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Written by Dwight Normile    Friday, 04 September 2009 11:02    PDF Print
Gymnastics Coach Tom Cook Mourned
(11 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Tom Cook, who owned the Atlanta School of Gymnastics in Tucker, Ga., died unexpectedly Tuesday. He was 66.

Tom Cook, who owned the Atlanta School of Gymnastics in Tucker, Ga., died unexpectedly Tuesday. He was 66.

"We're all getting over the initial shock of it all, because he was fine one day and gone the next," said Nathan Simmons, a coach at the gym for 25 years. "And he was in great shape for his age, so it's a little strange."

Cook had felt ill on Sunday night, and went to the hospital. After suffering two mild heart attacks, he died two days later.

Cook was born Aug. 6, 1943, in Waukegan, Ill. He competed for Southern Illinois University, where he remained to get his master's degree. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Georgia.

He and his wife, Bunny, started the Atlanta School of Gymnastics in the mid-1970s.

The gym's most prominent gymnasts included Kathy Johnson, a two-time medalist at the 1984 Olympics; Kristie Phillips, 1987 U.S. champion and 1987 world team member; and Kevin Davis, a 1988 Olympian.

When she was 15, Johnson lived with the Cooks to pursue her Olympic aspirations. Tom drove her to school in the morning, and Bunny picked her up in the afternoon and took her to the gym. Johnson did not make the 1976 Olympic team and eventually moved away to train at clubs in Louisiana and Chicago.

"Though I had great gymnastics success, it came with a lot of personal trauma," Johnson said. "My return to Atlanta was crucial, as Tom and Bunny picked up the pieces of a broken dream and nurtured me back into training," Johnson said. "Without them I would never have made my first Olympic team in 1980 or continued well into my twenties to competed at two subsequent world championships, and finally, the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. The depth of their commitment to and love for me sustained me through immeasurably difficult times, and in the end, gave me the happiest times of my career."

Said Simmons: "He was like a father to a lot of people."

A viewing will be held tonight (Sept. 4) from 6-8 p.m. and a memorial service Saturday, Sept. 5, at 2 p.m., both at Wages and Sons Funeral Home, 1031 Lawrenceville Highway, Lawrenceville, GA 30046.

External Link: Atlanta School of Gymnastics

Written by Dwight Normile    Monday, 31 August 2009 13:22    PDF Print
Liukin Withdraws from Worlds Contention
(29 votes, average 3.41 out of 5)

2008 Olympic champion Nastia Liukin (U.S.) announced that she will not be available for team selection to the 2009 World Gymnastics Championships, which will be held Oct. 13-18 in London.

2008 Olympic champion Nastia Liukin (U.S.) competes at the 2009 U.S. Championships

Liukin competed only on the balance beam at the recent Visa (U.S.) Championships in Dallas, but her two-day total on that apparatus ranked her only fourth.

"I have given a lot of thought to this since the 2009 Visa Championships," she said. "Getting back into the gym and competition has been a major goal for me this summer, and I have worked hard to balance my training and obligations. This past year has been wonderful and a whirlwind. With the selection process for worlds beginning next week, I realized I need to take some time to get myself where I need and want to be competitively."

Liukin, 19, said she would support her teammates as they vie for spots on the world team. She also said she isn't through with gymnastics completely.

"This is by no means a retirement," said Liukin, who had attended every training camp at the Karolyis' ranch since the 2008 Olympics. "I do want to take a little break right now."

For how long, Liukin could not say. Aside from professional obligations, she said she wanted to take a much-needed vacation, "hopefully on an island somewhere."

After discussing the decision with her parents over the weekend, Liukin said the hardest person to tell was national team coordinator Marta Karolyi, who is taking a vacation herself in Romania.

"I honestly didn't even know how to start the conversation," Liukin said. "I could tell that it was a little hard for her to take."

Considering her current physical state, Liukin said it would be better for other gymnasts to have an opportunity to compete. She also said that when she does compete, she wants to be able to challenge for the gold.

"I don't want to go out there and compete if I'm not 100 percent," she said.

Said Karolyi: "We appreciate her making a decision that is right for her, as well as putting the goals of her teammates ahead of her own."

Though she said the decision was very difficult, Liukin hinted that her future goals include more than just winning another world medal, which would set a new American record. (She and Shannon Miller are currently tied with nine.)

"The 2012 Olympics in London remain an important goal for me," she said. "I have more to accomplish in this sport."

Written by John Crumlish    Saturday, 29 August 2009 00:18    PDF Print
High Spirits for Ferrari, High Hopes for Galante
(28 votes, average 4.86 out of 5)

2006 world champion Vanessa Ferrari continues to make progress following surgery, and Italian teammate Paola Galante is on target for this fall's world gymnastics championships, coach Enrico Casella told IG this week.

Italy's Paola Galante

"Vanessa is now in a recovery period," said Casella of the 18-year-old Ferrari, who had surgery on her right foot and ankle June 10. "She is psychologically very good, but we cannot speak about a confidence level for competition yet. I am very happy with her work and her spirit."

Casella, who coaches Ferrari and Galante at his Brixia Gymnastics Club near Milan, said he is not sure if Ferrari will be ready for the 2009 World Gymnstics Championships that will take place Ocr. 13-18 in London.

