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Written by John Crumlish    Monday, 22 December 2014 13:54    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Yordan Aleksandrov (Bulgaria)
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)



International Gymnast Online’s annual series of holiday-themed features continues with this interview with Bulgarian gymnast and University of California-Berkeley freshman Yordan Aleksandrov. Pictured: Aleksandrov, second from left, with the Bulgarian team at the 2014 European Championships in Sofia.

International Gymnast Online’s annual series of holiday-themed features continues with this interview with Bulgarian gymnast and University of California-Berkeley freshman Yordan Aleksandrov, who reflects on his international achievements of the past year, and reveals his goals for success at both the international and U.S. collegiate level in 2015.

Born August 20, 1995, in Bulgaria, Aleksandrov has been living in the U.S. since age 7 and holds dual citizenship. He enrolled at UC-Berkeley this fall, prior to which he trained under his coach and father, Dimitar Aleksandrov, at Novato Gymnastics in Northern California.

In 2013 Aleksandrov placed eighth all-around, first on high bar and second on parallel bars in the 17-18 age group at the U.S. Junior Olympic championships; and finished a credible 68th place all-around at the world championships in Antwerp, where he scored 72.864 points.

This spring Aleksandrov returned to his homeland to compete at the European championships in Sofia, where he score an impressive 79.031 point to finish 17th among the gymnasts who competed on all six apparatuses in qualifications. (No separate all-around competition took place in Sofia.) Shortly after beginning his freshman year at UC-B, where the competition season does not start until winter, Aleksandrov scored 75.630 points in all-around qualifications at the worlds in Nanning in October.


IG: Yordan, looking back on 2014, what was the most important or satisfying moment of your competitive year, and why?

YA: Looking back at my 2014 competitive year, I would say that the most satisfying thing that happened was qualifying to the 2015 European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan as a whole team. We were able to qualify to this first-ever prestigious event after we placed 16th at the European championships in Sofia.


Yordan Aleksandrov (Bulgaria)

I would sum up my performance at these particular European championships as one of my best international competitions so far in my career. This was only my second senior competition after making my senior debut at the 2013 world championships; however, I felt like I showed significant improvements in several apparatuses as well as the all-around. Although these European championships were a team event and not individual (all-around), I was able to place 17th in the all-around (in qualifications), which was a big step for me as an individual all-around gymnast.

I am extremely glad that I got the chance to compete in such a big international event in my home country because not every gymnast gets such an incredible opportunity. Competing in front of the home crowd in Sofia was something unbelievable that cannot be described in words. The atmosphere in the arena was so amazing, and I am extremely glad that my friends and family were able to watch and support me as well as the Bulgarian team.

IG: You had a big improvement between Antwerp and Sofia, improving by almost six points, and you made a similarly big scoring improvement between Antwerp and Nanning. What do you think helped you improve so much in just one year?

YA: Making my senior debut at the 2013 World Championships in Antwerp was an amazing experience. Having just come from the junior division where I competed at the 2011 European Youth Olympic Festival in Trabzon, Turkey, and the 2012 junior European championships in Montpellier, France, I felt like I lacked some experience. I really believe that my performance at the 2013 world championships gave me the necessary experience to perform even better at the 2014 European championships and the 2014 World Championships. Coming back from Antwerp, I was extremely motivated and determined to work harder, upgrade my routines and get stronger. After my good performance at the 2014 European championships, I came back home with the goal set in mind to make the 2014 worlds team.

Unfortunately, during my preparation for this event, I injured my back and was not able to do much gymnastics for a couple of weeks. Even though this injury slowed down my preparation, I never lost hope and always believed that I could get back in shape and continue training hard for Nanning. I was really happy to have come back from this injury and be amongst the best gymnasts in the world once again.

Although I did not have the best performance in Nanning, I was definitely able to show great progress. I had a rough start on the first two events, floor and pommel horse, but I was able to get back in the competition and perform four really good routines. In Nanning, I was able to get personal-best scores on vault, parallel bars and horizontal bar.

