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IG Online Interview: Samuel Zakutney (Canada)
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Although Canada's Samuel Zakutney, 17, is new to senior international competition, he is eager to take on the important task of Olympic qualification as he prepares for the upcoming Olympic test event in Rio de Janeiro. Pictured: Zakutney with coach Oleksandr Zavadych

Although Canada's Samuel Zakutney is new to senior international competition, he is eager to take on the important task of Olympic qualification as he prepares for the upcoming Olympic test event in Rio de Janeiro.

Zakutney placed sixth all-around at the RD76I International Junior Team Cup in Texas in January, and fifth all-around and first on parallel bars in the senior division at the Elite Canada meet in February. Based on his recent results, including third place on high bar at the Calgary International Cup in March, he was named to the Canadian squad for the test event.

Canada finished 15th at last fall's World Championships in Glasgow, where the top eight teams earned automatic berths to this summer's Olympic Games in Rio. The next eight teams advanced to the test event taking place April 16-18, from which the top four teams will move on to the Games.

Born October 6, 1998, in Saint John, New Brunswick. Zakutney trains at Ottawa Gymnastics Center under coach Oleksandr Zavadych, former coach of the Ukrainian junior men's team. Zakutney, a Franco-Ontarian, is a senior at l'École Secondaire Catholique Franco-Cité in Ottawa. His father, Tim Zakutney, was a member of Canada's bronze medal-winning team at the 2000 World Ultimate Frisbee Championships. Zakutney's younger sisters, Alexandra and Sydney, are also athletic.

Zakutney earned solid results at the junior level earlier in the current Olympic quadrennium.

He placed 15th all-around in the 1997-98 age group at the 2013 International Junior Team Cup in Berlin; 12th all-around at the 2014 Junior Pan American Championships in Aracaju, Brazil; and 11th all-around and third on high bar at the 2015 Japan Junior Invitational in Yokohama.

In domestic competition, Zakutney finished third all-around, first on vault and first on parallel bars at the 2014 Canadian Junior Championships; first all-around, first on floor exercise and first on high bar in the junior division at the 2015 Elite Canada meet; and third all-around and second on high bar at the 2015 Canadian Junior Championships.

Zakutney shares his plans and goals for the test event in this IG Online interview.

Zakutney on parallel bars

IG: You haven't had much time to adjust to major senior competition, so what is your mindset heading into the test event?

SZ: Since this is my first major international senior competition, I'm just hoping to approach it with the most confidence possible. If I trust my training and not worry about scores, I should be cool as a cucumber.

However, there will be seven Canadian gymnasts going, and the final line-up will be made after podium training. Hopefully my self-confidence will also give me the chance to compete.

IG: What exactly do you think Canada will need to do at the test event to earn one of the four spots for the Games?

SZ: If the Canadian team wishes to qualify to the Olympic Games, we need to pull off near-perfect routines. We need to focus on executing our routines to the max.

IG: What do you think makes the composition of this team uniquely strong and cohesive?

SZ: Unfortunately, the Canadian team faced a few injuries which resulted in a couple of our best gymnasts being put out for the rest of this year. However, the rest of the team, including me, has remained determined to not let this year get the better of us. It's through our resilience and our perseverance that I believe we will challenge for one of the top four spots.

IG: What do you feel you can offer to your team at the test event, in terms of your particular strengths and also your sense of team spirit?

SZ: I believe I can offer the team consistency on most of the events, more specifically on floor, p-bars and high bar. Those events are the ones with the highest Difficulty scores and they remain remarkably consistent.

Since I am the only senior national team member from Ottawa, I always make the most of the time together with the team. I will offer as much support and encouragement to all of the teammates from the moment we enter the arena.

International Gymnast magazine's recent coverage of Canadian gymnastics includes:
Jade Chrobok profile (April 2016)
Chrobok and Meixi Semple cover photo inset (March 2016)
"Aiming to Top the Charts" – Maegan Chant interview (October 2013)
"Canadian Beacon" – Ellie Black interview (September 2015)
"Canadian Promise" – Black chat and Robert Watson profile (July/August 2014)
"Canadian Diversity" – Black and Hugh Smith profiles (July/August 2013)
Chat with Christine Peng-Peng Lee (April 2015)
"Sudden Impact" – Victoria Moors interview (January/February 2013)
"Making Tracks" – Scott Morgan profile (December 2013)
Isabela Onyshko profile (July/August 2014)
Megan Roberts profile (April 2015)
Aleeza Yu two-page photo spread (May 2014)

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

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