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Written by Amanda Turner    Sunday, 28 August 2016 06:58    PDF Print
Gymnast Fragapane to Star on 'Strictly'
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

British Olympian Claudia Fragapane will soon take her moves to Strictly Come Dancing, the popular BBC reality show set for its 14th season in September.

Claudia Fragapane in Rio

"I am a really big fan of Strictly Come Dancing and am so excited to be chosen to take part this year," said Fragapane, who turns 19 in October. "I am used to performing in front of big crowds but this is going to be so different to my floor routines in gymnastics – but I love a challenge and performing! I also love dressing up and wearing sparkly costumes!"

Fragapane, who finished fifth with the British team at the recent Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, shot to fame after winning four gold medals at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. She is a two-time world finalist on floor exercise and won the silver medal on floor at the 2015 European Championships. At last year's world championships, she helped the British women win the team bronze, their first ever team world medal.

On the 14th series of Strictly, she will be competing against a diverse cast that includes fellow Olympian Greg Rutherford (track and field), singer-songwriters Anastacia and Will Young, politician Ed Balls, comedian Melvin Odoom, actor Danny Mac, actresses Lesley Joseph and Tameka Empson, model Daisy Lowe, journalist Naga Munchetty, television judge Robert Rinder, and television presenters Ore Oduba and Laura Whitmore.

Fragapane is only the second gymnast to star on Strictly. Three-time Olympian Louis Smith won the 10th series following the 2012 Olympics.

Two-time Olympic medalist Laurie Hernandez (United States) is also joining the upcoming cast of Dancing With the Stars, which begins on September 12 on ABC.

The new season of Strictly Come Dancing begins September 3 on BBC One.

Written by Amanda Turner    Saturday, 27 August 2016 14:36    PDF Print
Hernandez to Join 'Dancing With the Stars'
(4 votes, average 4.50 out of 5)

Two-time Olympic medalist Laurie Hernandez (United States) is set to join the new cast of Dancing With the Stars, it was reported Saturday.

Two-time Olympic medalist Laurie Hernandez (United States) is set to join the new cast of Dancing With the Stars, it was reported Saturday.

The official cast will not be revealed until August 30, but Hernandez reportedly is will star alongside Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte, actresses Maureen McCormick and Emma Samms, actor Jake T. Austin, singer-songwriter Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, and model Amber Rose on the dance floor for the ABC show.

Hernandez, 16, was the youngest member of the "Final Five" U.S. women's gymnastics team that won the gold medal at the Olympic Games earlier this month. She also won the silver medal on balance beam behind Sanne Wevers of the Netherlands.

The New Jersey native, long praised for her artistry and dance ability, should be an early favorite to take home the coveted mirror ball prize. Three fellow gymnasts have previously starred on the show: Shawn Johnson, who won in 2009 with partner Mark Ballas; Aly Raisman, who finished fourth with Ballas in 2013, and Nastia Liukin, who finished fourth with Derek Hough in 2015.

During the Olympics, Ballas gushed over Hernandez, tweeting "I absolutely adore @lzhernandez02 just gorgeous #starpower #needadanceteacher? #RioOlympics2016" on August 10.

Hernandez is not the only gymnast ready to try on dancing shoes: British Olympian Claudia Fragapane has joined the new cast of Strictly Come Dancing on the BBC. Fellow British Olympian Louis Smith won the series after the 2012 Olympics.

The new series of Dancing With the Stars is set to begin on September 12.

Written by Amanda Turner    Thursday, 25 August 2016 02:29    PDF Print
Ponor, Drăgulescu to Continue as Romania Hosts Europeans in 2017
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Despite a disappointing Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Romanian veterans Cătălina Ponor and Marian Drăgulescu aren't planning on retiring any time soon. Pictured: Ponor and Drăgulescu watch the event finals on August 16 in Rio.

Despite a disappointing Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Romanian veterans Cătălina Ponor and Marian Drăgulescu aren't planning on retiring any time soon. Their immediate goal is next year's European Championships, taking place April 19-23 in Cluj-Napoca.

The duo told Romanian media they have their sights set on continuing toward the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, which would be Ponor's fourth Olympic appearance and Drăgulescu's sixth. In Rio, Ponor finished seventh on balance beam in the final. Drăgulescu finished fourth in the vault final, losing the bronze medal via a controversial tie-break procedure. It was the first time since 1972 that Romania did not medal at the Olympic Games.

Ponor, who turned 29 on August 20, was emotional after her mistakes in the beam final, and said the pressure got to her.

"Unfortunately it wasn't meant to be," the five-time Olympic medalist told Agrepres on Wednesday. "I tried to pull myself together and perform well. It was not how I wanted it to be. If I had managed to concentrate, if I weren't more nervous than I've ever been before in my life and just performed my routine like I did in qualifying, I likely would have a medal around my neck right now."

