Written by John Crumlish
Friday, 01 March 2013 10:10
| Chant Hitting High Notes in Senior Debut
Scheduled to compete in Saturday's American Cup in Worcester, Mass., Canada's Maegan Chant told IG she is optimistic as she continues through her first year of senior international competition.
So far in 2013, Chant placed second all-around at the Elite Canada meet in February and first all-around at the Gymnastics Legends International in Los Angeles last weekend.
Canada's Maegan Chant after the Gymnastics Legends International
"It's going really well so far," said Chant after the awards ceremony at the Los Angeles meet, where she finished first in the senior all-around. "I'm keeping strong and focused."
Born April 19, 1997, in Halifax, N.S., Chant trains under Romanian-born coaches Gabriel Tantaru and former great Cristina Bontas-Tantaru at World Class Gymnastics in Hamilton, Ont. Bontas-Tantaru won two medals at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, and tied for the 1991 world title on floor exercise. She finished fourth all-around at the 1989 World Championships and 1992 Olympics, and third all-around at the 1991 Worlds.
Chant said training under Bontas-Tantaru is particularly inspiring since her coach can directly relate to her challenges.
"It's pretty cool," Chant said. "Cristina knows what we go through, so that's pretty encouraging."
Chant's junior career included success in Asia, Europe and North America. In 2011 she finished fourth all-around and third on vault at the Japan Junior Invitational in Yokohama; tied for seventh all-around and won the bronze medal on balance beam at the Top Gym juniors meet in Charleroi, Belgium; and finished seventh in the Open all-around at the Elite Gym Massilia in Marseille, France.
Last year Chant placed sixth all-around at the 2012 Canadian junior championships, and third on vault in the junior division at the Pacific Rim championships in Everett, Wash.
Chant said she was pleased with her silver medal-winning all-around performance at the Elite Canada meet in Sherwood Park, Alb. First was 2012 Olympian Ellie Black.
"I went in there just to do what I do, and it was nice to know that I had a really good competition," Chant said.
Chant said the Canadian team's historic fifth-place finish at last summer's Olympics in London has boosted her confidence and that of other members of the new generation of Canadian gymnasts who are training for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
"It definitely sets the bar, and it's really encouraging to know that we can do it," she said.
With two excellent all-around results this early in the year, Chant said she is prepared for a long season that will culminate with the World Championships in Antwerp from Sept. 30 to Oct. 6. She is eager to contend for a spot on the Canadian team in Antwerp by fortifying her performances until then.
On Saturday, Chant and 2012 Olympian Victoria Moors are scheduled to represent Canada at the AT&T American Cup in Worcester, Mass.
"I want to upgrade my routines a little bit, but they're pretty solid and consistent," Chant told IG. "I just have to stay mentally strong and focused."
Canadian female gymnasts featured in recent issues of International Gymnast Magazine include:
Ellie Black: "Black in Business" (interview) - November 2012
Madeleine Gardiner: "Candid Canadians" (interview) - September 2011; cover photo - March 2011
Christine Lee: interview - April 2011
Victoria Moors: "Sudden Impact" (interview) – January/February 2013
Brittany Rogers: "Confident Canadian" (interview) – May 2012
Lori Strong-Ballard: "Catching Up With…" feature - June 2012
Anysia Unick: cover photo - March 2011
Kristina Vaculik: "Veteran Presence" (profile) – July/August 2010; cover photo - April 2010
To subscribe or order back issues, click here.
Written by Amanda Turner
Tuesday, 26 February 2013 12:11
| Ohashi, Biles Added to American Cup Lineup
First-year seniors Katelyn Ohashi and Simone Biles (U.S.) will complete the lineup for Saturday's AT&T American Cup in Worcester, Mass.
The American Cup is the first FIG event of the 2013 season, and is the fourth of five all-around World Cups for the 2012-3013 season. Previous events in the series were the 2012 American Cup, held in March in New York; the 2012 DTB Cup held in December in Stuttgart; and the 2012 Glasgow World Cup, held in December. Following this year's American Cup in Worcester, the final event takes place in Tokyo, April 6-7.
