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Written by John Crumlish    Sunday, 20 December 2015 16:25    PDF Print
Malaysia's Abdul Hadi Keeps Olympic Hopes Alive
(6 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

International Gymnast Online's annual series of holiday-themed features continues with this profile on Malaysia's Farah Ann Abdul Hadi, who looks ahead to her potential berth to next summer's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Abdul Hadi reflects modestly on her 2015 successes, including a six-medal winning performance at the Southeast Asian Games, a spot at the Olympic test event in Rio de Janeiro next April, and recognition as the United Malays National Organization's 2015 Icon Award winner for sports during a ceremony this month at the UMNO General Assembly.

Farah Ann Abdul Hadi (Malaysia) at the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow

"Looking back, the most memorable moments would be the team gold medal and the floor exercise gold medal at the SEA Games," said Abdul Hadi, who also placed second all-around, and third on vault, uneven bars and balance beam, at the Games held in Singapore in June. "The team gold meant a great deal because the last time Malaysia won a team gold was in 2001. I was very happy to win the medal with this team because we have been teammates for a very long time and trained very hard for the competition. The floor gold medal was amazing because floor is my favorite event."

Also high on Abdul Hadi's list of special moments of 2015 is her nomination to the Olympic test event, which will serve as the second and last qualifying competition for next summer's Rio Games.

"Being selected for the test event was really memorable for me because it meant that I was one step closer to my dreams of qualifying for the Olympics," said Abdul Hadi, whose sister, Katrina Ann Abdul Hadi, won the duet gold medal and team silver medal in synchronized swimming at the 2015 SEA Games.

Abdul Hadi placed 69th all-around, and first among the three Malaysian female gymnasts, in qualifications at this fall's world championships in Glasgow. The Glasgow worlds was the first qualification competition for Rio.

With qualification to the Rio Games at stake in April, Abdul Hadi is eager to finesse her routines during the coming months.

"I will be focusing on cleaning up my routines and getting my E-score higher in order to have a better score overall," she said. "Especially on bars and beam, because I have the highest D-score on those events and have recently increased my difficulty with new skills - on bars with a new double layout dismount, and on beam with a flic-flac layout connection series. I will also be focusing on strength and stamina training in order for me to be at my peak performance level for the test event."

Once at the test event, Adbul Hadi said consistency will be key for Olympic qualification.

"I think that I would need to hit all my routines and, most importantly, not make a major mistake during the test event," she said. "I need to make sure that I am in top shape in order for me to perform my routines at my best capabilities."

Born May 3, 1994, Abdul Hadi lives in Subang Jaya, Selangor, and trains at National Sports Complex in Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur. Her head coach is Ukrainian native Nataliya Sinkova, and her assistant coach is '04 Malaysian male Olympian Ng Shu Wai.

Her full name, Farah Ann Binti Adbul Hadi, consists of her given name (Farah), her mother's maiden name (Ann), the Muslim word for "daughter of" (Binti) and her father's family name (Abdul Hadi).

Abdul Hadi's other best results include seventh place all-around at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, Korea; sixth place all-around, fifth on vault and sixth on floor exercise at the 2015 University Games in Gwangju, Korea; and eighth place all-around and sixth on floor exercise at the 2015 Asian championships in Hiroshima.

Before launching her 2016 training and competition agenda, Abdul Hadi looks forward to ringing in the new year with loved ones.

"I will probably spend my New Year's with my family and friends," she said. "We will be going to a paint festival and then watch the fireworks together in Kuala Lumpur."

Abdul Hadi has specific ambitions, in gymnastics and in her personal life.

"My goal for 2016 would of course be to qualify for the Olympic Games," she said. "It has been my dream since I was eight years old. Also, I would like to get my Yurchenko double twist on vault ready for competition. Out of the gym, my goals would probably be to finish my degree and spend more time with my family."

Abdul Hadi is also determined to fulfill her New Year's resolution, which centers on gymnastics.