Ponor went through a challenging Olympic preparation. She missed the 2015 World Championships after tearing her calf muscle and underwent surgery. Romania failed to qualify a full team for the first time since 1968. Romania was only able to send one female gymnast to Rio, and it came down to Ponor and Larisa Iordache, who had suffered a hand injury earlier this year. Iordache underwent surgeries on her hand and missed months of crucial training time. She returned, albeit not at full strength, and won the all-around at the national championships in July, where Ponor won balance beam and floor exercise. Ponor was ultimately selected to compete as the better medal chance in Rio, but Iordache was invited to travel to Rio as an alternate.

After the balance beam final in Rio, Ponor broke down and revealed the tense situation she had endured in the build up to the Olympics. Reports surfaced that Ponor was shunned in the gym by some of the younger gymnasts and was even harassed online and through text messages by fans of Iordache, telling her to withdraw and give Iordache the spot. She also experienced insults on Instagram. Ponor's coach, Lucian Sandu, said he was also the recipient of similar messages and that it drove him to reconsider remaining as a coach in Romania. In an open letter posted on Facebook after the beam final, Ponor vented her frustration at the hate she has received. (Her Instagram account has since been deactivated.)

"I'd say I felt in better shape than I was when I was 16!" she wrote. "And I could have made it if I didn't feel all the negative comments and vibes coming at me like a hand trying to push me off the apparatus! I wanted it too much and it broke my heart. I cried all night. It hasn't been easy for me to ignore everything I heard around me, on social media and in the press!" I wanted it too much and it broke my heart. I cried all night, it hasn’t been easy for me to ignore everything I heard around me, on social media and in the press!

Nevertheless, Ponor said she is not turning her back on her team and hopes to help Romania qualify a full team again to the next Olympic Games.

"I'm already thinking about a new Olympics," Ponor said. "It's important to be healthy and then say I will get there. But first, I'm thinking about the 2017 Europeans. I will try to in one way or another get revenge for what happened now. I want to get the team to Tokyo, because from my point of view the team medal is the most important."

Drăgulescu, on the other hand, said he received a lot of support after losing the medal in the vault final, and said he is hoping the Romanian Olympic Committee will recognize his placement in the vault final as the rightful third place.

"It was a very strong final," he said. "I'm glad I was able to do my vaults. I finished third in the scores, but unfortunately the Olympic Games doesn't allow ties [in gymnastics], but I received many messages on Facebook from the world. They told me 'you won the bronze medal, you came in third,' so even I would be happy for the Romanian state to reward me as though I got third. I'm happy to be home, I'm happy the Romanians are supportive, both those at home and those at the competition. At least they gave me positive energy and I felt really good. In the end you're never relaxed, the emotions are high, but we managed to control them and make them constructive emotions."

Drăgulescu, who turns 36 in December, said his goal is still to win the one medal he does not have: Olympic gold.

"Certainly, my main motivation remains a gold medal at the Olympic Games," he said. "I set a long-term objective for Tokyo, but I will take it step by step. Next year we will hold the Europeans in Cluj. The public will expect a lot, so we will not retire and we will bring more good results and make us proud."

Written by Amanda Turner    Thursday, 21 July 2016 05:57    PDF Print
Afanasyeva Forced into Retirement by Illness
(9 votes, average 3.22 out of 5)

Two-time Olympian Ksenia Afanasyeva is retiring from competition because of a kidney disease, Russian media reported Thursday.

Two-time Olympian Ksenia Afanasyeva is retiring from competition after suffering from a kidney disease, Russian media reported Thursday.

The world and European champion is hospitalized with kidney stones and is facing weeks of recovery, said team coach Valentina Rodionenko, ruining any chances of Afanasyeva competing in a third Olympic Games. As late as Wednesday, the 24 year old had been listed as an alternate for this summer's Olympic Games, with a chronic ankle injury still a question.

Known for her exceptional grace and power, Afanasyeva was a member of Russia's fourth-place team at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, where she qualified to the final on balance beam. She helped lead Russia to its first world team title two years later in Rotterdam, and in 2011 became world champion on floor exercise. She was the captain of Russia's team that won the silver at the 2012 Olympics in London. She won floor exercise at both the 2013 and 2015 European championships, and won vault and floor at the 2013 University Games.

Afanasyeva was plagued the past several years by an ankle injury, missing the 2013 and 2014 world championships, and underwent multiple surgeries. She returned to the world championships in 2015 and won a silver medal on floor exercise.

She competed on vault only at this spring's European championships in Bern, where she helped Russia win the team title and captured the individual bronze medal on vault.

