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Written by Admin    Thursday, 15 December 2016 08:58    PDF Print
Excerpt: An Inspiring Story About Injury, Redemption And Family
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

The following excerpt is from "Second Chance: An inspiring story about injury, redemption and family" by former U.S. national team member Mark Caso. The full story appears in the December 2016 issue of IG.

It happened Jan. 31, 1980. I was 17, one of the top high school recruits in the nation, and qualified for USA Championships. I was pushing the absolute limits with my new friends, UCLA freshmen teammates Mitch Gaylord and Peter Vidmar, and feeling indestructible! The problem was we were exhausted, since this was our fourth week of 2-and-2s in the gym. You had to hit two compulsories and two optionals without a major deduction on all six events, or it didn’t count. We were all burned out and exhausted. We hardly warmed up for routines anymore, since it would use up too much energy. So we just sort of took off our sweats and saluted our coach, Makoto Sakamoto— “Mr. Mako”—and banged out our sets, one after another.

Peter had been working on the Kurt Thomas on floor (1-1/2 twisting 1-3/4 Arabian dive roll) for his opening pass. Peter was not the strongest tumbler, so we were all trying to help him with this trick. In doing so, Mitch and I were playing with it, and found that we could also do it. Since Mitch and I were basically doing the same floor routine up to that point, Mitch decided to use the Thomas on his second pass. As a more powerful tumbler, I decided to put it in my third pass. Since we had no pit, we had to do all our routines on the regular floor, or throw in an 8-incher. But not a big deal. I had learned my full-in back-out on my high school’s wrestling mats back in East Syracuse, N.Y. At least UCLA had a spring floor!

Mako had this saying: “All or nothing.” If you thought you were going to get hurt, you just stop and pass on that turn. None of us had ever used that option. We were indestructible! We had not yet hit our limits.

Peter went first and barely got around on his Thomas. We were all worried about him. He rang his bell. Mitch went next and got through without a problem. It was typical Mitch Gaylord style. I was up last, and was trying to shake off the fact that I was dragging. I saluted Mr. Mako and began my routine. My first pass was a full-in. It was good, as usual, but when I did my second pass, it felt like gravity had somehow increased. As I stood in the corner looking down the diagonal for my third pass, everyone knew I was sluggish. Mr. Mako yelled, “All or nothing!” I nodded, took an extra breath, and started barreling into my hurdle. Things seemed to be going in slow motion. I punched the ground as hard as I could into the Thomas, and I knew I was not going to make it, yet I was too committed to the trick. All I could do was try to get my head under and pull it to my back. “THUMP.” I had gotten my head under, but my body was not turned over. My body weight, pounded my chin into my chest bone.

I saw black and couldn’t breathe. Pins and needles fired throughout my limbs. The tingling intensified to numbness, then nothing. I thought, Oh crap, I broke my neck! Terror! Every gymnast’s worst nightmare had actually happened.

To subscribe to International Gymnast magazine at our low Holiday Rate, click here.

Written by dwight normile    Monday, 12 December 2016 07:53    PDF Print
Detailed Biles Memoir Filled With Emotion
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

The December issue of International Gymnast includes a review of "Courage To Soar." It is about family, faith and fun, which, like a braid, are weaved throughout this memoir of Simone Biles. And her candid story-telling is every bit as captivating as her gymnastics. Following is an abbreviated version of the review.

The 250-page book begins at the 2011 Visa Championships in St. Paul, Minn., where Biles placed 14th in the juniors. The top 13 were named to the national team, and Biles rues the fact that she did not attempt an Amanar vault because she didn’t feel ready to do it. As the team members were announced, Biles hid her disappointment as best she could.

“I’d been determined not to act like a big baby, but once we got back to the hotel, I couldn’t hold it in any longer,” she writes. “Oh, I cried. I threw myself across the bed and bawled.”

The story shifts to her childhood with a detailed account of her early years in Columbus, Ohio, with her biological mother, Shanon. Child protection services intervened when Simone was 3, since her mother had substance abuse issues.

A merry-go-round of foster homes followed until Simone’s grandparents, Ron and Nellie, adopted her and younger sister Adria. (Shanon is Ron’s daughter from a previous marriage.)

