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Written by John Crumlish    Saturday, 14 June 2014 20:13    PDF Print
Recent International Success Motivates Mikulak
(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

As U.S. all-around champion Sam Mikulak prepares for a training trip in Germany and Italy, he told IG that winning gold, silver and bronze medals at the recent World Challenge Cup of Anadia has primed him for his title defense at the P&G (U.S.) Championships in August in Pittsburgh.

"Competing internationally is always a great experience," said Mikulak, who placed first on high bar, second on floor exercise and third on parallel bars at the Challenge Cup, held May 29-June 1 in the Portuguese city. "I get another opportunity to put myself in a pressure situation, and as I get geared up for the P&G Championships, the more prepared I am for the pressure situations, the better. Plus it's nice to be in such a refined state with all my routines this early going into P&Gs."

Sam Mikulak (United States)

Mikulak, who placed sixth all-around and fourth on high bar at the 2013 World Championships in Antwerp, said he was most pleased with his performance on high bar in Anadia. He won that apparatus title for the second consecutive year.

"The high bar gold medal was most satisfying because it was the one event where I had to defend my title," he said. "It was my last opportunity to get a gold medal, and to end on a stick is the best way to go out."

Mikulak said he was prepared to do one of two routines in the high bar final, but ultimately chose a more conservative one based on the performance of China’s Zhang Chenglong.

In qualifications, Zhang had the highest Difficulty score (6.90) of the field. Mikulak, top qualifier Marijo Možnik (Croatia) and Bence Talas (Hungary) each had a D note of 6.60 in qualifications.

"Going into high bar (final) I was deciding whether to do my more difficult 16.9 routine with a Cassina, or my easier 16.6 routine," Mikulak said. "If Chenglong had hit his harder high bar set, I was going to do the Cassina, but when he fell, I knew I just had to hit a clean 16.6 routine, and that's what I did."

In Anadia, Mikulak also finished fifth in vault finals, but fell on pommel horse in qualifications for 26th place.

"My mistake on horse was just one of those freak accidents that you could never predict," he said, "I never fall on my scissor work and so I just put it behind me."

Mikulak said he decided against competing in Anadia on the sixth event, rings, because his shoulder was a little sore, and he wanted to focus on the events on which he had better medal prospects.

"I chose to do five events because I've been in all-around shape," he said. "The more I do, the more experience I get and the better chance I have to medal."

Mikulak said he does not plan to compete between now and the P&G Championships, but is looking forward to a training trip with German star Fabian Hambüchen in Germany and Italy.

"Any chance to train and see other gymnasts' training styles is a great time to broaden my horizons and better myself as a gymnast," Mikulak told IG.

Sam Mikulak is featured in the following issues of International Gymnast magazine:
2014 NCAA Championships coverage (May 2014)
Mikulak two-page center poster, 2014 American Cup coverage (April 2014)
2013 World Championships special issue (November 2013)
Mikulak two-page photo spread (October 2013)
2013 U.S. Championships coverage (September 2013)
"Sam I Am" – Mikulak cover photo and interview (July/August 2013)
2013 NCAA Championships coverage (May 2013)
2012 U.S. Olympic Trials coverage (July/August 2012)

To order back issues, or subscribe to the digital and/or print editions of International Gymnast magazine, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Monday, 09 June 2014 09:55    PDF Print
Austria's Hämmerle On Track For More Success
(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Austrian gymnast Elisa Hämmerle told IG that winning two medals at the recent Challenger Cup of Anadia bodes well for her success at upcoming competitions including this fall's world championships.

"The two medals I won in Anadia are my first ones at a Challenge Cup," said Hämmerle, who placed second on vault, third (tie) on uneven bars, fourth on floor exercise and sixth on balance beam at the meet held May 29-June 1 in Portugal. "It was always my goal to win a medal at such an event. This shows me and my coach that we are well on track."

Elisa Hämmerle (Austria)

Hämmerle said her performance at last month's European Championships in Sofia also showed her all-around potential. Although no formal all-around contest took place in Sofia, Hämmerle had the 16th-highest all-around score of the gymnasts who performed on all four apparatuses in qualifications.

"I am not an apparatus specialist but an all-arounder," said Hämmerle, who has won 12 all-around and apparatus titles in Austrian junior and senior championships. "I just test myself on each apparatus to get more stability in my routines. I scored 52.199 with one fall on floor. It showed me I am not so far away from 54 points, so I am even more motivated to conquer the coming challenges."

Between now and the Worlds in Nanning in October, Hämmerle said she will work on some new elements as well as try to improve her execution. She intends to compete in two qualifications for Austria's worlds team to be held in Innsbruck, and a dual meet in France, prior to Nanning.

"I am practicing a D-(level) turn on uneven bars and also a D dismount on beam, and a few connections on floor," said Hämmerle, who placed 40th all-around in qualifications at the 2013 Worlds in Antwerp. "I have to increase my D- and of course my E- scores, because I am still too 'sloppy.'"

