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Written by John Crumlish    Monday, 02 August 2010 14:17    PDF Print
Orozco Takes Current SI Spotlight in Stride
(9 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Featured in this week's Sports Illustrated as one of "quite simply the sweetest 16 young athletes out there," U.S. gymnast John Orozco told IG that the three-hour photo shoot for one of sports' most reputable publications made him proud and excited.

The 17-year-old Orozco is the only gymnast included in the portfolio titled "Where Will They Be?" that appears in the Aug. 2-9 issue of SI. Orozco's two-page spread in the issue includes a column-long article and a large color photo of him sitting with his legs through the still rings.

Instead of a typical action photo, Orozco said SI photographer Al Tielemans decided on the casual photo on rings after coach Jason Hebert suggested that Orozco take a break during the shoot.

"I was up on the rings holding positions for so long that he knew I was tired," Orozco said. "So he jokingly said, 'Just sit in the rings and rest for a little bit.' The photographer thought it was great and started taking pictures."

Orozco said he enjoyed the shoot, which took place at his regular training facility, World Cup Gymnastics in Chappaqua, N.Y.

"The photo shoot was very convenient for me, since it didn't really cut into my training schedule at all," he said. "It took about three hours, so it actually ended before my workout was finished."

Orozco said training in his native New York gives him an advantage he would not have were he to relocate to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs or elsewhere.

"The best thing about training at home has been the support that I get from my family," said Orozco, whose Puerto Rican parents also were born in New York. "I know that, even if I am halfway around the world, I have my family's support no matter what. But nothing compares to having family right there with you by your side through thick and thin."

Orozco is now preparing for the Visa (U.S.) Championships that will take place Aug. 11-14 in Hartford. He placed first all-around and first on five of six events in the Junior 24-15 division at the 2009 Visa Championships. This spring, Orozco placed first all-around in the junior division at the Pacific Rim Championships in Melbourne.

Despite the exposure Orozco has gained through his coverage in the new issue of SI, he said his confidence level heading into the Visa Championships remains as steady as always.

"I am hoping to do the best that I can and have a 'hit' meet," Orozco told IG. "And, making the senior national team would be awesome. The SI feature doesn't influence my confidence level, though it was an honor and a privilege to represent our sport in such a prestigious magazine."

Written by Amanda Turner    Sunday, 01 August 2010 10:02    PDF Print
Chinese Turn Up the Heat for Fall Meets
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

The Chinese men ended their month-long training camp Saturday in Tianjin, where the gymnasts honed their skills for the upcoming national championships, world championships and Asian Games.

Chen Yibing at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing

Following the camp, team leaders announced China's plans to send an identical squad to both October's world championships in Rotterdam and November's Asian Games in Guangzhou.

"This lineup will be the most powerful in the country," head coach Huang Yubin told the Chinese media.

The team will be picked following the Chinese National Championships, Aug. 22-31 in Hunan.

The Chinese men, the reigning world and Olympic champions, sequestered their top talent during the month of July in Tianjin. There the team trained during a heat wave without the luxury of air conditioning. Team members described the training hall as a sauna, and said they could wring sweat out of their soaked clothes following workouts.

Chinese Sports Minister Liu Peng attended a practice meet Thursday before addressing the team, praising the gymnasts for their performance despite Tianjin's heat and humidity. He also reminded the gymnasts of China's phenomenal success in Beijing, where the gymnasts won seven of eight gold medals, four years after its fifth-place flop in Athens.

"Shame turned to courage," Liu said.

Liu reminded the gymnasts not to be arrogant of past success, because all the other teams will be starting fresh and hungry for gold in 2012.

"Now we stand on the same starting line with the other teams," he said.

2008 Olympic still rings champion Chen Yibing returned to training all six events. Chen was fourth all-around at the 2006 Worlds, before a foot injury led him to concentrate on pommel horse, rings and parallel bars. In Tianjin he found support from his girlfriend, 2008 Olympic trampoline champion He Wenna.

"This month we've been in contact by phone and text messages — she was very worried about me," said Chen, who turns 26 in December. "Now my greatest wish is that the two of us can participate in the Asian Games, and then both get a gold medal!"

2008 Olympic pommel horse champion Xiao Qin announced his intention to return for a third Olympics. Xiao skipped the 2009 Worlds in London, where compatriot Zhang Hongtao stepped up to win the world title Xiao had owned in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

"I'm really back," the 25-year-old Xiao said. "My goal is London 2012!"

Xiao, who took time off to attend Beijing's Tsinghua University, spent July doing physical conditioning to get back in shape.

Team manager Ye Zhennan said Xiao will have to earn his place again on the team.

"We are ready to afford every veteran the opportunity to come back, but the former Olympic champion is not equal to the future Olympic champion," Ye said.

