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Written by John Crumlish    Monday, 02 February 2009 15:08    PDF Print
Hambüchen Seeks Fun, Focus at American Cup
(26 votes, average 4.96 out of 5)

Preparing for the upcoming American Cup in Chicago, 2007 world all-around silver medalist Fabian Hambüchen (Germany) told IG on Tuesday he hopes to regain the fun and focus he lost during last summer's Olympic Games.

Fabian Hambüchen (Germany)

Hambüchen, who placed seventh all-around and third on high bar in Beijing, said he wants to compensate for his Olympic results with happier, more confident performances in 2009.

"I still don’t really know why Beijing went like this, but I think my expectations were too high," said the 21-year-old Hambüchen. "I was thinking about the gold medal and wasn’t concentrating on my technique. The pressure I put on myself was too high, and I didn’t have a clear mind like in the years before. I lost the fun in the competition, and hopefully it will never happen again!"

Hambüchen is expected to face several fellow 2008 Olympians at the American Cup on Feb. 21, including Olympic all-around bronze medalist Benoit Caranobe (France); Joseph Hagerty (U.S.); Yuri Ryazanov (Russia); Luis Rivera (Puerto Rico); Flavius Koczi (Romania); and Jose Luis Fuentes (Venezuela). In the Beijing all-around final, Rivera, Koczi and Fuentes finished 14th, 18th and 22nd, respectively.

Also slated for the American Cup are Koji Uematsu (Japan) and 2008 U.S. all-around champion David Sender. Two more U.S. gymnasts and another foreign gymnast are still to be added to the roster.

Hambüchen, who placed fifth at the 2006 American Cup and seventh at the 2007 American Cup, said he eagerly accepted the invitation to compete in Chicago.

"First of all, the invitation brings me every year to the American Cup, and I’m appreciative of that," he said. "But on the other side, the American Cup is a fantastic competition. The atmosphere is brilliant and the circumstances are perfect. It’s really much fun competing there with other very strong gymnasts."

Hambüchen said his performances in Chicago may not include maximum difficulty because of finger surgery he had in December 2008, and a case of the flu last month.

"I’m really concentrating on my execution, which is what will help me to get high scores," he said. "So my goal is to hit my routines, and to have a fun and fair competition. The most important thing is to stay healthy every time."

Despite Hambüchen's disappointing all-around results in Beijing, he said he has the same perspective on training and competition as always.

"Training is going like the way before," he said. "Nothing changed there because my shape in Beijing was awesome. Just my head was wrong. I try to have as much fun as possible in competitions and try to concentrate on the things I learned. Competition is like training, and I have to focus on my technique."

Hambüchen's competition agenda for the rest of 2009 includes major events such as the European Championships in Milan (April 2-5) and the World Championships in London (October 12-18). Although this year's Worlds will not include a team competition, Hambüchen said he is prepared to perform at his best as an individual.

"I like both situations," said Hambüchen, who led Germany to the team silver medal at the 2007 Worlds in Stuttgart. "I like to fight with the team and be excited by every routine of my team mates. But at the same time, I like to compete on my own — to be on the podium and to know that you are the only one who wants to hit the routine and wants to be successful. It’s not harder to compete alone, but it’s really a different thing."

Hambüchen said he is aiming for good results in the all-around and one or more events at this year’s Europeans and Worlds. He placed second all-around and first on high bar at the 2007 Europeans in Amsterdam; and first on high bar at the 2008 Europeans in Lausanne, where no all-around final was contested.

"Of course, I want to be on top in the all-around and on high bar, but it won’t be easy," Hambüchen told IG. "First, I have to be in a good shape and then, everything is possible!"

-- John Crumlish

IG Magazine Related Features
Hambüchen cover story (January 2008)
2008 Olympic Games special issue (October 2008)
2007 World Championships special issue (November 2007)
Hambüchen on cover, 2007 European Championships coverage
"German Giants" - Hambüchen profile (May 2003)
Hambüchen on cover photo collage (June/July 2002)

To subscribe to IG Magazine or order back issues, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Saturday, 24 January 2009 23:35    PDF Print
'Reliable' Nguyen Ready for 2009
(20 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Marcel Nguyen (Germany)

Although Germany missed a team medal at last summer's Olympics in Beijing, Marcel Nguyen told IG he is confident that Germany can compete with the best in 2009.