Once settled in the Houston area with Ron and Nellie, Simone and Adria finally felt secure. When the sisters visited Bannon’s Gymnastix on a daycare field trip, Simone found her calling. Coach Veronica, who is Aimee Boorman’s mother, discovered Simone, who was only 6 years old at the time. Nellie enrolled both her daughters in classes, and as Simone moved quickly up the ranks, Aimee became her full-time coach.

At the 2012 Visa Championships in St. Louis, Simone was determined to do better than she had the year before. And she did. Simone placed third all-around, placed first on vault and was one of only six juniors to make the national team. The next year would be a critical turning point in her career, however.

Simone had a horrible meet at the 2013 Secret Classic, a qualifier for the U.S. Championships. Boorman scratched her from the meet before vault, since Simone had crunched her ankles on her floor dismount.

Afterward, Simone overheard another coach attribute her poor performance by saying, “She’s too fat.” The comment devastated Simone, who explained what she had heard to Marta Karolyi, U.S. national team coordinator. Marta told her she wasn’t fat, and invited her to the “ranch” for a private training session. As history shows, Simone has not lost a major all-around title since.

Contrary to what fans see in competition, Simone was not always the giggly teenager who hits every routine with apparent ease. "Aimee will tell you that for almost two years my attitude sucked," she writes. There was also the immense pressure Simone felt prior to the Rio Olympics, where she had the chance to win five gold medals. This time she freaked out on the bed in her Houston home. "My chest heaved, and I could barely catch my breath. I felt as if I was having a full-blown panic attack.”

There is one factual error in the book relating to the Olympic all-around competition. When Aliya Mustafina took the lead after uneven bars in the second rotation, Simone writes that “Aliya is a top-caliber bar specialist, and she’d tied with Maddie Kocian for the bars title at the last Worlds.” (Mustafina did not compete in the 2015 Worlds.) Such is the risk of publishing a book so soon after the Rio Games.

Still, "Courage To Soar" is both revealing and inspiring. The reader learns that everything doesn’t always come so easily to Simone Biles. At times, she struggles with life like everyone else. And it will be interesting to see if she returns to competitive gymnastics.

To subscribe to International Gymnast magazine, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 09 December 2016 10:23    PDF Print
Canada's Padurariu Aims To Stay On Track For Tokyo
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Featured in the December 2016 issue of International Gymnast magazine, Canadian junior all-around champion Ana Padurariu is pacing herself as she heads towards the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

“The years until the next Olympics look like a long time, but it is not," said Padurariu, who also this year won six gold medals at the Junior Pan American Championships in Bolivia and five gold medals at the Olympic Hopes Cup in Czech Republic. “I want to be prepared for the biggest dream that a gymnast can have.”

Read “Canadian Pace-setter,” a profile on Padurariu, in the December 2016 issue of International Gymnast magazine. To subscribe to the print and/or digital editions, click here.

Written by Amanda Turner    Thursday, 08 December 2016 12:31    PDF Print
Uchimura: No Plans to Become a Specialist
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Gymnastics king Kohei Uchimura, undefeated in the all-around since 2009, says he has changed his mind about becoming a specialist and plans to keep training in the all-around.

Gymnastics king Kohei Uchimura, undefeated in the all-around since 2009, says he has changed his mind about becoming a specialist and plans to keep training in the all-around.

Uchimura, who won his second Olympic all-around title in August in Rio de Janeiro, said in an interview this week that he won't be giving up on the all-around anytime soon. The 27-year-old Japanese superstar previously had said that he planned to become a specialist as he looks ahead to competing in Tokyo 2020, his fourth Olympic Games.

"I actually thought of stopping competing as all-arounder right after Rio," he told newspaper Nikkei. "But I changed my mind later because I've been saying 'Gymnastics is six events. It just is,' for a long time, so I thought that I won't allow myself to turn into event specialist. So I've decided to perform six events from my heart and fight as an all-arounder. If I fail at qualifying in the all-around, I will think of a way to live as an event specialist."

Uchimura captured his second consecutive Olympic all-around title this past summer in Rio de Janeiro.

