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Written by John Crumlish    Wednesday, 08 April 2015 11:33    PDF Print
Sixth Time's A Charm For Iceland's Hermannsdóttir
(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

After recently winning her record sixth Icelandic national all-around title, Thelma Rut Hermannsdóttir told IG she looks forward to upcoming international competitions including the European championships, the Games of the Small States of Europe and the first European Games.

"It's the fun of gymnastics that keeps me going," said Hermannsdóttir, who last month scored 49.35 to win the Icelandic title over silver medalist Dominiqua Alma Belányi (48.00) and bronze medalist Norma Dögg Róbertsdóttir (46.95). "It's the flying around, pushing yourself to the limit sometimes and doing new skills and, of course, the good fellowship."


Thelma Rut Hermannsdóttir won her sixth Icelandic national title

Hermannsdóttir said she was surprised to clinch her record-winning title against strong competitors.

"The win this year was very unexpected," Hermannsdóttir said. "Norma Dögg, Dominiqua and I had the greatest potential to win the title. When I stepped into the competition hall my only goal was to do my best, and see what that would give me in the end."

Hermannsdóttir said her 2015 win was special because she broke the record of five titles that was jointly held by Berglind Pétursdóttir, her former coach and an international judge, and Sif Pálsdóttir.

"I had forgotten about it, but when the scores were official everyone congratulated me for the new record," she said. "It was a great feeling."

The 21-year-old Hermannsdóttir credits Róbertsdóttir for helping her maintain her drive and confidence.

"It wouldn't be possible if I weren't training with my best friend, Norma Dögg," she said. "At one point last year it was all down to her motivation that kept me going, and I thank her for that. If it hadn't been for her I wouldn't have achieved this. Competitions are also a great part of my motivation. It is always fun to go abroad and compete, meet your friends from other countries, and share experience and memories."

Hermannsdóttir's next international target is the European championships in Montpellier, France, this month.

"My goal there is to see where I stand compared to similar countries like the Nordics and some others," she said.

Hermannsdóttir also hopes to compete at the Games of the Small States of Europe, which will take place in her country in early June.

"We have been very victorious and hopefully we can maintain that," she said. "Two years ago we won the team title, and I hope that we can defend that title. I also hope for some medals on individual events."

Following the Games of the Small States of Europe, Hermannsdóttir would like to compete at the first European Games, which will take place June 12-28 in Baku, Azerbaijan.

"We earned a spot for three girls and one boy when we competed at the European championships in Belgium last year," she said. "I was a part of that team and it would be fun to be one of three girls in that team."

Hermannsdóttir said she understands that her dedication and longevity are essential to the progress of the Icelandic national program.

"I think that I have been a good role model for the younger girls and they will like to be in my footsteps one day," she told IG. "It is important to help the next generation to build upon the experience that I and my 'older' teammates have gathered over the past few years. I like to believe that we have built a positive reputation both with the judges and fans. It is our responsibility to help the younger ones as best we can so our team can continue to make progress on the international stage."

Read "Icelandic Warm-Up," a feature on International Gymnast magazine's visit to Iceland that includes Hermannsdóttir, in the November 2012 issue of International Gymnast magazine. To order back issues, click here.

 
Written by dwight normile    Thursday, 19 March 2015 15:52    PDF Print
IG Has a Few Words With … Stella Umeh
(9 votes, average 4.56 out of 5)

The March 2015 IG features an interview with Toronto native Stella Umeh, who remains one of the most inspiring figures in gymnastics. She and her husband, Sam Nicholas, are expecting their first child in August, which means Stella might have to slow down a bit. She's certainly accomplished many things: Olympian, UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame member, actor, performer. She's retired from various performance roles with Cirque du Soleil (see photo as a clown), and has started her own business, which you can check out here.

For now, however, here are a few excerpts from her amazing interview.

You turn 40 on May 27. How do you view conventional age milestones?

Yep, turning 40 is right around the corner. With regards to conventional age milestones, what are those? I’ve hit some pretty profound ones and I’ve blown past a couple of the conventional ones. I am a healthy and happy adult. I made it through an elite gymnastics career and I can still walk, bend over and even jump every now and then.

When did you know you wanted to perform in front of people?

I have known I have wanted to perform in front of people from the moment I did it, when I was 4 and I started dancing. The interesting thing, though, is I see it less about performance and more about having such a burning desire to share something with people. I yearned, and I still do, for that opportunity on a regular basis.

Any advice for a gymnast who is considering Cirque du Soleil?

You might as well try it; there is a place for everybody. Push yourself to the edge of your skinny branch, throw yourself outside of your box, don’t look down, always look ahead and dream huge.

What do you think of Simone Biles? She seems to have your unique and individualistic attitude.

