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Written by John Crumlish    Sunday, 26 October 2014 14:21    PDF Print
Pihan-Kulesza Pleased With Worlds Finish
(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Two-time Polish Olympian Marta Pihan-Kulesza told IG she was pleased to earn her all-time best worlds all-around finish when she placed 14th in the all-around final at the world championships in Nanning earlier this month.

Pihan-Kulesza in Nanning

"This was my third all-around final at the world championships, but in Nanning I made my best result," she said. "I think the point of my good performance was my experience and my diligently worked preparatory period."

The 27-year-old Pihan-Kulesza earned her best apparatus result in Nanning on floor exercise, where she was third reserve for that event final. Performing to "The Pink Panther," Pihan-Kulesza opened her routine with an impressive round-off, Arabian piked double front. Her middle pass was a 2-1/2 twist, punch stag leap. She finished with a round-off, tucked Arabian double front.

Despite her solid performance on floor exercise, Pihan-Kulesza said she is capable of more in the future.

"Unfortunately I did not show everything on floor," said Pihan-Kulesza, whose husband, fellow Olympian Roman Kulesza, also competed in Nanning. "My second pass should be 2-1/2 twist to punch straight front-full. But probably I was not ready for this. Next year I think this pass also will be in my routine. I'll try to upgrade my dance elements."

After placing sixth on balance beam at this spring’s European championships in Sofia, Pihan-Kulesza had the potential to qualify for that apparatus final in Nanning. In qualifications, however, she nearly fell on an illusion turn. She was steadier on balance beam in the all-around final, where she earned the field’s ninth-highest score on the apparatus.

"It sometimes happens, especially in competition," Pihan-Kulesza said. "Usually I don't have a problem with the illusion turn in training. It irritates me."

Pihan-Kulesza is training hard for upcoming competitions, but she is also busy with two business ventures. She is already working with Leo Gym, a leotard company.

Next month she plans to start working with The Little Gym, a U.S.-based children’s gymnastics and exercise training facility that has franchises in several countries including Poland. TLG will be opening a gym in Szczecin, where Pihan-Kulesza lives, in the middle of November.

Pihan-Kulesza said her love of training and work enables her to balance her busy schedule. "It's not that hard to manage training with a job," she told IG. "If you have happiness and joy because you do what you do, it's really pleasure - not just work."

Read more about the 2014 World Championships in the November 2014 (world championships special issue) of International Gymnast magazine. To subscribe to the digital and/or print editions of International Gymnast magazine, click here.

Written by Travis Seefried    Thursday, 23 October 2014 04:14    PDF Print
Whitlock Looking For Great Results in Rio
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Fresh off his silver medal in the all-around at the recent world championships in Nanning, Great Britain's Max Whitlock is hoping to change the history books for his home country at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. No British gymnast has won an Olympic all-around medal since 1908.

Max Whitlock (Great Britain)

"I 100 percent believe he can [challenge for major honors]," former teammate and three-time world champion Beth Tweddle told BBC Sport. "He's super dedicated, focused, has shown the world what he can do and will go back to training even harder now in these two years before Rio."

Whitlock was one of the favorites for several medals at the world championships in Nanning after impressive results in 2014 events, which included the gold medal on pommel horse at the European championships in Sofia and three gold medals at the Commonwealth Games (team, all-around, floor exercise).

However, Whitlock struggled in the qualification rounds in Nanning. After errors on the pommel horse and floor exercise, he failed to qualify for a single event final and also missed qualifying for the individual all-around, finishing behind teammates Dan Purvis and Nile Wilson. Wilson, suffering from a wrist injury, decided to withdraw from the all-around final and gave Whitlock a chance for redemption.

Whitlock's long-time coach, Scott Hann, believes he will take away some valuable life lessons from Nanning.

"With difficult preparations, tiredness and the pressure of expectations from everyone, it was just a recipe for disaster," he told BBC Sport. "He was devastated [after qualification] and tears were shed, but I'm in awe of him because I don't know anyone who could have achieved what he did."

He won the silver medal behind five-time world champion Kohei Uchimura of Japan and just .024 ahead of Uchimura's teammate, Yusuke Tanaka. Whitlock's silver medal equaled that of teammate Dan Keatings – who finished second behind Uchimura at the 2009 World Championships in London – as the best all-around result for a British gymnast.

