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Written by John Crumlish    Monday, 12 November 2007 14:13    PDF Print
Käslin Counting Down to Beijing

After her recent sweep of the Swiss Championships, three-time world all-around finalist Ariella Käslin told IG she is now focusing on qualifying for the 2008 Olympics.

Ariella Käslin

"I am really pleased about winning five titles," Käslin told IG. "I was also very excited by this honor, because this success is also a part of gymnastics history. It is rare for a gymnast to achieve a 'Grand Slam.'"

Käslin said her performances at the Swiss Championships (held Oct. 20-21) were an improvement from those at the World Championships, held Sept. 1-9 in Stuttgart, where she placed 22nd around. Annik Salzmann was the last woman to sweep the Swiss Championships, when she won every event in 2000.

"Compared to the world championships, I performed more stably, but not at the absolute top level," Käslin said of her national championship performance.

Käslin said she and her teammates found it difficult to compete for their national title so soon after the World Championships, which served to qualify teams and individuals for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

"From the view of the athletes, the timing of the national championships was unfavorable, but the situation was the same for everyone," said Käslin, who turned 20 on October 11. "All of us on the team were very tired, because we had such an intensive time behind us. And so, I can say that luck and experience in competition helped me very much."

Käslin also noted that she and her teammates are still adjusting to new coaches. Earlier this year, national team coaches Eric and Cécile DeMay were replaced. Former British coach Zoltan Jordanov is the new national team head coach, and his wife, Snejana, works with the team on balance beam and choreography. Fabian Martin is the team's assistant coach.

Because the Swiss women's team placed 18th in Stuttgart, they earned only one individual berth for the Beijing Olympics. Käslin, a leading candidate for that berth, said the selection procedures as still being negotiated between the Swiss Gymnastics Federation and the Swiss Olympic Association.

For 2008, Käslin said she plans to upgrade her routines on every event. Among the new skills she is training is a layout Rudi vault.

"On vault I have surely not yet exhausted all my capacities," said the 5-foot, 3-inch Käslin. "This is a difficult vault for my body size, but I think it is feasible. On floor I can still increase my Start Value, and on beam I must work on stability. How things will go on bars, I do not know for sure at the moment, because I am recovering from a shoulder injury. Once I know how the recovery goes, I can plan for this event. Of course, it would be wonderful for me to still increase my A-score on bars, too."

Käslin said her Olympic candidacy will be based largely on her performance at the 2008 European Championships, to be held in Clermont-Ferrand, France, in April. Swiss qualifying competitions for Europeans will begin in February, she said.

Swiss team in Stuttgart

"The results in the European Championships will surely weigh heavily for Olympic qualification," said Käslin. "Then still other national and international competitions will follow. The European Championships will be a first test regarding Beijing. I aim for a reasonably good place in the all-around final there. On vault and bars, a place in the finals is nearly an obligation for me. If everything goes well, I wish for a good result in the all-around final at the Olympic Games."

Although Käslin was the Swiss women's top all-arounder in Stuttgart, she said she is not taking an Olympic berth for granted. Käslin said she is counting on competition from within her own team to drive her performances between now and the Games.

"Obviously, my goal is qualification for Beijing," she said. "I want the others on the team to push me and motivate me to give my best performances. These are just what I will need next year."

IG Magazine Related Feature
"Swiss Thrill-seeker" - Käslin profile (January/February 2007)

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

Written by Admin    Saturday, 10 November 2007 14:11    PDF Print
Glasgow Grand Prix Begins Friday
Great Britain is bringing out both its best and its untested for the annual Glasgow Grand Prix, which begins Friday.
Marissa King

The British field in Glasgow includes superstar Beth Tweddle and fellow world medalist Louis Smith, but also new under-18 national champion Kristian Thomas and newcomer Kayleigh Cooke.

Training took place Thursday at Kelvin Hall.

Romania's Steliana Nistor was in top form on uneven bars and has added a new combination of Maloney, shoot 1/2 to handstand, Stalder shoot to high, a sequence which takes her A score to 7.0 if she performs full difficulty. Uneven bars was the highlight apparatus this afternoon with Tweddle, Zhou Zhuoru (China) and Kristina Palesova (Czech Republic) setting the pace.

On beam, Sanne Wevers from the Netherlands performed an exceptional double turn with leg at horizontal, while Russian Lyudmila Yezhova worked through difficult combinations (Onodi, free walkover, side somersault) with ease and aplomb. Her husband, fellow 2004 Olympian Georgy Grebenkov, is on hand as a coach.

China's Fan Ye made a welcome return after her recent success at the 2007 University Games. Performing full difficulty, Ye showed that she is back and keen to fight for her position on the 2008 Olympic squad.

American newcomer Darlene Hill excelled on floor exercise. She performed double pikes and tucked double Arabians alongside a routine which projected artistry and expression - a definite one to watch in the competition.

