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Written by Amanda Turner    Tuesday, 14 October 2014 13:41    PDF Print
FIG President Wants Scoring Overhaul
(7 votes, average 2.71 out of 5)

International Gymnastics Federation President Bruno Grandi is calling for an overhaul of the sport's scoring system – again.

International Gymnastics Federation President Bruno Grandi is calling for an overhaul of the sport's scoring system – again.

Grandi, who famously lobbied for the current open-ended system to reward more difficulty, now says difficulty needs to take a backseat to artistry. Grandi made the comments Sunday following the conclusion of the 2014 World Championships in Nanning, China.

The gymnastics he saw in Nanning was "too much of its acrobatic part and not too much artistry," he said. "Gymnastics is artistic gymnastics, the definition I don't want to lose."

The sport lost its iconic "Perfect 10" with the introduction of the current scoring system in 2006. Each mark consists of the sum of the Difficulty (D) score (including required components) and the Execution (E) score (out of 10.00). In FIG competition, separate judging panels evaluate Difficulty and Execution. The highest score in Nanning was Dutch gymnast Epke Zonderland's winning 16.225 (7.7 D/8.525 E) for his high bar routine in apparatus finals.

Grandi championed the new scoring system following the judging scandal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. In the men's all-around final in Athens, U.S. gymnast Paul Hamm won the all-around title over Korean gymnast Yang Tae-Young after Yang's parallel bars routine was evaluated out of a maximum 9.9 instead of the correct 10.0. However, the incident stemmed not from the judging system in place, but from the judges failing to correctly calculate Yang's start score.

The new scoring system was put into place despite significant criticism and backlash from members of the gymnastics community and the sport's fans. The FIG countered that the "Perfect 10.0" could still be achieved through the Execution mark — although few gymnasts have scored anywhere close to 10 in Execution since 2006 — and that fans would find new excitement as gymnasts achieved "world records" in Difficulty.

The latter concept was quickly dropped, and the Code of Points and routine requirements have been tweaked and evaluated several times.

Eight years after it was introduced, the open-ended scoring system has produced less-pleasing gymnastics, Grandi said.

"At this moment, we have noted that the difficulty increased too much," said Grandi, who was elected in 1996. "Very, very much. And the execution of the athlete doesn't follow the same criteria. We need to change the mentality."

Grandi, who suggested that the Difficulty points be cut in half, was backed up by FIG Secretary-General André Gueisbuhler. Gueisbuhler said gymnasts "do difficult exercises in order to win" under the current system.

"The weight should be, as the president said, on artistry and beauty and perfect execution as you have in diving," he said.

In Nanning, the Chinese men won a controversial gold medal over Japan in the team final, coming from behind to take the title by .1 after a jam-packed routine on high bar from Zhang Chenglong. Chinese coach Wang Hongwei acknowledged that his gymnasts were not as polished as their Japanese rivals.

"When it comes to the Execution score, we are not as good as the Japanese gymnasts," he said.

In the women's competition, the U.S. team and top gymnast Simone Biles defended their titles. Biles, who racks up points for her difficulty, added titles on balance beam and floor exercise.

Said Marta Karolyi, the U.S. women's team coordinator, "Artistry is nice. We always like artistry."

Should the scoring system be overhauled to reward artistry and execution over difficulty? Leave a comment below!

Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 19 September 2014 09:00    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Céline van Gerner
(6 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Although 2012 Olympic all-around finalist Céline van Gerner returned to serious training only three months ago, she is already eager to take the next step in her comeback at next month's world championships in Nanning.

Van Gerner, who finished 12th all-around at the 2012 London Olympics, won the all-around title and helped the Dutch women win the team title at a tri-meet against France and Austria that took place this past weekend in Rouen.

This week she was among seven gymnasts named to the Dutch team for Nanning. The other gymnasts include Shirley van Deene, Vera van Pol, Maartje Ruikes, Lisa Top, and twins Lieke Wevers and Sanne Wevers.

In this IG Online interview, van Gerner explains the challenges she has faced as she prepares for Nanning, and how she views Nanning in terms of her competitive future.

Céline van Gerner at the 2012 Olympics

IG: What are your thoughts heading into Nanning, based on how well you did in Rouen?

CVG: First of all, I'm very happy being able to compete again at the international highest competitions! I'm feeling great, loving the sport, and I hope people can see that feeling back in my routines.

IG: What exactly were the injuries/reasons that you have not competed in so long?

CVG: I've had to overcome two hard years, being injured and not really knowing how to see the future. When I was getting back in shape in the summer of 2013, I broke my right ankle on the same spot as it was broken on my left ankle at the end of 2011. Surgery was necessary, which went really well, but my ankle had to heal by staying rested. That was taking a few months, and I was kind of tired of being injured all the time. So I took a step back from gymnastics and took some time to think about what I really wanted.