Uchimura has now won the last five world all-around titles as well as the 2012 Olympic all-around title. Whitlock finished 1.492 points behind Uchimura, the smallest the gap has been behind Uchimura since he began his domination of the men's all-around in 2009.

Whitlock says he is planning to take a much-needed break before getting back to training for next year's big events, including the world championships in Glasgow. He and coach Haan have developed a "revolutionary" and "risky" new move on the pommel horse. If he decides to unveil this new move at he 2015 Worlds or the 2016 Olympic Games, it would not only be called the "Whitlock," it may close the gap between the No. 1 and No. 2 male gymnasts in the world.

Read more about Whitlock's performance at the 2014 World Championships in the November 2014 (world championships special issue) of International Gymnast magazine. To take advantage of the limited-time special discounted subscription rate for digital and/or print editions of International Gymnast magazine, click here.

Written by Travis Seefried    Saturday, 18 October 2014 17:15    PDF Print
Iordache: 'I Didn't Choose Gymnastics - It Chose Me'
(16 votes, average 4.25 out of 5)

Romanian star Larisa Iordache, who won two silver medals at the recent world championships in Nanning, is looking ahead to next year's world championships in Glasgow and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Iordache hopes mental toughness will help her in her quest for gold in the next two years.

"In order to be the best, you have to be fearless because of course fear creeps in – everybody has them – but you have to love what you do very much in order to overcome those fears," she said.

Iorache during podium training in Nanning

Iordache began gymnastics at age 5, as many Romanian gymnasts do. She was spotted by the woman who eventually became her first coach, Mariana Campeanu-Silisteanu, while chasing after her brother.

"I think she noticed the speed and the energy and that impressed her," she told CNN's "Human to Hero" series. "I didn't choose gymnastics – it chose me. It just happened. I am very glad to have got so far."

Iordache joined the prestigious CSS Dinamo Club in Bucharest at age 5 and eventually became a member of the junior national team at age 10. It was about this time Iordache realized how important gymnastics was to her.

"It was a new path I had to try out and try to go all the way to the end, trusting myself as much as I could," she said. "I loved being watched by people. It's so important, when you've been working hard, to be able to show what you've worked for daily."

Iordache became a competitor at the senior level in 2012. After participating in a few World Cup Series events, Iordache competed at the 2012 European Championships in Brussels, Belgium. She won gold medals in the team competition and on the floor exercise and also finished with the silver medal on balance beam.

However, an untimely foot injury inhibited her performance at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Although she helped her team win the bronze medal, individually, Larisa finished ninth in the all-around and sixth in the balance beam final.

In 2013, she won five medals at the European Championships in Moscow, including the balance beam gold. A nagging back injury kept her out of training prior to that year's world championships in Antwerp, where she won only a bronze medal in the floor exercise final. At this year's Europeans in Sofia, she won gold medals in the team and floor exercise events, a silver on balance beam, and a bronze on vault.

The 2014 World Championships in Nanning were bittersweet for Iordache and the entire Romanian team. In the qualification rounds, Romania placed a dismal seventh place in the team standings. However, Iordache qualified third to the all-around final behind defending champion Simone Biles and world and Olympic champion Aliya Mustafina. She also qualified second in the individual event finals of both the balance beam and floor exercise, but was the only Romanian in the apparatus finals. Benefiting from the three-up, three-count format, Romania rallied in the team final but placed fourth, just tenths behind the bronze medal-winning team from Russia.

Individually, Iordache won silver medals in both the all-around and on floor behind Biles. Though Biles annihilated the competition in the qualifying rounds, Iordache closed the gap in the all-around final finishing by less than .5 out of first place. This was the first time a Romanian woman had finished in the medals in an all-around at the world championships since Steliana Nistor won the silver medal in 2007.

Iordache defines gymnastics as a "beautiful story that encompasses in all domains an elegance and attention that you have to display when working on the apparatuses, the determination you need to show on each, the pleasure as well."

Romania has had many gymnastics icons and role models over the years for its younger gymnasts to try and emulate, but it is no secret as to whom Iordache admires the most.

"My favorite gymnast was and still is Nadia Comaneci – the world's best gymnast," Iordache said. "Of course I appreciate and respect the others because they've contributed something to gymnastics, and they make me determined to become like them – and I am now trying to do better than them."

Read more about Iordache's performance at the 2014 World Championships in the November 2014 (world championships special issue) of International Gymnast magazine. To take advantage of the limited-time special discounted subscription rate for digital and/or print editions of International Gymnast magazine, click here.