IG: This coming year you will have both international and Cal meets on your agenda. What is your plan for balancing your NCAA training and commitments with your international commitments, and the amount of training needed to best help Bulgaria?


Aleksandrov and his parents

YA: As of this year, I am really excited to have become a part of the Cal men's gymnastics team which has an incredible coaching staff, including head coach Brett McClure and assistant coach J.T. Okada, as well as a dynamic and supportive team. Going to UC Berkeley is a huge change for me both academically and athletically. For the past 10 years my father had been my coach and helped me get to the level at which I am today. Fortunately enough, none of the competitions on my NCAA calendar coincides with any international competitions.

My primary goal for this upcoming 2015 season is to help out my Cal team as much as possible and end the year as one of the top NCAA teams. With the well-organized and intense training plan here at Cal I believe that great successes are awaiting this team. As far as the preparation for international competitions in 2015, I hope to be in top shape, as the European championships are the week after NCAA championships.

IG: What are your goals for 2015, outside of the gym as well as in it?

YA: My goals out of the gym for the upcoming year include maintaining good grades in school as well as successfully finishing up my first year of college. In the gym my primary goal is to help out Cal get to the top six at the NCAA championships. After the collegiate season, I plan to go to the 2015 European championships as well as the first-ever European Games. In both of these competitions my main goal is to get the highest all-around score for my potential. My ultimate goal for 2015 is definitely the world championships (in Glasgow) where I will fight to earn a spot to the 2016 Olympic Games.

IG: What kind of Bulgarian traditions do you include in your holiday celebrations?

YA: Although I have been living in the U.S. since the age of 7, my family and I have not forgotten where we came from and have always kept the Bulgarian ways. In the house we speak only Bulgarian, my mom cooks only Bulgarian food, and we follow all Bulgarian traditions. As an Orthodox Christian family, we celebrate Christmas as well as Easter and other Bulgarian holidays. For Christmas and New Year's Eve my family and I will get together with some Bulgarian friends and make it feel like we are back in Bulgaria. It is a Bulgarian tradition to have lots of food, music and dance.

IG: What are your New Year’s resolutions?

YA: My New Year's resolutions for next year include staying healthy, having a successful NCAA season as well as international season, and finishing off my first year of college in the best way possible.

 
Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 09 December 2014 13:38    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Elsa Garcia (Mexico)
(5 votes, average 4.80 out of 5)



Mexican Olympian Elsa Garcia refers to her 21st-place all-around finish at the world championships in Nanning in October as "an actual comeback," and she is eager to continue her rejuvenation in the coming year.

Mexican Olympian Elsa Garcia refers to her 21st-place all-around finish at the world championships in Nanning in October as "an actual comeback," and she is eager to continue her rejuvenation in the coming next year.

Despite refraining from major competitions after she competed at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Garcia performed credibly in Nanning, where she also helped Mexico to place 14th in team standings and thereby qualify for the 2015 worlds in Glasgow. The top eight teams in Glasgow will qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro; an additional four teams will qualify for Rio at an Olympic test event to be held in early 2016.

The 24-year-old Garcia competed even more assertively at last month’s Central American and Caribbean Games in Veracruz, Mexico, where she placed second all-around, sixth on vault, fourth (tie) on uneven bars, seventh on balance beam and fifth on floor exercise. Garcia also led Mexico to the team title in Veracruz.

In this IG Online interview, Garcia evaluates her performances in Nanning and outlines her plans for the year ahead.


IG: Your all-around finish was a surprise for many people, because we have not seen you much in competition recently. How much of a surprise was it to you to make the all-around final?

EG: I went to Nanning with two goals in mind: qualifying the team to next year’s worlds and the all-around final. I refused to not be in that final. Of course it was kind of nerve-racking because I competed on the first day and there were many countries with excellent gymnasts left to compete the next day, and I wanted to know if I had made the final.


