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Written by John Crumlish    Wednesday, 26 November 2014 10:34    PDF Print
Ruggeri Eager To Break Through in 2015
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Alternate on the bronze medal-winning U.S. team at the world championships in Nanning in October and guest competitor for the German club KTV Straubenhardt that placed second at last weekend’s Bundesliga finals, U.S. gymnast Paul Ruggeri III told IG he is eager to continue his competitive momentum in 2015.

“I don't really think that worlds could have gone much better,” said Ruggeri, who turned 26 on November 12. “The team hit 18 out of 18 (routines) with no falls, and that is a huge feat in itself. Sure there were some uncharacteristic errors, but for those to have been minor and not major falls was such a huge accomplishment. I am excited to see this group of athletes push towards next year's worlds.”

Ruggeri said he enjoyed competing for KTV Straubenhardt after German gymnast Lukas Dauser encouraged him to do so prior to the Joaquim Blume Memorial in Barcelona, in which Ruggeri competed two weeks ago.

“KTV Straubenhardt was looking for an athlete to help out on floor, vault and high bar, to complement (Uzbekistan gymnast and KTV Straubenhardt guest competitor) Anton Fokin's strengths,” Ruggeri said. “It just happened that Lukas sent me a brief message shortly before leaving for Barcelona. I have seen and become friends with Lukas and a few of the other boys from the team, so it was awesome to compete on the same team as them.”

Ruggeri said improvements on a few apparatuses should help him make the starting lineup for the U.S. team at the 2015 worlds in Glasgow.

“In order for me to break onto the team I need to upgrade my strengths just a little bit more and gain some experience with the new routines,” Ruggeri said. “Pommel and rings can also get better, but I have been performing pretty poorly on parallel bars, which could also become one of my strengths. I need a little bit more confidence with that set because it is pretty difficult for me.”

Ruggeri plans to take a break for the U.S. national holiday of Thanksgiving Day on Thursday, but he will be spending at least part of the holiday weekend in the gym.

“I will be with my family in upstate New York and then coaching at the Thanksgiving clinic at International Gymnastics Camp,” he said. “I cannot wait to see my own family and those in the IGC community on the East Coast.”

After a strenuous competition year, Ruggeri said he intends to enjoy a period of relative relaxation through December.

“Till the end of the year, I will be training mostly skills and recovering,” Ruggeri told IG. “My body needs a break big time, and with me getting older, my body needs the rest so I can push for the entirety of next year!”

Written by John Crumlish    Thursday, 13 November 2014 10:10    PDF Print
Steingruber On Recent Setback: 'Let's Start Again'
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Swiss star Giulia Steingruber told IG that, despite injuring her foot at the Swiss Cup on November 2, she is eager to move forward.

"I won't give up,” said Steingruber, who suffered ligament and toe damage to her left foot when she crashed on vault at the mixed-pairs competition in Zurich. “I did such a great job on floor at the Swiss Cup and was very much motivated to do vault very well – maybe too much.” Steingruber, whose recovery time is expected to be minimal, is ready for competitions ahead.

“Out of every mistake you make, you can learn a lot for the future,” she told IG. “Let's start again."

Read Steingruber’s perspective on her performance at the 2014 world championships in a profile on her in the December 2014 issue of International Gymnast magazine; and “Full Force,” an interview with Steingruber, in the June 2013 issue.

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

Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 04 November 2014 18:08    PDF Print
Locklear Looks Ahead To More Success
(13 votes, average 4.23 out of 5)

U.S. gymnast Ashton Locklear told IG that, after helping the U.S. women win team gold at last month’s world championships in Nanning, she has confidence in her team and her own prospects. Pictured: Locklear with her coach Qi Han in Nanning.

U.S. gymnast Ashton Locklear told IG that, after helping the U.S. women win team gold at last month’s world championships in Nanning, she has confidence in her team and her own prospects.

"I feel that the U.S. had a really strong team this year," said Locklear, who placed fourth on uneven bars in Nanning. "We were strong on every event with no real weaknesses. I am increasing my difficulty with new releases that I am working on."

In Nanning, Locklear missed a medal on uneven bars by 0.017 points. She scored 15.266 to finish behind gold medalist Yao Jinnan of China (15.633), silver medalist Huang Huidan of China (15.566) and bronze medalist Daria Spiridonova of Russia (15.283).

"A stuck landing may have helped me make the podium," said Locklear, who took a small step forward on her full-twisting double tuck dismount in the final.

Born Jan. 13, 1998, in Lumberton, N.C., Locklear trains at Everest Gymnastics, where her coaches are Chinese natives Qi Han and Yiwen Chen. A serious back injury prevented her from training for much of 2013 and limited her to conditioning only.

However, Locklear rebounded to success in 2014 in her first year as a senior. This past summer she placed first on uneven bars and eighth on balance beam at the P&G (U.S.) championships in Pittsburgh, and first on uneven bars at the Pan American championships in Mississauga, Canada.

Locklear said attention to detail will continue to be the focus of her training for 2015 meets.

"Both of my coaches train me on all apparatuses, with Han's emphasis on bars and Chen's emphasis on beam," Locklear said. "As always, our focus at Everest is quality during training."

Locklear said she is preparing for competitions ahead, whether or not her role will be that of an apparatus specialist.

"My plans for competing in the all-around in the future are still uncertain," she told IG.