The men took a much more relaxed approach to the training today, warming up skills rather than working full routines. The highlight was Krisztian Berki's exceptional scissors work, one of which he took right to the handstand before continuing with the sequence.

2007 Glasgow Grand Prix Participants
Nov. 9-11, Glasgow

Austria: Marco Baldauf, Marco Mayr
Belgium: Donna-Donny Truyens, Koen van Damme
Canada: Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs, Nansy Damianova
Chile: Tomas Gonzalez Sepulveda
China: Fan Ye, Zhang Nan, Zhou Zhuoru; Du Wei, Feng Zhe, Lu Bin
Croatia: Tina Erceg; Tomislav Markovic, Robert Seligman, Filip Ude
Cyprus: Giorgalas Iriodotos, Aristotelous Constantinos, Spanos Georgios
Czech Republic: Kristina Palesova, Jana Sikulova, Nicole Pechancova
Spain: Arkaitz Garcia, Christian Guillen, Javier Gomez
Finland: Annika Urntho; Jani Tanskaneen, Tomi Tunha, Olli Torkkel
France: Johan Mounard; Danny Rodrigues, Raphael Wignanitz
Great Britain: Hannah Clowes, Kayleigh Cooke, Marissa King, Beth Tweddle; Adam Cox, Luke Folwell, Stephen Jehu, Daniel Keatings, Louis Smith, Kristian Thomas
Germany: Jenny Brunner, Kim Bui, Julia Hanel; Brian Gladow, Robert Weber
Greece: Eleftherios Kosmidis, Barmpakis Khonstantionos
Hungary: Eniko Korcsmaros; Krisztian Berki, Vid Hidvegi
Israel: Valeria Maksyuta
Japan: Takehito Mori, Eiichi Sekiguchi
Latvia: Yevgeny Sapronenko, Dmitry Trefilovs
Luxembourg: Sascha Palgen
Netherlands: Verona van de Leur, Sanne Wevers; Yuri van Gelder, Jeffrey Wammes, Epke Zonderland
Norway: Espen Jansen
Poland: Paula Plichta; Kamil Hulbuj
Romania: Steliana Nistor, Daniela Druncea; Cosmin Popescu, Daniel Popescu, Robert Stanescu
Russia: Lyudmila Yezhova Grebenkova, Daria Yelizarova; Alexander Balandin, Dmitry Gogotov, Sergei Khorokhordin, Konstantin Pluzhnikov, Anatoly Vasilyev
Slovenia: Adela Sajn; Mitja Petkovsek, Aljaz Pegan, Saso Bertoncelj, Sebastijan Straus, Ziga Britovsek
Slovakia: Alexander Benko, Samuel Piasecky
Tunisia: Wajdi Bouallegue
Ukraine: Marina Kostyuchenko, Marina Sergiyenko, Daria Zgoba; Vadim Kuvakin, Vitaly Nakonechny, Alexander Suprun
United States: Darlene Hill, Natasha Kelly
Venezuela: Regulo Carmona

Written by Admin    Tuesday, 06 November 2007 14:09    PDF Print
Bijak Still Considering Beijing
Although German veteran Daria Bijak missed this year's World Championships in her home country, she may still contend for the 2008 Olympics. "Only time will tell," she told IG this week.
Daria Bijak

Bijak, a sophomore at the University of Utah, placed 20th all-around at the 2003 World Championships in Anaheim, and eighth all-around at the 2005 World Championships in Melbourne.

Bijak's rank in Melbourne remains the highest all-around finish by a German woman in World Championships competition since East Germany's Dorte Thümmler placed sixth all-around at the 1987 Worlds.

Bijak did not compete at the 2007 World Championships (held Sept. 1-9 in Stuttgart) because she was recovering from a knee injury. The German women earned a team berth to the 2008 Olympic Games with their 10th-place finish.

Bijak, whose German residence is Cologne, said she intends to try for a spot on the German team bound for Beijing.

"That is still my goal and I am working towards it, but I think the most important thing for me is to stay healthy," said Bijak, who will turn 22 on November 12. "I've had quite a few injuries in the past four years. So I guess only time will tell."

Germany's top performers in Stuttgart were Marie-Sophie Hindermann, who placed 14th all-around and fifth on uneven bars; Anja Brinker, who placed 18th all-around; and Oksana Chusovitina, who placed sixth on vault. The team also included Katja Abel, Joeline Möbius and Jenny Brunner.

"I am very happy they qualified for the Olympics next year," Bijak said. "The qualification was their biggest goal, so I think they did a great job."

Bijak said she and her German coaches plan to keep one another well-informed as her 2007-2008 NCAA season progresses. At the University of Utah, Bijak is coached by Greg Marsden, Megan Marsden, Jeff Graba and Mary Wright.