"Besides hard work and talent, gymnastics is also a matter of good luck," said Nguyen, a member of Germany's fourth-place team in Beijing, bronze medal-winning at the 2007 World Championships and silver medal-winning team at the 2008 European Championships. "The teams in the [Olympic] finals were rather equal as far as abilities were concerned, and it happened that during that particular competition some of the other teams were luckier than we were. Next time it will be the other way around!"

The 21-year-old Nguyen said his Olympic experience was positive, despite Germany's failure to win a team medal. In the team finals, Germany finished 1.250 points behind the bronze medal-winning U.S. team. Other members of the German squad in Beijing were Fabian Hambüchen, Phillip Boy, Thomas Andergassen, Eugen Spiridonov and Robert Juckel.

"The most memorable moment was, of course, the competition at the Games in Beijing," said Nguyen, who has a Vietnamese father and a German mother. "The atmosphere in the gym was very exciting. This was all I had been dreaming of since I started gymnastics many, many years ago. Just performing there was worth all the hard work, so there actually was no frustration at all."

Now coached by 1992 Olympic all-around bronze medalist Valery Belenky, Nguyen said his goals for 2009 include a good performance at an upcoming six-team competition in Japan, and qualification for the European and World Championships.

Nguyen, who took a training break during the recent holidays to help recover from minor surgery on his elbow, said he and the German team have changed for the better in the last two years.

"I think that, since the 2007 World Championships, I have become a reliable member of the team, and that we have grown a lot as a team," he said.

Written by Amanda Turner    Wednesday, 21 January 2009 23:28    PDF Print
Liukin Nabs Another Title
(14 votes, average 3.29 out of 5)

2008 Olympic all-around champion Nastia Liukin was named the 2008 U.S. Olympic Committee's Co-Sportswoman of the Year on Thursday.

Olympic champion Nastia Liukin

Liukin shared the title with Olympic swimming champion Natalie Coughlin. She is the third gymnast to win the honor, following Kim Zmeskal (1991) and Carly Patterson (2004). Swimming superstar Michael Phelps earned the title of 2008 USOC Sportsman of the Year.

Liukin won five medals at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing — gold in the all-around, silver in the team, uneven bars and balance beam, and bronze on floor exercise.

"The all-around competition was just more than I could have ever imagined, and I enjoyed every minute of it and accomplished my biggest goal in my gymnastics career," Liukin said Thursday.

Liukin plans to return to competition. She's training five to six hours a day and will attend the national team camp next week.

"A lot of people have asked me, 'You won the biggest title that there is to achieve in the sport. Why would you keep going?'" she said. "But for me, I really love competing, and I just really enjoy the sport, so that definitely overpowers the question of putting my title [on the line]. I haven't made a 100 percent commitment, but I'm definitely making a commitment to myself to try to get back in shape and try to compete."

Liukin is tied with Shannon Miller for the most number of world championship medals — nine — won by an American gymnast. Being the Olympic champion should boost her confidence as she aims to win more medals to hold the title alone, she said.

"I think it will definitely give me more confidence going into competitions, knowing that I competed at the Olympic Games, and there is no bigger competition than that," she said. "So hopefully, the world championships will be a little less stressful."

Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 20 January 2009 23:22    PDF Print
Johnson Steels Up for New Opportunities
(85 votes, average 4.76 out of 5)

Johnson on her way to the 2008 Olympic gold medal on balance beam.

2008 Olympic balance beam champion Shawn Johnson told IG she is enjoying her fame but intends to return to training "when I have time to be consistent with it."

Since last summer's Olympic Games, Johnson has been busy with promotions, endorsements, a cross-country exhibition tour and guest appearances on television shows. She took time to celebrate her 17th birthday at home in West Des Moines, Iowa, however.

