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Written by Admin    Saturday, 08 March 2008 21:17    PDF Print
Maaranen Makes Comeback Vow
Annamari Maaranen

Despite recent knee surgery, Finnish Olympic qualifier Annamari Maaranen says she's making every effort to be in Beijing this summer.

Maaranen underwent surgery three weeks ago to repair the torn ACL and meniscus she suffered dismounting balance beam Jan. 27.

"I will try my best to recover early enough to compete in Beijing," Maaranen said. "I can start practicing bars in two and a half months and all-around a month after that."

Maaranen, a freshman at the University of Denver, qualified to the 2008 Olympics as an individual through her performance at the 2007 World Championships in Stuttgart, where she placed 75th in preliminaries. She was a vault finalist at the 2004 DTB Cup, 2006 Glasgow Grand Prix and the 2007 French International.

Denver assistant coach Nilson Medeiros Savage said he's confident Maaranen will be able to return in time for the Olympics. Competition starts Aug. 9.

"Annamari will be participating in the Olympic Games," he said. "She is already very advanced in her rehab. She is getting strong now and should be able to start working on all the events by the end of May. We expect her to compete the same routines she had at Worlds. It is a shame though because she was doing Yurchenkos and learning a lot of bars."

Maaranen is training for Beijing with Denver teammate Jessica López, an Olympic qualifier from Venezuela. Maaranen, 21, said she is pleased with her decision to attend Denver, which she had not visited before making the move last fall.

"I love it!" she said of Denver. "I could not have chosen a better place and school!"

Written by Admin    Thursday, 28 February 2008 13:34    PDF Print
Johnson Eager to Defend American Cup Title
Shawn Johnson at the 2007 American Cup

World champion Shawn Johnson told IG on Friday she wants to "just have a blast" in defending her title at the Tyson American Cup, March 1 in New York.

"The only goal I am setting for myself this meet is to go out there and get ready for what is to come this year," said Johnson, who won the 2007 American Cup title in her first year at the senior international level. "I want to go out and feel the nerves and adrenaline rush again. I want to get that competition experience back in my system and have fun. I just want to start off this year with a great confidence booster and get a little more experience under my belt."

Johnson is one of four American women scheduled to compete in the Tyson American Cup, which will take place at Madison Square Garden. Joining her will be U.S. teammates Nastia Liukin, Shayla Worley and Samantha Peszek; Canada's Alyssa Brown; China's Xiao Tingting; Colombia's Natalia Sanchez; and Germany's Joeline Möbius.

Last year, Johnson dominated every major competition in which she competed. In addition to winning the American Cup, she placed first all-around at the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, the Visa (U.S.) Championships in San Jose, and the World Championships in Stuttgart.

The 16-year-old Johnson said she does not feel extra pressure as the defending American Cup champion. Instead, she wants to treat the 2008 competition as its own challenge.

"I definitely have the thought of last year's American Cup in my head, but I am planning on going into this meet as if it's a new competition with a new title," said Johnson. "I have different goals for this meet from last year, and I plan to just go out there and perform in this meet as if I never have before. I'm really excited to get it started and can't wait to just have a blast."

Johnson said she may or may not perform new skills and combinations in New York.

"I have a few new things I have been working on in practice, but we're not quite sure yet what will show up in competition," said Johnson, who trains under coach Liang Chow at Chow's Gymnastics and Dance Institute in West Des Moines, Iowa.

Johnson said the American Cup will provide a positive start in her 2008 competition agenda that also includes the U.S. Olympic Trials and hopefully the Olympic Games in Beijing.

"The American Cup definitely jumpstarts your year off leading up to (Olympic) trials," she told IG. "It will fit in there like a first showing or insight into what you have been working on and what the rest of the year could hold. It is a meet that can really help your confidence level and get you ready for the next meets to come."

Shawn Johnson is featured in the following issues of International Gymnast Magazine:

October 2007: World Championships special issue
September 2007: U.S. Championships coverage
April 2007: cover photo, American Cup coverage
November 2006: "A Taste of China" - Johnson/Chow profile
October 2006: cover photo, center poster, U.S. Championships coverage
January/February 2006: "Shooting Star" - profile

To subscribe to IG Magazine or order back issues, click here.

Written by Admin    Wednesday, 09 January 2008 13:29    PDF Print
Johnson Ready to 'Go Big' in 2008
(1 vote, average 5.00 out of 5)
Shawn Johnson
2007 world all-around champion Shawn Johnson told IG this week she wants to "have fun and go big" as she prepares for this summer's Beijing Olympic Games.

