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Written by dwight normile    Sunday, 21 May 2017 08:15    PDF Print
'Undeniable Excellence' Honored at 21st Annual International Gymnastics Hall of Fame Ceremony
(3 votes, average 4.67 out of 5)

Guests and gymnastics supporters from 15 countries witnessed an inspiring induction dinner at the Petroleum Club in Oklahoma City on May 20, and the only tornado present this year was the combined vortex of talent represented by the four inductees: Oksana Chusovitina, Shun Fujimoto, Alexei Nemov and Alicia Sacramone. Their addition to the Hall of Fame, which is housed in Science Museum Oklahoma, brought the total to 95 individuals from 22 countries. And for the first time, the entire ceremony was streamed on Facebook LIVE.

Mike Jacki, former USA Gymnastics President, was honored first as the recipient of the Frank Bare award. (The late Bare was the first Executive Director of the U.S. Gymnastics Federation.)

"I'm a little overwhelmed," Jacki began. "You shouldn't get an award for something because you loved it."

Jacki, a former All-American gymnast at Iowa State, took over the U.S. Gymnastics Federation in 1983. During his 11 years as president, he eliminated the federation's $700,000 deficit and eventually gained more than $10 million in annual revenues via memberships, events, sponsorships, publications and merchandising.

He spoke about the annual dual meets in the 1980s between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, and how they neutralized Cold War tensions and united the countries through sport. He also witnessed the success of the American men's and women's teams at the 1984 Olympics, and Kim Zmeskal's breakthrough performance at the 1991 World Championships, where she became the first American to win the all-around gold. And in 1993 and ’94, Shannon Miller became the first American to win it twice.

Jacki's acceptance speech revealed many of the qualities that made him an effective leader of the federation: vision, creativity, humility and a sense of humor. "I have been truly blessed to be a part of this," he said.

1976 Olympic hero Shun Fujimoto was next, and his epic story had a profound result on his Japanese teammates in Montreal. Like Kerri Strug's vault landing in 1996, Fujimoto did the same 20 years earlier off rings. Having injured his knee on his floor exercise dismount, he kept his injury a secret. He performed on pommel horse and then faced the daunting challenge on rings. With his team-first attitude, Fujimoto was up to the task. He landed his full-twisting double back and winced in excruciating pain—and somehow scored a personal-best 9.70. He could not perform on the next three events, but his teammates picked up the slack and won Japan's fifth straight Olympic title, defeating the Soviet Union, 576.85-576.45.

Fujimoto gave his own acceptance speech in English. "It is a great honor," he began. "I express my sincere thanks to the Board to give me this great honor … I want to thank you for inviting me to the Hall of Fame. Thank you very much!"

Said emcee Bart Conner to Fujimoto, "Your honor and humility has been inspiring."

Oksana Chusovitina is the only inductee that is still actively competing, and there doesn't seem to be any sign that she will stop in the near future. When she competed at the 2016 Rio Games, she became the first gymnast to compete in seven consecutive Olympics. And she wasn't just an anonymous face in Rio. She qualified to the vault final, where she threw a Produnova (handspring-double front), the hardest vault ever! She also has won vault medals in nine World Championships.

Chusovitina's former teammate and now coach Svetlana Boginskaya translated her acceptance speech.

"Thank you very much, but it seems like this award is for people who are retired," she said. "But I am not." [Applause]

Chusovitina competed for the Soviet Union, the Commonwealth of Independent States, Germany and now her native Uzbekistan. Her move to Germany was tied to her young son's diagnosis of cancer, so they moved there to receive treatment. "As a mother, I would like to thank the gymnastics community all over the world," she began. "Because of their help, my child in cancer-free." [Applause]

At the last minute, Alexei Nemov could not make the trip because his mother needed emergency surgery. It is hopeful that he can attend the ceremony next year. But his absence cannot diminish the impact he had on the sport. With textbook technique and style to match, he helped Russia win its only Olympic team title, in 1996. Four years later he finally won a major all-around title at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. But it was at the 2004 Athens Games where his true character showed through. As defending Olympic high bar champion, he competed in the high bar final again. And when a 9.725 was flashed for his brilliant routine (six release skills), the crowd booed vehemently. When his score was raised to 9.762, the revolt continued. That's when Nemov remounted the podium, thanked the crowd and politely gestured for them to settle down, which they did.

Alicia Sacramone (USA), whose 10 World medals is second among Americans only to Simone Biles' 14, closed the ceremony with humor and humility.

"It is a huge honor to be here tonight," said Sacramone, who was accompanied by husband Brady Quinn, a former NFL quarterback. She continued by thanking her coaches, Mihai and Silvia Brestyan, and expressed regret that she had been difficult to coach at times. "I wouldn't have gotten anywhere in my career without my coaches … I am truly blessed to be here. I am so humbled."

