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Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 19 December 2017 08:11    PDF Print
Worlds Debut Helps Folino See 'Anything Is Possible'
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

International Gymnast Online's annual tradition of holiday-themed features continues with this profile on first-year senior Talia Folino of Australia, who gained experience and inspiration through her performances at this fall's world championships in Montreal.

International Gymnast Online's annual tradition of holiday-themed features continues with this profile on first-year senior Talia Folino of Australia, who gained experience and inspiration through her performances at this fall's world championships in Montreal.

"Triumphing in Montreal made me realize anything is possible when you put your mind on focusing on your goal," said Folino, who finished 41st all-around in qualifications in her worlds debut. "If you want it so bad you must make those sacrifices that come with teenage fun, and transfer that energy into your passion. You need to train and stay focused for the next big goal, to stand out from the rest."

Folino, who trains under under coaches John Hart and Ukrainian Nadiya Koryakina at Waverley Gymnastics Centre in Mount Waverley, Victoria, credits the club for fostering her competitiveness and helping her concentrate on reaching worlds. Other alumni of Waverley Gymnastics Centre include Olympians Georgia Bonora (2008 and 2012), Shona Morgan (2008) and Larrissa Miller (2012 and 2016); Bonora and Miller now coach at the club.

"It was a great all-around effort with the support I had from my club," said Folino, who turned 16 on May 18. "It gave me the opportunity to focus and dedicate the hours to hard training and gave me confidence to push through the tough skills to get me to my goal for 2017, which was Montreal."

Folino, the 2016 Australian junior national all-around champion, said her transition from junior to senior competition was smooth but noticeable.

"Senior was not a huge step from junior, but almost feels as if I'm a real gymnast, as I have gotten more opportunities," said Folino, who finished first in the Challenge all-around at the 2017 Gymnix International, also held in Montreal, in March.

With her 2017 competition year behind her, Folino plans to devote her training in the near future to increasing her difficulty and improving her execution.

"My focus for the next couple of months is getting my fitness up and upgrading some skills for the next year so my Start Value is higher, but also cleaning up my routines so my execution is higher," she said.

Folino is looking forward to a holiday season surrounded by family and friends.

"I share traditions with my mum's side of the family on Christmas and my dad's side with our cousins," she said. "It's a great family moment to see everyone at the same time in the room and catching up, as I don't have much time to see family all the time. I like to spend my holidays seeing friends and catching up on things I don't often get time to do or see."

Folino's 2018 goals include competing in her home country at the Commonwealth Games — taking place in April in Gold Coast, Queensland — and the world championships in October in Doha, Qatar.

"I haven't really thought of a New Year's resolution, but I would like to work hard on keeping a positive attitude inside the gym, even when things get hard or tough," she told IG. "Commonwealth Games is my best big goal, followed up with worlds."

Next in the series: 2017 European Championships all-around finalist Michalis Krasias of Cyprus details the financial difficulties and other challenges he faces on his way to the top.

Written by John Crumlish    Sunday, 17 December 2017 19:56    PDF Print
Varinska on Worlds Pressure: 'I Managed to Cope With It'
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Featured in the December 2017 issue of International Gymnast magazine, Diana Varinska of Ukraine told IG she was pleased but not completely satisfied with her performance at this fall's world championships in Montreal.

Varinska on uneven bars at the FIG World Cup in Paris in September

"I wasn't nervous, but not everything worked out," said Varinska, who placed 14th all-around and sixth on uneven bars in Montreal. "Especially in qualifications, there was strong stress, but I managed to cope with it."

Varinska (who also sometimes goes by the Russian version of her name, Varinskaya, on social media), turned 16 on March 22. Coached for the past decade by Yulia Kayukova, Varinska had a busy first year as a senior. In 2017, she competed at FIG World Cup events in Baku (first on uneven bars), Osijek, Paris (third on uneven bars and floor exercise) and Cottbus, in addition to the world and European championships. She suffered a leg injury a month before the European championships in Cluj-Napoca, where she did only uneven bars.