Katelyn Ohashi (U.S.)
Kyla Ross, a member of the gold-medal U.S. squad at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, has withdrawn from the lineup with a bruised heel. American Elizabeth Price, who won the DTB Cup and Glasgow World Cup, was originally slated for the competition but also withdrew with an injury.
Canadian Maegan Chant will replace two-time Japanese Olympian Koko Tsurumi, who also withdrew with injury. The women's roster also includes former world champion Vanessa Ferrari (Italy), Canadian Olympian Victoria Moors, Great Britain's Gabrielle Jupp, German Olympian Elisabeth Seitz and Japanese Olympian Asuka Teramoto.
Ohashi and Biles are both 15 year old, train in Texas, and are coming off strong junior careers.
Ohashi, who trains under Valeri Liukin at the World Olympic Gymnastics Academy in Plano, has been one of top junior stars for the past few years. She nearly swept 2011 U.S. junior championships, winning gold medals in the all-around, uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise. She won five gold medals at the 2012 Pacific Rim competition (team, all-around, uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise). She is one of the few gymnasts in the world competing a full-twisting double back off balance beam. She turns 16 on April 12.
Biles, who turns 16 on March 14, trains under coach Aimee Boorman at Bannon's in Houston. The powerful Biles, who vaults a booming Amanar, finished third all-around and first on vault at the 2012 U.S. junior championships. She is making her major international debut in Worcester.
2012 Olympic all-around silver medalist Marcel Nguyen (Germany) — who won the World Cups in both Stuttgart and Glasgow — headlines the men's field. Olympic bronze medalist Danell Leyva (U.S.) and Olympic floor finalist Jake Dalton will represent the host country.
The lineup also includes Japanese newcomer Hiroki Ishikawa, as well as Olympians Jorge Hugo Giraldo (Colombia), Sergio Sasaki (Brazil), Kristian Thomas (Great Britain) and Oleg Vernyayev (Ukraine).
IG will do live commentary of the AT&T American Cup on Facebook. Competition begins at 11:30 a.m. EST. Click here to Like Us today!
International Gymnast Magazine related features:
"Jacob's Ladder" - Jake Dalton profile (July/August 2011)
"Back to the Future" - Danell Leyva cover story (December 2012)
Levya on cover (September 2011, April 2012)
"Sudden Impact" - Victoria Moors interview (January/February 2013)
"Silver Streak" - Marcel Nyugen interview (November 2012)
"Sky's the Limit" - Kaitlyn Ohashi cover story (October 2011)
Ohashi/Ross on cover (September 2010)
"Seizing the Moment" - Elisabeth Seitz interview (May 2011)
"Divide and Conquer" - Kristian Thomas interview (May 2012)
"Full Price" - Elizabeth Price cover story (January/February 2013)
"Focus Forward" - Kyla Ross cover story/interview (November 2012)
To subscribe or order back issues, click here.
Written by John Crumlish
Sunday, 24 February 2013 23:39
| Kim: 'Legend' Meet Status Inspiring to Gymnasts
Five-time Olympic gold medalist Nellie Kim told IG that she hopes her status as one of two designated past stars at this weekend's Gymnastics Legends International in Los Angeles benefited the meet's participants and helped build momentum for future such events.
"I'm really proud and happy that this kind of competition can take place, because there is no future without history," said Kim, who attended the competition hosted by All Olympia Gymnastics Center at Los Angeles Convention Center on Saturday evening. "It's very nice and important for the young generation to know the old generations. The old generations always inspire new generations. When I was competing I always had one or two gymnasts in the world who served as examples for me."
Nellie Kim and Artur Akopyan
Kim and former Soviet teammate Artur Akopyan were featured in promotions and on posters for the competition, and also served as award presenters. Akopyan coaches with 1980 Olympic all-around finalist Galina Marinova (Bulgaria) at All Olympia.
