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Written by Amanda Turner    Friday, 21 February 2014 22:21    PDF Print
Aussies Aim for Fresh Start at Nadia Comaneci International
(5 votes, average 4.40 out of 5)

After bowing out of last fall's world championships, the Australian women are aiming to show off what they can do at Saturday's Nadia Comaneci International in Oklahoma City.

Australia sent a top squad of senior and junior hopefuls to the competition in Oklahoma City, where the lineup also includes gymnasts from Canada, Romania and the United States. The annual competition is part of a weekend of sport and health events through Bart & Nadia Sports Experience.

Georgia-Rose Brown

The Australian women bypassed the world championships in 2013 — a post-Olympic year that many countries typically view as a rebuilding phase for the new quadrennium.

Two-time Australian Olympian Allana Slater, who accompanied the team as a judge, expressed confidence in her group. 2012 Olympic alternate Georgia-Rose Brown leads the team of seniors Georgia Godwin, Maddi Leydin and Kiara Munteanu.

"It's the first competition pretty much in a year for these girls," Slater said. "We took a year off for these girls to build skills back in Australia and they've done a really good job."

Slater said that because it is still early in the season, it was good to bring the gymnasts back to competition at a relaxed atmosphere.

"For the Australian girls, it is really good to get a competition in at the beginning of the season, enjoying the travel and enjoying the training and competing," Slater said. "This is a lovely event to come to. There's a lot of very friendly people, but not a lot of pressure. We get to test out a lot of new combinations and that is our aims and expectations: to just try to hit our routines."

2014 will see major events for juniors and seniors, including the Pacific Rim Championships, the II Youth Olympic Games, the Commonwealth Games and the world championships. The gymnasts brought to Oklahoma City will all be in contention, Slater said.

"They've got a lot going on, but they're tough and they can get through it," she said confidently.

The competition roster also includes gymnasts from four Canadian clubs, as well as several rising talents from WOGA. The WOGA gymnasts include foreign-born Irina Alexeeva (Russia) and Ava Verdeflor (Philippines). Alexeeva is seeking U.S. citizenship while Verdeflor hopes to represent the Philippines.

Romania sent three young gymnasts who will be seniors in 2017: Olivia Cimpian, Ioana Ciprin and Alexandra Mihai.

Former champion Jessica Lopez, the two-time Olympian from Venezuela, was expected to compete but withdrew because of injury.

International Gymnast Magazine will do live commentary on itsOfficial Facebook Page beginning 7 p.m. CST.

2014 Nadia Comaneci International Invitational
Feb. 22, Oklahoma City

Georgia Godwin Gymnastics Queensland
Georgia-Rose Brown Victorian Institute of Sport (VIS)
Maddi Leydin Victorian Institute of Sport (VIS)
Kiara Munteanu Victorian Institute of Sport (VIS)
Yasmin Collier Western Australian Institute of Sport
Aya Meggs Western Australian Institute of Sport
Darcy Norman Western Australian Institute of Sport
Mariana Colussi-Pelaez Futures Gymnastics
Rose-Kaying Woo Gym Richelieu
Victoria-Kayen Woo Gym Richelieu
Hélody Cyrenne Gym Richelieu
Lauri-Ann Demers Gym Richelieu
Montana Fairbairn Stampede
Ava Verdeflor WOGA
Olivia Cimpian Cetate Deva
Ioana Crisan Cetate Deva
Alexandra Mihai Cetate Deva
Irina Alexeeva WOGA
Jenna Dunn Bart Conner Gymnastics Academy
Alexandra Marks Bart Conner Gymnastics Academy
Victoria Loomis Denton Gymnastics
Alexis Stokes Denton Gymnastics
Alyssa LaDieu Denton Gymnastics
Asia DeWalt WOGA
Lauren Farley WOGA
Samantha Ogden WOGA
Written by John Crumlish    Sunday, 16 February 2014 12:10    PDF Print
Ferlito: 'I Do Not Consider Myself a VIP'
(22 votes, average 3.68 out of 5)

Featured in an interview in the January/February 2014 issue of International Gymnast magazine, Italian Olympian Carlotta Ferlito told IG she is unaffected by her fame in and out of the gym.

Ferlito is one of the gymnasts featured on "Gymnasts: Parallel Lives," a reality television show centering around a group of elite gymnasts training in Milan. The show debuted in October 2011 and has turned its stars into teen idols in Italy.