Elsa Garcia (Mexico) at the 2011 Worlds

IG: You had an excellent competition except for some problems on the bars in the all-around final. What do you think caused the mistakes on the bars?

EG: My mistakes on bars were part of me trying to be perfect-thinking about the whole routine instead of element by element. I wanted to do so perfectly the 1-1/2 pirouette-Jaeger that I didn't do it well at all. Then I was so concerned of losing points by the requirements that I got into an even bigger mess. I actually forgot to do a toe on-Tkatchev, and the deductions go on and on. At the end of the competition I was not particularly happy with my competition but reminded myself that these year's worlds have been my first international competition in a long time. I had been away from international competitions because, after London 2012, I started going to college and had to find time to do gymnastics at an elite level and go to school, and that kept me really busy in my hometown. So I take Nanning as an actual comeback, and it motivated me a lot for next year.

IG: Overall how close to totally healthy were you in Nanning?

EG: Actually I was pretty healthy at Nanning - only the normal training pain, but not injury pain.

IG: The Mexican team did very well, with you in the all-around final, Alexa Moreno in the vault final, and the team advancing to Glasgow. Now you will have an important year ahead, for yourself and your team. What will your strategy be for 2015, so you can be at your personal best and help your team even more?

EG: I think we reassured that Mexican gymnastics is still growing and that we want more, with those two finals and the team result. So for next year the first thing is that I will take a break from school, so that I can concentrate just on gymnastics and work on many upgrades in all the events. I want to give myself time to be ready and compete new skills totally ready. As a team we have to have more training camps because this team is a relatively new team, and if we want to be in the top 16 at worlds and fight for our team's place at the (2016 Olympic) test event we have to train as a team. We all have to be stronger physically and mentally and we have to make every training count, believe that we can, not leave it to fate and work, work, work.

International Gymnast Magazine features on Mexican gymnasts and coaches include:

Elsa García update (December 2013)
"On the Mend" – injury updates including Elsa García (April 2008)
Elsa García cover photo and interview (May 2007)
Elsa García profile (May 2006)
"A Life that Makes Sense to Me" – Daniel Corral profile (December 2013)
"Mexican Maestro" - Daniel Corral profile (November 2010)
Karla Salazar on cover photo collage (July/August 2010)
"10 Questions with Coach Antonio Barraza" – interview (April 2010)
"10 Questions with FIG Technical Committee Member Naomi Valenzo" – interview (September 2009)
"Catching up with... Tony Piñeda" (May 2009)
"Catching up with... Denisse Lopez" (April 2007)
"Mexican Revolution" – Denisse Lopez profile (February 2000)
"Mexican Evolution" - Brenda Magaña profile (November 2002)

To order back issues, or subscribe to the print and/or digital edition of International Gymnast magazine, click here.

 
Written by Amanda Turner    Sunday, 30 November 2014 12:43    PDF Print
Vernyayev Victorious At Stuttgart World Cup
(5 votes, average 4.20 out of 5)



Ukrainian star Oleg Vernyayev won the men's all-around title at the 2014 DTB World Cup, held Sunday in Stuttgart. Pictured: All-around medalists Sergio Sasaki (Brazil), Vernyayev and Donnell Whittenburg (USA)

Ukrainian star Oleg Vernyayev won the men's all-around title at the 2014 DTB World Cup, held Sunday in Stuttgart.

Vernyayev scored a convincing victory, winning the title with 91.731 over Brazil's Sergio Sasaki (90.565) and American Donnell Whittenburg (90.398).

Vernyayev took his low score (14.366) on floor exercise after bouncing out of a few passes (layout Thomas; double double step back; front double full, barani; Randi; 2 1/2, Rudi; triple twist). He had the top score on pommel horse (15.566) and earned 15.366 on still rings.

After taking one step on his excellent Dragulescu vault, he nailed a precise parallel bars routine with a stuck double front-half dismount for the highest score of the day, 16.233. He clinched the title with 15.000 on high bar.