Gymnasts from Canada, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Mexico and various U.S. clubs took part in the meet, which included an Elite session dominated by Canadian gymnasts.
Maegan Chant of World Class Gymnastics Academy (Hamilton, Ont.) won the senior all-around title, and Heaven Latimer of Brantford Gymnastics Academy (Brantford, Ont.) won the junior all-around title.
Kim, who serves as president of the Women's Technical Committee of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG), said she is enjoying the serendipity that has brought and kept her and former acquaintances together.
"Galina, Artur and I competed at the same time," said Kim, whose husband, parents and sister also attended the meet. "Artur and I were on the same team. I didn't know Galina at the time, but the funny thing is that I was the first gymnast to perform the (forward push-off, half turn to back somersault) dismount from the balance beam, and so far the only one to repeat it has been Galina. It's wonderful."
At the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Kim won three gold medals (vault, floor exercise and team) and placed second all-around. At the 1980 Games in Moscow, she tied for gold on floor exercise, won a team gold and placed fifth all-around. Kim also won the 1979 world all-around title.
At the 1981 World Championships in Moscow, Akopyan won a team gold, and silvers on vault and high bar. At the 1983 Worlds in Budapest, he won gold on vault, bronze in the all-around and silver in the team competition.
Prominent All Olympia gymnasts include 2012 Olympic gold and silver medalist McKayla Maroney, who was on hand Saturday to sign autographs, and former U.S. national team members Mattie Larson and Samantha Shapiro. After finishing her NCAA career at UCLA, Mohini Bhardwaj trained at the club and went on to serve as captain of the 2004 U.S. Olympic team. Anna Li, a reserve gymnast on the U.S. Olympic team in 2012, also spent time training at the club in 2011.
Kim said competitions such as the Gymnastics Legends International are valuable beyond offering competitive experience.
"The competition is important, but to give it an international status is even more important," said Kim. "Gymnastics most of all is for the young generation to get together, get to know each other, make friends and get to know new cultures. That was the most important part of my gymnastics career, because I loved gymnastics. But in the past and even now, I've loved making new friends, and getting to know new countries and cultures."
Kim said invitational meets at which gymnasts are housed with local families offer even more insight.
"I never stayed anywhere except my house or with other Soviets until 1987, when I went to Belgium and stayed with a local family," she said. "It changed my life -- my mentality, my thinking, my approach to different things. We need to think about competitions from not only the gymnastics aspect, but also the human aspect."
Gymnastics Legends International is among a few international invitationals that were recently hosted by U.S. clubs. Others include the WOGA Classic, Svetlana Boginskaya Invitational and Houston National Invitational held in Texas, and the Nadia Comaneci Invitational in Oklahoma City.
Kim said she supports such U.S.-based competitions that welcome competitors from abroad.
"The problem is that now, especially in non-European areas, there are few international competitions," she said. "So I think this is a trial, and I hope Galina and Artur will be determined to make this competition bigger and stronger. I think information about this competition will spread quickly around the world, and I hope that next year we will have many more participants."
Such competitions provide judges with needed credentials, as well, Kim said.
"Gymnasts need this kind of experience, but so do judges. For judges to upgrade their category they must judge this kind of competition, and they don't have (many) in the United States."
Kim said she not only enjoyed her involvement in Gymnastics Legends International, but that she is optimistic about the future of the competition.
"For me it's a pleasure and an honor," she told IG. "My vision and big goal is that it will become an international event on the American continent. It's fantastic and I'm really happy they decided to do it. Galina is the generator of many things."
Read "Maroney on the Mend," an in-depth interview with McKayla Maroney, in the January/February 2013 issue of International Gymnast magazine.