Born December 10, 1995, in Lustentau, Hämmerle trains at LSZ Dornbirn. Her main coach is Laurens van der Hout, and earlier this year she began working with a second coach, 2000 Czech Olympian Katerina Maresova Rexa. Rexa and her husband, veteran Czech gymnast Daniel Rexa, started working at the club in February.

Hämmerle said her top priority in Nanning will be helping her team finish among the top 24 and thereby advance to the 2015 Worlds in Glasgow. Twelve teams will ultimately qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Austria placed 14th in the team competition in Sofia.

"The focus will be on the team," Hämmerle told IG. "It is our goal to be among the top 24 teams. It is important for me to do a good job in relation to the world championships in 2015, where the Olympic qualification will take place."

Written by Amanda Turner    Tuesday, 03 June 2014 11:10    PDF Print
Penev Pushes for All-Around Success After Anadia Golds
(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

After two gold medals at this weekend's Anadia World Challenge Cup, Eddie Penev is determined to branch out as an all-arounder to improve his chances of making the U.S. team to the upcoming world championships. Pictured: Penev won floor exercise in Anadia over teammate Sam Mikulak and Olympic finalist Tomas González (Chile).

After two gold medals at this weekend's Anadia World Challenge Cup in Portugal, Eddie Penev is determined to branch out as an all-arounder to improve his chances of making the U.S. team to the upcoming world championships.

Penev was the most successful male gymnast in Anadia, where he was the only double champion in the men's competition. In Saturday's finals, Penev won floor exercise, topping Olympians Sam Mikulak (U.S.) and Tomas González (Chile). On Sunday, he grabbed a second gold on vault, showing the best combination of difficulty and clean landings.

"Quite honestly, I cannot say I expected the golds but I certainly trained for it!" Penev told IG on Tuesday. "Vault I would say was a little unexpected, just because there were some great vaulters out there with even bigger vaults than mine. Floor I knew was going to be challenge, because Sam did a phenomenal routine that was going to be hard to beat."

Penev, who was sixth on floor exercise at the 2013 Anadia World Challenge Cup, said he was pleased overall with his performance this year in Portugal. In Anadia he also finished 10th on high bar in qualification, .2 away from qualification.

"Overall I thought I had a very solid performance," said Penev, who graduated from Stanford University in 2013. "Missing out on the high bar final by a very small margin was maybe the only small regret. As for the other events, I'm happy with the level at which I was able to execute my routines over two days of competition. It definitely gives me confidence moving forward."

Penev grew up in New York, but was born in Sofia to two former Bulgarian national team gymnasts. Penev represented Bulgaria for several years, making finals on floor exercise at the 2009 European Championships and 2010 World Championships. Prior to the 2012 Olympic Games, he decided to try his hand at making the U.S. national team. In 2013, he was an alternate to the U.S. men's team to the world championships in Antwerp.

The powerful Penev has had most of his success on floor and vault. In NCAA competition, he won two national titles on vault and one on floor exercise. In 2013, he won the U.S. national title on vault, and in 2014 he won both floor and vault at the U.S. Winter Cup in Las Vegas.

However, he said he hopes to show his capabilities on the other events, in particularly pushing himself to become a "pommels guy" to help the U.S. squad.

"My other events are going really well!" he said. "High bar I was hoping to show a bit more difficulty than I did in Anadia, but it'll definitely be there at championships! I'm also really determined to be a pommels guy. We could definitely use another one as a team and I'm making a real push to be one of those guys in the mix on horse. I will also be pushing the all-around because you really need to these days, given our depth."

Penev will turn 24 on Aug. 18, a few days before the U.S. championships begin in Pittsburgh. He said he plans to also add some upgrades to his routines before then.

"My goal for championships is to first and foremost hit my sets and go 12 for 12," he said. "If that happens I definitely believe that I stand a good chance of being in the mix for this year's world team. Being an alternate for 2013's team certainly gave me confidence and showed me that this is something that is realistic for me, if I do what I am capable of."

Written by Amanda Turner    Thursday, 29 May 2014 12:54    PDF Print
BBC Announces New Celebrity Gymnastics Show, 'Tumble'
(8 votes, average 4.38 out of 5)

Following the popularity of celebrities dancing and ice skating, gymnastics will get its turn in the spotlight this summer on the BBC. Pictured: 2012 Olympic medalist Louis Smith

Following the popularity of celebrities dancing and ice skating, gymnastics will get its turn in the spotlight this summer in a new show called "Tumble," the BBC announced Thursday.

Olympic legend Nadia Comaneci will serve as head judge for the show.

The six-part live show will feature 10 celebrities performing gymnastics skills in front of a panel of expert judges.

Gymnastics legend Nadia Comaneci will serve as head judge for the panel, evaluating the routines alongside two-time Olympic medalist Louis Smith, former gymnast turned commentator Craig Heap, and Sebastien Stella, a world-renowned aerial artist and choreographer.

The show will feature celebrities performing typica gymnastics skills like tumbling and trampoline, but also circus arts, including trapeze. The judging panel will evaluate the routines out of 10.

