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Interview: Philipp Boy (Germany)
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Philipp Boy

Germany's Philipp Boy continues his impressive rise at the senior international level, approaching both his 21st birthday and his first Olympic Games this summer as his country's No. 2 all-arounder.

Born July 23, 1987, in Schwedt, Boy trains in Cottbus, where he is coached by 1996 Olympian Karsten Oelsch. He won the German junior all-around title in 2004 and 2005, and was part of the silver medal-winning German team at the 2004 European Junior Championships in Ljubljana.

In 2006 Boy placed third all-around at the German Championships; and 32nd all-around in preliminaries and seventh with his team at the World Championships in Aarhus, Denmark.

In 2007 Boy placed third all-around at the German Championships, and 18th in the all-around final at the World Championships in Stuttgart. Also in Stuttgart, Boy helped the German men win their first Worlds team medal (a bronze, behind gold medalist China and silver medalist Japan) since 1991.

Boy's performances this far in the Olympic year of 2008 have been consistently successful. He finished second with his German teammates (behind Russia) at the European Championships in Lausanne; first all-around at the first German Olympic Trials; and second all-around to 2007 world all-around silver medalist Fabian Hambüchen at the German Championships, which doubled as the second German Olympic Trials. (Hambüchen did not compete in the first trials.)

In this IG Online interview, Boy details the motivation, challenges and personal growth that have defined his Olympic journey and his international career to date.

IG: Philipp, congratulations on being selected for Beijing. Between the Trials and the Games in August, on which areas of your gymnastics are you focusing?

PB: Thanks. As I'm an all-arounder, I put my complete attention on the all-around. That means to work on existing mistakes on all apparatus, and in the end to perfect my performances in order to present myself well at the Olympic Games, and also to help the team as much as possible.

IG: You were one of several promising junior gymnasts in Germany, some of whom have not advanced into the top senior group as you have. To what do you attribute the progress you have made, especially in the jump from junior to senior competition?

PB: That's right. I had a smooth transition from the juniors to the seniors - that means directly to the senior national team, and also to my first World Championships in Aarhus in 2006. I think there are many reasons for this. At the beginning of 2006 I still thought about quitting gymnastics for several reasons. However, maybe exactly that helped me towards the smooth transition. When I had overcome this "crisis" I had a motivation like never before, which helped me to get over cruel and rough times in training. After I'd been written off I wanted to show everyone how things are done and that they could count on me, actually more than ever.

And Fabian opened my eyes in a certain way, as he showed me that a German gymnast is also able to be internationally successful. That was an additional boost of motivation for me.

IG: At the 2007 World Championships in Stuttgart, your team won the bronze medal. What improvements has your team made, to finish at least third in Beijing, as well?

PB: Third place at the World Championships in Stuttgart was a sensation for German gymnastics, and not only for the German Gymnastics Federation, but also for us. Before these World Championships nobody would have reckoned that the Germans would be in one of the top ranks. It was an unforgettable experience for us all. And we don't expect to repeat this success again in Beijing. We want to reach the team final and then look further, like we did also in Stuttgart.

In 2000 the German team was in 10th position. In 2004 they reached the team final and got eighth place. So when we'll again manage to reach the team final and assuming that we get seventh place there, this already would be an improvement compared to the Olympic Games before, and thus already a success for us. It remains to be seen, as also the teams from the other countries are training hard!

IG: How realistic do you think a team gold or silver medal is for Germany in Beijing?

PB: Unlikely!

Boy (center) and his teammates won the team silver at the 2008 Europeans in Lausanne

IG: How do you balance the energy you need to achieve your personal goals for the Olympic Games, with the energy required to help the team achieve its goals?

PB: When I give the best for the team it's consequently also the best for myself. So there's no need to balance anything! No, seriously, I'll give the best for my team, as that's good for the team and myself. Here in Germany, mainly the team counts, and this is the reason why we're that successful. Everyone is there for each other as we all have one dream: "to win a precious medal at the Olympic Games." Team spirit is a really big thing for us.

IG: What are the "A" (Difficulty) scores you plan to achieve in Beijing?

PB: Umm...good question. Take it as a surprise!

IG: How have injuries impacted your motivation?

PB: I think my serious injuries in the past in a way were caused by my mentality. I've always been very impulsive, spontaneous and a hit-or-miss kind of person, and because of that I often didn't think about possible consequences which were caused by not training continuously. My body obviously didn't like this constant up and down! However, I think that, meanwhile, I was able to change this in a positive way, and I hope to be able to get through life with fewer injuries now.

Like I mentioned before, in the past I had a lot of problems with injuries, among them a shinbone and fibula fracture, surgery on my foot last year, and, after last year's World Championships, shoulder surgery.

In my opinion, any kind of injury has a distinctive effect on the character of a person. You see a lot of things with different eyes, and for me that certainly had a positive influence on my future development. No matter from which kind of compulsory break, I always managed to come back stronger than before. At the beginning you always live through some kind of down, and then you have to fight to get out of it again.

Philipp Boy

Also, the right environment is essential. You need people who motivate you again, and who you know stand behind you, no matter what could still happen. You need this support in order to start a comeback, and fortunately I had it!

I can only say that injuries were always a large setback for me but, nonetheless, I never had doubts about being able to get back into the international competitive scene again.

IG: You won the first German Olympic Trials, but Hambüchen did not compete. Hambüchen has also become known as the new icon of German gymnastics. How do you cope with the attention and success he has, so you avoid comparisons or feelings of jealousy?

PB: I grant Fabian the success, as he also has worked hard for it, and I'm not jealous at all. He only shows me where I, too, want to get to! Fabian shows me that it is possible to be successful, in various aspects, in a sport which isn't that popular. And that's my incentive to train even harder in order to reach this goal, too.

IG: We understand you intend to become a banker. What draws you to this line of work? And how good are you with your own money?

PB: Yes, that's right, too. After the Olympic Games I'll start professional training in the "Sparkasse Spree-Neisse," a bank in my region. I'm interested in everything concerning the topic of money. And where could you learn more about the trade with money, stocks, etc. than in a bank? Banking is a field full of variety, and that's the reason why I want to start a career in it.

I think I'm dealing with (my own money) quite well. I'm able to get along well with the financial resources which I have at my disposal!

IG: Going back in time, when and why did you choose gymnastics?

PB: I owe this to my mother. She was the one who sent me to gymnastics lessons at the age of almost 5. She thought my excess energy needed to be guided in the right direction, and she was convinced of gymnastics. Through this kind of sport you learn how to control your body. Let's face it, is there any kind of sport with which gymnasts aren't able to cope? I would have to think about it for a while in order to find one!

And you learn discipline, which has an important meaning if you want to be successful in today's society. I could mention many more things which gymnastics has taught me for my life, but I think that would go beyond the scope of this interview! In my opinion it's always a good decision when parents send their children to gymnastics lessons.

IG: Finally, how much longer beyond Beijing do you see yourself competing? At what age do you think you will be at your competitive peak?

PB: I definitely want to continue after Beijing, as I'm still at the beginning of my sports career. I certainly want to try to compete also in London 2012 (Olympic Games). "Try" — because you never know who moves up from the juniors or if my body continues to cope with competitive sports, etc. Anyway, my goal is the 2012 Olympic Games and maybe even 2016, if, as I mentioned before, my body copes with it. But one thing is certain: Gymnastics is getting more popular again!

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