Johnson, a triple gold medalist at the 2007 World Championships in Stuttgart, said she has healed from a stress reaction in her right shin and is prepared for a busy competitive year.

"My shin is all back to normal," said Johnson, who will turn 16 on Jan. 19. "It wasn't injured; it was just more of a prevention thing. I am back to normal training. I am working really hard and can't wait for the season to start."

Johnson said she will travel to Texas later this month for the first of several U.S. national team training camps taking place this year. She also hopes to defend her American Cup title on March 1 in New York.

Johnson said she is also looking forward to the Visa (U.S.) Championships in Boston in June; the U.S. Olympic Trials in Philadelphia, also in June; and the Beijing Olympics in August.

Following Johnson's all-around victory at last fall's World Championships, she was a guest on the popular daytime show "The Ellen Degeneres Show" and NBC's "The Today Show," on which she appeared with the other members of the gold medal-winning U.S. women's team.

Johnson was a guest on ABC's "Frosted Pink," a variety show aired last fall to raise awareness of women's cancers. Oct. 17, 2007, was declared "Shawn Johnson Day" in Iowa, her home state, by Iowa Gov. Chet Culver.

During this Olympic year, however, Johnson said she is focusing on gymnastics.

"In the next few weeks and all the way up until competition, I really have nothing planned except for training," she said. "That is the most important thing right now, and everything else comes second."

Johnson, whose other 2007 victories included all-around titles at the American Cup, the Pan American Games and the U.S. Championships, said she plans to upgrade her routines this year.

"I am working on a few new skills for this season, but as for details of what they are, I'm not sure if I can quite say yet," she said. "But hopefully I'll have some sweet surprises for this year."

Johnson said she intends to stick to her most optimistic New Year's resolution throughout 2008.

"My biggest New Year's resolution was to make sure that, no matter how this year turns out, I give everything I've got, because I know that's the best reward of all," she told IG. "All I want to do this year is have fun and go big!"

Shawn Johnson is featured in the following issues of International Gymnast Magazine:
October 2007 - World Championships special issue, Johnson poster
September 2007 - U.S. Championships coverage
April 2007 - Johnson cover photo, American Cup coverage
November 2006 - "A Taste of China" (Johnson/Chow's profile)
October 2006 - Johnson cover photo, Johnson center poster, U.S. Championships coverage
January 2006 - "Shooting Star" (Johnson profile)
October 2005 - U.S. juniors gallery, includes Johnson

To subscribe to IG Magazine or order back issues, click here.

Written by Amanda Turner    Saturday, 15 December 2007 17:36    PDF Print
Cucherat Caps Off Busy Year
Yann Cucherat
French veteran Yann Cucherat is capping off a busy year in busy way. He will chalk up Saturday night in Belgium for a gala, and starting Sunday will hit the slopes, mentoring a young gymnast at a ski retreat in the French Alps.

Then Cucherat will return to Lyon to celebrate the holidays with his family, but will be taking off minimal time from training for his third Olympics.

"2008 is an important year and I need all the luck on my side," Cucherat told IG. "I will take a break only for Christmas Day and New Year's Day."

Cucherat is France's only double world medalist to date; at the 2005 Worlds he won the bronze medal on parallel bars and the silver on high bar. He has won three European medals on parallel bars: the bronze medal in 2004 and silver medals in 2005 and 2006.

In 2007 he finished eighth on parallel bars at the world championships in September, but upset world and European champion Mitja Petkovsek (Slovenia) on the event at the Moscow World Cup in May. Other results for 2007 include a silver medal on parallel bars at the French International; fourth-place finishes on parallel bars and high bar at the European Championships; and gold medals on both events at the Blume Memorial held last month in Spain.

On Saturday night, he will take part in the GymGala in Ghent, site of the 2001 Worlds, where Cucherat and the French men's team finished an all-time high of fourth, just .2 behind the bronze medal-winning Ukraine.

This year's GymGala lineup also includes Steliana Nistor (Romania), Alina Kozich (Ukraine), Jordan Jovtchev (Bulgaria) and new rhythmic world all-around champion Anna Bessonova (Ukraine).

Cucherat's role in the Ghent gala will include a synchronized high bar routine with Dutch Olympic qualifier Epke Zonderland.

Beginning Sunday, Cucherat will pair up again in a more significant role: serving as the mentor for a young gymnast at the sixth annual "Les Étoiles du Sport" ("Stars of Sport"), taking place Dec. 16-21 at a ski resort in La Plagne in the French Alps.