External Link: Chinese Gymnastics Association

Written by Amanda Turner    Saturday, 31 July 2010 22:42    PDF Print
USOTC Gymnasts Prepare for Visa Championships
(6 votes, average 4.33 out of 5)

Gymnasts at the U.S. Olympic Training Center are in their final stage of preparation for the upcoming U.S. national championships in Connecticut. Wesley Haagensen (above) is pictured at the 2009 Worlds in London.

With the U.S. national championships starting Aug. 11, the gymnasts at the U.S. Olympic Training Center are in their final stage of preparation for the event in Hartford, Conn.

The gymnasts have shared their training in a video montage in what they hope will be the first in a series of behind-the-scenes clips of life at the USOTC in Colorado Springs. The video includes highlights from daily training and the U.S. championships qualifier, held at the USOTC in June.

Gymnast Alexy Bilozertchev said the goal of the video channel is to give more exposure to the sport of gymnastics.

"We wanted people to see the grind and what it takes to achieve the final project that everyone sees at the competitions," said Bilozertchev, the 2007 U.S. junior champion.

Four gymnasts training at the USOTC in Colorado Springs are preparing for the upcoming Visa (U.S.) Championships: 2008 Olympic team bronze medalist Joseph Hagerty, Bilozertchev, Andrew Elkind and 2009 world team member Wesley Haagensen. (USOTC gymnast Tim McNeill, seventh all-around at the 2009 Worlds, will miss the competition after the recent death of his father).

The USOTC houses training facilities for multiple Olympic sports, and serves as the national training center for men's gymnastics. Haagensen, an All-American for the University of Illinois, said living and training at the USOTC means fewer distractions for gymnasts.

"It's a stress-free environment of living, aside from the fact that you better be prepared to work out and train like a beast," Haagensen said. "We practice twice a day, about six to seven hours, except for Thursday and Saturday. Those days, we only have one practice, which is more of a refining and problem-solving day. There is one goal in my mind when training at the USOTC, and that is to be that absolute best. Everyone on our team puts in their work all day long, in and out of the gym, to become the best."

2008 Olympian Joseph Hagerty

Gymnasts at the USOTC train under Ukrainian-born Vitaly Marinitch and Russian-born Alexander Shchennikov. Marinitch, a member of the first-place Soviet team at the 1989 Worlds, has been named head coach for the U.S. team to the 2010 Worlds, to be held in October in Rotterdam.

"Our coaching staff wants it as bad as we do, and we follow the training plan to a T," Haagensen said. "I guess the best way to put it is, if you are good enough to live and train at the Olympic Training Center, then you're good enough to be an Olympian. It is our job to put in 110 percent to make this a reality, because that's what we are here to do."

Elkind, who is aiming for a top-six finish in Hartford, said life at the USOTC revolves around the individual's gymnastics goals.

"Everything you do is devoted to gymnastics, and the push to improve and achieve your goals ultimately comes from yourself," said Elkind, who competed for the University of Michigan. "Although it is less of a team environment, it is great to work with other individuals who have similar goals."

The senior men compete at the Visa Championships on Aug. 11 and 13, with both days' scores determining results for the all-around and individual events.

Haagensen said he hopes to nail all 12 routines in Hartford.

"I don't mean just make all of my routines though, I mean slam every set I do to the absolute best of my capabilities," he said. "Basically hit my routines like an animal. I have really been training hard every day, every turn, for this competition. I put in hours of mental and physical work, and I feel this is a goal that I can reach."

Haagensen was third all-around behind Jonathan Horton and McNeill at the 2009 Visa Championships in Dallas, and said he wants the title of U.S. senior national champion.

"All the greatest gymnast in this country, the legends, have at least one, and I'm hungry," he said. "I want it as well. Guys like Blaine Wilson, Paul Hamm, Jonathan Horton have all had their victory day at the Visa Championships, and it helped set the stage for them to make several world and Olympic teams to represent the United States. That is my main goal, to represent the United States on a world and Olympic level and prove to everyone what country is the best by bringing back a gold medal."

Prior to moving to the USOTC, Bilozertchev trained under his legendary father, Dmitry, the 1983 and 1987 world champion and 1988 Olympic gold medalist. The younger Bilozertchev said getting used to Marinitch and Shchennikov as his coaches was a "big transition" but beneficial to his training.

"I have gotten to know them as coaches and respect their coaching techniques to where I allow them to mold me as a gymnast," he said. "I have my full trust in them with helping me achieve greatness in this sport. I think here in a couple of years, you will see something very good, just makes sure you keep your eyes open for me!"

In the meantime, Bilozertchev hopes for positive response on the video channel.

"We for sure want to make more videos, especially before big competitions and events that we have going on," he said. "We feel that gymnastics is underrated and with evidence like this, more people will understand, appreciate and hopefully admire our sport on a different level."