In Montreal, Varinska became the first Ukrainian woman to make a world or Olympic event final since 2010, when Yana Demyanchyuk qualified to the balance beam final at the world championships in Rotterdam, and the first to make a world or Olympic all-around final since 2007, when Alina Kozich (scratched) and Valentina Holenkova qualified at the world championships in Stuttgart.

Varinska followed her world debut in Montreal by winning the bronze medal at the Arthur Gander Memorial and fourth at the Swiss Cup (paired up with teammate Oleg Vernyayev), both held in November in Switzerland.

The December 2017 issue of International Gymnast magazine includes "Montreal Milestones," a collection of profiles including Varinska, Giulia Steingruber (Switzerland), Tin Srbić (Croatia), Jorge Vega (Guatemala) and Claudia Fragapane (Great Britain). To order back issues, or subscribe to the print and/or digital edition of International Gymnast magazine, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Saturday, 16 December 2017 20:28    PDF Print
Rittschik Revels In Post-Surgery 2017 Highlights
(1 vote, average 5.00 out of 5)

International Gymnast Online's annual series of holiday-themed features kicks off with this profile on German gymnast Ivan Rittschik, who overcame two ACL surgeries to make his European and world championship debuts this year.

International Gymnast Online's annual series of holiday-themed features kicks off with this profile on German gymnast Ivan Rittschik, who overcame two ACL surgeries to make his debuts at the European and world championships this year.

"I'm proud that I made it this far, even though I had some struggles with those injuries in the past few years," said the 25-year-old Rittschik."I hope the fact that I made both highlights this year will help me get a good position for the selection to the team next year."

Rittschik, who placed third all-around and first on pommel horse at this year's German championships, said he is confident he can remain a key player on the German team heading towards the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Ivan Rittschik (Germany)

"It's true that the German team has a lot talents to choose from, for example, Andreas Bretschneider, Marcel Nguyen, Lukas Dauser, Andreas Toba and Philipp Herder," Rittschik said. "They are all great gymnasts, but I think none of them can say that they feel as comfortable as I do on pommel horse. So I will focus next year on stabilizing, cleaning up and putting some difficulty in my all-around performance. Without the all-around, there is no chance to make the team. I will also clean up my difficult pommel horse routine that I presented this year (at worlds) in Montreal."

Rittschik, who also won the German pommel horse title in 2015, said nature and training make him a particularly valuable asset to his team on this apparatus.

"I guess it is a mix of talent, body type and hard work," he said. "I'm 174 cm tall (5'8½") and I have long arms, so this helps me to keep high support over the handles and have high amplitude while swinging. Pommel horse was always my favorite discipline because I learned quickly, had fun trying new skills and could practice on this apparatus for many hours. Also, as I had my knee injuries and couldn't practice on other apparatuses, I could put even more hours of work into pommel horse. I think, in my case, I was a little bit lucky. But, for example, I am worse on still rings because of my body type."

With his competition year behind him, Rittschik plans to enjoy Christmas in his native Lithuania and New Year's Eve in Germany.

"For Christmastime I will fly over to my hometown of Vilnius and visit my family," he said. "We will celebrate in our family circle with some nice traditional food, and then we will exchange some presents and have a nice, peaceful time together. After that, I will fly back to Germany and start practicing and preparing for the season next year, so I guess I won't be able to celebrate a lot on New Year's Eve. But I think I will meet with some friends and we will greet the new year together somewhere in the city."

Rittschik's New Year's resolutions are all gymnastics-related.

"I think the same as every year," he told IG. "Try to stay healthy, get better in gymnastics, compete in national and international competitions, and have fun while doing it!"

Next in the series: Australia's Talia Folino reflects on her senior international breakthrough.

Written by Amanda Turner    Saturday, 16 December 2017 07:09    PDF Print
Canadian Coach Dave Brubaker Charged with Sexual Offenses
(7 votes, average 4.14 out of 5)

Canadian women's gymnastics coach Dave Brubaker was charged in an Ontario court on Friday with 10 sexual offenses. He has been placed on administrative leave by Gymnastics Canada.

