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Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 27 November 2009 22:09    PDF Print
IG in Central Europe; Day 5: Slovenia
(6 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)


IG's road trip in Central Europe this week continues in Ljubljana, Slovenia, where John Crumlish sat down with world champions Mitja Petkovsek and Aljaz Pegan to discuss their future plans.

IG's road trip in Central Europe this week continues in Ljubljana, Slovenia, where John Crumlish sat down with world champions Mitja Petkovsek and Aljaz Pegan to discuss their future plans.

Petkovsek, 32, and Pegan, 35, said they would like to continue challenging for international honors, despite their age and recent disappointments.

"Every major competition — world championship, European championship and World Cup — is something special, and I try to be the best there," said Pegan, the 2005 world champion on high bar who did not qualify for the 2008 Olympics. "It is not easy, but that is the goal I want to achieve at every competition."

Petkovsek, who placed first on parallel bars at the 2005 Worlds and tied for first place on parallel bars at the 2007 Worlds, said he is looking forward to 2010. He finished first on his specialty in the final standings of the 2009 World Cup, despite being bothered by a back injury throughout the season.

"I still feel worthy, and try my best and await what happens," Petkovsek said.

Read much more on Pegan and Petkovsek — including their thoughts on their age, rivals and unique pursuits outside the gym — in an upcoming issue of International Gymnast magazine.

Read an in-depth report on John Crumlish s Central European road trip in the January February 2010 issue of International Gymnast magazine.

 
Written by John Crumlish    Thursday, 26 November 2009 20:39    PDF Print
IG Road Trip, Part 4: Graz, Austria
(6 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)


IG's road trip in Central Europe this week continued Thursday in Graz, Austria, where John Crumlish caught up with former Austrian champion Carina Hasenöhrl

IG's road trip in Central Europe this week continued Thursday in Graz, Austria, where John Crumlish caught up with former Austrian champion Carina Hasenöhrl.

Having trained for three years at the Romanian national team training center in Deva to help prepare her for the 2008 Olympics, Hasenöhrl said she is eagerly adjusting to a new phase of her life since an injury-induced retirement.

The 21-year-old Hasenöhrl is in her third year of university studies in Graz, and she already has her sights set on post-graduate studies. She is also a member of Dance Connection, a group that performs in shows and competitions. Two weeks ago Dance Connection performed in the finale at the Festival of Horses in Vienna, where they shared the spotlight with equine performers. (To view the performance, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSG-6nxMQgs.)

Relaxing over a cappuccino in a cafe along Graz's cobblestoned streets, Hasenöhrl said she has gradually reconciled the unplanned end of her gymnastics career.

She spent the last three years of her training in the Netherlands, where she suffered a serious neck injury when she landed on her head performing a double front somersault on floor exercise in training. Hasenöhrl, who attended last month's world championships in London, said seeing Colombian gymnast Jessica Gil fall the same way on the same skill in London brought back eerie memories, although Gil was not seriously injured.

Following months of rehabilitation during which Hasenöhrl wore a halo brace to stabilize her head and neck, she returned to gymnastics. She decided to retire after she tore her right anterior cruciate ligament on the dismount of her first event (balance beam) at her comeback competition.

Hasenöhrl said moving on with her life compelled her to adapt quickly to the social maturity level of her university peers.

"When I got to Graz, my mom told me, 'Do not be scared of what is going to happen because you have the social development of a 14 year old,'" Hasenöhrl said with a laugh. "She was so right! I have caught up in the last two years, especially when my friends are talking like, 'Did you see that movie?' or 'Did you see that band?' I was always like, 'No.'

"I have been able to meet some really nice people here. We have organized some evenings where they just sit me down in front of the TV and say, 'You are going to watch this movie or You are going to listen to this CD.' I was so lucky to be around those people. They helped me through a hard time, and helped me to catch up."

Coming in the January/February 2010 issue of International Gymnast magazine, IG's in-depth report on John Crumlish's Central European road trip will include more on Hasenöhrl — including the new perspective she gained on Deva after visiting last year, her struggles to reconcile with her unfulfilled gymnastics potential and her plans to ultimately make a difference in society.

Next stop on IG's Central European road trip: Ljubljana, Slovenia!

