Follow Us On

Written by Amanda Turner    Monday, 04 July 2016 06:02    PDF Print
Coach, Commentator Mitch Fenner Dies at 70
(7 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

British coach and BBC commentator Mitch Fenner, the head coach for the Dutch men's team, died Sunday after a two-year battle with cancer. Pictured: Fenner at the 2013 European Championships in Moscow

British coach and BBC commentator Mitch Fenner, the head coach for the Dutch men's team, died Sunday after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 70.

"It is a black day for gymnastics in the Netherlands, Great Britain and beyond," said Hans Gootjes, technical director of the Dutch federation.

Born Michael Anthony Fenner on March 25, 1946, he grew up in Falmouth, Cornwall, and studied at Cardiff College of Education in Wales. He founded the Bush Harlow Gym Club in Essex and was a top coach in Great Britain in the 1970s and early 1980s. His pupils included 1976 Olympian Jeff Davis and 1980 and 1984 Olympian Barry Winch. For many years he was a senior lecturer at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

Fenner was a long-time, beloved gymnastics commentator for the BBC, becoming the "Voice of Gymnastics" for a generation. He joined the BBC in 1979 and commentated on every Olympic Games from 1984 to 2012. He also spent many years with the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) to provide commentary for its global feed. With his warm Cornish lilt and infectious enthusiasm, Fenner's was a familiar voice beloved by gymnastics fans and experts alike.

"With the death of coach Mitch Fenner, gymnastics loses an unprecedented inspiration and the BBC a passionate gymnastics commentator," said Dutch commentator Hans van Zetten.

Fenner joined the Royal Dutch Gymnastics Federation as a technical consultant in 2010. In February 2012, he became head coach for the Dutch men's squad. Under Fenner's guidance, Epke Zonderland won Olympic gold on high bar in London, and the Dutch men climbed from 17th at the 2010 World Championships to 11th in 2015. In April, the Dutch men qualified a full team to the Olympic Games for the first time since the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam.

Fenner was diagnosed with intestinal cancer in 2014. His illness left him unable to travel to Rio de Janeiro this April, when the Dutch team realized his dream of Olympic qualification.

"Gymnastics has always been an individual sport in the Netherlands, but Fenner believed in the team," said Dutch reporter Edwin Cornelissen. "He put an end to the rivalry between Heerenveen and Den Bosch and ensured that the gymnasts came to believe in the team's performance. He was a real motivator."

Tributes poured in online following news of Fenner's death.

"Last night came the sudden and sad news that our national coach Mitch has died. What a loss," Zonderland tweeted Monday.

Tweeted British Olympic medalist Louis Smith, "Truly saddened to hear of Mitch Fenner passing. I grew up hearing his commentary in gymnastics. He was such a good friend. I will miss you."

Retired Welsh shot putter Shaun Pickering, a 1996 British Olympian, posted a tribute to Fenner on Facebook. He shared a photo of his late father, athletics coach and BBC Sports commentator Ron Pickering, together with Fenner in the commentary box at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

"I found out about his passing on the Dutch sports news tonight as I am in Amsterdam for the European Athletics Championships," wrote Pickering, now the heavy throws coach for UK Athletics. "Such is a measure of the man and the respect he has here in the Netherlands, that his death was the lead story on the NOS Sports News, ahead of Dutchman [Max] Verstappen's 2nd place finish in the F1 GP, the European Football Championships and the Tour de France. He will be missed."

Barbara Slater, director of BBC Sport, said: "For many years Mitch has used his first-hand experience of working within the sport to provide our viewers with an expertise and detailed insight that was second to none. He will be missed by all of us at BBC Sport and our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time."

Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 28 June 2016 07:26    PDF Print
Melnikova: Confidence and Stability Will Be Key In Rio
(9 votes, average 3.11 out of 5)

As Russian gymnast Angelina Melnikova readies for her 16th birthday next month and the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August, she told IG she is confident that Russia can challenge for a team medal in Rio.

Melnikova, the reigning Russian national all-around champion, notched the highest all-around total among gymnasts who competed on all four apparatuses at the European Championships in Bern earlier this month. No all-around final took place in Bern, where Melnikova helped Russia win gold in the team final and placed fifth on balance beam.

A first year senior, Melnikova was too young to compete at last fall’s World Championships in Glasgow, where Russia finished fourth. She thinks Russia has the potential for a podium finish in Rio, however.

“I think our team will try to perform with dignity and will fight for an Olympic medal,” she told IG. “We will need confidence and stability."

Read "Heaven Sent," a profile on Melnikova, in the June 2016 issue of International Gymnast magazine. The issue also features coverage of the women's and men's European Championships. To subscribe, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 14 June 2016 07:03    PDF Print
Yul Moldauer: Youthful Challenger for Rio
(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Although U.S. gymnast Yul Moldauer is relatively inexperienced in international competition, his all-around victory at the NCAA Championships in April and his fifth-place all-around finish (tied with OTC gymnast Donnell Whittenburg and Ohio State's Sean Melton) at the (P&G) U.S. Championships make him a potential challenger for a spot on the U.S. team for this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

“I am shocked,” said Moldauer of winning the NCAA title as a freshman. “I came into the meet with the mindset of the team. I knew that, if I did that, success would come.”

Born Aug. 26, 1996, Moldauer trained at 5280 in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, before enrolling at Oklahoma in 2015. He was a member of the first-place U.S. team at a 2010 tri-meet among the U.S., Switzerland and Great Britain, held in Lilleshall, England; placed eighth all-around and first on parallel bars in the junior division at the 2013 Kyle Shewfelt Festival in Calgary and won a team gold medal with the U.S. at the 2013 International Junior Mexican Cup in Acapulco.