Written by Amanda Turner    Monday, 15 September 2014 05:17    PDF Print
Germany's Marcel Nguyen Suffers Torn ACL
(4 votes, average 4.25 out of 5)

Two-time Olympic silver medalist Marcel Nguyen injured his knee Saturday and will miss the rest of the season, the German Gymnastics Federation (DTB) announced.

Two-time Olympic silver medalist Marcel Nguyen (Germany) injured his knee Saturday and will miss the rest of the season, the German Gymnastics Federation (DTB) announced.

Nguyen tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while training a layout double-double dismount off still rings.

On Sept. 6, Nguyen helped Germany win a tri-meet against Romania and Switzerland in the Swiss city of Obersiggenthal. Nguyen had the top scores for Germany on three events, scoring 14.950 on still rings and vault and a 15.250 on high bar.

"This is a bitter blow for Marcel, because we saw him training really well both for himself and for the team for the world championships," said DTB Sports Director Wolfgang Willam. "We hope this sends a shockwave through the team and the guys will rise to the challenge."

Nguyen will undergo surgery in Munich as soon as possible, Willam said. Nguyen, who turned 27 on Sept. 8, won silver medals in the all-around and parallel bars at the 2012 Olympics in London. He is a two-time European champion on parallel bars (2011 and 2012).

This is the second knee injury affecting the German team to the world championships. 2012 Olympic vault finalist Janine Berger tore her ACL at the end of August.

Alternate Helge Liebrich will replace Nguyen on the German men's world team, joining Andreas Bretschneider, Lukas Dauser, Fabian Hambüchen, Philipp Herder and Andreas Toba. The team leaves Thursday for a training camp in Japan prior to the world championships, which begin Oct. 3 in Nanning, China.

External Link: Deutscher Turner-Bund

Written by John Crumlish    Sunday, 27 July 2014 16:00    PDF Print
South African Women Hope to Raise the Bar in Glasgow
(5 votes, average 4.60 out of 5)

South African women's gymnastics team coach Ilse Roets told IG her gymnasts are aiming to improve on the country's historic best results at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, where gymnastics begins Monday.

"We are coming in to the competition with very specific goals," Roets said. "All three girls need to have a competition without any falls or major errors, and each one of them would like to make at least one apparatus finals."

Kirsten Beckett, coach Ilse Roets, Claudia Cummins and Bianca Mann at the 2014 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony

Kirsten Beckett, Claudia Cummins and Bianca Mann will aim to better South Africa's sixth-place finish in the team competition at the 2006 Games in Melbourne. South Africa did not field a full team at the 2010 Games in Delhi.

"This time around we have only three girls, so that will make it quite difficult, as we simply can't make any mistakes," Roets said. "Our goal as a team is to finish in the top six."

Competing for the South African men in Glasgow are Siphesihle Biyase, Tiaan Grobler, Cameron MacKenzie and Siphamandla Ngcobo.

Roets said she has fond memories of her own performance at the 1994 Games in Victoria, Canada.

"It was our first time back after almost 40 years of (political) sanctions," she said. "It was an amazing experience and I made the beam final and placed sixth, which was huge for us at the time."

In Glasgow, Roets said the level of competition is stronger than at recent Games, with the presence of several 2008 and 2012 Olympians.

"The standard of gymnastics in the Commonwealth has increased significantly over the last eight years, and there will be really big names competing, such (Canada's) Ellie Black, (Australia's) Lauren Mitchell, and (England's) Hannah Whelan and Becky Downie," Roets said. "So it is going to be a great show of good quality gymnastics."

Despite the formidable international field, Roets said she hopes the South Africans can continue the country's tally of impressive individual performances at the previous two Games.

"The South African girls won their first Commonwealth Games medal in 2006 (Francki van Rooyen, bronze on floor exercise) and then a silver on vault in 2010 (Jennifer Khwela), so there is certainly an expectation for another medal this time around," Roets said. "But this is gymnastics, and anything can happen on the day, as we know."

Kirsten Beckett

Beckett, 18, trains under coach Ilse Roets and assistant coach Glen Hlongwane at Johannesburg Gymnastics Centre. She placed first all-around at the 2014 African championships and first all-around at the 2014 South African championships. Beckett was second on vault at the 2013 Challenge Cup of Ljubljana; fifth on floor exercise and sixth on vault at the 2013 Challenge Cup of Doha, Qatar; and fifth on vault and eighth on floor exercise at the 2014 Challenge Cup of Cottbus, Germany. She finished 43rd all-around in qualifications at the 2013 world championships in Antwerp.