Sasaki had the high score of the day on vault, 15.500, for his Dragulescu vault. Whittenburg was the top scorer on floor exercise (15.466) and still rings (15.366).

German star Fabian Hambüchen finished fourth all-around, with the best score on high bar (16.133).

World all-around bronze medalist Yusuke Tanaka finished fifth ahead of Russians Nikolai Kuksenkov and David Belyavsky. Another Japanese gymnast, Yusuke Saito, finished eighth.

In the women's DTB Team Challenge final, host Germany won the title over Russia and Switzerland. A club team from Stuttgart finished fourth.

World Cup competition continues Dec. 6 in Glasgow.

External Link: Official Website

2014 DTB World Cup
Nov. 30, Stuttgart

Men's All-AroundFXPHSRVTPBHBTotal
1.Oleg Vernyayev14.36615.56615.20015.36616.23315.00091.731
2.Sergio Sasaki15.30015.16614.80015.50014.96614.83390.565
3.Donnell Whittenburg15.46614.43315.36615.00015.53314.60090.398
4.Fabian Hambüchen15.23313.03314.63315.03314.96616.13389.031
5.Yusuke Tanaka15.16614.46614.83314.40015.63314.13388.631
6.Nikolai Kuksenkov15.10013.86614.83314.46615.03315.06688.364
7.David Belyavsky14.10014.93314.20014.86614.76614.43387.298
8.Yusuke Saito12.40013.60014.30014.56612.46614.03381.365

Women's Team FinalVTUBBBFXTotal
1. Germany28.96628.46628.56626.700112.698
Nadja Schulze13.33311.200
Michelle Timm14.2339.90012.00012.700
Pauline Schäfer14.73313.33314.60014.000
Sophie Scheder15.13313.966
2. Russia29.16628.13325.96627.566110.831
Polina Fyodorova13.60013.53313.13313.533
Yekaterina Kramarenko14.16614.60012.83313.433
Ksenia Afanasyeva15.00014.033
3. witzerland29.16628.13325.96627.566105.097
Jessica Diacci13.13312.10012.60012.833
Ilaria Käslin14.16612.00013.76613.600
Nicole Hitz13.266
Stefanie Siegenthaler12.56612.80012.533
4. Stuttgart26.56620.63221.40024.80093.398
Nicole Fritz10.366
Dorothee Henzler13.33310.06610.60012.600
Sarina Maier13.23310.26610.80012.200
 
Written by Amanda Turner    Saturday, 29 November 2014 17:43    PDF Print
Iordache Wins Stuttgart World Cup
(5 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)



Romania star Larisa Iordache won the women's all-around title at the DTB World Cup, held Saturday in Stuttgart. Pictured: All-around medalists Jessica Lopez (Venezuela), Iordache and Kim Bui (Germany)

Romania star Larisa Iordache won the women's all-around title at the DTB World Cup, held Saturday in Stuttgart.

Iordache, the all-around silver medalist from October's world championships, hit four strong events to take the title with 59.766. Two-time Venezuelan Olympian Jessica Lopez (57.799) was second over Stuttgart's own Kim Bui (56.665).

Iordache had her highest score, 15.533) on balance beam with a clean routine (ff tucked full; two-foot layout; RO ff triple twist). She clinched the title with 14.600 on floor exercise (tucked and piked full-ins; triple twist; double pike).

Lopez vaulted a double-twisting Yurchenko for 14.600, then earned the best score of the day on uneven bars, 14.833, for a pack routine (piked Tkatchev to Pak; Maloney uprise free hip pirouette; elgrip Jaeger; giant-full to Tkatchev to Gienger; elgrip to double front). After a few wobbles and checks on balance beam, she performed beautifully on floor exercise (whip; triple twist; 2 1/2 to front layout; double pike) to clinch second ahead of Bui.

Bui had her highest score of the day on uneven bars, showing tremendous amplitude (Maloney-half; toe-on full to Gienger; Jaeger; Pak salto; Maloney to bail; high full-twisting double). The 2012 Olympian ended strongly on floor exercise with a double layout; whip immediate double tuck; 2 1/2 to pike front and double pike.

