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Tunisia's Bouallegue Brings Out Best in Northern Ireland
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Bouallegue with his new team at Salto

Wajdi Bouallegue, Pearce O'Neill

Two-time Tunisian Olympian Wajdi Bouallegue told IG he is adapting well to his new role as head coach of the boys’ squads at Salto Gymnastics Club in the Belfast, Northern Ireland, suburb of Lisburn.

“I am giving all of my international experience to Salto for more glorious results in the future,” said Bouallegue, pictured here with fellow Salto coach Pearce O'Neill (right). “My plans for coaching in Northern Ireland are to let the current generation of boys make a huge step forward and become high-performance gymnasts as soon as possible. They are capable and talented enough to do this.”

Since relocating to Northern Ireland last December 26, Bouallegue has implemented a training regimen that he hopes will produce technically sound, confident gymnasts. He coaches male gymnasts of all levels, with a focus on the club’s A-squad of gymnasts ages 13-15.

“The biggest challenges are to establish a professional way of training, especially basics and conditioning, and restructure all age groups with the appropriate level,” said the 33-year-old Bouallegue. “Also, to make a psychological revolution for the elite boys on how to achieve high-level goals. It’s hard work, basics, new skills, confidence and then success.”

Bouallegue said he is thriving in Northern Ireland despite being away from his family, who remain in Tunisia. He and his wife, Nadia, have three children: son Fares, age six; and twins Youssef and Yassine, ages one year and four months.

“I'm alone right now and I miss my family very much,” he said. “I can say that it is difficult, but this summer they will join me and it will be much better. But everybody at Salto, including the parents, coaches, administration and gymnasts, are very kind to me and try to make me feel at home.”

Bouallegue credits the club’s cooperative spirit for allowing him to lead his training program.

“I’m really managing this challenge very well because I find in Salto a very good work atmosphere,” he said. “We are a strong team of workers. Our chief executive coach, Mandy McMaster, and all the administrative staff are really professional. They provide me all of what a coach requires for progress and better results, so I give a big thanks to them.”

Bouallegue, whose lengthy competitive career included starts at the 2004 and 2012 Olympic Games, said he is content in his new role.

“I'm happy here as a head coach,” he told IG. “ But who knows? Maybe a comeback someday.”

Read “Tenacious Tunisian,” an interview with Bouallegue, in the March 2012 issue of International Gymnast magazine; and “Room to Grow,” a feature on IG’s visit to Salto Gymnastics Club, in the March 2009 issue.

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

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