Marta Pihan of Poland is busy preparing for two of the most significant events of her life: the Olympic Games in August and her wedding in September.
Pihan, who earned the Polish women's only berth for Beijing based on her performance at the 2007 World Championships, is engaged to men's team member Roman Kulesza. She wants to maintain the competitive standard she showed at the 2008 European Championships held in Clermont-Ferrand, France, in April.
"I had a good competition at the European Championships, and now I have this same preparation and am going strong," Pihan told IG this week.
No formal all-around contest took place at this year's Europeans in Clermont-Ferrand, where Pihan finished eighth among gymnasts who competed in all four events in the team preliminaries.
Earlier this year Pihan made three events finals at both the World Cup of Moscow and the World Cup of Maribor, Slovenia. She won her first World Cup circuit medal, a bronze on uneven bars, at Maribor. Pihan has already competed in China in 2008, finishing fifth on uneven bars at the World Cup in Tianjin.
Pihan said she hopes to qualify for the all-around and balance beam finals in Beijing.
"I'm always concentrating mostly on beam, but I am preparing new connections on bars and floor exercise, and a new vault," Pihan said. "I want to do my job as well as possible, because many people believe in me and are keeping their fingers crossed."
Born July 23, 1987, in Szczecin, Pihan began training at age 7. "My friend's mother was a coach, and she took me to my first training," she said. "It was fantastic and I stayed."
Pihan now trains in Zabrze, under head coach Mikalai Hradoukin, Andrei Yarcav (uneven bars) and Joanna Uracz-Kocur (balance beam).
A strong tumbler and expressive dancer, Pihan said she naturally prefers balance beam and floor exercise.
"When I began, I liked beam," she said. "When I was 5, I walked on a wet wood fence and I never fell. I like dance, and maybe that is why my floor exercise is good."
In World Championships all-around competition, Pihan finished 18th in 2005 (Melbourne); 47th in 2006 (Aarhus, Denmark); and 63rd in 2007 (Stuttgart).
In European Championships all-around competition, Pihan finished 23rd in 2004 (Amsterdam); and 20th in 2005 (Debrecen, Hungary).
Poland's sole female gymnastics competitor in the previous two Olympiads was Joanna Skowronska. She placed 60th all-around in preliminaries at the 2000 Olympics, but was injured in training at the 2004 Olympics and did not compete.
The most successful Polish female Olympian to date is Natalia Kot, who placed ninth all-around at the 1956 Melbourne Games.
The highest-ranking Polish female gymnast in the past 50 years of Olympic all-around competition is Anita Jokiel, who placed 18th all-around at the 1980 Moscow Games.
2007 world vault champion Leszek Blanik will be the only Polish male gymnast in Beijing. Blanik, the reigning world and European champion on vault, won the bronze medal on vault at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Pihan said she often speaks with Skowronska and Blanik about their experiences. "They don't have advice," she said. "We only talk about the Olympic Games."
Outside the gym, Pihan has several hobbies that help her relax.
"I observe the brand-new trends in fashion and make-up," she said. "I like shopping, clothes and cosmetics. Also I like music, dance and good food."
Pihan is currently devoting most of her time to her pre-Olympic training, and planning her Sept. 27 wedding to Kulesza. Kulesza was a finalist on high bar at the last three European Championships.
"I don't know when I will finish and what I will do after," she said of her post-Olympic agenda. "Now I think about Beijing mostly, and about my wedding."
IG Magazine Related Features
"Rebounding for Beijing" - Skowronska profile (July/August 2006)
"Pole Vaulter" - Blanik profile (February 2003)
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