External Link: USOTC Gymnasts Training Montage

Written by John Crumlish    Sunday, 18 July 2010 17:27    PDF Print
Liukin Enjoys a Day at 'The Office'
(31 votes, average 4.13 out of 5)

2008 Olympic all-around champion Nastia Liukin told IG that "The Office" star Brian Baumgartner was "hilarious" during their recent shoot at UCLA for an upcoming show.

In Los Angeles this week to host the UCLA Nastia Liukin Summer Gymnastics Camp, 2008 Olympic all-around champion Nastia Liukin told IG that "The Office" star Brian Baumgartner was "hilarious" during their recent shoot at UCLA for an upcoming show.

"Brian is a golfer on the show, so his therapist tells him to visit some athletes," said Liukin, taking a break before camp outside the UCLA's John Wooden Center on Saturday morning. "So he comes to the gym, and he doesn't know whom he's going to see. He walks in and sees me, and he's like, 'Oh my God, why am I seeing Nastia Liukin here?'"

Liukin, who recently played herself in an episode of ABC Family's gymnastics-themed drama "Make It or Break It," said Baumgartner's character remained befuddled as the scene continued.

"He's like, 'Do you know anything about golf?'" Liukin said. "And I'm like, 'No.' He asks, 'Have you ever played golf?' and I'm like 'No.' He's really confused. He came in here to try and train his mind on a different aspect of golf. All sports are somewhat related, and he comes to the gym for balance. The idea is that you can transfer golf to gymnastics."

The 20-year-old Liukin said she enjoyed working with Baumgartner, who plays accountant Kevin Malone on the hit NBC comedy.

"It was a lot of fun," Liukin told IG. "Brian was hilarious. I was teaching him how to do beam. I honestly don't watch much TV, but the other night I was watching 'The Office' and I saw him. I was like "Oh my gosh!' It was cool."

Liukin said she also enjoyed sharing her experiences with the 250 young gymnasts who participated in the UCLA camp.

"A lot of the camp was based on things I wanted to see, so we had a 'dream board' session." Liukin said. "I had a dream board before the Olympics, so I told my story about it and what I had on mine. We gave poster boards and markers to the girls. It was great seeing their dreams. Some of them are 6 years old, and they wrote 'Go to the Olympics!' One girl asked me, 'What color are the Olympic rings?' It's really cool to be able to teach these girls that you can have big dreams like that. I was one of them at one time, so it's really special to me."

Because Liukin will be in New York for the launch of her Nastia Liukin Supergirl fashion line, she will not be attending this coming weekend's Cover Girl Classic in Chicago, a qualifying meet for the Visa (U.S.) Championships. She plans to attend the Visa Championships in August in Hartford, as well as the world championships in October in Rotterdam. Liukin said she may be working in broadcasting at both events.

Read more from Nastia Liukin in an upcoming issue of International Gymnast Magazine.

Written by Amanda Turner    Thursday, 08 July 2010 02:09    PDF Print
Australian Nationals to Decide Fall Teams
(7 votes, average 4.00 out of 5)

Australia will pick its women's squads for October's big events following its national championships, held this week in Perth.

Georgia Bonora at the 2008 Olympics

The championships are serving as the trials for the back-to-back Commonwealth Games, Oct. 4-8 in Delhi, India, and the world championships, Oct. 16-24 in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Australia plans to send its top squads to both Delhi and Rotterdam despite the close proximity of the events, women's coach Peggy Liddick said. Five gymnasts will go to Delhi, with an additional three gymnasts to meet up with the group in Europe.

Australia is determined to defend its team title from the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, she said.

"We're going out to win the Commonwealth Games, and I'm going to put my best team out there," Liddick said.

2008 Olympians Georgia Bonora, Shona Morgan and Ashleigh Brennan are top contenders for the all-around crown in Perth. At the recent Victorian championships, Bonora topped Morgan, who recently signed with Stanford University.

Australian star Lauren Mitchell, a double silver medalist at the 2009 World Championships, will sit out the competition with a strained adductor. First-year senior Emily Little, a vault finalist at the Paris World Cup in March, is sidelined with an elbow injury. Both could still factor into the teams' lineups, Liddick said.

"With both Lauren and Emily not competing at the trials it's not ideal," she said. "However, I know the team works around them, and I know if they are physically able, they will be there in September. If I deem that their potential is better than the other girls who are vying for the spot, then that is the selection committee's prerogative."

The elite session begins Thursday, with the all-around to be decided Friday. The juniors also will take to the floor Thursday, and Liddick named Angela Donald and Georgia Rose-Brown of Melbourne and Emma Jane Nedov of Sydney as gymnasts to watch.

"It's all really exciting because these juniors are all eligible for the 2012 Olympics and will make their impact next year," Liddick said.

2008 Olympian Olivia Vivian, a sophomore at Oregon State University, won the Level 10 all-around title Wednesday in Perth.

External Link: Gymnastics Australia


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