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Written by Amanda Turner    Friday, 22 May 2009 17:48    PDF Print
Retiring Shewfelt Looks to Leadership Role
(60 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

With his competitive days behind him, Olympic gold medalist Kyle Shewfelt (Canada) is reflecting on his phenomenal career while seeking out new opportunities to promote gymnastics.

Kyle Shewfelt (Canada) waves after his gold medal-winning performance on floor exercise at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens

The three-time Olympian, 27, officially announced his retirement Thursday, drawing to a close the career of Canada's most successful gymnast of all time.

"I just knew it was time, both physically and psychologically," Shewfelt told IG of hanging up his grips. "I have accomplished everything I ever wanted to as a gymnast. I got to live my dream. I have always been very passionate about my goals and I really struggled to find competitive goals that were meaningful to me since Beijing. I don't want to be the kind of athlete who hangs on because they are scared to let go. I am excited about my future and I am ready to start creating it."

Twenty-one years ago, a 6-year-old Shewfelt began the sport at the Altadore Gymnastics Club in Calgary with coach Kelly Manjak.

Shewfelt dreamed of being an Olympic champion one day, a long shot for a Canadian gymnast. In 2000, Canada qualified two male gymnasts to the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, but the Canadian Olympic Committee balked at sending athletes it felt had no chance of medals. In order to prove himself, Shewfelt competed in a series of international competitions before his silver medal on floor exercise at the 2000 Glasgow Grand Prix cemented his Olympic berth. In Sydney, he didn't reach any finals, but became the first male gymnast to compete a 2 1/2-twisting Yurchenko vault.

Shewfelt won bronze medals on floor exercise and vault at the 2003 World Championships in Anaheim. The next year he won Canada's only Olympic medal in artistic gymnastics to date — the gold on floor exercise at the Olympic Games in Athens.

At the 2006 Worlds, Shewfelt helped Canada place fifth in qualification, an all-time high, and won another bronze medal on floor exercise in the finals.

A year later, Shewfelt suffered a nearly career-ending injury days before the 2007 World Championships began in Stuttgart. A stiff landing on floor exercise left him with displaced fractures in both legs, as well as a chipped bone on his left knee and a stretched ligament.

Shewfelt underwent surgery within weeks. Doctors inserted a plate and screws and reattached ligaments in his left knee, and inserted a screw in his right knee. Through his blog, he invited fans to share his journey as he struggled with the painful recovery and against the clock to compete in the 2008 Olympics. He fought back to make his third Olympic team, and in Beijing finished .075 from qualifying for the floor exercise final.

That he made it to the floor in Beijing was victory in itself, he said. As with his first Olympics in Sydney, Shewfelt's achievement mirrored the Olympic creed, which reads, "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle."

Shewfelt hopes his dedication will be remembered alongside his medals.

"I want gymnastics fans to remember me as someone who was passionate and determined," he said. "I hope everyone could tell how much I loved the sport. I paid attention to the small details and I always felt that those made the big difference. I tried to be unique, creative and do something that would make me stand out. I feel like the impression you leave on people speaks much louder than any accomplishment ever does, and I hope that gymnastics fans remember me as someone who was approachable, genuine and kind."

A training accident left Shewfelt in a wheelchair (at a press conference after surgery), months before the 2008 Olympics

As much inspiration as Shewfelt created on the mats, he now hopes to continue spreading via new roles. He is becoming an ambassador of the sport for Gymnastics Canada, to help promote and grow the sport in Canada.

"I am very excited about helping the next generation of Canadian gymnasts reach their highest potential," he said.

A passionate competitor on the floor, Shewfelt has also been known for being outspoken off of it, voicing criticism of judging, rules of media. Days after his golden victory on floor exercise in Athens, many — including Shewfelt — felt he was unjustly denied the bronze medal on vault.

Shewfelt was also a critic of the open-ended Code of Points that was introduced in 2006, which required more difficulty of the gymnasts.

Shewfelt may seek a position with the International Gymnastics Federation in order to bring change to the sport, he said.

"I have definitely considered becoming more involved in the FIG," he said. "I believe that some major changes need to take place within the organization and that the direction that gymnastics is heading in needs to be re-evaluated. It is becoming extreme gymnastics, not artistic gymnastics. It is very difficult to maintain the high level of gymnastics that is required with today's rules and I believe that the athletes and coaches need more say in its evolution. I sometimes feel like the FIG is playing a game of catch up and creating rules that do not entirely consider the athletes' best interests. It will be very interesting to see how the changes in the code are received and how many athletes can demonstrate artistry while performing the high level of difficulty that is required today.

"I would love to be an advocate for change and a voice for the athletes. It would be a pleasure to help the sport evolve into something that everyone is comfortable and confident with."

