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Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 05 August 2014 13:45    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Jana Sikulova (Czech Republic)
(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)



2014 has been an especially challenging but successful year for veteran Czech gymnast Jana Sikulova, who won international medals in March and April, competed at the European championships in May, earned her Master's degree in June, and turned 26 in July.

2014 has been an especially challenging but successful year for veteran Czech gymnast Jana Sikulova, who won international medals in March and April, competed at the European championships in May, earned her Master's degree in June, and turned 26 in July.

A mainstay for the Czech team for over a decade, Sikulova competed at her first world championships in 2003, and won four World Cup medals by the end of 2009.

Sikulova has remained competitive in her 20s, placing sixth all-around at the 2011 University Games in Shenzhen, and 14th all-around at the 2013 University Games in Kazan.

This year Sikulova won the silver medal on uneven bars at the Challenge Cup of Doha, Qatar, in March; and the silver medal on uneven bars at the Korea Cup in Incheon in April. She placed 18th all-around in qualifications among gymnasts who competed on all four apparatuses at Europeans in Sofia in May, where no formal all-around contest took place.

In this IG Online interview, Sikulova shares her perspectives on her longevity, the struggles she has faced in balancing her academic and gymnastics schedules, and her plans for the future.


IG: What led to your Master's degree, and what did your thesis involve?

JS: I studied in the faculty of Sports Studies at Masaryk University for five years. Two years ago I finished my Bachelor's degree and this year I finished my Master's degree. My diploma thesis was "3D kinematic analysis of gymnastics disciplines of vault." I looked for the optimal performance of the basic Yurchenko vault by comparing different biomechanical analyses of vault phases, and I was looking for technical difference among gymnasts.


Czech veteran Jana Sikulova and classmate celebrate their Master's degrees

IG: You have had much success in gymnastics this year. How did you manage your studies and train for top competitions at the same time?

JS: The first half of the year was one of the hardest for me. When I go back in time and realize what was in the beginning of the year, I realized that it was quite surreal for me to see what was coming. I started to write my diploma thesis, and the time for training was becoming shorter and shorter. This feeling made me a bit stressed. The first two competitions were the Challenge Cups in Cottbus and Doha. I did well and succeeded on uneven bars, and got the silver medal in Doha. The third competition was the Korea Cup, and I got the silver medal on bars, as well. I was always thinking about working on the diploma thesis at these competitions.

IG: How much did your studies impact your preparation for Europeans, and vice versa?

JS: In May came the culminating preparation for the European championships, and I ran out of power. This part of the season was very hard for me. Befor leaving for Europeans I did not felt as prepared as I needed to be. Although my performance at Europeans was influenced by dificult times, I was glad with the final result. After Europeans I successfully defended my diploma thesis. I have to say that my diploma project supervisor helped me a lot, and my family was also very helpful and supported me during the whole process. I knew that it was necessary for me to feel all the support because I would not have made it in time. I greatly appreciate it. The last competition for me was Czech championships. I had 14 days left for the final exam (degree examinations) on June 23. I passed the final exam, and it was one of the best days for me.

IG: Having recently turned 26, how do you feel about your gymnastics, physically, compared to when you were younger?

JS: For the last two years I have felt the biggest change physically. I feel a big difference from before. The great advantage is my experience. On the other hand, the disadvantages are often fatigue and chronic pain. I had to modify my training. Very important is the perfect cooperation with my coaches. I have had to strictly follow the exact mode; for example, regular regeneration, nutrition and other things. I have a fitness trainer and a physiotherapist, who are also very important for my training.

IG: What about your psychological condition?

JS: All of us have some bad times, like I've had many times, too. But I have to say that I feel great psychologically now. The university where I studied was great. I liked it, although it was hard to do everything together. Besides that, I had a lot a great friends and people around me. They were supporting me all the time. This was really outstanding, and will stay in my mind forever. The next reason why I feel good is that I work well with my coaches. These are the people that I really respect and appreciate. That is why I stayed in gymnastics and why my career is successful for a long time.

IG: What's next for you in the sport?

JS: After the final exam came a big decision. I felt tired after the first half of the year, and I knew that almost immediately I would have to prepare for the world championships. I felt responsible for helping our Czech team. In fact, I knew that I would have a very short time for a rest. After a really long time of thinking and wondering, I decided that I'm not going to participate in the championships. Due to this decision I will not be competing in other competitions, either. My decision was also influenced by thinking about my future, particularly looking for a job and living with my partner. We have been six years far away from each other, in a long-distance relationship. Due to the university where I have studied, I have been thinking many times about being a coach abroad. I'm lucky that my boyfriend works in Schafhausen, Switzerland, as a head coach of gymnastics. This is my new road and a big chance. But it's sure that callouses on my hands are going to stay for a long time!