IG: You have already established yourself internationally with high finishes at several FIG competitions. What is your goal for Glasgow?

KB: I have definitely come here to make at least two finals and challenge for a medal on vault and floor. Our best Commonwealth Games finish in the all-around to date was ninth place in 1998, by a gymnast called Nadine de Kock, and my goal is to try and improve that by finishing in the top eight. My goal is always just to do a clean competition without any falls. If I do that, then I am always proud of myself.

Claudia Cummins

Cummins, who turned 19 on June 12, trains under coach Ilse Roets, and assistant coaches Glen Hlongwane and Shirley Watson, at Johannesburg Gymnastics Centre. She finished 27th all-around in qualifications at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, and 66th all-around in qualifications at the 2013 world championships. Cummins was sixth on vault at the 2011 Challenge Cup of Doha, Qatar; fifth on vault at the 2013 Challenge Cup of Ljubljana; and sixth on vault at the 2013 Challenge Cup of Osijek, Croatia. She placed second all-around to Beckett at the 2014 South African championships.

IG: You head into the Games as South Africa's number-two gymnast, so how are you viewing your personal goals for Glasgow in terms of helping South Africa push towards a medal in team standings?

CC: My personal goal is to have a clean competition and help the team in that way. We have come here with a team of only three girls, so we have no room for error, as the team size is actually five girls in the team, four up on an apparatus and then the best three scores count. By not making any major mistakes I should be one of the two South African girls in the all-around finals and, of course, I'm hoping for an apparatus final, too. Realistically though, our team goal is to finish in the top six.

Bianca Mann

Mann trains at Visions Gymnastics Club in Gauteng, where she is coached by Adele Heine and Derick Scholtz. She won four medals, including silver in the all-around, at the 2014 African championships. Her grandfather, Tom van Vollenhoven, is a South African rugby legend who later played in the U.K.

IG: Glasgow is perhaps your biggest competition yet. Having finished second all-round at this year's African championships, what is your key focus for Glasgow - making a name for yourself internationally, getting used to competing against gymnast from outside Africa, or perhaps something else?

BM: My biggest international competition to date was the Cottbus Challenge Cup in March. I have made the team to this year's world championships in China (in October) too, so yes, I am definitely looking at establishing myself internationally and of course consolidating my performance all the time. My favorite apparatus is beam and at the Commonwealth Games, I would really like to have a solid competition without any falls. That would be great!

International Gymnast magazine's features on 2014 Commonwealth Games competitors includes:

"Golden Surprise" - Lauren Mitchell cover photo and profile (January/February 2011)
"10 Questions with Naoya Tsukahara" – interview (September 2013)
"10 Questions with Olivia Vivian" – interview (March 2011)

"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)
Nathan Gafuik interview (July/August 2010)
"Making Tracks" – profile on Scott Morgan of Canada (December 2013)
Isabela Onyshko profile (August 2014)

Becky Downie cover photo and interview (June 2014)
"European Brilliance" - interview with Ruby Harrold (September 2013)
Sam Oldham on cover photo collage (July/August 2010)
Oldham interview (June 2010)
"Royal Treatment" - Louis Smith profile (December 2008)
"Divide and Conquer" – interview with Kristian Thomas of England (May 2012)
"Lord Max" – Max Whitlock interview (June 2013)
"Lilleshall: Backstage in Britain" – cover story on British national program (November 2011)

"Jamaican American" – Toni-Ann Williams profile (March 2014)

Lim Heem Wei profile (June 2012)

Northern Ireland
"Shooting Star" - profile on Sarah Beck (January/February 2009)
"Rising Irishman" - profile on Matthew Cosgrave (December 2007)
"Room to Grow" – feature on IG's visit to Salto Gymnastics Club (March 2009)

Daniel Keatings interview and center poster (June 2009)
"Nervous Purvis" – Daniel Purvis profile (November 2012)
"Pure Purvis" – Purvis interview (March 2012)
Purvis cover photo (November 2011)

"Sibling Revelry" - profile on Angel Romaeo of Wales (September 2010)
"Welsh Wisdom" - Raer Theaker profile (October 2013)

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


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