Two-time Olympian Vanessa Ferrari (Italy) finished fourth, less than three tenths behind Bui. Olympic champion Aliya Mustafina (Russia) had an off day to place fifth. After a strong start on vault (15.000), Mustafina fell off uneven bars (cast handstand gone wrong) and balance beam (standing Arabian).

Another Russian gymnast, Alla Sosnitskaya, finished sixth ahead of Canadian Olympian Ellie Black and Germany's Lisa-Katharina Hill.

Following the World Cup event, the Japanese men claimed victory at the DTB Team Challenge.

Only third in qualification, Japan defeated the United States, Germany and Brazil to win the team final. The top four teams from Friday's qualification advanced to the final.

Competition continues Sunday with the men's World Cup event and the women's team final. The lineup for the men's World Cup features Sergio Sasaki (Brazil), Fabian Hambüchen (Germany), Yusuke Saito and Yusuke Tanaka (Japan), Nikolai Kuksenkov (Russia), Oleg Vernyayev (Ukraine) and Donnell Whittenburg (USA).

External Link: Official Website

2014 DTB World Cup
Nov. 29, Stuttgart

Women's All-AroundVTUBBBFXTotal
1.Larisa Iordache15.13314.70015.33314.60059.766
2.Jessica Lopez14.60014.83314.20014.16657.799
3.Kim Bui14.13314.60013.66614.26656.665
4.Vanessa Ferrari13.80013.93314.33314.36656.432
5.Aliya Mustafina15.00013.83313.60013.96656.399
6.Alla Sosnitskaya14.33314.00012.93314.10055.366
7.Ellie Black13.93313.73313.70013.83355.199
8.Lisa-Katharina Hill13.93314.96612.70013.26654.865

Men's TeamFXPHSRVTPBHBTotal
1. Japan44.15043.70044.05043.40043.60043.400177.100
Daisuke Suzuki14.55014.00014.10014.00014.600
Shohei Fujiwara14.25014.75014.80014.50014.350
Rikii Hoshino15.35014.50014.80014.800
Yoshiaki Furutani14.95014.75014.80014.450
2. United States43.80042.90030.15029.15043.20042.400176.550
Marvin Kimble14.10014.10014.75015.10014.500
Akash Modi14.45014.45014.75015.00014.150
C.J. Maestas15.25014.35015.40013.750
Robert Baker14.40013.100
3. Germany44.30042.50041.30043.50042.75044.250175.950
Philipp Herder14.80014.10012.35014.750
Helge Liebrich14.60014.05014.90014.300
Andreas Bretschneider14.90014.40014.25014.90015.150
Andreas Toba14.35014.55014.35013.10014.800
4. Brazil43.10042.05043.30044.00041.05041.900175.250
Lucas Bitencourt14.60013.80014.10014.45012.40014.250
Francisco Barretto14.20013.35014.70014.850
Arthur Mariano15.15014.05014.65013.95012.800
Arthur Zanetti13.35015.85014.900

International Gymnast magazine's coverage of DTB Cup competitors includes:
"Canadian Promise" - Ellie Black chat (July/August 2014)
"Canadian Diversity" - Black profile (July/August 2013)
"Black to Business" - Black interview (November 2012)
Kim Bui interview (April 2013)
"Vintage Ferrari" - Vanessa Ferrari interview (December 2013)
"Refueling Ferrari" – Ferrari interview (January/February 2009)
"Renaissance Man" - Fabian Hambüchen cover story
"New Vie from the Top" - Lisa Katharina Hill profile (July/August 2013)
"Growing Pains" - Larisa Iordache cover story (March 2013)
Iordache two-page center poster (June 2013)
Iordache on cover photo collage (July/August 2012)
"Serious Contender" - Nikolai Kuksenkov profile (March 2011)
"Viva Venezuela" - Jessica Lopez profile (March 2008)
Aliya Mustafina interview (May 2014)
Mustafina center poster (January/February 2013)
Mustafina on cover photo collage (July/August 2012)
Mustafina cover photo collage (May 2011)
"The Mustafina Mystique" – profile (January/February 2011)
Mustafina cover photo (December 2010)
"Front and Centered' - Oleg Vernyayev interview (January/February 2014)

To order back issues, or subscribe to the print and/or digital edition of International Gymnast magazine, click here.

