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Written by John Crumlish    Wednesday, 13 May 2015 15:22    PDF Print
Cournoyer Confident Heading Into Canadian Championships
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Preparing for the Canadian championships later this month, 2014 Canadian all-around bronze medalist René Cournoyer told IG he wants to build on his recent progress and challenge for the gold medal.

“I believe that my chances to win the all-around are excellent if I perform as expected,” said Cournoyer of the championships that will take place May 26-31 in Gatineau, Quebec.

Cournoyer said he is aiming for a consistent performance that will help him earn a spot on the Canadian team for this summer’s Pan American Games in Toronto.

“My main goal is a competition without falls or major mistakes,” he said. “Equally, an average of 14.50 points per apparatus is possible and will assure me a place on the team for the Pan Am Games.”

Born April 23, 1997, in Repentigny, Quebec, Cournoyer trains under coach Jean-Sébastien Tougas at Gymnika in his hometown.

Last year Cournoyer placed third all-around at the Canadian championships; and sixth on vault and seventh on high bar at the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, where he was also first reserve for the all-around final.

Cournoyer said he wants to continue the momentum he established at the Elite Canada meet earlier this year, where he placed second all-around.

“Since Elite Canada I have greatly added to my stability, particularly on rings and vault,” he said. “I have also worked hard on my dismounts, to avoid deductions that are easy to avoid.”

Cournoyer said he is also hopeful that Canada can earn a berth to next summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The top eight teams at this fall’s world championships in Glasgow, and four additional teams at a test event early next year in Rio, will qualify for the Games.

“To earn this in Glasgow will be far from easy,” Cournoyer told IG. “Our team must perform absolutely at our best if we want to have a chance. Stability in the routines and an impeccable care are necessary to the team.”

IG magazine's recent coverage of Canadian gymnasts includes:

"Aiming to Top the Charts" - Maegan Chant interview (October 2013)

"Canadian Promise" - Ellie Black chat and Robert Watson profile (July/August 2014)

"Canadian Diversity" - Ellie Black profile (July/August 2013)

"Black to Business" - Ellie Black interview (November 2012)

"Candid Canadians" - Madeline Gardiner and Jackson Payne interviews (September 2011)

Chat with Christine Peng-Peng Lee (April 2015)

Christine Peng-Peng Lee interview (April 2011)

Gael Mackie profile (July/August 2011)

"Sudden Impact" - Victoria Moors interview (January/February 2013)

"Making Tracks" - Scott Morgan profile (December 2013)

Isabela Onyshko profile (July/August 2014)

"Confident Canadian" - Brittany Rogers interview (May 2012)

"Canadian Diversity" - Hugh Smith profile (July/August 2013)

"Catching up with... Lori Strong Ballard" (June 2012)

Aleeza Yu two-page photo spread (May 2014)

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

Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 08 May 2015 07:59    PDF Print
Berger Getting 'Better And Better' After Knee Injury
(1 vote, average 5.00 out of 5)

2012 Olympic vault finalist Janine Berger of Germany told IG she is progressing well as she continues to recover from ager a knee injury she suffered last Jane.

“I am still doing my rehabilitation but my knee is getting better and better,” she said. “But it’s a long time and a hard way.”

Berger, who tore her left ACL when landing a double-twisting Tsukahara vault at the German championships last June, said she is able to do limited training but hopes to soon increase her workload.

“I can do bars and dismounts on bars,” she said. “I can do beam but no floor and vault. I think that in three months I can do vault again.”

Berger said she was impressed by the German team’s performance at last month’s European championships in Montpellier, where Pauline Tratz placed 18th all-around and Pauline Schäfer placed seventh on balance beam.

“Germany did a good job,” she said. “We have a lot of injured girls and they did really well there.”

Berger said she is cautiously optimistic that she can return to competitive form in time for next summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

“I hope to be back soon, and my goal is to be back really fast but sure,” she told IG. “My goal is the Olympics, so I have time and I don’t want to risk a torn ACL again.”

International Gymnast magazine's recent features on German gymnasts include:

“Shooting Star” - Tabea Alt profile (May 2015)

“Tough Lesson" - Janine Berger interview (October 2012)

Kim Bui interview (April 2013)

Maike Enderle profile (September 2014)

"Renaissance Man" – Fabian Hambüchen cover story (December 2013)

"New View from the Top" - Lisa Katharina Hill profile (July/August 2013)

"Leaps and Bounds for Germany" - Nadine Jarosch profile (January/February 2012)

"Silver Streak" – Marcel Nguyen interview (November 2012)

"Quick Chat: Pauline Schäfer" (January/February 2015)

"Calm, Clean Style" - Sophie Scheder profile (December 2013)

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

Written by John Crumlish    Wednesday, 29 April 2015 07:46    PDF Print
Tunisia's Bouallegue Brings Out Best in Northern Ireland
(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Bouallegue with his new team at Salto

Wajdi Bouallegue, Pearce O'Neill

Two-time Tunisian Olympian Wajdi Bouallegue told IG he is adapting well to his new role as head coach of the boys’ squads at Salto Gymnastics Club in the Belfast, Northern Ireland, suburb of Lisburn.