Ferlito with actor Johnny Depp at the 2013 Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards in Los Angeles

Last March, Nickelodeon picked Ferlito to be the Italian correspondent at the 2013 Kids' Choice Awards in Los Angeles. At the MTV Italy Awards in June, the public again voted "Parallel Lives" as Best Reality Show; Ferlito won the Sport Hero trophy over superstars Lionel Messi and Kobe Bryant.

Ferlito, who turned 19 on Saturday, says fame has not gone to her head.

"I do not consider myself a VIP or special in any way," she told IG.

Ferlito's best results to date are the all-around bronze medal at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games and the silver medal on balance beam at the 2011 European Championships. At the 2012 Olympics, she helped Italy place seventh in the team final. She finished 11th all-around at the world championships in Antwerp in October.

The success of "Parallel Lives" has increased interest in gymnastics in Italy.

"I'm happy that finally people can really understand how much diligence and sacrifice this sport requires, just like in life," Ferlito said.

To read the complete interview with Ferlito, "Taming Fame," subscribe to the digital edition of International Gymnast now or order back issues here.

Written by John Crumlish    Wednesday, 05 February 2014 08:41    PDF Print
Smith Set To Test Upgrades At Elite Canada
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Heading into this week’s Elite Canada meet, 2013 Canadian national all-around champion Hugh Smith told IG that he plans to use the competition to test some upgraded routines and re-establish himself on his national squad.

“Typically this time of year I'm not in top routine shape, but this year I have been preparing my routines more, and I feel more prepared and confident going into Elite Canada,” said Smith (shown here at the 2013 Canadian Championships). “I would like to maintain my status in the Canadian team.”

Smith said he wants to show steady routines, including some new skills, at Elite Canada taking place Feb. 6-9 in Gatineau, Quebec. Doing so will demonstrate Smith’s value to the team for major international meets in 2014, he said.

“With many events coming up this year, my major goal for Elite Canada will be to show that I can be used to help the team in the upcoming events like the Commonwealth Games, Pan American championships and world championships.”

At the 2013 Elite Canada meet, held in February, Loran Anderson won the all-around title ahead of silver medalist Ken Ikeda and bronze medalist Zachary Clay. Smith tied for sixth place.

“Last year my preparation for Elite Canada was not in the all-around,” Smith said. “Although I did compete on all events, I was focused on doing harder routines on floor and vault.”

Since winning the all-around title at the Canadian championships last May, Smith has been hard at work, in and out of the gym.

“I've been training steadily, continuing to do lots of hot yoga and trying to stay in as best shape possible to prevent injury and keep getting stronger,” said Smith, who will turn 30 on March 14.

Smith is equally busy running Olympic Gymnastics Academy, the recreational club he co-founded in Windsor, Nova Scotia. Until recently the club was known as Windsor Gymnastics.

“It is always still a challenge to balance everything, but my wife and I recently made many positive changes to help us focus on our priorities,” Smith said. “That's another thing. This time last year I probably had at least 10 more responsibilities than I do now. I had to cut many things out and focus more on training and building my club.”

Despite Smith’s professional duties, he remains focused on his competitive ambitions for 2014.

“My goals for this year are to help Canada at worlds and continue to increase my Start Values in the all-around,” he told IG. “The Pan American championships and Commonwealth Games are also on the radar. ‘2014 Canadian champion’ also sounds nice.”

International Gymnast magazine's recent features on Canadian gymnasts include:
"Canadian Diversity" – Hugh Smith and Ellie Black profiles (July/August 2013)
Scott Morgan profile (December 2013)
"Sudden Impact" - Victoria Moors interview (January/February 2013)
"Black to Business" - Ellie Black interview (November 2012)
"Aiming to Top the Charts" - Maegan Chant interview (October 2013)
"Candid Canadians" – Madeline Gardiner and Jackson Payne interviews (September 2011)
Leah Homma update (January/February 2014)
Christine Peng-Peng Lee interview (April 2011)
Gael Mackie profile (July/August 2011)
"Confident Canadian" - Brittany Rogers interview (May 2012)
"Catching up with Lori Strong Ballard" (June 2012)
To subscribe or order back issues, click here.