Well, first off let me thank you for comparing [me] to Simone Biles. She’s kind of ridiculous! She smiles more than I did. She is definitely unique and … an individual. She let’s her light shine through and I commend her for that. I am inspired by her fierceness. We both have the same favorite events: vault and floor. Way back in 2013 she said she wanted to work on her dance skills. I’d love to have a dance up with her. I think she’d hold her own.

What inspired the name of your new company, The Ivory Elephant Group?

Elephants did. They are such majestic animals. They show grief, humor, compassion, cooperation, self-awareness, playfulness, and they have excellent learning abilities. Elephants are social and tactile. They are a matriarchal herd and their commitment to one another is mind-blowing.

To close, check out Stella's four floor routines while she was a UCLA Bruin. Each is unique and entertaining … and so Stella.

 
Written by John Crumlish    Wednesday, 04 March 2015 16:33    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Alma Kuc (Poland)
(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Born in Canada and raised in South America and the U.S., Alma Kuc of Poland looks forward to competing at her second world championships in Glasgow this fall and ultimately at next summer's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Kuc, who trains under coaches Artur Akopyan and Galina Marinova at All Olympia Gymnastics Center in Los Angeles, made her debut for the Polish team at last spring's European championships in Sofia. Nursing an injured foot, she placed 95th all-around in qualifications at last fall's world championships in Nanning. Kuc, who intends to enroll at the University of California-Berkeley in 2017, is eager to continue her international journey after she recovers from foot surgery following Nanning.

In this IG Online interview, the 16-year-old Kuc describes her role on the Polish team and outlines her plans beyond the 2016 Games.



Alma Kuc (Poland) in February 2015

IG: What was the nature of your surgery, and where are you now in terms of healing and training?

AK: I had the surgery at the end of October. I had two torn ligaments in my right foot, so they had to reconstruct the ligaments. They also had to shave some muscle off a tendon that was growing. I've started training a little bit. I'm doing almost all of bars, and I'm starting to do a little beam and some Tumble Trak. I'm running and jumping, but I still can't do any vaults or tumble, but I'm hoping to be back fully training in the next two months or so.

IG: So theoretically you could try for this fall's worlds?

AK: Yes, that's my main goal for now – to go to worlds.

IG: Speaking of worlds, were the problems you had at last year's worlds related to your injury?

AK: I had my injury before worlds, but I decided to keep training and go to worlds. I think my performance was mostly due to lack of confidence in myself, but the injury also played a part in that. If I had been healthy, I would have been more confident and would have had a better performance overall. But I think that my falling was mostly due to the fact that I lacked confidence in myself.

IG: What is it like being a hope for the Polish team, coming up along against team members in their 20s, such as (2014 worlds competitors) Marta Pihan-Kulesza, Katarzyna Jurkowska-Kowalska, Paula Plichta and Gabriela Janik?

AK: It's really exciting, but I feel I have a responsibility to do well for Poland as a team. The older girls are leaders, and it's nice to be part of a team. I think we're unified.

IG: How do they treat you, considering they didn't know you till last year and then suddenly were part of the team?

AK: It's definitely different from the relationship they have with each other, because they see each other a lot more, but they really welcome me. They love having me and I love them, too. There's a girl who trains in London, Claudia Chmielowska, who also competed in Nanning. We're kind of closer because we're in the same situation, in that we're not in Poland. It's never a problem. I have a good relationship with the girls. My Polish isn't perfect but it's nice to go there and practice with them.

IG: How do your coaches at All Olympia coordinate your training so it's in line with what the Polish national team coaches expect?

AK: I send them videos so they know what I'm working on, and so they know what to expect when I go there. It's not really a big deal for me. If I need help, they help me.

IG: How did you end up in California?

AK: My dad had a job that took him all around the world. I was born in Toronto, and then we moved to Argentina and Brazil before going to Missouri, and now we're here. I think we're staying here!

IG: When did you get the idea to compete for Poland?

AK: I knew I wanted to go to the Olympics. That was my main goal and it's still my goal. I would go to Poland every summer, and my family in Poland would always say, “You can compete for Poland; that would be really cool.” I never really thought about it too seriously until a couple of years ago. I just decided that I could try to compete for Poland. I felt it would be a better opportunity for me. There's not as much competition there as there is in the U.S. At the time I wasn't a U.S. citizen, either. So I basically decided that's what I wanted to do. Now I have Canadian, Polish and American citizenship.

IG: Although several of the Polish gymnasts are in their 20s, it's usual for Elite-level gymnasts in the U.S. end their international careers once they go to college. What are your thoughts about continuing your international career once you get to Berkeley?

AK: I'll focus on the Olympics, and I'll still have a year till I go off to Berkeley. I've definitely though about continuing in Elite once I'm at Berkeley, because it would be awesome to go to Tokyo (2020 Olympics), too. It depends on how my body feels at that point. Obviously Marta and the others are in their 20s and they are still competing and doing fine, so it depends on how I feel at that point. If I make it to Rio and then go to Berkeley, I might just decide to take it down and focus on college.