Gymnastics coach Dave Brubaker, the women's national team director for Canada, was charged Friday with 10 sexual offenses.

Brubaker, a resident of Sarnia, Ontario, was arrested Thursday and charged Friday with one count of invitation to sexual touching, three counts of sexual interference, three counts of sexual exploitation, and three counts of sexual assault, according to Sarnia Police. Brubaker was released on bail. His next court date is set for February.

According to Canada's criminal code, invitation to sexual touching and sexual interference are offenses specific to victims under the age of 16, while sexual exploitation are charges specific in cases where the alleged perpetrator is in a position of trust or authority over a young person.

Gymnastics Canada Gymnastique, the governing board for the sport in Canada, released a statement announcing that Brubaker has been placed on administrative pending the outcome of the investigation. The federation said it was "shocked and deeply troubled" by the news of Brubaker's arrest.

"Our first priority within Gymnastics Canada is always the safety of our athletes," said Richard Crépin, chairman of Gymnastics Canada Gymnastique. "Sport should be a safe place for everyone, and we're working hard to ensure that we have the policies and procedures, as well as the education and resources in place, to ensure the safety of all of our participants."

Brubaker is the club director of Sarnia's Bluewater Gymnastics Club, where he coached along with his wife, Liz Brubaker, until being appointed to his national role in 2014. He had been at Bluewater for 30 years, except for a brief period when the couple coached at Burlington Gymnastics Club between 2000 and 2002. He has had members on the Canadian national team since 1989, and was frequently on the floor as a coach at the world championships, Pan American Games, Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games. He coached 2012 Olympian Dominique Pegg and was the head coach of the team at both the 2012 and 2016 Canadian Olympic team. Following Canada's record fifth-place finish at the 2012 Olympic Games, Brubaker received the prestigious Life Member Award from Gymnastics Canada in 2013. He was also inducted into the Sarnia-Lambton Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.

According to the Sarnia Police and Gymnastics Canada, a publication ban (or gag order) has been issued concerning details of the alleged offenses.

Brubaker's arrest is the second scandal to hit Canadian gymnastics this month. On December 7, Gymnastics Canada suspended coach Michel Arsenault after accusations surfaced that in the 1980s and 1990s, he had allegedly sexually abused some of his former gymnasts in Quebec, where he coached at Flipgym in Montreal. Several gymnasts detailed their allegations in an interview with the CBC. Arsenault was reportedly fired from the gym in 1993 and resettled in Edmonton, where he coached at the Ortona Club. In 2002, he and his wife, Valérie Oudin, opened Champions Gymnastics in Edmonton. Arsenault was also the meet director for the Wild Rose International, which drew international gymnasts to Edmonton. On December 11, Champions Gymnastics posted a statement on its website that it is now owned by Oudin and Sara Stafford. No criminal charges have been filed against Arsenault.

Written by Amanda Turner    Thursday, 14 December 2017 23:10    PDF Print
Four Major Sponsors Abandon USA Gymnastics
(5 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Four major sponsors have withdrawn their sponsorships of USA Gymnastics amid the ongoing sexual abuse scandal consuming USAG and continued criticism of the federation's response.

Four major sponsors have withdrawn their sponsorships of USA Gymnastics amid the ongoing sexual abuse scandal consuming USAG and continued criticism of the federation's response.

P&G, Kellogg's and Hershey's declined to renew their sponsorships that expired in 2017 and 2016, respectively, it was revealed on Thursday. On Friday, it was reported that apparel company Under Armour had canceled the contract it signed in 2013 that was supposed to last through the 2020 Olympic Games.

"We will evaluate whether to renew our partnership next spring, in light of our longer term priorities and continued actions on their part," a representative P&G told The Washington Post on Thursday.