Conner had opened the evening by saying, "Tonight we are honoring undeniable excellence." There was no argument about that at the end.

Read complete coverage the 21st induction ceremony in the June issue of International Gymnast.

 
Written by dwight normile    Friday, 19 May 2017 08:04    PDF Print
International Gymnastics Hall of Fame Ceremony To Be Streamed on Facebook LIVE
(1 vote, average 5.00 out of 5)

Four legendary gymnasts will be honored in Oklahoma City on May 20 at the 21st annual induction dinner for the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame. The ceremony will be broadcast LIVE on the International Gymnast magazine Facebook page beginning at 7:30 p.m. CDT.

The class of 2017 features Oksana Chusovitina (Uzbekistan), Shun Fujimoto (Japan), Alexei Nemov (Russia) and Alicia Sacramone (USA). After they are inducted on Saturday night, the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame will have grown to include 95 individuals from 22 nations.

2017 is the first year in which one of the inductees is still an active gymnast. At the Rio Games last summer, Oksana Chusovitina became the first gymnast to compete in seven consecutive Olympics. This year the 41-year-old Uzbek is competing on the World Cup circuit, winning vault in Baku, Azerbaijan, and Doha, Qatar.

Chusovitina, who has five skills named after her, has won 11 World Championship medals, including two individual golds, which were 12 years apart: floor exercise (1991) and vault (2003).

Shun Fujimoto will be honored for his courageous performances at the 1976 Montreal Games, where Japan had a chance to win five consecutive Olympic team titles. Trailing the USSR by 0.50 after compulsories, Japan began on floor exercise in optionals, where Fujimoto injured his knee on his dismount. His 9.55, however, replaced a 9.45 from Hisato Igarashi. He scored a 9.50 on pommel horse and later faced a daunting challenge on rings, where he would have to land his half-in half-out dismount from over eight feet in the air. He was up to the task. And although his dismount landing looked excruciating—"The pain was unexplainable," he said—he scored a personal best 9.70.

Unable to perform on the remaining three events, which meant no throwaway score on vault, parallel bars and high bar, his inspired teammates finished the job and defeated the USSR, 576.85-576.45.

Alexei Nemov made his World Championship debut in 1993 as a 16-year-old prodigy, and he fulfilled his potential with grace and character. At the 1996 Olympics he led Russia to its first, and still only, team gold following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. He also left Atlanta with six Olympic medals. Four years later, he finally won a major all-around title at the Sydney Olympics, where he again won six medals.

As the defending Olympic high bar champion in Athens 2004, Nemov rose above the politics of the sport. After he scored a 9.725 for his six-release routine, the crowed booed and jeered the result. When his score was raised to 9.762, the revolt continued. That's when Nemov remounted the podium and politely thanked the crowd and gestured for them to quiet down, which they did. Nemov always saw the bigger picture.

Alicia Sacramone did not waste any time asserting herself on the international stage. In her first World Championships, in 2005 in Melbourne, she won the gold on floor exercise and the bronze on vault, where her dynamic handspring-rudi remains one of the best ever done. She won a team silver at the 2008 Olympics, and ended up with 10 World medals, the most by an American until Simone Biles collected 14 from 2013-15.

After tearing her Achilles' tendon prior to the 2011 Tokyo Worlds, Sacramone rehabbed the injury and made a run for a second Olympics in 2012. She was in amazing shape at the Olympic Trials but did not make the team. Throughout her career, however, she always represented her country with dignity.

Mike Jacki, President of USA Gymnastics from 1983-94, will receive the Frank Bare Award. An All-American gymnast at Iowa State, Jacki rescued the U.S. Gymnastics Federation, a not-for-profit organization that had a $700,000 deficit. Among his contributions during his tenure, he renamed the federation USA Gymnastics, introduced coaching safety certification, gained more than $10 million in annual revenues, and enjoyed the success of the American teams at the 1984 Olympics. He also saw Kim Zmeskal become the first American to win a World all-around title, in 1991, which was followed by Shannon Miller's back-to-back titles in 1993 and ’94.

The induction ceremony will be live streamed on the IG Facebook page from 7:30-10 p.m. CDT.

Read complete coverage of the Hall of Fame dinner in the June issue of International Gymnast magazine. To subscribe or to order back issues, click here.

 
Written by Amanda Turner    Tuesday, 16 May 2017 19:59    PDF Print
USA Gymnastics Backs Out of Karolyi Ranch Purchase
(6 votes, average 4.50 out of 5)



USA Gymnastics will not purchase Bela and Marta Karolyi's Texas ranch that has served as the national team training center for more than 15 years, the federation announced Tuesday.

USA Gymnastics will not purchase Bela and Marta Karolyi's Texas ranch that has served as the women's national team training center for more than 15 years, the federation announced Tuesday.