With Canadian Championships coming up in June, Shewfelt posted the news of his retirement on his blog and held a press conference Thursday. Memories have been flooding back as he reflects on his career, he said.

"I remember the little boy that could flip for hours and desperately wanted to become an Olympic champion," he said. "I remember competing in my first Olympics and not being able to feel my legs because I was so nervous. I remember falling on my butt in semi-finals at Worlds in 2002 because I was so focused on the outcome that I forgot to focus on the routine. I remember the amazing sense of accomplishment that I felt when I won two bronze medals at Worlds in Anaheim and how excited our team was when we qualified to the 2004 Games. I remember literally staring into the face of my dream right before I stepped onto the floor in Athens. I remember the overwhelming feeling of pride I felt when I stood on the podium and looked at that medal for the first time. I remember how exciting it was to come home and share my Olympic experience with my country.

"I remember competing at the 2006 Worlds and the buzz that surrounded our team when we placed fifth in the qualification. I remember the instant when my legs buckled under me in Stuttgart and the cracking sound that climbed up my spine. I remember hearing that my legs were both broken. I remember feeling the fire instantly light up inside of me when I knew that I would do everything I could to be in Beijing. I remember standing at the end of the vault runway in Beijing, running down and sticking the best vault in my life. I remember the millisecond of questioning that I had before I jumped up on high bar [thinking] 'Will I catch my Def?' I remember the sense of relief and joy I felt when I ran off of the floor after I competed my floor routine in Beijing."

"I tried my best to be present in all of my experiences, and I think these are all memories that will last for my entire lifetime."

External Link:

Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 19 May 2009 21:42    PDF Print
Johnson Flips Away with 'Dancing' Trophy
(152 votes, average 4.78 out of 5)

By a winning margin of less than 1 percent, Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson and partner Mark Ballas danced away as season-eight champions of ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" Tuesday.

By a winning margin of less than 1 percent, Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson and partner Mark Ballas danced away as season-eight champions of ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" Tuesday.

"This has been the most amazing experience ever, and I've grown so much," a breathless Johnson said after the results were announced.

Johnson and Ballas earned the disco-ball trophy over actor Gilles Marini and partner Cheryl Burke, who finished second. Third were "The Bachelor" contestant Melissa Rycroft and partner Tony Dovolani.

Final results were based on the combined scores the three couples received from the judges on Monday's and Tuesday's shows (50 percent), and audience votes from Monday's show (50 percent).

"I tried really hard, and I feel I really peaked tonight," said Johnson, after she and Ballas danced the cha cha Tuesday for a perfect score of 30 points. "I had a great time, and I loved every second of it."

All three judges praised Johnson's precision and expressive development over the course of the 11-week competition.

Mark Ballas and Shawn Johnson, season-eight champions of "Dancing with the Stars"

"The longer you go, the stronger you get," judge Len Goodman said. "I've always been impressed with your technique and your precision. My problem has been lack of performance, but tonight you've come out."

Judge Bruno Tonioli teased Johnson about her gradual maturity throughout the season. "You're getting hotter by the day!" he said. "From cute to saucy and sexy. And your technique is always spot-on. Great!"

Carrie Ann Inaba, the third judge, said Johnson earned her place in the finals.

"I think we all underestimated you," Inaba said. "In the last three weeks you've just powered your way right to the top, and you deserve to be right where you are."

Marini, who before Tuesday's show noted the gymnast's "true competitive spirit," said Johnson and Ballas were worthy champions.

"I'm so happy for Shawn and Mark," Marini said. "They worked so hard and we love them so much."

Ballas, who partnered with Olympic figure skating champion Kristi Yamaguchi to win the trophy two seasons ago, praised Johnson's technical commitment and dancing skills.

"I definitely feel that Shawn has come a long away, from a little caterpillar to a beautiful butterfly," Ballas said. "I am so proud and honored to be her partner, and to take her this far."

At 17, Johnson is the youngest competitor in "Dancing with the Stars" history. She credited the show for giving her a new perspective on competition.

"I've grown up a lot since starting this show," Johnson said. "My whole life I've been a competitor. With this show, I've learned to be a partner."

External Link: Dancing with the Stars

Written by John Crumlish    Monday, 18 May 2009 21:49    PDF Print
Johnson Ties for Lead in 'Dancing' Finale
(112 votes, average 4.88 out of 5)

Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson and partner Mark Ballas tied for the highest combined judges' score in the finales of ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" Monday, and head into Tuesday's results show as co-favorites for the title.

"This is like my new gold medal," said Johnson after the couple's freestyle performance that earned a perfect score of 30 from the three judges. "The gold medal got me here, and this has really proved to me that I can do anything. When I started, I was afraid I'd make a fool of myself dancing."