 
Written by John Crumlish    Wednesday, 25 November 2009 23:16    PDF Print
IG Road Trip Continues in Bratislava
(7 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)


IG's on-the-road reports from Central Europe this week continue from Bratislava, Slovakia, where John Crumlish spent the day exploring the capital city with gymnastics historian, lecturer and archivist Anton Gajdos.

IG's on-the-road reports from Central Europe this week continue from Bratislava, Slovakia, where John Crumlish spent the day exploring the capital city with gymnastics historian, lecturer and archivist Anton Gajdos.

At 69, Gajdos told IG he is as ambitious as ever in gathering and collecting gymnastics literature, reference material, rare photos and other memorabilia.

A 50-year resident of Bratislava, Gajdos is a popular figure in this city abundant with pastel-hued squares lined with baroque former mansions, and dominated by its 800-years old castle that sits high above the banks of the Danube. Gajdos has written a dozen or so books on gymnastics, and has served as a visiting professor of sports in countries ranging from the U.S. to Iraq. His personal memorabilia collection includes autographs, photos, video footage, programs and other souvenirs encompassing over 100 years of gymnastics history.

Gajdos, who will celebrate his 70th birthday next June 1, told IG he thinks current competitors and their fans can learn a lot by familiarizing themselves with gymnastics greats of the past, most of whom have contributed to his collection. He made his latest additions to his collection during meetings with leading gymnasts at last month's world championships in London.

"I think it's good to have a connection with the new generation, but I feelthe old generation did a good job, too," said Gajdos, who also coached and judged at the international level. "The new generation must know the way for them to achieve big results at the Olympic Games and world championships, by knowing about the gymnasts who came before them."

Read more about Gajdos' work — including his home visits with some of history's greatest gymnasts, his latest publishing projects and the mementos that mean the most to him — in an in-depth report from IG's Central European road trip, coming in the January/February 2010 of International Gymnast magazine.

Next stop: Graz, Austria, where IG catches up with a Romanian-trained former Olympic hopeful who is now pursuing new goals, after a pair of serious injuries ended her competitive career.

 
Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 24 November 2009 23:32    PDF Print
IG in Europe: Part Two
(10 votes, average 4.10 out of 5)

IG's on-the-road coverage from Central Europe this week continues in Györ, Hungary, where John Crumlish met Tuesday with 1988 Olympic gymnastics gold medalist Zsolt Borkai. Currently serving his first term as mayor of his hometown, Borkai told IG he is enjoying his new career in public office.


1988 Olympic gold medalist Zsolt Borkai is now mayor of the Hungarian town of Györ.

Borkai, who finished first in a three-way tie on pommel horse at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, said representing Györ in official capacity was a natural decision.

"I was born here and got a lot from the city, and I wanted to give something back to the city," Borkai said, relaxing for a few minutes in his office at Györ's stately Town Hall. "It was my family, friends and all the people I know who motivated me to stay here. I spent several years in Budapest and Germany, but it was always obvious that I would return to my beloved city because of the connections I have here."

Györ, which was first inhabited by the Celts in the fifth century B.C., is Hungary's sixth-largest city. It is renowned as a center for international business, the arts and higher education, as well as for its historical squares, cathedrals and baroque architecture.

Borkai said public office presents challenges - some familiar and some completely different from those he faced as a gymnast. Read a profile on Borkai - in which he discusses those challenges, his efforts to provide opportunities to the next generation of Hungarian athletes, and how he rates himself against current Hungarian pommel-horse star Krisztian Berki - in the January/February 2010 issue of International Gymnast magazine.

Check back here on IG Online on Wednesday, when John Crumlish will report from Bratislava, Slovakia - and a visit there with a leading gymnastics author, historian and archivist.

 
Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 24 November 2009 07:32    PDF Print
IG Hits the Road in Europe
(14 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)


On Monday, IG's John Crumlish visited Brno, Czech Republic, where two-time Olympian Jana Komrskova spoke of her recent World Cup successes and her plans for the rest of the current Olympic cycle.

On Monday, IG’s John Crumlish visited Brno, Czech Republic, where two-time Olympian Jana Komrskova (pictured) spoke of her recent World Cup successes and her plans for the rest of the current Olympic cycle.