The multinational corporations P&G and Kellogg's were the two top corporate sponsors of USA Gymnastics over the past decade. The U.S. elite national gymnastics championships had been rebranded the "P&G Championships" for the company, which also sponsored the U.S. Classic competition through its brands CoverGirl (2009-11) and Secret (2012-16). P&G, which earned more than $65 billion in revenue in 2016, is one of the largest sponsors of the United States Olympic Committee. Kellogg's, a food manufacturing company that earned $13 billion in revenue in 2016, sponsored USAG's post-Olympic gymnastics tours in 2012 and 2016.

USA Gymnastics, which is headquartered in Indianapolis, has been accused of ignoring and enabling sexual abuse of gymnasts through allegations that first appeared in The Indianapolis Star in July 2016. The Indianapolis Star's investigative series alleged that for decades, the organization had repeatedly failed to act when notified of accusations of sexual abuse by gymnastics coaches. In September 2016, news broke that former USA Gymnastics national team doctor Larry Nassar, now 54, had been sexually abusing gymnasts under the guise of treatment, abuse that included digital vaginal and anal penetration with ungloved hands, from at least 1996 to 2015. According to victim statements, Nassar's abuse occurred frequently at the Karolyi ranch in Texas, the USA Gymnastics national team training center, as well as when he traveled with the team for world championships and the Olympic Games.

McKayla Maroney at the 2013 Secret Classic, sponsored by the P&G brand.

Over the past 15 months, Olympians Jamie Dantzscher (2000), McKayla Maroney (2012), Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas (2012 and 2016), 1999 world team member Jeanette Antolin and five-time rhythmic national champion are among dozens of gymnasts who have come forward to report being abused by Nassar. Nassar, who left USA Gymnastics in 2015, was indicted in December 2016 under federal charges relating to child pornography, while the state of Michigan simultaneously pursued charges against him for assaults in at least two counties. Nassar was stripped of his medical license by Michigan in April and pleaded guilty to the federal charges in May. After initial pleas of not guilty, and insisting his treatment was medically justified, Nassar changed his pleas to guilty on November 22 in Ingham County, Michigan and November 29 in Eaton County, , Michigan, admitting for the first time that he had abused young girls for his own sexual gratification. On December 7, he was sentenced to 60 years in prison for the federal charges, a sentence his attorney's appealed on Wednesday. In January, he will be sentenced on the state charges of sexual assault, which he will serve prior to any federal sentence.

USAG and some of its former leaders are defendants in multiple lawsuits from former gymnasts. More than 140 gymnasts have filed various lawsuits against Nassar, USA Gymnastics and Nassar's former employer, Michigan State University, and Bela and Marta Karolyi. MSU, where Nassar worked as a team physician and medical professor, has been accused of repeatedly ignoring multiple complaints about Nassar's abuse dating to 1997. In February, MSU suspended its longtime women's gymnastics head coach Kathy Klages — who announced her retirement the next day — after it was alleged that she told gymnasts who complained to her not to say anything about Nassar's abuse.

USA Gymnastics's response to the scandal has been criticized as woefully inadequate, and many top former gymnasts (including those not abused by Nassar) have demanded resignations of USAG leaders. Nassar quietly left the organization in 2015; USA Gymnastics states he was fired while he stated he was allowed to resign. He continued working as a doctor at MSU and in private clubs for more than a year. When Dantzscher, Howard and Antolin appeared on 60 Minutes on February 19 in their first nationally televised interview, the organization launched a social medal campaign designed to bolster its public image, a move that backfired badly with fans and members. Later the federation worked to distance itself from Nassar and insist it had no knowledge or culpability in his behavior.

The organization firmly backed its leader Steve Penny, who took over as CEO in 2005, despite considerable criticism of his behavior and attitude toward allegations of abuse. According to one lawsuit, it has been alleged that Rhonda Faehn, the women's program director at USAG, informed Penny of sexual abuse allegations against Nassar in June 2015, but that Penny failed to report the allegations to law enforcement until five weeks later. The board of USA Gymnastics, including Chairman Paul Parilla and former Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton, issued a statement strongly defending Penny. He resigned as CEO in March only after United States Olympic Committee's board voted to recommend his resignation to USA Gymnastics several days earlier; he walked away with more than $1 million in severance pay. (Penny is personally being sued for negligence.)