On Sunday night, Johnson and friends attended a concert by her favorite band, Rascal Flatts, in Des Moines. She went backstage after the concert to visit with the band, whom she had met at a benefit in 2007.

On Monday — Johnson's 17th birthday — she and high-school friends dined at Samurai, a sushi restaurant. She posed for a photo with a piece of birthday cake in front of her, but did not indulge. "I didn't personally eat any of it, but the other people did!" Johnson said.

Later this week, Johnson will travel to Florida to lead the 13th annual Super Bowl Cheerleading Spirit Clinic, which will take place at NFL Experience in Tampa on Jan. 24. At the clinic, she will be recognized as a "Cheerleader for Life," based on her status as a positive example for young women.

On Feb. 1, Johnson and her father, Doug, will attend the Super Bowl in Tampa, where they plan to root for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"I'm for the Steelers," Johnson said. "I've been to Pittsburgh and I like the team."

Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson celebrates her 17th birthday with friends Monday at a sushi restaurant.

Because Johnson's post-Olympic commitments have required much travel, she is taking online classes for her junior year of high school. Johnson said she has adjusted to independent studies, but plans to return to public school in the fall. "I see my friends all the time and keep up with my schoolwork, but I'm going back for senior year, no matter what," she said.

Johnson, the 2007 world all-around champion and 2008 Olympic all-around silver medalist, said she is keeping her form despite the lack of training time that her promotional agenda mandates.

"From all the traveling and things, I haven't been able to get into the gymnastics gym very often, just whenever I can," she said. "But I go to a fitness center every day. I run and do cardio and other things all the time, just to stay in shape."

Johnson said she would enjoy another series of exhibition performances, such as last fall's Tour of Gymnastics Superstars in which she participated along with her Olympic teammates and other standout gymnasts.

"It was very tiring, of course, but it was a great reward," Johnson said. "I love being able to let loose. In its own way, it keeps you in shape, but you're able to have fun at the same time. They had talked about doing a second tour, so hopefully that will come through and we can do another one, because it was really fun."

Johnson said she would like to resume her usual training regimen at her club, Chow's Gymnastics and Dance Institute in West Des Moines, "whenever this slows down and I have time to be consistent with it."

Although Johnson placed first all-around at last year's U.S. Championships, she has not yet confirmed exactly when she will return to competition. She has the chance to defend her world all-around title at the World Championships taking place in London in October.

"It's hard to give a specific date or place for a competition where I'll be back," she told IG. "Whenever I get back into the gym, I'll get back into competition. It just depends on the time. I'm still riding out the publicity from the Olympics. You want to ride that out as long as you can, because it's really fun, and it's what makes your career."

Shawn Johnson is featured in the following issues of IG Magazine:
Tour of Gymnastics Superstars feature (January/February 2009)
"Spotted: Nastia and Shawn" - photo gallery (November 2008)
2008 Olympics special issue (October 2008)
Johnson on cover, "10 Questions with Shawn Johnson," 2008 Olympics preview feature (September 2008)
Johnson on cover, U.S. Olympic Trials coverage, U.S. Championships coverage (July/August 2008)
"10 Questions with Liang Chow" (May 2008)
2008 American Cup coverage (April 2008)
"Shawn Johnson's Big Year" - Kids Klub feature (December 2007)
"10 Questions with Teri Johnson" - Shawn's mother (November 2007)
Johnson and USA team on cover, Johnson center poster, 2007 World Championships special issue (October 2007)
2007 U.S. Championships coverage (September 2007)
Johnson on cover, 2007 American Cup coverage (April 2007)
"A Taste of China" - Chow's profile (November 2006)
Johnson on cover, Johnson center poster, 2006 U.S. Championships coverage (October 2006)
"Shooting Star: Shawn Johnson" (January/February 2006)

To subscribe to IG Magazine or order back issues, click here.