 
Written by John Crumlish    Saturday, 22 November 2014 19:03    PDF Print
Interview: Kristina Pravdina (Azerbaijan)
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)



A world championships and World Cup medalist for Russia earlier in her career, Kristina Pravdina is preparing for her debut performance for Azerbaijan later this month. Pictured: Marina Nekrasova, Anzhela Abdullayeva, Pravdina and Maria Smirnova

A world championships and World Cup medalist for Russia earlier in her career, Kristina Pravdina is preparing for her debut performance for Azerbaijan later this month.


Pravdina (left) in Baku with teammates Marina Nekrasova and Maria Smirnova

Pravdina, a native of Voronezh, was a mainstay on last decade's Russian team. Among her biggest accomplishments, she won a team silver medal and finished 24th all-around at the 2006 world championships in Aarhus, Denmark.

In qualifications at the 2007 worlds in Stuttgart, Pravdina placed 16th all-around, but was unable to advance to the all-around final. She was third among Russia's all-arounders, and therefore could not advance because of the two-gymnasts-per-country maximum. In the team final, Russia dropped from a probable medal to eighth place when a teammate balked on her vault in the last rotation and scored zero.

Pravdina's other best international results included the bronze medal on uneven bars at the 2006 World Cup of Shanghai; fifth place on balance beam and seventh place on uneven bars at the 2006 World Cup of Lyon; seventh place (tie) all-around and sixth place on balance beam at the 2007 European championships in Amsterdam.

In Russian domestic competitions, Pravdina was third all-around at the 2007 Russian championships; second on floor exercise at the 2007 Russian Cup; seventh all-around, second (tie) on floor exercise and third on uneven bars at the 2008 Russian Cup; and eighth all-around at the 2009 Russian Cup.

Pravdina, who will turn 24 on Dec. 28, shared details of the new phase of her career in this IG Online interview.


IG: When and why did you decide to return to competition, and for Azerbaijan?

KP: As you know, the first European Games will take place in Baku (in June 2015). Among the 20 sports will be gymnastics. At the end of 2013 the Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation coordinated a women's gymnastics team. My parents received the invitation to work in Baku, and I, based on family circumstances, moved with them. Then they offered for me to join the team of this country. I felt I could help and consequently agreed.


Pravdina at the 2006 World Championships

IG: When did you return to training, and who is coaching you?

KP: I got back into training in September. My father, Alexander Pravdin, and my mother, Nina Pravdina, who previously was my coach-choreographer, are coaching me.

IG: How much support are you getting from your former Voronezh teammates, Yulia Inshina and Marina Nekrasova, who are also competing for Azerbaijan?

KP: Seeing how we previously performed in the same team for the Voronezh gymnastics school named for Yuri Eduardovich Shtukman, we have developed very friendly relationships. We support each other and get along well, both in sports and in life.

IG: What's on your agenda, competition-wise?

KP: My next start will be Nov. 28 to 30 in Stuttgart, Germany (DTB Cup – Team Challenge). We plan to compete on two apparatuses - uneven bars and beam - with the kind of program that I will have time to restore.

IG: What is the most difficult aspect of your return? Is it something physical, or a combination of things?

KP: The most difficult thing was the first week of training, to force myself to continue when all of my muscles hurt. And at the moment it is a combination of intellectual and physical workloads after a long break.

IG: What do you wish to prove in this new phase of your career?

KP: I would like to put together competitively capable routines, with which it will be possible to compete for medals.

 
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