Marta Karolyi, now retired, pictured at the Karolyi ranch in Texas

In July 2016, USA Gymnastics announced it would purchase the property in Huntsville, located in the Sam Houston National Forest, but instead, its board of directors is pulling the plug on that plan. It is currently leasing the ranch.

"The decision was made for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to unexpected financial expenditures associated with the purchase," according to a USA Gymnastics statement.

The Karolyis began buying land on the isolated site in 1983, and for many years operated their own private gymnastics summer camps there in addition to Karolyi's Gymnastics Club in Houston. National team training camps were sometimes held there as well before Marta was named national team coordinator in 2001. She retired after last summer's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and was succeeded by Valeri Liukin.

The property has been expanded and improved several times since it became the women's national team training center in 2000, with additional facilities built for trampoline, tumbling and rhythmic gymnastics. (The men's training center is at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.)

The ranch has been part of the USA Gymnastics sexual abuse scandal that began making headlines last summer. At least four athletes—1999 World team member Jeanette Antolin, 2000 Olympian Jamie Dantzscher, rhythmic national champion Jessica Howard and an unnamed member of the 2010 World Championships team—have alleged that they were sexually assaulted there by former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar during unsupervised medical treatment. Nassar, who has since had his medical license stripped by the state of Michigan, is in a Michigan jail facing state and federal charges and civil lawsuits.

According to past USA Gymnastics financial statements, the federation paid the Karolyis several hundreds thousands of dollars a year for use of the ranch's facilities. The amount the federation had planned to pay for the purchased has not been announced. It is currently operating under a lease and will continue to use the ranch while searching for an alternative site, USA Gymnastics stated.

The ranch became an official U.S. Olympic Team training center in 2011.

External Link: USA Gymnastics

 
Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 12 May 2017 13:19    PDF Print
Shatilov Satisfied With Latest Europeans Medal
(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Israel's Alexander Shatilov told IG he was not disappointed with his bronze medal on floor exercise at last month's European Championships in Cluj.

Israel's Alexander Shatilov told IG he was pleased, not disappointed, with his bronze medal-winning performance in the closely contested floor exercise final at last month's European Championships in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

"I'm very happy with my floor and being a medalist," said Shatilov after the floor exercise final in Cluj, where his score of 14.400 points placed him third behind gold medalist Marian Drăgulescu of Romania (14.500) and silver medalist Dmitry Lankin of Russia (14.466). "I think it was a great final. Marian is a good specialist on this apparatus. If I was going to be second or third after him, it's OK."

Shatilov said he did not feel stress in trying to recapture the floor exercise title he won at the 2013 Europeans in Moscow, and then finishing third at the 2014 Europeans in Sofia and third (tie) at the 2016 Europeans in Bern.

"The pressure was only on Marian because he's competing at home," Shatilov said. "I don't think it's easy to compete at home."

Shatilov said his results in Cluj indicate improvements he might need to make in time for this fall's world championships in Montreal.

"I did a strong routine, but my start value (6.0) was just a bit low," he told IG. "So I must work to improve my routine, and maybe add some difficulty at the world championships."

Read on-scene coverage of the 2017 European Championships in the May 2017 issue of International Gymnast magazine, and behind-the-scenes profiles in upcoming issues. To subscribe to the print and/or digital editions, click here.

 
Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 09 May 2017 17:37    PDF Print
Europeans Bronze 'A New Beginning' For Iordache
(8 votes, average 4.13 out of 5)

Larisa Iordache's bronze medal on balance beam at last month's European Championships in Cluj has given the veteran gymnast new motivation.

Veteran Romanian gymnast Larisa Iordache said that winning the bronze medal on balance beam at last month's European Championships in Cluj-Napoca has given her new motivation.

"It was the first time in my life that I experienced such an atmosphere, and I am glad that I had the opportunity to get here," said Iordache, who turns 21 in June.

The sold-out European championships in Cluj was the largest gymnastics event ever held in Romania. It was only the second Europeans held in Romania following the inaugural women's event, which took place in Bucharest in 1957.

A lingering injury left Iordache able to compete on only balance beam and uneven bars in Cluj, her first major international competition since the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow. Her bronze on beam was her 12th medal won at senior European championships. She was first with the Romanian team, first on floor exercise and second on balance beam at the 2012 Europeans in Brussels; second all-around, first on balance beam, second (tie) on vault and second on floor exercise at the 2013 Europeans in Moscow; and first (tie) on floor exercise, second on vault and second on balance beam at the 2014 Europeans in Sofia. A broken hand kept her out of the 2016 European Championships in Bern.

"Unfortunately (I competed) only on two apparatus," she said, "but it is a new beginning and a start for me, and I hope that from now on I shall progress more and more."

Read on-scene coverage of the 2017 European Championships in the May 2017 issue of International Gymnast magazine, and behind-the-scenes profiles in upcoming issues. To subscribe to the print and/or digital editions, click here.

 
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