International Gymnast magazine's features on Czech gymnasts include:
Vera Caslavska/Hall of Fame induction feature (June 2012)
"Rebuilding Phase" - Kristyna Palesova profile (June 2011)
"Shooting Star" - Petra Fialova profile (January/February 2010)
"Central European Sojourn" – includes IG's visit to Sokol Brno club (January/February 2010)
"On the Upswing" - Jana Sikulova profile (July/August 2006)
"Reality Czech" – Jana Komrskova feature (November 2003)
"Catching up with Hana Ricna Jessen" – profile (May 2001)
Jana Komrskova profile (August/September 2000)

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

 
Written by John Crumlish    Monday, 21 July 2014 08:07    PDF Print
Singapore's Jufrie Hopes to 'Raise the Level' at Commonwealth Games
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Although 18-year-old Aizat Jufrie is the youngest member of the Singaporean men’s squad, which is preparing for the Commonwealth Games that begin this week in Glasgow, he is confident that he and his teammates can produce positive results in their Games debut as a full team.

Jufrie said he is eager to continue the Singaporean success achieved at the 2010 Games in Delhi, where David Jonathan Chan and Gabriel Gan finished third and fourth, respectively, on pommel horse. Prior to 2014, Singapore has not fielded a full men’s artistic gymnastics team at the Games.

“I hope I will be able to contribute to the team score and raise the level even more in Glasgow,” said Jufrie, who was born Aizat Bin Muhammad Jufrie on Jan. 24, 1996.

Jufrie will be joined on the Singaporean team in Glasgow by Gan, Terry Tay (Wei-An), Timothy Tay (Kai Cheng) and Wah Toon Hoe.

Singapore’s women’s team for the Games includes 2012 Olympian Lim Heem Wei, Michelle Teo (Yin Zhi), Ashly Lau (Wei-Ning), Janessa Dai (Min Yi) and Joey Tam (Jing Ying).

Coached on all six apparatuses by Lin Zhenqiu, Jufrie has represented Singapore at an impressive range of competitions over the past few years. He placed 21st all-around in the junior division at the 2010 Pacific Rim championships in Melbourne, 11th all-around at the 2011 Commonwealth Youth Games on the Isle of Man, and sixth all-around at the 2012 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) School Games in Surabaya, Indonesia.

At the 2013 Hong Kong Invitational, Jufrie won vault, placed third on four other apparatuses and was fourth all-around.

This spring Jufrie competed on two apparatuses at the 2014 FIG Challenge Cup of Doha, Qatar, in March, where he finished 17th on vault; and placed third on vault, eighth on rings and 16th all-around at the 2014 Commonwealth Invitational/Celtic Cup in Perth, Scotland.

In this IG Online interview, Jufrie details his agenda for Glasgow, and places the Games in perspective to his overall career strategy.

IG: In this final lead-up to the Games, what specifically are you focusing on in your training? Are you fine-tuning your routines, working on mental confidence, or something else?

AJ: I am currently working with my coach to tweak my routines for the Games, to limit the deductions to a minimum. I am focusing on my execution for each event and to make sure I’ll be able to complete my routines in Glasgow to the best of my abilities. Mental training is very important to me. Visualizing my routines and skills for each apparatus will ensure my mind is ready for any unfortunate mishaps during the competition. Hey, gymnastics is a very gratifying sport and anything can happen, so I have to make sure that my mind is as ready as my physical body for this competition.

IG: Glasgow will be the biggest competition of your career, so what are your personal expectations, and how do you plan to balance them against the expectations that Singapore has for you?

AJ: Yes, the coming Commonwealth Games is the biggest competition I'll be representing Singapore in thus far, and I plan on bringing back as much experience as I can from such a major competition with a wide variety of challenging opponents from around the world. I've done my best to prepare myself for this competition and I just have to hope for the best. I intend on doing my best and completing my routines with minimal deductions, and I’ll be satisfied with my performance. Singapore’s expectations on me will be on another note, and I'm sure I've already met some expectations of my country by representing Singapore in the first full men’s artistic gymnastics team being sent to this major competition.

IG: On which apparatuses do you feel you have the best chances for success in Glasgow, and why?