International Gymnast Magazine Related Features:
"Maroney on the Mend" – McKayla Maroney interview (January/February 2013)
"Valiant Effort" – Anna Li interview (December 2012)
2012 Olympic Games special issue, features Maroney (September 2012)
"Rebounding" – Mattie Larson interview (March 2011)
"It's Showtime!" – Maroney profile (May 2011)
2011 World Championships special issue, features Maroney (December 2011)
Maroney on cover photo collage (September 2010)
"All for One" – All Olympia feature (July/August 2009)
"10 Questions with Nellie Kim" – interview (January//February 2008)
"Style and Substance" – Samantha Shapiro profile (October 2006)
"Meet a Real Show-stopper!" - Larson profile (November 2005)
"Catching Up With...Bulgaria" – features Galina Marinova (October 2002)
Written by John Crumlish
Thursday, 21 February 2013 22:06
| Russia's Kekkonen Clicks as Coach in Minnesota
Since relocating to Minnesota two years ago, former Russian national team member Ksenia Kekkonen told IG she has found professional success and personal fulfillment as a coach to aspiring young U.S. gymnasts.
Russian-born Ksenia Kekkonen shares her expertise with young gymnasts at Elite Gymnastics Academy in Minnesota
Kekkonen, who previously helped coach international-level gymnasts in Russia, is working to develop a base of potential top-level gymnasts, beginning with the Level 3 team she coaches at Elite Gymnastics Academy in Burnsville, Minn.
Kekkonen said she is pleased with her gymnasts' recent achievements, including multiple medal-winning performances at regional invitational competitions over the past year. She also works with the XCel team, another of EGA's competitive programs, on beam and floor exercise. Eventually, Kennonen said, some of her gymnasts can reach the top.
"I'm happy that I work with them from nothing, so to speak, and that I can pass on to them a good gymnastics base for skills from the beginning," said Kekkonen, who earned a coaching degree at Novgorod State University in Russia in 2005. "Already this year they have learned so much. They're excellent, and they are really trying to be champions."
Born Jan. 27, 1983, in Gatchina, Kekkonen trained as a gymnast under coach Olga Yefimova in Novgorod. She competed for Russia at the 1998 Junior European Championships in St. Petersburg, and came close to making Russia's training squad for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.
Kekkonen began working as a coaching assistant in 1997, while she was still competing. After she retired from competition, she began coaching primary level groups and working as a member of the coaching group for the first-string Novgorod team. Among Kekkonen's students were then-Russian national team member Oksana Vitkova and current Russian team member Kristina Goryunova. Kekkonen also spent time coaching in Finland.
Kekkonen said her ability to relate to her young Minnesota gymnasts on multiple levels serves her well as a coach.
"My previous, personal gymnastics experience is a good primary base," she said. "This helps me in my work as a coach – not many (coaches) can demonstrate the skills personally. I also think that a coach is not only a person who can teach gymnasts how to perform elements, but is also a good psychologist. I really ‘feel' my gymnasts. In each of them I can find just what is necessary, and then allocate that to open up their possibilities."
In addition to coaching gymnastics, Kekkonen worked as chief manager in a network of fitness clubs in St. Petersburg from 2005-11, and competed in fitness competitions. Kekkonen and her husband, Dmitry Mikhalev, got married in 2009. They have twin daughters, Kristina and Sofia.
Kekkonen at the 1998 Junior European Championships
Kekkonen said she is determined to instill in her EGA gymnasts skills that will benefit them in and out of the gym.
"At this club I aspire to help gymnasts of any level realize their potential, learn to take advantage of their talent, gain confidence, learn how to set goals, and learn about teamwork," she said.
Kekkonen credits Yefimova, and the late Yelena Mashinskaya and Anatoly Chistenko from her Novgorod club, for their ongoing influence in her professional career in the U.S.
"I have adopted the coaching experience of my coaches, who developed many gymnasts to the international level," she said. "Everything they have passed on to me – the knowledge and experience – I have retained and am improving upon."
Although Kekkonen reflects with appreciation on the coaching exposure and training she gained in Russia, she is determined to create her own champions in the U.S.
"When I was still a gymnast I helped my coaches in their work with children," she told IG. "At the end of my competitive career I moved into coaching and helped gymnasts who were already at the international level. This has also helped me achieve success, but I want to reach further and improve. I certainly would like to develop gymnasts of the international level."