“I am giving all of my international experience to Salto for more glorious results in the future,” said Bouallegue, pictured here with fellow Salto coach Pearce O'Neill (right). “My plans for coaching in Northern Ireland are to let the current generation of boys make a huge step forward and become high-performance gymnasts as soon as possible. They are capable and talented enough to do this.”

Since relocating to Northern Ireland last December 26, Bouallegue has implemented a training regimen that he hopes will produce technically sound, confident gymnasts. He coaches male gymnasts of all levels, with a focus on the club’s A-squad of gymnasts ages 13-15.

“The biggest challenges are to establish a professional way of training, especially basics and conditioning, and restructure all age groups with the appropriate level,” said the 33-year-old Bouallegue. “Also, to make a psychological revolution for the elite boys on how to achieve high-level goals. It’s hard work, basics, new skills, confidence and then success.”

Bouallegue said he is thriving in Northern Ireland despite being away from his family, who remain in Tunisia. He and his wife, Nadia, have three children: son Fares, age six; and twins Youssef and Yassine, ages one year and four months.

“I'm alone right now and I miss my family very much,” he said. “I can say that it is difficult, but this summer they will join me and it will be much better. But everybody at Salto, including the parents, coaches, administration and gymnasts, are very kind to me and try to make me feel at home.”

Bouallegue credits the club’s cooperative spirit for allowing him to lead his training program.

“I’m really managing this challenge very well because I find in Salto a very good work atmosphere,” he said. “We are a strong team of workers. Our chief executive coach, Mandy McMaster, and all the administrative staff are really professional. They provide me all of what a coach requires for progress and better results, so I give a big thanks to them.”

Bouallegue, whose lengthy competitive career included starts at the 2004 and 2012 Olympic Games, said he is content in his new role.

“I'm happy here as a head coach,” he told IG. “ But who knows? Maybe a comeback someday.”

Read “Tenacious Tunisian,” an interview with Bouallegue, in the March 2012 issue of International Gymnast magazine; and “Room to Grow,” a feature on IG’s visit to Salto Gymnastics Club, in the March 2009 issue.

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

Written by dwight normile    Tuesday, 28 April 2015 07:50    PDF Print
Tidbits From the May IG, Coming Out Soon
(5 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

If you've ever attended a men's NCAA Championships in recent years, it is high energy and loud. More vocal chords are strained than hamstrings. A season's worth of emotion erupts with every stuck landing, especially since the gymnasts receive a 0.20 bonus for a D-value or higher dismount (0.1 for vault). And when that perfect landing happens, many gymnasts start screaming and pumping their fists. Then they run off to high-five their screaming teammates. The crowd loves it.

The judges don't.

In Article 2.3, Duties of the gymnast, the Code of Points clearly states: To present himself in the proper manner (arm/s up) and thereby acknowledge the D1 judge at the commencement of his exercise and to acknowledge the same judge at the conclusion of his exercise.

IG polled coaches, gymnasts and a judge at the men's NCAAs in Norman, Okla., in April. Following are three of the 10 responses to this trend.

Stacey Ervin/Michigan Gymnast (pictured)

I think it depends on the degree in which you’re celebrating. I’ve been known to celebrate pretty big, and, to me, so long as you keep your feet planted and you’re celebrating, I think it’s OK. But if you’re celebrating, moving around, and then present to the judge, I think that is where the problem begins.

Rick Tucker/Judge

Finishing a routine in a proper manner is like putting your signature at the end of a page. You have to do it or else people really don’t know that you’re done. So you’ve got to put your arms up, you’ve go to turn to the judge. Then you can celebrate.

Randy Jepson/Penn State Coach

You have to present yourself to the judge. In fact I had a guy two years ago not make the final because the judge didn’t think he looked at him when he turned, and he made a deduction. So my guys, yeah, you finish, you turn and look at the judge. Then you celebrate. The rules are clear: you must present at the beginning of the routine and at the end of the routine. And trust me, I know, because it cost our guy an All-American spot.