"My New Year's resolution would be to train hard, focus on my goals and qualify for the Olympics," she told IG.

Written by John Crumlish    Monday, 14 December 2015 18:44    PDF Print
New Zealand's Sullivan Celebrates Success, College Scholarship
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

International Gymnast Online kicks off its annual tradition of holiday-themed features on gymnasts from around the world who reflect on the current year and forecast the coming year. First up is New Zealand's Charlotte Sullivan, who earlier this year earned her country's first FIG World Challenge Cup medal.

International Gymnast Online kicks off its annual tradition of holiday-themed features on gymnasts from around the world who reflect on the current year and forecast the coming year. First up is New Zealand's Charlotte Sullivan, who earlier this year earned her country's first FIG World Challenge Cup medal.

"The most memorable moments for me in 2015 would have to be winning a bronze medal on beam at the World Cup in Anadia, Portugal, and also receiving a full-ride gymnastics scholarship to the University of Iowa,” Sullivan said.

Born May 31, 1998, Sullivan has enjoyed success at the junior and senior international levels. She placed seventh all-around at the 2011 Commonwealth Youth Games on Isle of Man, and ninth all-around in the junior division at the 2012 Pacific Rim Championships in Everett, Washington.

Last year Sullivan was fifth on floor exercise at the World Challenge Cup of Doha, Qatar, and 11th all-around in the senior division at the Pacific Rim championships in Richmond, British Columbia.

Sullivan competed at the 2014 World Championships in Nanning, China, and this fall's worlds in Glasgow, where the New Zealand women earned one spot for the Olympic test event in Rio de Janeiro in April.

Teammate Courtney McGregor has been designated as the New Zealand's female participant at the test event, which will serve as the second and final qualification competition for next summer's Olympic Games in Rio.

Sullivan, who is New Zealand's reserve gymnast for the test event, said she is eager to begin the next phase of her career at the University of Iowa.

"My goal for 2016 is to continue to improve my gymnastics and clean up all my skills for college,” said Sullivan, who trains under coaches Amanda Johanson and Toby Levine at Christchurch School of Gymnastics.

For the time being, however, Sullivan looks forward to a warm holiday week.

"I will spend Christmas and New Year's at home,” she told IG. "Each year we spend Christmas Day with my whole family. This year we are having it at our house. Hopefully it will be a nice, sunny day so we can go swimming.”

Written by IG Staff    Thursday, 10 December 2015 09:41    PDF Print
Uchimura Credits Consistency For Sixth World Title
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

After winning his historic sixth consecutive world all-around title this fall, Kohei Uchimura of Japan said consistency was the key to his latest victory.

Six-time world champion Kohei Uchimura

“I did not make any mistakes,” said Uchimura of his win in the all-around final at the world championships in Glasgow on October 30. “I just tried to perform my best performance, with perfection.”

Uchimura said his individual win in Glasgow was more significant than his previous five since it followed Japan’s victory in the team final on October 28. Japan had not won the world team title since 1978.

“It is my first time to have an all-around gold medal after getting a team gold medal,” said Uchimura, the 2012 Olympic champion. “I think it is more meaningful than before, and also I feel more satisfied.”

Uchimura had planned to compete at this weekend's Toyota Cup, but withdrew to tend to an injured leg. His teammates Yusuke Tanaka, Ryohei Kato and Kenzo Shirai. will headline the competition for Japan. Top international competitors in the lineup include Marcel Nguyen (Germany), Jonathan Horton and Eddie Penev (United States). The women's lineup includes four world champions from Russia Ksenia Afanasyeva, Viktoria Komova, Maria Paseka and Daria Spiridonova, as well as the legendary Oksana Chusovitina (Uzbekistan).

Read about Uchimura’s history-making performances in the December 2015 issue of International Gymnast magazine. This special issue devoted to the 2015 world champion-ships is now available in print and/or digital editions. To subscribe, click here

Written by Amanda Turner    Tuesday, 08 December 2015 11:24    PDF Print
Bellu, Bitang Back for Romania's 2016 Bid
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Legendary Romanian coaches Octavian Bellu and Mariana Bitang will return as coaches of the Romanian women's team through next spring to help secure Olympic qualification.