AJ: I feel I have the best chance on vault, as I've been faring rather well in the past few competitions, especially being very fortunate to make the finals at the Commonwealth Invitational (in Perth, Scotland, in April) and even bag a bronze medal for the Singapore team of four. But at the end of the day I can only perform my best and control what I do. What the other countries do and what team they send to the Games are out of my control. … For now all I can do is continue training hard on my six events and hope for the best!

IG: At the 2010 Games your teammate David Jonathan Chan won a bronze medal and Gabriel Gan was fourth on pommel horse, raising the international presence of Singapore. How do you think you can maintain and raise the level even more in Glasgow?

AJ: David Jonathan Chan and Gabriel Gan have indeed raised the bar of the international presence of Singapore, and did Singapore proud in the previous Commonwealth Games. At the same time, they both specialize on pommel horse, which is different from me. This is the first time Singapore will be sending a team for men’s artistic gymnastics to the Games, and my aim will be to contribute as much as I can for the team score. Being the youngest of the team at 18 years old, I hope I will be able to contribute to the team score and raise the level even more in Glasgow.

IG: Besides Glasgow, you have the Asian Games and possibly the world championships in Nanning to prepare for later this year. How does Glasgow fit into your overall scheme for international competitions this year?

AJ: It's the stepping stone of major competitions for me: one leading to another, gaining experiences and learning from each competition, hopefully being even more prepared for each competition, mastering skills as I go along for each competition, and learning new techniques and training style from different gymnasts competing in the major events. In the long run, it’s about harvesting enough experience to work alongside my goals, and achieving to be a better Singaporean gymnast.

Read a profile on Lim Heem Wei in the June 2012 issue of International Gymnast magazine.

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

 
Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 18 July 2014 11:57    PDF Print
Pollard Hopes to Channel Inspiration in Commonwealth Debut
(5 votes, average 4.60 out of 5)

When Charlotte Pollard makes history as the first gymnast from the island of Jersey, Channel Islands, to compete at the Commonwealth Games later this month in Glasgow, she hopes her experience in Glasgow will inspire Jersey youngsters to follow her.

“I try to use the pressure and expectation to promote this low-key sport within the island and encourage others to join in and have a go,” she told IG.

Pollard, who began training at age 5, was born Dec. 2, 1998, in Whangarei, New Zealand. “My parents were sailing around the world and I was born half way around,” she said. “I spent the first two years of my life living on the yacht and sailing back to Jersey.” The family now resides in St. John, Jersey.

Pollard’s identical-twin sister, Olivia, is a former gymnast who is training to qualify in swimming for the 2015 Youth Commonwealth Games.

Although Pollard’s international credentials are limited, she has represented Jersey in competitions outside the U.K. She placed 11th all-around at the 2011 Island Games in Sicily; and fourth all-around, third on balance beam, fourth on uneven bars and fourth (tie) on floor exercise at the 2013 Island Games in Bermuda.

In this IG Online interview, Pollard describes her physical and mental preparation she is making for the Commonwealth Games, as well as other key aspects of her gymnastics journey.

IG: How are you managing your personal expectations for the Games, along with the expectations that Jersey sports in general have placed on you?

CP: Managing expectations is easy because my personal expectations of myself are often higher than anyone's, even my coach's. I personally don't feel that there is any added pressure of being Jersey's first gymnast but do realize that others may see the expectation of being the first gymnast as daunting. I try to use this pressure and expectation to promote this low-key sport within the island and encourage other to join in and have a go. There are some fantastic younger gymnasts at our club, and I hope this encourages them to keep aiming high.

IG: You've competed well at the past two Island Games, but Glasgow will put you on a much larger stage. What specific goals do you have for the Games, in terms of your all-around and individual apparatuses?

CP: My goal when competing at the Games is just to go clean and not to fall on any of the apparatuses, though that is easier said than done.

IG: In the lead-up to Glasgow, how are you preparing yourself mentally so you can perform without nerves in such a major competition?

CP: I've never performed in such a large arena before. In preparation I have been trying to compete in front of as many people as possible, though this is hard in our tiny gym. A lot of my preparation is mental as I don't have access to a full floor, hard-matted bars area or a complete-length vault run.

IG: Who coaches you, and on which apparatuses?

CP: Tory De Mond is my coach. I first met Tory when I was six, and she has coached me on all apparatuses every since and continues to. More recently Shinarah Le Blancq has taken charge of our many hours of conditioning, and she choreographs floor routines. Our club also has a visiting coach, John Pirrie, who comes over from England once every two or three months, and has done so for the last four years.

IG: How many hours per week do you train, and how do you balance your school work with your training schedule?

