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IG Online Interview: Jana Sikulova (Czech Republic)
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2014 has been an especially challenging but successful year for veteran Czech gymnast Jana Sikulova, who won international medals in March and April, competed at the European championships in May, earned her Master's degree in June, and turned 26 in July.

2014 has been an especially challenging but successful year for veteran Czech gymnast Jana Sikulova, who won international medals in March and April, competed at the European championships in May, earned her Master's degree in June, and turned 26 in July.

A mainstay for the Czech team for over a decade, Sikulova competed at her first world championships in 2003, and won four World Cup medals by the end of 2009.

Sikulova has remained competitive in her 20s, placing sixth all-around at the 2011 University Games in Shenzhen, and 14th all-around at the 2013 University Games in Kazan.

This year Sikulova won the silver medal on uneven bars at the Challenge Cup of Doha, Qatar, in March; and the silver medal on uneven bars at the Korea Cup in Incheon in April. She placed 18th all-around in qualifications among gymnasts who competed on all four apparatuses at Europeans in Sofia in May, where no formal all-around contest took place.

In this IG Online interview, Sikulova shares her perspectives on her longevity, the struggles she has faced in balancing her academic and gymnastics schedules, and her plans for the future.

IG: What led to your Master's degree, and what did your thesis involve?

JS: I studied in the faculty of Sports Studies at Masaryk University for five years. Two years ago I finished my Bachelor's degree and this year I finished my Master's degree. My diploma thesis was "3D kinematic analysis of gymnastics disciplines of vault." I looked for the optimal performance of the basic Yurchenko vault by comparing different biomechanical analyses of vault phases, and I was looking for technical difference among gymnasts.

Czech veteran Jana Sikulova and classmate celebrate their Master's degrees

IG: You have had much success in gymnastics this year. How did you manage your studies and train for top competitions at the same time?

JS: The first half of the year was one of the hardest for me. When I go back in time and realize what was in the beginning of the year, I realized that it was quite surreal for me to see what was coming. I started to write my diploma thesis, and the time for training was becoming shorter and shorter. This feeling made me a bit stressed. The first two competitions were the Challenge Cups in Cottbus and Doha. I did well and succeeded on uneven bars, and got the silver medal in Doha. The third competition was the Korea Cup, and I got the silver medal on bars, as well. I was always thinking about working on the diploma thesis at these competitions.

IG: How much did your studies impact your preparation for Europeans, and vice versa?

JS: In May came the culminating preparation for the European championships, and I ran out of power. This part of the season was very hard for me. Befor leaving for Europeans I did not felt as prepared as I needed to be. Although my performance at Europeans was influenced by dificult times, I was glad with the final result. After Europeans I successfully defended my diploma thesis. I have to say that my diploma project supervisor helped me a lot, and my family was also very helpful and supported me during the whole process. I knew that it was necessary for me to feel all the support because I would not have made it in time. I greatly appreciate it. The last competition for me was Czech championships. I had 14 days left for the final exam (degree examinations) on June 23. I passed the final exam, and it was one of the best days for me.

IG: Having recently turned 26, how do you feel about your gymnastics, physically, compared to when you were younger?

JS: For the last two years I have felt the biggest change physically. I feel a big difference from before. The great advantage is my experience. On the other hand, the disadvantages are often fatigue and chronic pain. I had to modify my training. Very important is the perfect cooperation with my coaches. I have had to strictly follow the exact mode; for example, regular regeneration, nutrition and other things. I have a fitness trainer and a physiotherapist, who are also very important for my training.

IG: What about your psychological condition?

JS: All of us have some bad times, like I've had many times, too. But I have to say that I feel great psychologically now. The university where I studied was great. I liked it, although it was hard to do everything together. Besides that, I had a lot a great friends and people around me. They were supporting me all the time. This was really outstanding, and will stay in my mind forever. The next reason why I feel good is that I work well with my coaches. These are the people that I really respect and appreciate. That is why I stayed in gymnastics and why my career is successful for a long time.

IG: What's next for you in the sport?

JS: After the final exam came a big decision. I felt tired after the first half of the year, and I knew that almost immediately I would have to prepare for the world championships. I felt responsible for helping our Czech team. In fact, I knew that I would have a very short time for a rest. After a really long time of thinking and wondering, I decided that I'm not going to participate in the championships. Due to this decision I will not be competing in other competitions, either. My decision was also influenced by thinking about my future, particularly looking for a job and living with my partner. We have been six years far away from each other, in a long-distance relationship. Due to the university where I have studied, I have been thinking many times about being a coach abroad. I'm lucky that my boyfriend works in Schafhausen, Switzerland, as a head coach of gymnastics. This is my new road and a big chance. But it's sure that callouses on my hands are going to stay for a long time!

International Gymnast magazine's features on Czech gymnasts include:
Vera Caslavska/Hall of Fame induction feature (June 2012)
"Rebuilding Phase" - Kristyna Palesova profile (June 2011)
"Shooting Star" - Petra Fialova profile (January/February 2010)
"Central European Sojourn" – includes IG's visit to Sokol Brno club (January/February 2010)
"On the Upswing" - Jana Sikulova profile (July/August 2006)
"Reality Czech" – Jana Komrskova feature (November 2003)
"Catching up with Hana Ricna Jessen" – profile (May 2001)
Jana Komrskova profile (August/September 2000)

To order back issues, or subscribe to the print and/or digital edition of International Gymnast magazine, click here.

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