USA Gymnastics finally named a new CEO, sports executive Kerry Perry, on November 11. Perry, who has no experience in gymnastics beyond being a self-described "lifelong fan," began her role on December 1.

On December 7, the same day that Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in federal court, USA Gymnastics' lawyers filed a brief in a U.S. District Court in Michigan stating that lawsuits against USAG concerning Nassar should be dismissed. According to the brief, USAG contends that it was not required to notify MSU about allegations regarding Nassar after he left the organization in 2015, stating, "USAG had no legal duty to protect plaintiffs from Nassar's criminal conduct."

The lawsuit in Michigan against Nassar and MSU includes 141 plaintiffs, 93 of whom are also suing USAG. Twelve have alleged that Nassar assaulted them at the Karolyi ranch.

"Nassar's conduct is disgusting, and USAG deplores Nassar's crimes. But Nassar, not USAG, is liable for Nassar's criminal actions," attorney Andrew Portinga wrote in court documents filed in Grand Rapids.

USA Gymnastics is also being sued in California as well. Paul Parilla, father of two-time Olympic trampolinist Jennifer Parilla, remains as chairman of the board of USAG despite shocking behavior during a deposition in Irvine, California, this past year in which he used called attorney John Manly, who represents Jamie Dantzscher and other victims, an expletive and "stormed out of the room."

Last fall, USAG backed out of a planned deal to buy the Karolyi ranch but has apparently made no concrete steps to find a new training facility. Even prior to the revelation that the ranch was the site of sexual abuse, the facility has been criticized as being too isolated and frightening. (One former prominent American gymnast described it as feeling "like a prison" while a former Olympic coach stated he wanted to see it "burned to the ground.") However, the Karolyi ranch remains the site of all national camps for women. Only this past week, USAG announced that it was discussing "outreach to communities interested in partnering in the development of new facilities and location for the USA Gymnastics National Team Training Center."

Since the sex abuse scandal broke last summer, USA Gymnastics has not admitted any liability on its part at any time, not unusual of a defendant in an active lawsuit. In careful language, the organization has repeatedly claimed that it plans to "strengthen" and "improve" its policies. The organization amemded its bylaws during a December 9 meeting.

Raisman, among others, has used her voice to call for serious changes in the sport to stop the culture of fear and abuse that enables predators.

"We need to change the cycle of abuse," Raisman wrote December 7. "We need to change the systems that embolden sexual abusers. We must look at the organizations that protected Nassar for years and years: USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic committee and Michigan State University. Until we understand the flaws in their systems, we can't be sure something like this won't happen again. This problem is bigger than Larry Nassar. Those who looked the other way need to be held accountable too. I fear that there are still people working at these organizations who put money, medals and reputation above the safety of athletes."

In August, at the P&G Championships in Anaheim, Dantzscher called out sponsor Procter & Gamble to assist in the changes needed. Dantzscher is among those who have called for changes on the board, specifically, for the ouster of USAG Chairman Parilla, Vice Chairman Jay Binder and Treasurer Bitsy Kelley.

"It's not that they just did nothing, they went even further and they protected, they protect sexual abusers," Dantzscher said August 17. "And they try to conduct business as usual like everything is going to be fine. In my mind, they think they're invincible because they've been getting away with it for so long."

On Thursday, a P&G representative told The Washington Post that it plans to re-evaluate its sponsorship of USA Gymnastics next spring, "in light of our longer term priorities and continued actions on their part," "But we want to ensure all voices who have been affected by abuse have been heard and that USAG takes all measures necessary to address such vitally important issues."

Note: This article was updated to include Under Armour and Hershey's among the sponsors that have ended sponsorships with USA Gymnastics.


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