Afanasyeva, who turns 25 in September, traveled to Germany in June to have scar tissue removed. She and Russia's coaches had hoped she would be able to return in time to compete at the Olympic Games, which begin August 5.

The Russian delegation plans to depart on Sunday for Brazil. Yevgenia Shelgunova has moved into the alternate position for Russia in place of Afanasyeva, with Natalia Kapitanova the second alternate.

External Link: Russian Gymnastics Federation

Written by Amanda Turner    Monday, 18 July 2016 12:04    PDF Print
FIG Supports Russian Gymnasts at Rio
(12 votes, average 3.67 out of 5)

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) called for Russia's gymnasts to not face any ban from the Olympic Games following the release of the McClaren Report on Monday that alleged widespread doping in Russian sport. Pictured: World and Olympic champion Aliya Mustafina

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) called for Russia's gymnasts to not face any ban from the Olympic Games following the release of the McClaren Report on Monday that alleged widespread doping in Russian sport.

The report, prepared by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), alleged that the Russian Sports Ministry facilitated doping and tampering of doping samples, particularly at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Russia has already been banned from competing in track & field events at the Olympic Games in Rio, the sport most affected by the doping. WADA and multiple nations have called on Russia to be banned entirely from the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, concerning the FIG.

"FIG is concerned about the increasing number of officials asking for a blanket ban of Russian athletes to participate at the forthcoming Olympic Games in Rio," the FIG said in a statement. "Whilst FIG fully supports the IOC's policy of 'Zero Tolerance in Doping,' it strongly feels that not all Russian athletes of all sports should be banned and found guilty for actions in other sports and federations."

According to the McClaren Report, in addition to allegations of sample switching in Sochi, Moscow's main anti-doping control laboratory participated in a "Disappearing Positive Methodology" for Russian athletes. From 2012 to 2015, 643 positive samples were falsified under this method, the report stated. The report listed the 10 sports that most benefited as athletics (139 cases), weightlifting (117), non-Olympic sports (37), Paralympic sport (35), wrestling (28), canoe (27), cycling (26), skating (24), swimming (18) and ice hockey (14). No gymnasts were included among the athletes who reportedly benefited from this scheme.

Gymnastics is not a sport that has been plagued by doping scandals. The only gymnast stripped of an Olympic medal after a positive test for doping was Romania's Andreea Raducan, who lost her all-around gold medal in 2000 after testing positive for pseudoephedrine, a substance found in cold medicine that is no longer on the banned substance list.

Several gymnasts have faced sanctions after testing positive for diuretics, which in itself is not a performance-enhancing drug, but is banned because it can be used to mask the presence of performance-enhancing drugs. Diuretics have a history of use by gymnasts for water weight loss, particularly among rhythmic gymnasts. Vietnam's Thi Ngan Thuong Do (2008) and Uzbekistan's Luiza Galiulina (2012) were expelled from the Olympics after positive tests for diuretics. Brazil's Daiane dos Santos faced a competition ban in 2009 for use of diuretics.

The only other significant medal stripped in artistic gymnastics for a positive doping test was the case of Spain's Gervasio Deferr, whose silver medal on floor exercise at the 2002 World Championships was yanked after he tested positive for marijuana.

"Artistic Gymnastics, Rhythmic Gymnastics and Trampoline athletes cannot be judged based on other sports," the FIG statement read. "Before any actions are taken against FIG's athletes, facts must be presented and doping offenses must be proven. FIG's Russian gymnasts have been subject to controls equal to those of our other leading gymnastics federations. Clean Russian gymnasts must therefore be allowed to compete at the Games."

FIG president Bruno Grandi said Olympic participation should not be "stolen" from the Russian gymnasts because of doping in other sports.

"The rights of every individual athlete must be respected," Grandi said. "Participation at the Olympic Games is the highest goal of athletes who often sacrifice their entire youth to this aim. The right to participate at the Games cannot be stolen from an athlete, who has duly qualified and has not be found guilty of doping. Blanket bans have never been and will never be just."

Last week, as speculation mounted in advance of the report, International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach of Germany also appeared against a blanket ban.

"It is obvious you cannot sanction a badminton player for an infringement of the rules by an official or a lab director at the Winter Games," Bach said. "In the same way we would not consider sanctioning all athletes from a particular sport if there is manipulation of the rules by the leadership of a federation. What we have to do is take decisions based on facts and to find the right balance between a collective responsibility and individual justice."

On Monday, Bach called the findings in the report a "shocking and unprecedented attack on the integrity of sport" and pledged to pursue "the toughest possible sanctions available against any individual or organization implicated." The IOC Executive Board had planned to next meet on August 3, two days before the Olympics begin in Rio, but scheduled an emergency telephone meeting for Tuesday to discuss "provisional measures and sanctions."

External Link: Download McClaren Report from WADA


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