"I know what it’s like to strive for that perfect 10!" Comaneci said. "Your heart is pounding and your palms are sweaty, but when you step out onto that floor, or mount the bars or beam, you have to perform like your life depends on it. The celebrities are going to be put through a fitness, gymnastic and acrobatic training regime that’s like nothing they'll ever have experienced, and I can’t wait to see the results!"

Experienced coaches will prepare the celebrities for the demanding contest. The show will also feature mentors like Beth Tweddle, Great Britain's most successful gymnast to date, and performances from gymnasts like Tweddle and Smith. Tweddle was the the champion of the 2013 edition of "Dancing on Ice."

Smith, who won the dancing show "Strictly Come Dancing," said he expects to see the celebrities putting out very competitive performances.

"When you commit to something you’ve got to do it because you want to win," he said. "It’s got to take over your life, your every waking moment. I also know how scary it is to be on a live Saturday night entertainment show, so I’ll definitely have a bit of empathy with the celebs on that!”

Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 27 May 2014 14:22    PDF Print
Vaculik Takes Canadian Championships in Stride
(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Natalie Vaculik told IG that she hopes her performance at this week's Canadian championships will lead her toward this summer's Commonwealth Games and this fall's world championships.

Vaculik is the defending all-around silver medalist at the Canadian championships, which begin Tuesday in Ottawa.

"My goals for nationals are to focus on my routines and perform them to the best of my ability," she said. "This meet is a stepping stone for those bigger meets to come. Showing my best routines and gaining confidence and experience will definitely help me looking forward."

Vaculik at the 2014 Tournament of Masters in Cottbus

Vaculik, who is coached by 1980 Olympic all-around champion Yelena Davydova and Valery Yahchybekov at Gemini Gymnastics in Oshawa, has enjoyed domestic and international success since she placed second all-around at last year's Canadian Championships.

She placed fifth all-around in the Masters division at the Elite Gym Massilia competition in Marseille, France, last November; first on uneven bars at the Elite Canada meet in February; and fifth on uneven bars and eighth on balance beam at the Tournament of Masters/Challenge Cup in Cottbus, Germany, in March.

With an eye on future international competitions, Vaculik said she is eager to begin her collegiate career in the U.S., competing for the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga.

"The coaches at Georgia really impressed me," said Vaculik of her decision. "I connected with them right away and they made me feel like part of the team from the start. I also like the university campus and the support system provided for the athletes. It feels very much like home to me."

Vaculik said 2012 Canadian Olympian Brittany Rogers, who competes for Georgia, also influenced her decision.

"I am very happy that I will be joining Brittany on the ‘Gym Dogs' as a fellow Canadian," she said. "There is a special bond between all Canadians when they compete in the NCAA. I believe that this bond makes the teams even stronger."

Although Vaculik has not confirmed when she will enroll at the university, she said she does not intend to blend her international and collegiate careers as has her older sister, 2012 Olympian Kristina Vaculik. Kristina enrolled at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., and then took time off to prepare at home for the 2012 Games in London. Following London, she resumed her collegiate career at Stanford.

"Kristina was very successful in merging the two careers together and I am very proud of her for doing that," said Natalie, who is considering a major in business. "When I begin my collegiate career, however, I will focus only on that.  In the meantime, my focus will be on representing Canada internationally. "

Vaculik said she has been preparing for her transition to collegiate gymnastics for quite some time.

"In the gym, I reduce my reps and focus on quality over quantity," she said. "When I competed as part of a team (at Elite Gym Massilia) I provided support and encouragement to my team members, like I have seen in the NCAA. I will continue to do this in the future as part of any team."

Vaculik said she is ready for the unique challenges she will face a student-athlete, too.

"I believe that my years of training combined with my workload at school have provided me with many tools to cope with the academic and athletic demands of university," she told IG. "I am excited and confident that I will thrive in this environment."  

International Gymnast magazine's recent coverage of Canadian female gymnasts includes:
"Canadian Diversity" - Ellie Black profile (July/August 2013)
"Black to Business" - Ellie Black interview (November 2012)
"Aiming to Top the Charts" - Maegan Chant interview (October 2013)
Madeline Gardiner, Anysia Unick and Victoria Moors cover photo (March 2011)
"Candid Canadians" - Madeline Gardiner interview (September 2011)
Leah Homma update (January/February 2014)
Christine Peng-Peng Lee interview (April 2011)
Gael Mackie profile (July/August 2011)
"Sudden Impact" - Victoria Moors interview (January/February 2013)
"Confident Canadian" - Brittany Rogers interview (May 2012)
"Savona Surges into Recovery" – Jessica Savona short profile (October 2011)
"Catching up with... Lori Strong Ballard" (June 2012)
"Veteran Presence" - Kristina Vaculik profile (July/August 2010)
Kristina Vaculik cover photo (April 2010)
"Canadian Conquerors" – Kristina Vaculik profile (September 2007)

To order back issues, or subscribe to the digital and/or print edition of International Gymnast magazine, click here.


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