Brno, the Czech Republic’s “second city” behind Prague, stands quietly and proudly as the capital of Moravia and a hub of history, culture and higher learning in its own right. Spilberk Castle, built high on the hills in the 13th century for the Habsburg royal family, lords over the town from the west side. The neo-Gothic Church of St. Peter and Paul juts above town from the south side.

Brno’s 800-year history boasts a rich sports tradition, including gymnastics. Several gymnasts who have represented the former Czechoslovakia or the current Czech Republic hail from Brno, and the Sokol Brno I club serves as the home gym for the current Czech women’s team. Sokol Brno’s recent standout gymnasts include two-time Olympian Jana Komrskova, 2008 Olympian Kristyna Palesova (who is recovering from a knee injury) and World Cup medalist Jana Sikulova.

Komrskova, the most successful Czech gymnast in recent history, competed at the Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 Olympic Games. She retired before the Beijing 2008 Games, and subsequently came out of retirement to place first on vault at two World Cup meets this fall: the World Cup of Osijek, Croatia, and the DTB Cup in Stuttgart.

Komrskova told IG on Tuesday that is glad to be competing again at the international level, and that her success in 2010 might help dictate her plans for the London 2012 Games.

“I wanted to finish forever, and now I’m back,” Komrskova said during a pre-workout break at the club’s restaurant. “I can’t say I want to go to London or I don’t want to go to London, but I really want next season to show what I can do. If it’s good I will stay, and if it’s bad I will leave. I never wanted to stay in gymnastics and be an old gymnast (about whom) people would say, ‘Oh, it’s not good like before. She should finish.’”

Although Komrskova excels on balance beam and has earned a berth in the all-around final at the Olympics and world championships, she has achieved her best results on vault.

Komrskova said she was pleasantly surprised that she won vault in Osijek and Stuttgart, using an easier version of the first of her two vaults. She performed a round-off, half-on, tucked front-half, instead of the piked version she customarily performs. Komrskova said she originally planned to perform the tucked version in qualifications at Osijek only, to secure a place in the finals.

“When I do it tucked, they give me 14.1 or 14.2, which I saw in qualifications,” Komrskova said. “I told my coach, ‘I don’t understand why they give me more for this easier vault, so I’ll do it in the final, too.’”

After Komrskova won the gold medal in Stuttgart, she asked a judge why her tucked version outscored her piked one.

“I told her, ‘I think with the new rule it’s better to do it tuck rather than piked, because they give me more deductions,” Komrskova said. “(The judge) said, ‘You’re probably right, because when you do it piked, we have more chance to make deductions. But when you do it tucked, you do it perfectly and you don’t give us a chance to give you a low score. I thought, ‘It sounds stupid, but I’ll do it and it will work.’ For next year, I don’t know if it would work, but I’ll do my pike.”

Komrskova said replacing her current second vault (full-twisting Yurchenko) with a more difficult one is a matter of safety, but she has successfully experimented with a tucked rudi and a double-twisting Yurchenko in her gym’s podium vault set-up. She said she is wary of performing them on the gym’s hard-surface vaulting table, however, since its runway has an undetectable incline and is too close to the wall for her comfort.

“The podium has a soft runway, and everything is very empowering and easy for me,” Komrskova said. “But on the hard surface, here and no matter where the competition is, I have a problem running faster and being more prepared. I’m scared – not to do the actual (harder) vault, but for my body. If I hurt myself, it will be the end of my gymnastics, because I can’t imagine being off a year recovering. I don’t want to hurt myself, and that’s why I do these vaults.”

Nevertheless, Komrskova said the positive comments she received at both meets, as well as at the world championships in London in October, inspired her for the coming year.

“I saw so many old friends and coaches, and they were like, ‘You still look good, you’re in great shape,’” Komrskova said. “That’s fine. That’s what makes me feel I will continue.”

Check back here on IG Online for more from the road in Central Europe – including a visit Tuesday with a former Olympic champion who’s now mayor of his Hungarian hometown. And, read an in-depth report of John Crumlish’s Central European travels in the January/February 2010 issue of International Gymnast magazine.

 


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