Established by the French Ministry of Sport, the event was created to share knowledge and foster friendships among athletes of different sports and generations. Champions in 20 sports select a rising talent to sponsor in the same sport, and spend time having fun while emphasizing sporting values, including teamwork, effort and committment. (Previous gymnasts serving as mentors include two-time French Olympians Isabelle Severino and Dmitry Karbanenko.)

After the event Cucherat will head home to Lyon, where gymnastics has always been a family affair. He began the sport under the guidance of his parents, both gymnastics coaches.

"We usually all get together on Christmas Eve and spend a really nice time together as a family," Cucherat said. "The meal is festive and very nice. The wine complements each dish. Usually we eat seafood but there's no rule — every year it changes."

Vorontzov and Cucherat

There is already one difference this year that Cucherat is happy about: After the meals are done, he will stay in Lyon. In September 2004, Cucherat moved to Paris to train and continue his education. Two weeks ago he moved back to his hometown, where he has resumed training with his coach of many years, Belarusian-born Anatoli Vorontzov.

The pair has a solid goal for 2008: medaling at the European Championships and at the Olympic Games.

"I've always worked for this, but gymnastics isn't an exact science," said Cucherat, who finished sixth on parallel bars at both the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games. "I simply want to put everything together and not have any regrets. It's for this reason that I left Paris to return to train in Lyon with my coach, who knows me perfectly."

Cucherat, who turned 28 on Oct. 2, has already decided to compete in the 2009 Worlds in London, and hasn't ruled out another trip to the city for the 2012 Olympics.

"I wish to go through the 2009 individual worlds," he said. "Then, according to my motivation, projects and physical health, I will make the decision whether or not to continue through London 2012. Right now, I don't want to end my career at all."

External Links
"Les Étoiles du Sport"

Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 07 December 2007 08:51    PDF Print
Sloan Ready To Stay On Competitive Roll
(7 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)
Bridget Sloan

"Good Luck Beijing" and Toyota International medalist Bridget Sloan (U.S.) told IG she is ready for new challenges in 2008.

Sloan, who was the alternate on the gold medal-winning U.S. team at this fall's World Championships in Stuttgart, placed third all-around at the "Good Luck Beijing" competition held Nov. 28-Dec. 3. "Good Luck Beijing" served as the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee's official test event for next summer's Olympic Games.

At the Toyota International in Toyota City, Japan, this past weekend, Sloan won bronze medals on uneven bars and floor exercise, and placed fourth on balance beam.

"You know, I have tried to make every meet seem smaller than it actually is," Sloan told IG during her travels. "So when I was competing in the test event, I tried to think of it as a small meet, and that helped with pressure and my nervousness. But going to all these big meets has really helped my experience in what to expect at a big international competition."

Coached by Marvin Sharp at Sharp's Gymnastics Academy in Indianapolis, the 15-year-old Sloan said concentration was the key to her success at the Beijing Olympic test meet.

"When I walked into the competition, my main focus was just hitting my routines," she said. "I wasn't thinking about, you now, where I stand in the line-up or the scores. I was just thinking about making my routines as clean as possible."

Chellsie Memmel, Yewki Tomita and Sloan in Toyota City

For the Olympic year of 2008, Sloan said she wants to upgrade the content of her routines, while maintaining good form.

"My main focus for this coming year is just to make my routines stronger," said Sloan, who finished fifth all-around at the 2007 Visa (U.S.) Championships. "I will add skills to make my Start Value higher but still make my routines clean."

Sloan said she is not sure when her next major competition will be, but she will train with the intention of being prepared for anything.

"I don't know, so I will just keep working on making my routines stronger so that when a competition comes up, I will be ready."

For the remainder of 2007, Sloan said she will balance her training with holiday celebrations. She will take Christmas Day off, and head to Illinois for a large family gathering.

"For Christmas I always go to Illinois because that is where the rest of my family all lives, except for my Uncle Tom, who lives in Virginia," Sloan said. "But we all get together for Christmas and just catch up on everything that has been going on. It is so fun because I have 30 first cousins, so it is a big deal when all of us are able to come together and spend time together. It is so much fun."

Sloan said she has solid goals for 2008, both in and out of the gym.

"Of course, the 2008 Olympics, and in my regular life it is just to be a teenager and have fun," she said of her ambitions. "Oh, and all As and Bs would be nice in school for my freshman year!"


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