Uchimura is the most dominant gymnast of all time, winning six consecutive world championship all-around titles from 2009 to 2015, and back-to-back Olympic all-around titles. In Rio, he led the Japanese team to victory in the team competition, its first Olympic team gold since 2004 and second since 1976.

Uchimura has been undefeated internationally and at home since his second place at the 2008 Olympic Games in Rio. But his all-around victory in Rio was his most hard-fought ever. Battling top qualifier Oleg Vernyayev in the all-around final, Uchimura ended up winning by only .099 in a final in which both gymnasts were nearly flawless.

He said he is prepared for eventually coming up short. He brought up the long-undefeated Japanese wrestling star Saori Yoshida, who won 15 world titles and three consecutive Olympic titles before settling for silver in Rio.

"Of course [the winning streak] will stop," Uchimura said. "You saw Saori Yoshida lost right? But I'm not afraid of losing it. I thought that I lost all around final at Rio and I found myself thinking, 'It can't be helped even if I lose with my performance.'"

Uchimura said his decision to stay as an all-arounder involves staying focused only the details of his gymnastics instead of worrying about victory.

"So I found the clear solution like this, now I can believe in myself and just keep pursuing my gymnastics," he said. "From now on, I want to stick to the details and quality of my routine more than winning or losing. But I think it'll make myself get close to winning accordingly."

Uchimura recently left KONAMI, which had been his long-time sponsor, and signed a contract with an agent. He said he had considered the move after 2012 but stayed with KONAMI.

"Well, for the first time, after taking the gold medal at the London Olympics, the attention was getting really high," he said. "I thought that it's the right timing now [to go professional], but after that, I didn't know what to do, but I kept winning gold medals at the world championships... From January this year it started moving little by little, and professionals from other industries helped [including Japan footballers Shinji Okazaki and Yuto Nagatomo] and I signed a contract with an agency."

Despite Japan's rich history in gymnastics, Uchimura is the first Japanese gymnast to become a true "professional" athlete on par with the country's top stars in football, tennis, baseball and other professional sports.

"For sure, gymnastics – although the physical demand is also huge – is not a sport where you compete all the time; it is not a sport where you can earn a lot through competing," Uchimura said. "Although no one has done anything yet, I don't know the answer either. To find it by myself, I hope I can show that I am a professional figure."

Written by Amanda Turner    Thursday, 08 December 2016 12:27    PDF Print
Indian Gymnast Dies After Two Months in Coma
(3 votes, average 3.67 out of 5)

A 17-year-old Indian gymnast died Sunday at a hospital in Gurgaon, nearly two months after a training accident left him in a coma, Indian media reported Wednesday.

Young Indian gymnast Brijesh Yadav, 17, died Sunday, two months after an accident in training left him in a coma.

Brijesh Yadav, a silver medalist at the 2015 Indian National School Championships, broke his neck during training on October 11 in Agra. He was attempting a double front on floor exercise when he reportedly missed his steps and fell on his head.

"Brijesh was doing his floor practice when he fell and broke his neck," said his coach Arvind Yadav (no relation). "He had already performed the routine four times but lost his balance in the fifth and fell. Although he landed on a soft mat, his neck got twisted."

Yadav broke his C3 and C4 vertebrae in the fall. He was immediately paralyzed from the neck down and fell into a coma. He underwent two surgeries but ultimately died of respiratory failure after an infection.

"The injuries damaged the respiratory centers," said Dr. Arun Bhanot, chief of spinal surgery at Paras Hospital. "The surgeries were successful but we could never take him completely off ventilator due to damage to the respiratory centers. After some time, he developed infections and it further affected respiratory recovery, which ultimately led to his death. The country has lost a talented young gymnast."

Doctors reported that 80 percent of patients with the same injury are killed instantly, but Yadav managed to survive, while his family, friends and even actor Akshay Kumar rallied to raise funds for his treatment.

"It was Brijesh's positive approach and will that kept him alive for about 50 days," said Dr. Bhanot. "He was also brought to the hospital in time. The major problem was that his respiratory system was not responding on its own."

In March 2015, another teenaged gymnast from Gurgaon broke his neck on floor, training a Thomas salto (a move banned in international competition beginning in 2017). He underwent multiple surgeries and spent six months in the hospital, but fully recovered and returned to training.


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