In U.S. domestic competition, Moldauer was second all-around in the Junior 14-15 division at the 2012 Visa (U.S.) Championships, second all-around in the Junior 17-18 division at the 2014 P&G (U.S.) Championships, and fifth all-around at the 2016 Winter Cup Challenge, a U.S. men’s ranking meet.

Akash Modi of Stanford, who placed fourth all-around at the P&G Championships, is another candidate. He is strong on pommel horse, which is traditionally a weak event for the U.S.

Read IG’s coverage of the P&G Championships and Olympic Trials in the July/August issue of International Gymnast magazine. To subscribe or order back issues, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 31 May 2016 12:05    PDF Print
Consistency, Confidence Key For Canada’s Roberts
(2 votes, average 4.50 out of 5)

First-year senior and Olympic candidate Megan Roberts told IG that a balanced performance at this week’s Canadian Championships in Edmonton will help her prepare for the upcoming Canadian Olympic team trials.

“My targets are to hit my routines and show consistency but also try to be in the top five,” Roberts said. “I will use this competition as a practice meet to prepare for trials. It will give me a chance to compete my routines another time before it really counts.”

Roberts is expected to vie for a spot on the Canadian team for this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio. She placed second all-around at the 2015 Canadian Junior Championships and second all-around at the Elite Canada meet in February. Roberts helped Canada win the team silver medal, and placed fifth on balance beam and sixth on floor exercise, at the Pacific Rim Championships in Everett, Washington, in April.

With a berth to the Rio Games at stake, Roberts is taking the pressure in stride.

“Even though this year’s nationals will probably be the most important nationals of my career, I am trying not to think of it that way,” she told IG. “I'm going into them as if they were any other competition because, if all I think about is how important this meet will be, I won't be focused. I'm also trying to build consistency in my routines so that, going into the meet, I won't be worried about my routines and I will feel much more confident.”

Read “Making Her Move for Canada,” a profile on Roberts, in the April 2015 issue of International Gymnast magazine.

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.

Written by John Crumlish    Wednesday, 25 May 2016 08:41    PDF Print
Austria's Ecker On Rio Berth: 'I Didn't Know Whether to Cry or Laugh'
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Perseverant Austrian gymnast Lisa Ecker earned a berth to this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro while posting her best international all-around total at the Olympic test event in Rio in April, but she told IG she is aiming for even higher scores at the Rio Games.

“It will be my last competition and I hope it will be the best I have ever done,” said Ecker, who posted an all-around total of 53.132 points to place 37th all-around at the test event. “My coach (Johanna Gratt) and I expect to reach 54 points and we hope it is good enough to be in the top 35. Our goal is to compete healthy and to have fun.”

Ecker said she felt mixed emotions when she realized her performance at the test event was enough to advance her to the Games.

“That feeling was indescribable,” said Ecker, a veteran of the last six World Championships. “I did not know if I should cry or laugh. I did not know what to do! I just hugged Johanna, and both of us started to cry because we realized that we did the unexpected thing. Our dream has come true. I will compete at the Olympic Games.”

Ecker said her successful bid for the Rio Games was a true team effort.

“I am really satisfied with my competition,” she said. “I am so proud of my coach, my medical team — Dr. Robert Kandelhart and physiotherapist Siegrid Egger — and of course, myself. I think we all did a very good job. I could not realize how great this competition was.”

Born Sept. 19, 1992, in Linz, Ecker represents ASKÖ Kleinmünchen, but trains at TGW Trainingscenter in Linz. Her coaches are Johanna Gratt on all apparatuses, and Tanja Gratt on beam and “floor expression.” Her choreographer is Julia Nica, who designed her beam and floor routines and with whom she takes ballet twice weekly.

Perseverance has kept Ecker on track for Rio despite setbacks, including a torn anterior cruciate ligament in 2011, a torn posterior cruciate ligament in 2013, knee problems in 2015 and a broken fourth metatarsal in March this year.

Outside of the test event, Ecker’s best results this year include third place on vault, fourth place on uneven bars and fourth place on floor exercise at the Challenge Cup of Baku in February; and sixth place on vault at the Challenge Cup of Varna on May 14.

Ecker, who is set to compete at the European Championships in Bern early next month, is upgrading and finessing her routines for maximum results in Rio.

“I hope I can improve my performance,” she said. “I am working on a higher start value, and we are really working hard to improve my expression on floor and beam. We are also trying to reach a higher amplitude on gymnastic jumps. At the test event I had little problems with my landings on floor, so we are trying to control them.

Although Ecker is the only Austrian artistic gymnast to qualify for the Rio Games, she is eager to share her Olympic experience.

“I am really proud to be the only gymnast who has the possibility to represent Austria,” she told IG. “I'm really looking forward to celebrating this event with the whole Austrian delegation, so I don't think I will be there alone. I think we will be a big family having fun together at the Olympic Games.”

International Gymnast magazine's coverage of Austrian gymnasts includes:

“Rocking to the Top” - Marco Baldauf profile (July/August 2006)

“From Torn to Reborn” - Lisa Ecker profile (July/August 2013)

“Fueled and Focused” - Barbara Gasser profile (April 2012)

“Central European Sojourn” – includes IG's visit with Carina Hasenoehrl in

Graz, Austria (January/February 2010)

“The Courage of Carina” - Hasenoehrl memoire (July/August 2007)

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


Page 3 of 191