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.