Johnson and Ballas scored 28 out of 30 points for their first dance, the paso doble, which put them in third place among the three finalists. They were the only couple to score 30 points in the second dance, and finished the night in a tie for first place with actor Gilles Marini and partner Cheryl Burke, who also totaled 58 points.

Finishing third were "The Bachelor" contestant Melissa Rycroft and partner Tony Dovolani, who had 56 points.

Audiences could vote via telephone (Johnson and Ballas's line is 1-800-868-3409) until 30 minutes after the end of the show, and have until noon Eastern time on Tuesday to vote online.

This season's champions will be determined by audience votes (50 percent) and judges' scores (50 percent). The winners will be announced on Tuesday's results show, during which all three couples will perform dances that will count judges' scores only.

Johnson, the 2007 world all-around champion and 2008 Olympic balance beam gold medalist, said she and Ballas intentionally minimized her acrobatic skills for the finale.

"We tried to tone down the gymnastics, because I've learned so much dance, and I really want to show what I've learned and how far I've come," she said. "It's been a long journey to get this far in the competition. But now that I can see the finish line, I'm going to do whatever it takes to get there."

External Link: Dancing with the Stars

Written by Amanda Turner    Wednesday, 13 May 2009 22:50    PDF Print
Worlds Hosts Get Ready with Glasgow Grand Prix
(8 votes, average 4.88 out of 5)

British superstar Beth Tweddle, the recently crowned European uneven bars and floor exercise champion, headlines the Glasgow Grand Prix that begins Friday.

Beth Tweddle at the 2009 Europeans

Tweddle and four other British Olympians are among gymnasts from 24 countries scheduled for this weekend's Glasgow Grand Prix, five months before London plays host to the 2009 World Championships.

The annual Glasgow Grand Prix typically takes place in the fall, but was moved up this year to accommodate the world championships, scheduled for Oct. 13-18 at the O2 Arena in London.

The British men's lineup includes 2008 Olympic pommel horse bronze medalist Louis Smith and 2009 European all-around silver medalist Daniel Keatings. Both gymnasts are scheduled to compete pommel horse only at the Glasgow Grand Prix, part of the FIG World Cup series for individual events only.

Tweddle is scheduled to compete on uneven bars and floor exercise, the events she won at the European Championships held last month in Milan. Reigning British champion Becky Downie is in the lineup for vault, uneven bars and balance beam, and Olympic teammate Hannah Whelan plans to compete on beam and floor.

Other European, world and Olympic medalists scheduled for Glasgow include Diego Hypolito (Brazil), Anton Golotsutskov (Russia), Yuri van Gelder (Netherlands), Gabriela Dragoi (Romania), Krisztian Berki (Hungary), and Mitja Petkovsek and Aljaz Pegan (Slovenia).

A few top competitors expected in Glasgow withdrew, British Gymnastics spokesman Tim Peake said.

"As always there have been late changes — Sandra Izbasa (Romania) is out as are the Latvian and Ukrainian delegations," Peake told IG.

Swiss star Ariella Käslin, the 2009 European champion on vault, also withdrew after breaking her toe in practice.

The men's roster notably includes two gymnasts from North Korea, a nation which rarely competes in international events. The spectactular Ri Se Gwang is in the lineup for four events, including his specialties of floor exercise and vault. Ri, the 2006 Asian Games champion on vault, has competed a piked Dragulescu (double front-half) on the event.

London is also the site of the 2012 Olympics, while Glasgow will play host to the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

External Link: British Gymnastics

Glasgow Grand Prix: Men's Roster

Mario Gorosito
Juan Lompizano
Erazun Osvaldo Martinez
Mauro Martinez
Juan Sebastian Melchiori
Federico Molinari
Fabian Leimlehner
Marco Mayr
Jonas Toeback
Donna-Donny Truyens
Koen Van Damme
Barend Verbeke
Caio Americo Costa
Vitor Camargo
Diego Hypolito
Mosiah Rodrigues
Aleksandar Batinkov
Tomislav Markovic
Marijo Moznik
Robert Seligman
Jutto Kanerva
Timo Niemela
Olli Torkkel
Tomi Tuuha
Luke Folwell
Daniel Keatings
Daniel Purvis
Theo Seager
Louis Smith
Kristian Thomas
Dimitrios Markousis
Eleftherios Petrounias
Krisztian Berki
Vid Hidvegi
Eduard Gholub
Alexander Shatilov
Mohammed Abu Saleh
Ali Al-Asi
Jad Mazahreh
Yuri van Gelder
Jeffrey Wammes
Epke Zonderland
Adam Kierzkowski
Roman Kulesza
Marek Lyszczarz
Tiago Camacho
Gustavo Simoes
Kim Jin Hyok
Ri Se Gwang
Ovidiu Budoso
Cosmin Iancu
Alin Jivan
Cosmin Popescu
Anton Golotsutskov
Andrey Perevoznikov
Konstantin Pluzhnikov
Anatoly Vasilyev
Saso Bertoncelj
Ziga Britovsek
Saksida Gregor
Rok Klavora
Aljaz Pegan
Mitja Petkovsek
Samuel Piasecky
Wajdi Bouallegue
Regulo Carmona