Legendary Romanian coaches Octavian Bellu and Mariana Bitang will return as coaches of the Romanian women's team through next spring to help secure Olympic qualification.

The Romanian women finished a worst ever 13th at October's world championships in Glasgow, failing to automatically qualify to next summer's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. The team has one more chance to qualify via the test event in April in Rio, where they must finish in the top four teams to advance to the Olympics.

Bellu became head coach in 1989, and was joined by his future wife Bitang in 1993. The duo led the Romanian women's team to Olympic team titles in 2000 and 2004, and world titles in 1994, 1995, 1997, 1999, and 2001. They retired several times since 2005. They returned for 2012, when Romania recaptured the European team title and finished third at the Olympics in London, where Sandra Izbasa (gold on vault) and Catalina Ponor (silver on floor exercise) won individual medals.

2016 will be the 40th anniversary of Nadia Comaneci's perfect 10.0 at the Olympics in 1976, which ushered in an era of Romania as one of the dominant forces in women's gymnastics.

From 1976 to 2014, Romania was the most consistent team in women's gymnastics, never finishing below fourth in the world championships or third in the Olympic Games. During this time they won 10 gold, nine silvers and five bronzes. Only the former Soviet Union was more dominant, winning 20 world and Olympic team titles between 1952 to 1992.

Bellu has been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's most successful gymnastics coach, with 305 world, Olympic and European medals won during his career.

External Link: Romanian Gymnastics Federation

Written by John Crumlish    Saturday, 05 December 2015 17:47    PDF Print
Belgium’s Verschueren Sure Of Continued Success
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Belgian gymnast Lisa Verschueren told IG that her 17th-place finish in the all-around final at the recent world championships in Glasgow was a pleasant and motivational surprise.

Lisa Verschueren (Belgium)

"I did not expect that I would get to 17th place, but I am very satisfied about my competition because I made no big mistakes," said Verschueren, the top Belgian all-arounder in Glasgow. "There was really a nice atmosphere in Glasgow. I enjoyed it very much being there. It was a nice experience."

Verschueren said she and her teammates are now eager to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, via the Olympic test event in Rio in April.

Belgium placed 11th in team standings in Glasgow, from which the top eight teams earned automatic Olympic berths. Teams ranked ninth through 16th in Glasgow advanced to the test event, from which four teams will earn the remaining Olympic berths.

"There are many good teams to compete against," the 20-year-old Verschueren said. "But we Belgians are certainly doing well and we are working hard to stabilize our exercises." Verschueren has been an integral member of the Belgian team throughout the current Olympic cycle. She placed first all-around at the 2014 Belgian championships; second all-around at the 2013 Belgian championships; and third all-around at the 2012 and 2015 Belgian championships.

Last year Verschueren was a member of Belgium’s 11th-place team at the worlds in Nanning, where she was third reserve for the all-around final.

Optimistic about advancing to the Rio Games next summer, Verschueren is now focused on bettering her routines as well as her place in the standings.

"I want to add some new elements in my exercises so that I can increase my start value," she told IG. "So I hope to finish higher in the ranking."

Read in-depth coverage of the 2015 world championships in the December 20015 issue of International Gymnast magazine. To subscribe to the print and/or digital editions, or order back issues, click here.

IG Magazine’s coverage of Belgian gymnasts includes:
"Belgian Beauty" – Nina Derwael profile (June 2015)
Laura Waem profile (April 2014)
"Quick Chat: Julie Croket" – interview (December 2012)
"Gaining Confidence" – Julie Croket profile (November 2010)
"Mighty Mys" - Gaelle Mys profile (October 2005)
"Rising Moonen" - Lynn Moonen profile (December 2004)
"Making Her Way" - Aagje Vanwalleghem profile (August/September 2004)


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