"Right now I'm talking to my club coach, Shanna Polyakova, a lot," Bijak said. "I let her know about everything I plan to compete here, and we also discuss our plans for my (international) routines. And once our season here in Utah starts, both my club coach and the German head coach will watch my routines online."

Bijak's career since her success in Melbourne has included injuries to both knees, but she wants to remain confident.

"It's not easy to stay positive, and there are times when I am pretty down and frustrated because of injuries, but that's sports, isn't it?" Bijak said. "It's all about getting through the hard times and then enjoying the good times. I think I have kind of learned how to deal with injuries, and I know people that help me get through it. I just love doing gymnastics and especially competing in front of a big crowd. I think that's what keeps me motivated."

Bijak has optimistic goals for both NCAA and international competition in 2008.

"My hopes for the new season? To win NCAAs with my team," she said. "That would be great. And for Germany? To have a healthy and good team at the Olympics, in order to show off some big skills."

IG Magazine Related Features
"It Was All Academic" - short Bijak profile (January/February 2007)
"Standing Our For Germany" - Hindermann profile (November 2007)
"Breaking In" - Brinker profile (November 2007)
"Double Break" - Abel profile (July/August 2006)
"On Good German Terms" - short Chusovitina profile (January/February 2007)

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

Written by Amanda Turner    Saturday, 03 November 2007 14:02    PDF Print
Kryukov Healing, Hopeful For Third Olympics

Recovering from a knee injury, two-time Russian Olympian Nikolai Kryukov told IG this week that he still has hopes to compete in next summer's Olympics in Beijing.

Nikolai Kryukov

Kryukov, the 1999 world all-around champion, injured his left knee on the landing of a double-front vault at the 2007 World Championships, held in Stuttgart in September. Kryukov finished the competition, however, and was the top Russian scorer on two of the three events he competed in the team finals.

"I feel better, and am getting treatment," Kryukov said. "The doctors say it was an injury to the interior cruciate ligament of the knee, and a compression of two menisci."

Kryukov said he is now aiming to compete at the 2008 European Championships (April 24-27 in Lausanne), and hopes to qualify for the Russia's 2008 Olympic team.

"I want to try, but I can't make conjecture because of my age," he said.

Kryukov, the youngest member of Russia's gold medal-winning team at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and a team bronze medalist at the 2000 Sydney Games, will turn 29 on Nov. 11. He said he plans a low-key birthday celebration.

"I will gather together a close circle of friends and family," he said.

International Gymnast Magazine Related Features
2007 World Championships Special Issue (October 2007)
"All-Around Nice Guy" - Kryukov cover story (February 2000)

Written by Admin    Saturday, 27 October 2007 13:32    PDF Print
Skating & Gymnastics Show to Air in February
Taped last Sunday in Oklahoma City, the Tylenol Skating & Gymnastics Specactular will air Feb. 9 on NBC.
Ivan Ivankov and Lang Lang

The three-hour show featured world and Olympic champions in skating and gymnastics performing individually and simultaneously. The gymnastics cast included 2004 Olympic gold medalists Paul Hamm and Catalina Ponor and world champions Nastia Liukin and Ivan Ivankov.

2006 Olympic champions Evgeni Plushenko and Shizuka Arakawa headlined the figure skating lineup.

Liukin, who also performed in the 2005 edition of the show, said the two Olympic sports go together well.

"It's such a great combination," she said. "One is Winter and one is Summer, but I think out of all the sports they are the closest together—the artistry, beauty and grace."

Chinese piano sensation Lang Lang accompanied many of the performances with classical pieces, including Xian Xinghai's "Yellow River Concerto" and a lengthy version of "Hungarian Rhapsody."

"It was an absolutely great experience," Lang said. "I never done this before. I can't wait to do it again."

Lang has been selected as a cultural ambassador at the 2008 Olympics, and will perform at the Opening Ceremonies in Beijing.

The gymnasts each performed on two or three events, including the floor exercise, balance beam, parallel bars, still rings and high bar.

The figure skaters also got into the gymnastics act. France's Surya Bonaly, a former tumbler, and Michael Weiss, whose father was a 1964 Olympic gymnast, both performed back flips on the ice.

"I love doing stuff like this," Liukin said. "It's totally different than competing in a world-class competition, but it's great being around so many world and Olympic champions in both sports."

Liukin performed a graceful exhibition on balance beam, showcasing her balletic style and flexibility. She also performed a dance routine to Gwen Stefani's "Wind It Up," created by assistant show choreographer Adriana Pop. The dance number was a departure from her usual choreography, Liukin noted.

"I had so much fun doing it and I hope that people will accept that and realize that I can do more than one style," she said.

The show will air in February as part of NBC's Olympic-year programming. Lang, who has been working on the Opening Ceremonies program for two months, won't reveal if he will again be playing for gymnasts or acrobats next summer.

"It's a secret," he said.


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