Written by Amanda Turner    Monday, 19 January 2009 22:35    PDF Print
Bilozertchev Gears Up for Winter Cup
(1 vote, average 5.00 out of 5)

Despite his recent sudden departure from the Ohio State University team, 2007 U.S. junior champion Alexy Bilozertchev said he remains focused on upcoming national and international opportunities.

Alexy Bilozertchev (USA)

Bilozertchev, 18, said he is more motivated than ever, and wants to put to rest any rumors that he has left the sport.

"My focus right now is on Winter Cup [Feb. 5-7]," he told IG on Monday. "I'm going to try to make national team and just continue with gymnastics. There's no plan to quit anytime soon — just to get that rumor squashed."

OSU head coach Miles Avery announced Thursday that Bilozertchev, a freshman, had left the team "for personal reasons." The No. 7 OSU Buckeyes began the NCAA season Saturday.

"His departure will and has affected the team," Avery told IG. "It is like any team that had a guy they were counting on quit days before the season began without warning. It is hard. It takes a moment to regroup and we are."

Bilozertchev is coached by his father, Soviet great Dmitri Bilozertchev, the 1983 and 1987 world all-around champion and triple gold medalist at the 1988 Olympic Games. Dmitri Bilozertchev is in his fourth season as assistant coach at OSU.

Alexy trained with his father for several years as a member of the OSU Boys club team. He said he went on several recruiting trips to other universities before ultimately deciding on staying in Columbus and attending Ohio State.

"I want to make it clear that I chose Ohio State on my own basis," he said. "I had an opportunity to go out and see other colleges, see what was out there. The whole reason I came to Ohio State was because of my dad, who is my coach, who obviously has quite a record. He's a three-time Olympic gold medalist, two-time world [all-around] champion and the list goes on. Obviously because of the history of the program. It produces a lot of national team athletes, you know there's Paul and Morgan [Hamm], there's Raj [Bhavsar].

"But the main goal going into the collegiate program wasn't just to stay in college. I want to progress as well and compete nationally and internationally. While I was here at Ohio State I enjoyed the guys and having my dad as a coach, but the 'left for personal reasons' had nothing to do with my dad or the team. With that being said there is just unresolved issues that kept going on. There's details I'd rather not mention because I'm just trying to get ready for Winter Cup and have a safe place to practice."

Avery said Alexy can continue to train at the team's practice facility, Steelwood Athletic Training Facility, as part of the OSU Boys club in the evenings.

"The college has no problem with him training with the OSU Boys team or any other club in the country as that does not affect our team," Avery said. "We have a good team and we have guys that want to be here and compete hard for Ohio State."

Bilozertchev won gold medals in the all-around and pommel horse at the 2007 Visa [U.S.] Championships in San Jose, Calif. He won five medals at the 2007 Junior Pan American Championships in Guatemala.

At the 2008 U.S. Championships in Houston, he competed in the senior ranks, finishing 15th all-around, and 10th on pommel horse and vault. He missed the cut for the U.S. Olympic Trials, but was named to the U.S. junior national team for the third consecutive year.

Bilozertchev's experience in 2008 cemented his long-term aim for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, he said.

"It didn't really click until after [the championships] that I am not too far away from these guys," said Bilozertchev, who turns 19 in March. "Just realizing how close I really actually was to going maybe to Olympic Trials, that opened up a new way of thinking. Definitely 2012 is one of my main goals."

In the short term, Bilozertchev said he is focused on the upcoming Winter Cup in Las Vegas, where he hopes to make the senior national team. He will compete in a separate session than his former OSU teammates so his father can coach both without conflict, Avery said.

"We think that we have it worked out," he said. "With the help also of USAG it can all work out. Like Winter Cup, they put all of our guys in one session and then Alexy in another session — no problem. We have to make it work and we will."

Bilozertchev said he is unsure if he will transfer to another university or become a professional by accepting sponsorship and prize money. Either way he plans to finish his education, he said, while accepting as many international assignments as he can.

"I'm not dropping out — I'm just going to school and training on my own," he said. "I want people to know that [my departure] had nothing to do with the team, or my dad. I wish the guys the best of luck with their goals and this upcoming season."


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