2013 Europeans in Moscow.

"We are from a small gymnastics nation with very few gymnasts," he told IG. "We try to take one step at a time to climb up as a nation. We now have made all- around finals at Europeans championships and world championships. We have made apparatus finals at Junior Europeans and the Youth Olympics, and even won a Youth Olympics medal (Adlerteg in 2010). The next step is to make an apparatus final at Senior Europeans. We will see if it could come as early as 2013, but we are working for this."

International Gymnast Magazine Related Features:
"Scouting Scandinavia" – visit to Stockholm Top Gymnastics (March 2011)
"Swedish Upswing" – Swedish team profile (November 2010)
"Swedish history-maker" (Adlerteg feature) – November 2010

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