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Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 03 March 2009 23:17    PDF Print
Johnson Ready to Waltz on 'Dancing' Premiere
(221 votes, average 4.81 out of 5)

Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson said she is enjoying the challenge of mastering the waltz for her "Dancing with the Stars" debut next week.

Shawn Johnson (U.S.) is one of 13 celebrity contestants on the eighth season of "Dancing with the Stars."

"Everything is tricky and, so far, nothing has been easy," she told IG this week.

Johnson said she and her partner on the show, professional dancer Mark Ballas, are eager to compete against 12 other celebrity couples on the season-eight premiere of "Dancing with the Stars" on ABC, March 9 at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT.

"There's nothing easy about it," said the 17-year-old Johnson of the waltz. "It's all been new and challenging to me, from the foot placements to the body posture, to dancing with a partner and dancing in heels."

Known for her powerful, quick style of gymnastics, Johnson said she is gradually easing into a new style of movement — with Ballas' support.

"It's been extremely hard, but Mark has been very patient and encouraging in teaching me how to move slow, elegant and smooth," said Johnson, who at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing won the gold medal on balance beam and silver medals with the U.S. team, in the all-around and on floor exercise.

Ballas' best advice, Johnson said, is "to let all of my gymnastics habits go and have confidence in learning a new way to move."  

In sixth season of "Dancing with the Stars," Ballas and partner Kristi Yamaguchi, the 1992 Olympic figure skating champion, danced to the championship trophy.

Johnson said she and Ballas have been able to maintain their focus and teamwork during their training which includes five hours of daily rehearsals, seven days per week.

"Mark's a professional, so both of us are used to working really hard, but we both like to have fun also," she said.

Johnson predicts she will have no problems with the physical endurance required for the duration of the show, which runs through May.

"Are you kidding?" Johnson joked. "I have 14 years of gymnastics under my belt!"

Although Johnson is accustomed to being scrutinized in her specialty of gymnastics, she said she welcomes feedback from the "Dancing with the Stars" judging panel, which includes dance experts Carrie-Anne Inaba, Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli. Johnson also wants the voting television audience to be entertained by her performances.

"I'm eager for constructive criticism, and any comments the judges have will be taken to heart," Johnson told IG. "As for the general public, I plan on just being myself, having fun and hoping they enjoy my performance."

External Link: "Dancing with the Stars" Official Site

Written by Amanda Turner    Tuesday, 03 March 2009 16:01    PDF Print
Grandi: Chinese Olympic Gymnasts 'Robots'
(137 votes, average 2.06 out of 5)

FIG President Bruno Grandi criticized the Chinese gymnastics team and said there was "strong circumstantial evidence" of age falsification at the 2008 Olympic Games.

Yang Yilin (China)

In an interview with German gymnastics magazine "Leon," Grandi said the members of the gold medal-winnning Chinese team in Beijing lacked aesthetic elegance.

"The Chinese gymnasts were robots," he said. "From a geometrical point of view the moves were very well done, but compare with the way [Nastia] Liukin performs a single movement with artistry. You can see how she continues to move through to the end point. The other is a perfect geometric figure. But a Code [of Points] will never be able to completely reflect aesthetic moment."

In Beijing, the Chinese women took its first ever Olympic gold medal in the team competition. He Kexin won the gold on uneven bars, and Yang Yilin won the bronze medal in the all-around and on uneven bars. Veteran Cheng Fei won bronze medals on vault and balance beam.

Grandi said it was conceivable that China had cheated in Beijing, alluding to the accusations that He and Yang were under the minimum age of 16.

"There was strong circumstantial evidence, certainly, but these investigations are not my job," said Grandi, in his fourth term as president of the International Gymnastics Federation. "I'm not the police or Interpol. If I find that there was cheating, then I can act."

After the Olympics concluded, the International Olympic Committee called for an independent investigation into China's six female artistic gymnasts and sought documentation of their birthdates. The IOC cleared the Chinese team after finding no evidence of age falsification.

"I had everything sent to the IOC and the IOC has carried out its investigations and the figures were the same," Grandi said. "The IOC gave us its findings, and we checked them and there was nothing. When people on the Internet find fake documents, you need to legally prove that these are fake, and that's not my job. I have to respect the documents that the Chinese government gives me. What else should I do - declare war on China?"

Written by Amanda Turner    Monday, 02 March 2009 17:09    PDF Print
Cucherat a First-Time Father
(5 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Three-time French Olympic gymnast Yann Cucherat welcomed a healthy baby daughter Monday morning.

Cucherat's wife, Blandine, delivered newcomer Angélina Cucherat at 2:40 a.m.

"Our little bundle and her mom are doing marvelously," the 29-year-old Cucherat told IG.

Cucherat was a finalist on parallel bars at the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games, and a high bar finalist at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. He won two medals at the 2005 World Championships in Melbourne.

In December, he tied for the gold medal on parallel bars at the World Cup Final in Madrid.

Next on Cucherat's agenda are the Tournament of Masters in Cottbus, Germany, later this month and the 2009 European Championships in April in Milan.

