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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."

Written by John Crumlish    Monday, 12 January 2009 21:31    PDF Print
Herbst's Motivation High for 2009
(16 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Susann Herbst (Germany)

After almost making Germany's team to the 2008 Olympic Games, Susann Herbst told IG she is confident of her continued rise in 2009.

"I was very happy to be the second reserve on the Olympic team, because it was a big success for me," said Herbst, who turned 17 on Dec. 1. "My motivation is very high for 2009, because I came very far in 2008."

Herbst, who resides in Marbach, trains under coach Gabi Frehse at the Turn und Sportverein 1861 Chemnitz-Altendorf club in Chemnitz. She placed seventh all-around at the 2008 German Championships in June. The German women's team of Oksana Chusovitina, Katja Abel, Daria Bijak, Anja Brinker, Marie-Sophie Hindermann and Joeline Möbius finished 12th at the Olympics in Beijing in August.

Last fall, Herbst finished sixth on floor exercise at the Glasgow Grand Prix, a World Cup event in Scotland; and second on vault and third on uneven bars at the Toyota Cup in Japan.

Herbst said the German women have the potential to perform strongly at the 2009 World Championships, Oct. 13-18 in London. Five-time Olympian Chusovitina is recovering from a torn Achilles' tendon, and other team members are also working to regain top form.

"In spite of all the injuries, I believe the high discipline of the German team will serve us well in the World Championships," Herbst said.

A steady all-around gymnast, Herbst said she especially enjoys performing her uniquely choreographed floor exercise routine.

"It doesn't really express anything, but we try to put a spell on the audience," said Herbst, whose routine was designed by Ina Atachanova.

Herbst said she is eager to express herself throughout 2009.

"In the New Year I want to gain new experiences, and I never want to lose the joy of gymnastics," she said.

IG Magazine's coverage of the German women's team includes:
"Double Break" - Katja Abel profile (July/August 2006)
"It Was All Academic" - short Daria Bijak profile (January/February 2007)
"Breaking In" - short Anja Brinker profile (November 2007)
"On Good German Terms" - short Oksana Chusovitina profile (January/February 2007)
"Standing Out for Germany" - short Marie-Sophie Hindermann profile (November 2007)
"Möbius in Motion" - Joeline Moebius profile (April 2008)

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

Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 26 December 2008 19:37    PDF Print
First-Year Senior Rogers Faces 2009 with Confidence
(5 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Brittany Rogers (Canada)

Preparing for her official entry into the senior international ranks in 2009, Canadian gymnast Brittany Rogers says her win at this month's Elite Canada meet brought "a huge confidence boost" for the new year.

Rogers, technically a junior until 2009, placed first all-around in the senior division at Elite Canada, held Dec. 12-14 in Gatineau, Que. She finished 0.950 above silver medalist Sydney Sawa, a member of Canada's team at the 2007 World Championships. Third was fellow junior Charlotte Mackie, a clubmate at Omega Gymnastics Academy.

Rogers, who will turn 16 on June 8, said her Elite Canada victory was a pleasant surprise.

"My expectations for Elite Canada were to mainly go, have fun, and try and hit four for four, which was exactly what I did!" she said. "I also wanted to try and come in the top three in the all-around, and medal on a few apparatuses. Exceeding those goals was so exciting, and gave me a huge confidence boost."

Earlier this year, Rogers won two individual bronze medals at the Junior Pacific Rim Championships in San Jose, and placed sixth all-around at the Canadian Senior Championships. In 2007 she won the Canadian junior all-around title, and a team bronze medal at the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Rogers, who is coached by Vladimir and Svetlana Lashin at Omega in Coquitlam, B.C., said she is quickly adjusting to her new status in the senior division.

"Being the No. 1 senior in Canada is so overwhelming, because I never thought of myself being in that position," said Rogers, who also won individual titles on vault and balance beam at Elite Canada. "Now that I have that title, I feel so confident for the upcoming 2009 competitions."

In the new year, Rogers will be officially eligible for senior international events, including the World Championships that will take place in London in October. She said the new generation of Canadian talent is ready to join forces with more experienced gymnasts, such as Sawa and 2008 Olympian Nansy Damianova.

"The group of gymnasts moving towards the Canadian senior team is doing really well," Rogers said. "All of us have our own apparatuses that we can specialize on, as well as being strong in the all-around. So I think this gives Canada a great opportunity to do really strongly."

Rogers said her biggest goal for the new year is to qualify for the World Championships, but she has other plans, as well.

"Making the 2009 Worlds team has been my goal for a really long time, so I'm really excited to see what happens for that," she told IG this week. "For new skills, I might be adding a few more here and there, but I'll mainly be concentrating on getting my scores up. I added a few (skills) for Elite Canada which seemed to work well, so I will be mainly just focusing on cleaning up my routines."

After a busy competitive year at both the junior and senior levels, Rogers said she will take a few days off from training during the Christmas and New Year's holidays. She spent Christmas in Kelowna, north of Coquitlam, with her maternal grandparents.

"I love going up there, especially in winter," Rogers said. "They get so much snow which is so fun to sled down with my sister, and play with my dog who loves the snow. Then I am going to Vancouver Island to visit my dad's side of the family for a day trip, which is always fun. For New Year's, I will probably just spend it with friends and family."

IG Online Related Feature
Rogers Wins Senior Elite Canada (December 13, 2008)

International Gymnast Magazine Related Feature
"Shooting Star" - Rogers profile (July/August 2007)

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


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