Read about the 2014 world championships in the November 2014 issue of International Gymnast magazine, which is a special issue dedicated to the championships. To order back issues, or subscribe to the digital and/or print versions of Interntional Gymnast magazine, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Sunday, 26 October 2014 14:21    PDF Print
Pihan-Kulesza Pleased With Worlds Finish
(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Two-time Polish Olympian Marta Pihan-Kulesza told IG she was pleased to earn her all-time best worlds all-around finish when she placed 14th in the all-around final at the world championships in Nanning earlier this month.

Pihan-Kulesza in Nanning

"This was my third all-around final at the world championships, but in Nanning I made my best result," she said. "I think the point of my good performance was my experience and my diligently worked preparatory period."

The 27-year-old Pihan-Kulesza earned her best apparatus result in Nanning on floor exercise, where she was third reserve for that event final. Performing to "The Pink Panther," Pihan-Kulesza opened her routine with an impressive round-off, Arabian piked double front. Her middle pass was a 2-1/2 twist, punch stag leap. She finished with a round-off, tucked Arabian double front.

Despite her solid performance on floor exercise, Pihan-Kulesza said she is capable of more in the future.

"Unfortunately I did not show everything on floor," said Pihan-Kulesza, whose husband, fellow Olympian Roman Kulesza, also competed in Nanning. "My second pass should be 2-1/2 twist to punch straight front-full. But probably I was not ready for this. Next year I think this pass also will be in my routine. I'll try to upgrade my dance elements."

After placing sixth on balance beam at this spring’s European championships in Sofia, Pihan-Kulesza had the potential to qualify for that apparatus final in Nanning. In qualifications, however, she nearly fell on an illusion turn. She was steadier on balance beam in the all-around final, where she earned the field’s ninth-highest score on the apparatus.

"It sometimes happens, especially in competition," Pihan-Kulesza said. "Usually I don't have a problem with the illusion turn in training. It irritates me."

Pihan-Kulesza is training hard for upcoming competitions, but she is also busy with two business ventures. She is already working with Leo Gym, a leotard company.

Next month she plans to start working with The Little Gym, a U.S.-based children’s gymnastics and exercise training facility that has franchises in several countries including Poland. TLG will be opening a gym in Szczecin, where Pihan-Kulesza lives, in the middle of November.

Pihan-Kulesza said her love of training and work enables her to balance her busy schedule. "It's not that hard to manage training with a job," she told IG. "If you have happiness and joy because you do what you do, it's really pleasure - not just work."

Read more about the 2014 World Championships in the November 2014 (world championships special issue) of International Gymnast magazine. To subscribe to the digital and/or print editions of International Gymnast magazine, click here.

Written by Travis Seefried    Thursday, 23 October 2014 04:14    PDF Print
Whitlock Looking For Great Results in Rio
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Fresh off his silver medal in the all-around at the recent world championships in Nanning, Great Britain's Max Whitlock is hoping to change the history books for his home country at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. No British gymnast has won an Olympic all-around medal since 1908.

Max Whitlock (Great Britain)

"I 100 percent believe he can [challenge for major honors]," former teammate and three-time world champion Beth Tweddle told BBC Sport. "He's super dedicated, focused, has shown the world what he can do and will go back to training even harder now in these two years before Rio."

Whitlock was one of the favorites for several medals at the world championships in Nanning after impressive results in 2014 events, which included the gold medal on pommel horse at the European championships in Sofia and three gold medals at the Commonwealth Games (team, all-around, floor exercise).

However, Whitlock struggled in the qualification rounds in Nanning. After errors on the pommel horse and floor exercise, he failed to qualify for a single event final and also missed qualifying for the individual all-around, finishing behind teammates Dan Purvis and Nile Wilson. Wilson, suffering from a wrist injury, decided to withdraw from the all-around final and gave Whitlock a chance for redemption.

Whitlock's long-time coach, Scott Hann, believes he will take away some valuable life lessons from Nanning.

"With difficult preparations, tiredness and the pressure of expectations from everyone, it was just a recipe for disaster," he told BBC Sport. "He was devastated [after qualification] and tears were shed, but I'm in awe of him because I don't know anyone who could have achieved what he did."

He won the silver medal behind five-time world champion Kohei Uchimura of Japan and just .024 ahead of Uchimura's teammate, Yusuke Tanaka. Whitlock's silver medal equaled that of teammate Dan Keatings – who finished second behind Uchimura at the 2009 World Championships in London – as the best all-around result for a British gymnast.

Uchimura has now won the last five world all-around titles as well as the 2012 Olympic all-around title. Whitlock finished 1.492 points behind Uchimura, the smallest the gap has been behind Uchimura since he began his domination of the men's all-around in 2009.

Whitlock says he is planning to take a much-needed break before getting back to training for next year's big events, including the world championships in Glasgow. He and coach Haan have developed a "revolutionary" and "risky" new move on the pommel horse. If he decides to unveil this new move at he 2015 Worlds or the 2016 Olympic Games, it would not only be called the "Whitlock," it may close the gap between the No. 1 and No. 2 male gymnasts in the world.

Read more about Whitlock's performance at the 2014 World Championships in the November 2014 (world championships special issue) of International Gymnast magazine. To take advantage of the limited-time special discounted subscription rate for digital and/or print editions of International Gymnast magazine, click here.


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