"All will be decided at the last minute," Casella said. "We hope to definitely resolve Vanessa's problem, but she needs time to recover. Now she is training on bars and conditioning."

Casella said he is hopeful that Galante, 16, will be selected for the Italian team that will compete at worlds. Galante placed fifth all-around at the 2008 European Junior Championships in Clermont-Ferrand, and 24th all-around in qualifications at this spring's European Senior Championships in Milan.

"Paola is a very elegant girl and gymnast," Casella told IG. "She has recovered from a past injury to her right foot, but she lost a lot of time, so her acrobatic work has been affected by her long period of trouble."

Casella said Galante has potential for success at worlds, if she is named to the Italian team.

"In London, Paola can get very important experience, with the goal of the all-around final," Casella said.

At the 2009 Italian Championships, held in Meda in May, Ferrari and clubmate Erika Fasana placed first and second, while Galante finished fourth.

Casella said Ferrari and Galante have spent the summer training at Brixia with clubmates Fasana, Greta Carnessali and Elisa Meneghini.

The club also has a new coach, three-time Olympian and former Brixia gymnast Monica Bergamelli.

"Monica finished as an athlete in May, and started to coach with me in Brixia, of course," Casella said.

IG traveled to Brixia for an in-depth report on Brixia Gymnastics Club and a dual interview with Ferrari and Casella, both of which appear in the January/February 2009 issue of International Gymnast magazine. To subscribe to IG Magazine or order back issues, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Thursday, 27 August 2009 16:31    PDF Print
McNeill Sets Sights on World Medal
(16 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

U.S. parallel bars champion Tim McNeill told IG he is confident he can contend for a medal at the world gymnastics championships in October.

Tim McNeill (U.S.)

"I think I can offer a solid all-around performance with an emphasis on strong pommel horse and parallel bars routines," said the 23-year-old McNeill.

After placing second all-around and first on parallel bars at the Visa (U.S.) Championships earlier this month in Dallas, McNeill was named to the U.S. men's team to the 2009 World Gymnastics Championships, taking place Oct. 13-18 in London.

"If I do as well as I did at Visa Championships I will feel successful, even if I do not come home with a medal," he said.

A native of Falls Church, Va., McNeill won five individual NCAA titles while competing for the University of California-Berkeley from 2005-2008. In NCAA Championships competition, he placed first on pommel horse in 2006, 2007 and 2008; and first on parallel bars in 2007 and 2008.

McNeill, who still trains in Berkeley, said he "wasn't too surprised" by his second-place finish at the 2009 U.S. Championships, held Aug. 12-15 in Dallas. He placed 10th all-around at the 2008 U.S. Championships in Houston.

"I have always known that I was capable of doing that well," McNeill said. "But even though I wasn't surprised that I placed second, I was still completely elated that I did. The highlights of the whole experience would have to be hitting my pommel horse routine on the second day of competition and sticking my last skill of the meet, my high bar dismount."

Although McNeill has not competed much internationally, he said steady performances such as those in Dallas could benefit him in London.

"Remaining consistent is the most important thing to me right now," he told IG. "With that being said, I do think that I have a shot at a medal on pommel horse. My Start Value is competitive with the rest of the world, and I think it is going to come down to whoever hits. If I advance to the pommel horse finals, anything can happen, and I'm going to do everything I can to make sure I hit when the pressure is on."

Read complete coverage of the 2009 Visa Championships in the October 2009 issue of International Gymnast Magazine.

Tim McNeill is featured in the following issues of International Gymnast Magazine:
2009 Visa Championships coverage (October 2009)
2008 NCAA Championships report (June 2008)
2007 NCAA Championships report (May 2007)
2006 NCAA Championships report (May 2006)

To subscribe to IG Magazine or order back issues, click here.

Written by Amanda Turner    Tuesday, 25 August 2009 22:19    PDF Print
Li Ya Files Suit After Burning Accident
(8 votes, average 4.75 out of 5)

2004 Chinese Olympian Li Ya is suing a Beijing restaurant for millions after an accident left her severely burned, Chinese media reported Tuesday.

Li Ya (China) at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens

The 21-year-old Li filed suit this week against the restaurant, asking for 26 million yuan ($3.8 million) in damages after a waiter dropped a pot of of soup on her June 29, scalding her legs and right side.

"Over almost two months, the wound basically healed, but the scar is very obvious — I have no way of wearing shorts," Li said. "The injury not only affected my life, but also endangered my financial prospects. Therefore I request compensation from the restaurant for medical costs, lost income and mental anguish totaling 26 million yuan."

Now a student at Beijing University of Physical Education, Li is also pursuing a career in performing arts.

"During the recuperation I had to turn down tapings of two shows for CCTV," she said. "Next month I will be going abroad to perform in a musical, but the scars will definitely affect the performance."

Li was a member of China's gold medal-winning team at the 2006 World Gymnastics Championships in Aarhus. From 2004 to 2007, she won five World Cup titles on uneven bars, and won the 2006 World Cup Final title on balance beam.

Injuries cut short Li's chances of competing at the 2008 Olympics, and she retired early in 2008. She nevertheless contributed to China's success in Beijing: Compatriot He Kexin used Li's spectacular combination of Jaeger-half to straddled front flip to win the uneven bars gold medal and help China win the team title.

External Link: Chinese Gymnastics Association


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