CP: I train around 20 hours a week, often more, rarely less. I am fortunate that my school, Jersey College for Girls, allow me to miss my P.E. (physical education) lessons for extra training. Others than that, it is hard work to balance both school work and gym. I always work hard at school to ensure I leave myself with only the minimum amount of work to do at home. In the case of homework, I'll do most of it in lunchtime; otherwise it might be a late night. I'm lucky that both Olivia and I take the same GCSEs (two-year course to earn General Certificate of Secondary Education), so if I ever miss anything, I can always catch up using her notes.

IG: How do you hope the Commonwealth Games will help you prepare for future big internationals, and allow you to compare your progress with other Commonwealth gymnasts?

CP: The main thing I aim to take away from the games is experience. I try not to compare myself to other gymnasts, but to my previous scores, as that gives a better indication to my progress. I've never been to Scotland and am looking forward to meeting lots of new people.

 
Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 11 July 2014 09:34    PDF Print
Northern Ireland's Mahwinney Eager for Commonwealth Games
(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

World and European championships veteran Nicole Mahwinney of Northern Ireland is confidently preparing for her first Commonwealth Games in Glasgow later this month, where she is aiming for team and individual success.

Born April 24, 1996, Mahwinney began training in gymnastics at age seven at Rathgael Gymnastics and Trampolining Club in Bangor, where she was coached by Clare Taylor and Kim Kensett Friar. She now trains at Salto Gymnastics Club in Lisburn (near Belfast), where her coaches are Kensett Friar and Sun Jie. Kensett Friar works with her on balance beam, Sun works with her on uneven bars, and both coaches work with her on vault and floor exercise.

Mahwinney competed for Ireland at last fall’s worlds in Antwerp and this spring’s Europeans in Sofia.

Representing Northern Ireland, Mahwinney placed 10th all-around and third with her team at last fall’s Northern Europeans in Lisburn; and sixth all-around and second with her team at this spring’s Commonwealth Invitational/Celtic Cup in Perth, Scotland. Also this spring she finished second all-around at the Irish championships in Limerick.

Mahwinney's Northern Ireland teammates in Glasgow will include Sarah Beck, India McPeak and Ciara Roberts. Luke Carson and Matthew Cosgrave will represent Northern Ireland in the men's competition.

In this IG Online interview, Mahwinney details her goals for Glasgow and assesses her potential for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

IG: Heading towards Glasgow, what is your perspective on the expectations that are being placed on you, as well as your own expectations for the Games?

NM: The main expectations being put on me are mostly to do with the team. A good team ranking is expected from our recent success at the Commonwealth Invitational in Perth (Scotland) in April, where we finished in second place. To achieve a good team ranking I am expected to perform clean routines in the all-around competition over the first two days. My own expectations are to not only achieve a good team ranking, but to also qualify for the individual all-around final, which the top 24 gymnasts compete in.

IG: Northern Ireland did not field a full team at the 2006 and 2010 Games. What do you think the team wants to prove in Glasgow, and how well do you think your team can fare against the current Commonwealth powers such as England, Australia and Canada?

NM: The Northern Ireland team is aiming to go out in Glasgow and prove that we are more than capable of competing against the other nations at this level. The team has shown great improvement recently in a number of events, such as placing second at the Northern Europeans last November, as well as our recent success in the Commonwealth Invitational. Also, I and my other Commonwealth Games teammates recently represented Ireland at the European Championships in Bulgaria, where we qualified for the European Games in Baku in 2015. The recent success in these events show that the Northern Ireland team is moving from strength to strength, and that we will hopefully finish in a good team position. The English, Australian and Canadian teams consist of a lot of high-level gymnasts, some of whom have competed in one if not two Olympic Games. These teams are therefore at a much higher level and, with us being younger, we can only try our best to strive forward to reach their level someday.

IG: Glasgow will offer you the chance to establish yourself among the best of the Commonwealth countries. What do you think a good performance in Glasgow will do for you, in terms of how you will be perceived on the international scene going forward?

NM: A good performance in Glasgow would hopefully put my name on the international scene and make people more aware of Northern Ireland gymnastics. Becoming more well-known in the world of gymnastics would be a great confidence boost and would hopefully inspire younger gymnasts to want to reach the world, Commonwealth and Europeans level.

IG: In the previous two Games, your club mates Katie Slader and Seriena Johnrose finished 12th and 14th all-around, respectively. What is you hope for all-around and apparatus placement in Glasgow?

NM: I am definitely aiming for the all-around final in Glasgow, which I feel is within my reach. Due to the more experienced, Olympic-level gymnasts, I am unsure of how the apparatus finals will pan out, but I will definitely give it my best shot, especially for the floor and vault finals. We will just have to wait and see.

