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Shapiro Enjoys Snowy Holiday Weekend
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In the latest IG Online holiday-related feature, U.S. junior national team member Samantha Shapiro talks about her family weekend in the snow.

Samantha Shapiro

Shapiro, who lives in Los Angeles, spent Dec. 23-25 at her family's condo in the ski resort of Mammoth Lakes, 300 miles from her hometown.

"I usually don't ski, but I play games and hang out with the family, and play in the snow," Shapiro told IG.

The weekend followed the Shapiro family's traditional observance of Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish holiday which ended Dec. 23.

"All the days are about the same," Shapiro explained. "We celebrate and come together. We play games, sing songs and exchange gifts."

Joining her were her parents; younger sister Nikki (who competed Level 6 last year, and will compete either Level 7 or 8 in the coming season); and her aunt, uncle and cousins from Indiana.

Shapiro said she and Nikki often receive gymnastics-related holiday presents, such as competition shoes and keychains. "This year, I got mostly regular gifts - clothes, movies and stuff like that," she said.

Although Shapiro did not train over the weekend (and always has Sundays off from the gym), she was conscientious while at Mammoth Lakes.

"At the condo I've been doing some conditioning and stretching," Shapiro said Monday. "Just whatever I feel my body needs, I'll do. I take walks outside to keep my body active."

Shapiro began gymnastics in a pre-school class at age 4. Her potential was quickly noticed by coach Galina Marinova, a 1980 Bulgarian Olympian.

"My mom told me the story," Shapiro said. "We got a call on our answering machine from this woman (Marinova) that my parents didn't even know, saying I had great upper-body strength, and that she wanted me to come a couple mornings a week. My parents didn't really know about gymnastics and didn't know what to expect, but I just loved it."

Shapiro, who trains under Artur Akopyan and Marinova at All Olympic Gymnastics Center in Los Angeles, finished 13th all-around at the 2006 U.S. Junior Championships. She said last year's experience will help her in 2007.

"I think it's a lot about experience," Shapiro said. "It really helps to know what to expect next year, to be in control of your body, to feel powerful in big competitions."

Already known in the U.S. for her excellent technique and execution, Shapiro said the key to good form is attention to detail.

"I've definitely worked on it," she said. "During conditioning, I make sure the body is tight so when you actually do the skill and fly through the air, it just comes."

The 13-year-old Shapiro is age-ineligible for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, but she has a big aim for 2007.

"I would like to represent the U.S. in international competition," she said. "That's my main goal for the new year."

Samantha Shapiro is featured in the following issues of International Gymnast magazine:

November 2006: center gallery (includes Shapiro)
October 2006: "Substance and Style" (profile)

To order back issues of IG magazine, click here.

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