 
IG Magazine: March 2015
(6 votes, average 4.33 out of 5)



The March 2015 issue of International Gymnast Magazine digital version is available now! Subscribe today and read this entire issue digitally, on your computer!

The Savior
On his perpetual mission for perfection, Kohei Uchimura continues to rescue a troubled Code. But his primary goal remains unfulfilled

Tall Order
Interview: Alla Sosnitskaya is hopeful that her height will help rather than hinder her rise in the rankings

Aging Beauty
At 29, Venezuelan Jessica Lopez has never looked better. Learn more about the indisputable Queen of South American gymnastics

Junior Hits
Romania dominated at the Nadia Comaneci International Invitational; plus, the Perfect 10 Challenge makes Oklahoma 10-0

10 Things to Like About...
Two-time world champion Simone Biles

10 Questions With ... Stella Umeh
IG catches up with 1992 Canadian Olympian Stella Umeh, who's inspiring as ever!

Remembering Jeff Sipsey
Tribute to long-time IG photographer Jeff Sipsey

Plus:
Ziert Alert!; Training Tips - Elastic Ruler Concept; Mental Minute - Expect It!; Kids Klub - Find the Gold Maze; Find the Hidden 10; and much more!

Subscribe today and read this entire issue digitally, on your computer!

 
Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 06 February 2015 13:22    PDF Print
Interview: Toni-Ann Williams (Jamaica/Berkeley)
(6 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)



Two-time world championships competitor Toni-Ann Williams of Jamaica is enjoying her first season of U.S. collegiate competition as a member of the University of California-Berkeley team.

Two-time world championships competitor Toni-Ann Williams of Jamaica is enjoying her first season of U.S. collegiate competition as a member of the University of California-Berkeley team, but she looks forward to continuing her international career.

Williams, who was born in Baltimore, holds dual citizenship. Prior to enrolling at the University of California-Berkeley last fall, she trained at United Gymnastix in Reisterstown, Maryland, where her coaches were 2000 Bulgarian Olympian Mladen Stefanov and Kari Barnes.

Her coaches at California are Justin Howell (head coach) and his wife, former U.S. national team member Elisabeth Crandall-Howell (associate head coach).

IG spoke with Williams after her team's meet at UCLA on February 1, where she placed first on vault and second on floor exercise. Based on her performances there, Williams was named Freshman/Newcomer of the Week for the third consecutive week in the Pacific 12 Conference. She is the second gymnast to win the honor three times, and the first to win it three consecutive times.

In this interview, Williams describes her new life as a student-athlete, and her potential for future international competitions including the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.



Williams on beam for Cal-Berkeley

IG: How has your transition to collegiate gymnastics been so far?

: It's been so much fun. I honestly feel it's like summer camp, but then, school is everything, so I'm like, “OK, maybe not so much like summer camp!” I love the team. Everyone is so inviting. They've welcomed me, and it's been an awesome ride so far.

IG: What classes are you taking this semester, and what major do you have in mind?

: I'm taking Nutritional Science, Brain Mind and Behavior, and classes like that. Right now I'm trying to get through everything and see what I like. I'm taking different classes, so I'm not sure right now what my major will be.

IG: What caused the problem you had on beam (at UCLA on February 1)?

IG: I've been struggling with my groin muscle. It's been a little rough on beam. I missed my leap pass, but we came together and finished solidly. I'm going to get back in the gym and work harder. It's just a passing injury, like those injuries that are a little annoying. You just have to take care of it to make sure it doesn't get worse.

IG: How are you maintaining your high-level skills, considering that you are training only 20 hours per week (per NCAA rules)?

: I feel I've had a lot of preparation in club gymnastics, to kind of get my skills so I don't have to do too many numbers, and be able to compete them fine. We spin a lot and get in a lot of cardio outside the gym, and that really helps maintain.

IG: What are your plans for international competitions, such as this fall's worlds and next year's Olympics?

: Definitely worlds this year - and the Olympics, hopefully. I'm going to try my best, and give 100 percent, and whatever happens, happens. Justin and Liz are really open about my training for international competitions, and they're really supportive about it.

IG: How do your college coaches compare to your club coaches?

: Club and college coaches are way different, but I love Justin and Liz. They're amazing. They're like the dynamic duo. You get one thing from one, and another thing from the other, and it's an amazing balance.

IG: In which ways has your gymnastics changed, physically and mentally, since last year?

: I feel I've improved a lot. I've learned more about myself mentally, and I prep for competitions every single weekend, which is something I'm not used to. There's still room for improvement, obviously, but it's been a great experience. I've helped my gymnastics both physically and mentally. Read “Jamaican-American,” an interview with Williams in the March 2014 issue of International Gymnast magazine; and "Back from the Brink," a feature on the University of California-Berkeley program, in the October 2014 issue. To order back issues, or subscribe to the print and/or digital editions of International Gymnast magazine, click here.

 


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