Written by Amanda Turner    Friday, 31 January 2014 01:54    PDF Print
Brazilian Olympian Souza Remains Critical As Support Pours In
(13 votes, average 4.38 out of 5)

As friends, family and fans rally around her, two-time Brazilian Olympic gymnast Lais Souza remains in a Utah hospital after a tragic skiing accident earlier this week. Photo: Souza at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing

As friends, family and fans rally around her, two-time Brazilian Olympic gymnast Lais Souza remains paralyzed and on a ventilator in a Utah hospital after a tragic skiing accident earlier this week.

Souza, who competed at the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games as a gymnast, was on the verge of competing in the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi in aerial skiing. She was training on Monday, however, when she collided with a tree near the track while warming up, dislocating her third cervical vertebra.

"She dislocated a vertebra near the top of her spine," said Dr. Andrew Dailey, a neurosurgeon with the University of Utah hospital. "She remains in critical condition, still using a breathing machine and unable to talk."

Souza shows off her medals won in aerial skiing at Utah Olympic Park in December. She had been set to represent Brazil at the Winter Olympics in Sochi before her accident.

After the accident, the 25-year-old Souza immediately underwent surgery to realign her vertebra and and stabilize her neck with pins. She also had a tracheotomy to help her breathe and had a feeding tube inserted.

Brazilian team doctor Antonio Marttos, who immediately traveled to Salt Lake City from Miami at the request of the Brazilian Olympic Committee, said Souza appears ready to fight for recovery.

"Right now, her spirits are very good," Marttos said. "She is a fighter. Athletes always do better to improve."

Souza initially had no feeling in her arms or legs, but doctors stated it was too soon to know whether or not she will face permanent paralysis. On Thursday, she was able to move her shoulders and keep them lifted, Marttos said. But her condition remains critical.

"Souza is relying on a breathing machine, and it's possible she may have to for the rest of her life," said Dr. Holly Ledyard, who is treating Souza at the hospital's critical care unit.

It wasn't the daredevil acrobatics of aerial skiing that caused the accident, Ledyard emphasized at a press conference.

"It could have been anybody," Ledyard said. "That fact that she’s an Olympic athlete doing what she’s doing, or that she’s from Brazil and is not used to snow, I don't think played a part in her injury. She was just skiing, like people do."

Souza's mother Odette arrived in Salt Lake City on Thursday, and said her daughter made kissing motions as soon as she saw her.

"When I arrived in the room and saw my daughter, she widened her eyes and pouted to ask me for a kiss," Odette said. "I'm very hopeful and hold great faith that she'll recover."

Souza made Brazil's squad to the 2012 Olympic Games in London, but a hand injury forced her out of competition. Last May, she set her eyes on a different Olympic opportunity, joining several former gymnasts trying for a chance in the Winter Olympic sport of aerial skiing. In December, she won two medals at the Nor-Am Cup in Utah, and followed her success by competing in three World Cup events in January with the hopes of earning enough points to qualify for the Olympics. She earned 40 points at a competition held Jan. 10 in Deer Valley, Utah, and 80 points at an event Jan. 18 in Val Saint-Côme, Quebec.

At the time of her accident Souza still was waiting to hear if she would earn a berth, as Brazil was an alternate to the competition. But dropouts from other nations gave Brazil its spot. Teammate Joselane (Josi) Santos, another former gymnast who switched to aerial skiing, learned this week she instead will go to Sochi. Santos will be one of 13 Brazilian athletes in Russia, Brazil's largest delegation for a Winter Olympiad. Santos said that she will compete in honor of her friend and teammate, who had been training with her under U.S. coach Ryan Snow.

Pedro Cavazzoni, head of the Brazilian Confederation of Winter Sports (CBDN), said there was some discussion over sending the shaken Santos after Souza's devastating accident.

"Whether or not Josi should participate was a decision taken jointly by everyone who is involved in the sport: the CBDN, the Brazilian Olympic Committee, the coach and Josi herself," Cavazzoni said. "It is very important to clarify that she also earned the berth by her own merits. She met all the qualification criteria and she was the athlete immediately after Lais in the qualifying list. It was decided that she should go to support how far our winter sports program has developed, and also as a way to honor Lais and the power of competing in the Olympic Games, which was the big dream they shared. It is a tribute to Lais and also to Josi's own efforts."

Santos posted a photo on Facebook of herself with Souza and their coach, taken Monday before the accident in Park City, Utah.