IG: What is your ultimate goal in gymnastics, and how close to your potential do you feel you are at this point in your career?

NM: My ultimate goal would be to compete in the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016. However, it's uncertain how many gymnasts Ireland will be sending to the Games. Therefore, from now to then it's just a waiting game and lots of hard work, to ensure my scores keep improving by increasing my difficulty and showing clean performances in competition. The Commonwealth Games has always been my first main goal to achieve, so once I got the go-ahead of making the team, I was determined to work harder than ever to reach my peak for the Games. Going into the Games, I feel fitter than ever and very confident with my routines. However, there are a number of new skills that I'm currently working on which I hope to perform at the world championships in China in October. I therefore feel like I haven't yet reached my full potential, and I'm excited to progress further over the next two years on the lead-up to Rio.

International Gymnast magazine’s features on gymnastics in Northern Ireland and Ireland include:

"Beyond Brave" – Kieran Behan profile (August/September 2011)

"Room to Grow" – feature on IG's visit to Salto Gymnastics Club (March 2009)

"Shooting Star: Sarah Beck" – profile (January/February 2009)

"International Gymnast" – Rohan Sebastian profile (April 2008)

"Rising Irishman" - Matthew Cosgrave profile (December 2007)

"Pride of Ireland" – Katie Slader profile (March 2005)

"Pressing Her Luck" – Holly Murdock profile (August/September 2001)

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

 
Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 04 July 2014 21:57    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Tracie Ang (Malaysia)
(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Gradually returning to top form after a series of injuries, veteran Malaysian gymnast Tracie Ang is optimistic that she can match her performances from four years ago when she competes at the Commonwealth Games later this month in Glasgow.

Ang placed ninth all-around, sixth on vault and eighth on floor exercise at the 2010 Games in Delhi, where she helped Malaysia finish fourth in the team competition. Recent rehab is likely to limit her in Glasgow, but she still hopes for strong results. In this IG Online interview, Ang assesses the state of her recovery and her potential for success at the Games.


IG: What kind of condition are you in, heading toward Glasgow?

TA: I was in rehab last year for six months because I've been having several old injuries on my shoulder, hamstring, hip and ankles. This year, in early February, I started training after I was released from rehab. At almost the end of April, I suffered back pain which added to the list. So I returned for rehab again. In a month and a half I was released again from rehab and started light training. Currently I'm getting back on track. I'm doing great but still under treatments.


Tracie Ang (Malyasia)

IG: Four years ago you finished ninth all-around, and made two apparatus finals. What are your targets for Glasgow, in terms of your all-around and apparatus aspirations?

TA: For my current situation, I'll probably pick certain events to compete due to my body condition. They will be the most suitable and comfortable events for my body to perform well, as I was given only this short time to recover and prepare for the Games. My main target is focusing for the apparatus finals. As I said earlier, if I were to compete in all events during the qualifying, I would definitely be targeting to place better than the ninth spot. For the final events, I'm targeting to be in the finals on bars and balance beam, for which I did not qualify at the last Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

IG: In Delhi you led Malaysia to fourth place in the team standings. What do you think of the 2014 team, in terms of staying fourth and/or moving up?

TA: For the team event this year, the Malaysian team members are mostly competing at their first Commonwealth Games. It is a tough one this year, as we have heard that many of the top countries bringing their top gymnasts to compete. I will probably not be competing in all events, so I could not help much in the team event. We are focusing on achieving the points we want, and with good results, there are chances for our team.

IG: You have had a lot of competitive experience since Delhi, so how does your mental approach to Glasgow differ from your mental approach to Delhi?

TA: In Delhi, it was really a strong competitive competition. I was excited as it was my first time competing in such big games. I was not nervous. Qualifying for the vault and floor exercise finals was a shock for me, as my higher chances are for bars and balance beam. It was not my personal best in Delhi. This competition really gives me fully mental preparation to compete in Glasgow.

As this is my second Commonwealth Games, it should be better this time due to my experience in Delhi. These four years really make a lot of differences in terms of my performance. I perform better, but that lot of old injuries is haunting for me. Most importantly I'm trying to avoid all these injuries and be fit for the competition.

IG: How would you like to use Glasgow as a test for big events coming up later this year, such as the Asian Games and world championships?

TA: The Commonwealth Games are a big event for me. Asian Games and worlds will be confirmed later. So the main focus now is in Glasgow.

Read a profile on Ang in the March 2011 issue of International Gymnast magazine. To order back issues, or subscribe to the digital and/or printed edition, click here.

 


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