External Link: Yann Cucherat Online

Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 27 February 2009 23:47    PDF Print
Romanians Coach Contestants on Sunday's 'Amazing Race'
(26 votes, average 4.92 out of 5)

Gymnasts and coaches from Romania's Lia Manoliu Sports Complex in Bucharest will help contestants swing, turn and leap toward a $1 million prize in Sunday's episode of "The Amazing Race," airing on CBS at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

Contestant Amanda Blackedge must complete a series of gymnastics exercises at the Complexul Sportiv National Lia Manoliu in Bucharest, Romania, in order to receive the next clue, on "The Amazing Race."

Although several of the two-person teams in the Emmy Award-winning reality competition program have athletic backgrounds, their poise and dexterity will be put to a new test in Romania — on the balance beam, parallel bars and floor exercise. Team members, wearing competition attire in Romanian team colors, will need to successfully perform "routines" before they will be allowed to learn their next destination.

"They must go correct and not fall," explains Liliana Plisca, a coach at the club, on host Phil Keoghan's video diary that previews the episode.

Sunday's episode of the show will feature footage of "The Amazing Race" contestants training with Romanian coaches, as well as several young Romanian gymnasts practicing their own routines.

"They can walk on their hands and do unbelievable things," notes Keoghan in his video diary.

Now in its 14th season, "The Amazing Race" pits two-person teams against one another in a series of physical and mental challenges that take them on a 22-day trek around the world. Couples who are farthest behind are gradually eliminated, and the first team to arrive at the final destination will win $1 million.

Sunday's episode entitled "I'm Not Wearing That Girl's Leotard!" is the third episode of the season.

Third in the women's team competition at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Romania has a rich gymnastics tradition. Nadia Comaneci won the all-around title at the 1976 Olympics, and Simona Amanar placed first at the 2000 Games. The country has two world all-around champions in Aurelia Dobre (1987) and Maria Olaru (1999).

The Romanian women won the Olympic team title in 1984, 2000 and 2004; and the world team title in 1979, 1987, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1999 and 2001.

After watching the young Romanian gymnasts train during the show's taping. Keoghan asked Plisca if some of the complex's gymnasts might someday compete in the Olympic Games. "I hope so," Plisca said.

"Me, too," Keoghan replied. "I would love to say that I saw them here."

External Link: The Amazing Race

Written by Amanda Turner    Friday, 20 February 2009 14:50    PDF Print
Ukrainian Gymnastics Facing Financial Crisis
(12 votes, average 4.58 out of 5)

Ukraine's 2009 season is at risk due to a lack of funding, the president of the Ukrainian Gymnastics Federation announced Friday.

Budget cuts likely mean Ukraine's artistic and rhythmic gymnasts will be unable to participate in any World Cup events this year, president Viktor Korzh said during a press conference.

2008 World Cup Final gold medalist Alexander Vorobyov (Ukraine)

Ukraine's presence at the European Championships also is unsure, Korzh said.

The 2009 budget for Ukraine's Ministry of Family, Youth and Sports is 30 percent less than in 2008, directly affecting the funding for the Ukrainian Gymnastics Federation, Korzh said. The UGF's budget dropped from nearly $600,000 to approximately $350,000.

In 2008, Ukraine's artistic gymnasts won two medals at the European Championships, a bronze medal at the Olympic Games and a gold medal at the World Cup Final. Ukrainian rhythmic gymnastics was more competitive, culminating with Anna Bessonova's bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics.

"In those sports whose achievements are of the highest quality - winning the European Championships, a medal at the Olympic Games - it's not clear why the first to suffer is our support of Olympic artistic and rhythmic gymnastics," Korzh said.

Ukrainian gymnastics was dealt a blow in December when former women's head coach Oleg Ostapenko, who had been expected to return after eight years in Brazil, accepted the position of Russian junior coach.

Rhythmic coach Irina Deryugina, member of the Ukrainian Gymnastics Federation's executive committee, said the federation is broke.

"The gymnastics committee has no money for the month of March," she said. "Most athletes travel at their own expense or at the expense of their parents. You can already talk about canceling travel to the World Cups," she said.

Deryugina said there are problems with funding gymnastics and other sports schools in Kiev.

"It's not expensive. It will be more expensive when the children go outside and stay there," she said. "This is a direct challenge the city - to ensure our children's participation in sports. These (sports) schools really need the city."

Korzh said he is frustrated that gymnastics must share government funding with other sports such as ski jumping, where Ukraine has had little success.

"To understand the logic of the ministry is quite difficult. Gymnastics sports are now on the brink of extinction, and this species brings glory and respect to Ukraine," Korzh said.

The Ukrainian Gymnastics Federation has been at odds in recent months with former president Stella Zakharova over the funding for her annual Zakharova Cup, scheduled for March 7-8 in Kiev. Zakharova said her competition receives no funding from the Ukrainian Gymnastics Federation, while the federation insists the private and government funding the Zakharova Cup receives could instead go to other gymnastics competitions on its calendar.


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