"I'm in this fight with you and will be with you together until the end," she wrote. "I'll follow my heart, and we spent all these months training together in this new sport. I will do it for you and for all of us. I love you, and you will go home the same way you entered this adventure with me: walking."

Meanwhile, friends, fans and former teammates have taken to social media to support Souza. Many changed their Facebook photo profiles to one of a smiling Souza, and are using the hashtag #forçalais ("Strength Lais") in support as she faces a difficult recovery.

Andrea João, a gymnastics commentator and analyst for Brazil's SporTV, said the positive messages will help Souza and her family.

"The whole world is sending messages wishing strength to Lais, saying she'll make it, she's gonna make it," João said. "Right now we have to do this: send support. Support her family, which right now is so weak. With this prayer chain that everyone is doing, Lais will recover."

Click here to visit Lais Souza's Official Facebook page.

Josi Santos and Souza pose on Monday with coach Ryan Snow before the accident in Park City. Santos will compete in the upcoming Winter Olympics in place of the injured Souza.
Written by John Crumlish    Thursday, 30 January 2014 14:58    PDF Print
Simm Set For New Success In 2014
(6 votes, average 4.00 out of 5)

British gymnast Kelly Simm told IG that her 2013 successes have motivated her as she prepares for major events including this spring’s European championship and this fall’s world championships.

“I think 2013 as a whole was a year when I had a lot of competition experience, and it has given me more confidence and self-belief,” said Simm, who trains at Dynamo School of Gymnastics in Hamble, Southampton, England. “I have learned a lot from the experiences and am excited to see how 2014 will go for me.”

At the International Tournament of Pas-de-Calais in Arques, France, last December, Simm finished third all-around, behind gold medallist Tatiana Nabiyeva of Russia and silver medallist Lisa Top of the Netherlands. She tied Nabiyeva for the apparatus title on vault, and placed third on uneven bars and fourth on balance beam.

Simm credits Keith Richardson and Debbie Richardson, the husband-and-wife team that coaches her, for developing her all-around proficiency. In British championships all-around competition, she finished eighth in 2011, ninth in 2012 and seventh in 2013.

“I think it’s definitely a lot to do with my coaches,” Simm said. “My coach (Keith Richardson) believes that you have to build strong foundations so you can survive at high-level gymnastics. We spent a long time preparing physically, so now I can perform big skills. I’m lucky to naturally be quite small and am really motivated to keep improving and to keep increasing my difficulty.”

Simm is also eager to improve on vault, the apparatus on which she placed third at the 2012 British championships and second at the 2013 British championships.

“I am focusing on getting my vaults consistent, and performing them and executing them the best I can,” said Simm, who will turn 19 on April 23. “If I perform my vaults well, I believe I could have a chance, but you can only think about your own performance.”

Simm said she realizes that earning a spot on the talent-laden British team for this year’s major meets will require diligence and confidence.

“I am working on securing my Start Values and trying to ensure that my execution is better than ever,” she told IG. “I think my routines have good difficulty, so I need to make I sure I get them consistent. My coaches believe it is my time, so it’s exciting.”

International Gymnast magazine's recent coverage of British gymnasts and coaches includes:

"Shooting Star" – Brinn Bevan profile (June 2013)

Imogen Cairns and British men's team on cover photo collage (March 2012)

"No Turning Back Now" – Imogen Cairns profile (January/February 2012)

"10 Questions with Coach Paul Hall" – interview (January/February 2010)

"European Brilliance" - Ruby Harrold interview (September 2013)

Sam Oldham on cover photo collage (July/August 2010)

Sam Oldham interview (June 2010)

"Nervous Purvis" – Daniel Purvis profile (November 2012)

"Pure Purvis" – Daniel Purvis interview (March 2012)

Daniel Purvis cover photo (November 2011)

"Bright for Britain" – Niamh Rippin profile (July/August 2010)

"Sibling Revelry" – Angel and Venus Romaeo profile (September 2010)

"Welsh Wisdom" - Raer Theaker profile (October 2013)

"Divide and Conquer" – Kristian Thomas interview (May 2012)

"The Good Shepherd" – Coach Ed van Hoof interview (April 2013)

"Lord Max" – Max Whitlock interview (June 2013)

"Lilleshall: Backstage in Britain" – cover story on British national program (November 2011)

To subscribe or order back issues, click here.


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