• Greg Marsden retired after 40 years as head coach at Utah. In an interview, we asked him if men's collegiate gymnastics should go back to the 10.

Well, I would recommend that all of gymnastics go back to the 10. Look, I’m a gym coach but I’m a marketer, and the most idiotic thing we ever did … [was] to give up the brand 10. I mean, the world knows gymnastics as the 10. That is a brand that you could not pay a billion dollars to have some marketing company come up with. And to walk away from that was the most ridiculous thing gymnastics ever did.

It might be wise to listen to a guy who averaged nearly 15,000 fans at his home meets this season. The gate at the men's NCAA team finals was 2,560.

Russian gymnast Natalia Bobrova passed away in April from stomach cancer. Yelena Grosheva shared some beautiful words with IG about her former roommate: “I spent a few years in the same room with Natasha, and what I remember the most is that she was very positive, light and always ready to smile and laugh, a girl with whom I was so lucky to spend great moments of my gymnastic life. She was an angel and she will always stay in my memories as a ray of sunshine, and I’m sure she will send her light and hope to her children and protect them through their life.”

Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 24 April 2015 10:14    PDF Print
Despite Tragedy, Azerbaijan Looks Forward
(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

While the recent death of women’s national team head coach Alexander Pravdin shocked and saddened Azerbaijan’s gymnastics community, a spokesperson for the Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation told IG that Pravdin’s memory and influence will continue to drive the team as it establishes itself internationally.

“Mr. Pravdin’s legacy to Azerbaijani women’s artistic gymnastics will always be seen in future successes of the little girls who started their first steps in gymnastics with him,” said Farid Gayibov, Secretary General of the federation. “It became their favorite sport due to his professionalism, coaching skills and good knowledge of children’s psychology. We are confident that these girls will justify their first coach’s hopes and will prove themselves in the international arena.”

Pravdin, who suffered a fatal heart attack on April 4, became the head coach of the team in 2014 after coaching in his native Voronezh, Russia, for years. He, his wife/fellow coach Nina Pravdina and several Russian gymnasts who relocated to Azerbaijan formed the foundation of the fledgling women’s national program.

Foremost among these gymnasts are two-time Russian Olympian Anna Pavlova; Yulia Inshina, who won a team silver medal and placed sixth on balance beam at the 2011 worlds; and Pravdin’s daughter, Kristina Pravdina.

While competing for Russia, Kristina Pravdina won a team bronze medal and placed 24th all-around at the 2006 world championships. She finished 16th all-around in qualifications at the 2007 worlds. Pravdina began competing for Azerbaijan late last year.

“Mr. Pravdin has left after himself the gymnasts he brought up,” Gayibov said. “They are Marina Nekrasova, Yulia Inshina, and, of course, his daughter, Kristina. They are representing our country at international competitions with dignity.”

Gayibov said injuries and other factors contributed to the Azerbaijani team’s “not so successful” performance at the 2014 worlds. He said the team’s results early this year show promise, however.

“At the times when Mr. Pravdin was head coach, the girls successfully executed their routines at the Challenger Cup in Cottbus (in March), where Kristina won a medal. Prior to Cottbus, they were inspired by medals taken within ‘home walls’ at the Open Joint Azerbaijan championships, held as a test event for the first European Games (taking place in Baku in June).”

Gayibov said Pravdin was also responsible for inspiring new, homegrown talent.

“Under his direction, the first local championship among pre-juniors and youth age categories were held, in this new-for-us gymnastics discipline,” Gayibov said of Pravdin.

Gayibov said the Azerbaijani team’s performance at the European championships in Montpellier earlier this month was “naturally very difficult for them psychologically.”

In Montpellier, Pravdina injured herself early in her routine on her first apparatus, balance beam, and did not continue. Marina Nekrasova and Maria Smirnova finished 45th and 59th, respectively, in the all-around qualifications. Smirnova’s 18th-place finish in vault qualifications was the highest ranking for the Azerbaijani women.

Gayibov said the upcoming European Games in the Azerbaijani capital and this fall’s world championships in Glasgow provide unique challenges to the team.

“It is always hard to perform within ‘home walls’ in front of a local audience, and the current sad circumstance will have even more psychological impact on the team members,” he said. “This year’s other very significant competition is the world championships, qualifying gymnasts for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.”

While replacing Pravdin will also be a challenge, Gayibov said the team will try its best to recruit a coach as dedicated and capable as Pravdin.

“Of course, the team needs a new coach, as life is going on and we will be searching for a new one,” he told IG. “It is very difficult to find a good coach and a good person. But it is unknown how soon we will succeed in finding one.”


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