Glasgow Grand Prix: Women's Roster

Khiuani Dias
Ana Claudia Silva
Jessica Gil
Nathalia Sanchez
Ana Maria Izurieta
Naomi Ruiz
Annika Urvikko
Becky Downie
Beth Tweddle
Hannah Whelan
Suzanne Harmes
Wyomi Masela
Sanne Wevers
Catarina Abrantes
Diana Chelaru
Gabriela Dragoi
Yulia Berger
Yekaterina Kurbatova
Anna Myzdrikova
Sasa Golob
Adela Sajn
Ariella Käslin
Lucia Tacchelli
Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 12 May 2009 23:08    PDF Print
Liddick: Aussies May Make 'Big Move This Year'
(53 votes, average 4.98 out of 5)

Following a recent training camp attended by four Olympians and other members of the Australian national team, coach Peggy Liddick told IG she has high hopes for her gymnasts at this fall's World Championships.

Dasha Joura (Australia)

"Since there is no team event at the World Championships this year, we have really taken an individual approach to the seniors from the Beijing squad," said Liddick, referring to the gymnasts who helped the Australian team place sixth at last summer's Olympic Games. "They all needed some time to regroup, let the 'niggles' heal and really get into their schooling that they all delayed."

Among the gymnasts who participated in the training camp, held April 12-18 in Canberra, were 2008 Olympians Dasha Joura, Lauren Mitchell, Georgia Bonora and Shona Morgan.

Liddick said she is encouraged that at least four of Australia's 2008 Olympians are continuing at the international level.

"I would like to think that they enjoyed their journey to Beijing and their experience at the Olympics, and that they still have a love of the sport," she said. "I know they all have goals that they want to achieve. I have taken the tack that these girls are adults now and they have been involved to a much greater extent in their next four-year plan. We are taking it slow. There is no hurry for them."

The other two competing members of the 2008 Olympic team — Olivia Vivian and Ashleigh Brennan — did not attend the camp. Vivian now competes for Oregon State University in the U.S., where Olympic team alternate Melanie Jones intends to enroll next season. Brennan is deciding her competitive future, Liddick said.

"Ashleigh is doing fitness training and has not officially retired yet," she said. "I am just not putting any pressure on her, giving her the space to make up her own mind."

Liddick said Joura, the most experienced member of the team, is healing from an ankle injury. Hampered by an ankle injury in Beijing, Joura is questionable for the World Championships that will take place Oct. 12-18 in London.

"Dasha is still rehabilitating her ankle and is making progress," Liddick said. "Only time will tell if she can be ready for October, but I will not rush her."

Lauren Mitchell at the 2008 World Cup Final in Madrid, where she won the gold on balance beam.

Among the younger gymnasts who attended the camp was 15-year-old Britt Greeley. Greeley placed second all-around to Emily Little at the 2008 Australian Junior Championships and 10th all-around in the junior competition at the 2008 Pacific Rim Championships in San Jose, Calif.

"Britt has been around an elite training environment since she was about 3 years old," Liddick said. "Her mother, Haedi, was an elite gymnast, and she has been on development squads that trained with Monette Russo, Stephanie Moorhouse and Karen Nguyen for the Athens Olympics, and with Ashleigh Brennan for the 2008 campaign, so she knows what it is all about and how to get there. It is nothing new for her."

Liddick said the Australian Championships in July should give her a good indication of which gymnasts will be candidates for Worlds.

"The girls who are ready and want to, will compete in London," Liddick said. "My expectations would be to only send gymnasts who have their routines up to a World Championships standard and those who can perform at that standard."

Although the April training camp included experienced gymnasts as well as emerging talent, Liddick said she would not single out any of them for success later this year.

"I am not going to make predictions at this time," Liddick said. "Each camp has been full of surprises and each gymnast is capable of making a big move this year, so I am looking forward to seeing what they present. I hope that they all present something exciting."

International Gymnast Magazine Related Features
"The Joy of Joura" - profile (March 2007)
Joura on cover (July/August 2006)
IG Interview: Lauren Mitchell (March 2008)
"National Pride" - Dennis profile (September 2007)
"Russo's World" - cover story (March 2006)
"Smooth Transition" - Russo interview (April 2004)
"More for Moorhouse" - profile (April 2003)

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