In June 2014 I decided to start serious training again. Both of my ankles were and are still feeling really good, so I asked myself a question. If I wanted to do gymnastics again, I had to start now! It was an easy decision, because I still wasn't done with gymnastics. I knew I had to start all over again, but I had set my first goal on Nanning 2014.

I came a long way in four months, but it was all worth it. It feels good to be back, so my thoughts heading into Nanning are most of all thankful.

IG: Between now and Nanning, what will be the focus of your training?

CVG: The focus of my training will most of all be on the dismounts, especially my full-in from bars, which an important missing skill.

IG: What do you think you will need to show in Nanning, in order to regain your high international ranking as in the past?

CVG: I see Nanning as a great first step in this cycle for me. Because it has been a short period of time, I won't pressure myself too hard for being in a final. I know that, for a high ranking, my routines need to be upgraded. But that's for something for after Nanning. Right now I am more than happy to compete again!

Read "Just Verdict," a profile on van Gerner, in the July/August 2012 issue of International Gymnast magazine. To order back issues, or subscribe to the print and/or digital versions of International Gymnast magazine, click here..

Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 16 September 2014 16:39    PDF Print
Canada's Payne On a Mission For Worlds
(3 votes, average 4.00 out of 5)

Veteran Canadian gymnast Jackson Payne recently completed one mission and began another.

Veteran Canadian gymnast Jackson Payne recently completed one mission and began another. Shortly after serving two years of missionary work in Korea for the Church of Latter Day Saints, Payne is making final preparations for next month's world championships in Nanning, where he aims for solid all-around, apparatus and team finishes.

Payne, a native of Edmonton, emerged as a Canadian standout in the previous Olympic cycle, during which he placed second all-around at the 2010 Canadian championships and first all-around at the 2011 Canadian championships. He competed at the 2009 Worlds in London, the 2010 Worlds in Rotterdam and the 2011 Worlds in Tokyo.

Nanning will be the 22-year-old Payne's second start following his Korean mission. He finished fourth on high bar at the Pan American championships in Mississauga on September 1.

In this IG Online interview, Payne details the purpose of his church mission and his new mission in Nanning.

Jackson Payne (Canada)

IG: What was the nature of your missionary work in Korea?

JP: I was in what was called the Korea Seoul South Mission, which included the southern part of the city and the surrounding areas. It was a two-year missionary service. As missionaries, we do a lot of things. We share and talk to people about out church and what we believe, we taught English and did other service opportunities. Also as missionaries you have very limited access to the internet. I was allowed to use the Internet for only one hour per week, and it was only to email my family and friends. We have no access to TV or other media. They keep us very focused on what we are supposed to be doing as missionaries.

IG: While on your mission, how much gymnastics/fitness did you do?

JP: For the first nine months I didn't do any gymnastics at all. I obviously tried to stay in fitness shape as much as possible, but it's difficult when they give you only 30 minutes per morning for your whole mission. Normally as a missionary you can't do the things I started to do toward the end of my mission.

Around March or April 2013 I was given permission to do a little bit of gymnastics, maybe like eight hours per week. It was very inconsistent through summer 2013 and winter 2013. Then, at the start of February 2014, I was able to go the gym a lot more - about 14 hours per week. Not lots, but a lot for me at the time. That is when I started feeling back into it. I arrived home in Canada in late June.

IG: How have you been able to get back into international form so quickly?

JP: It feels to me that it has taken forever to get back, probably because of some of the really hard days that I had to go through by myself in Korea. But I owe a lot to my coach (Liang Cheng) for keeping tabs on me while I was away and encouraging me with words, and also that he showed he cared for me and knew I could get back. I also owe my parents and family members for all the support they gave me along the way. Honestly speaking, I know that I have been blessed for my efforts.

IG: What are your realistic expectations for Nanning, in terms of your own performance and your team's performance?

JP: For me, because this is just my second competition since my mission, I want to show some good form, and hit my routines I have ready. I feel as though I can give a good placing in the all-around. I am also focusing on high bar and pommel horse, to hit a routine I know I can score pretty high with. As for our team, we don't look too bad. I have been a little sheltered over the past, so I'm not too sure how some countries are doing, but I think we are in a safe place to qualify a team to the next worlds (in 2015).

International Gymnast magazine's coverage of Canadian gymnasts nominated for the 2014 world championships includes:

"Canadian Promise" - Ellie Black chat, Isabela Onyshko profile, Robert Watson interview (July/August 2014)
"Canadian Diversity" - Ellie Black profile, Hugh Smith profile (July/August 2013)
"Black to Business" Ellie Black interview (November 2012)
"Aiming to Top the Charts" - Maegan Chant profile (October 2013)
Ken Ikeda profile (October 2002)
"Making Tracks" - Scott Morgan profile (December 2013)
Jackson Payne interview (September 2011)
Aleeza Yu two-page photo spread (May 2014)

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

Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 12 August 2014 05:59    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Simona Castro (Chile)
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

At 25, Chilean Olympian Simona Castro has found new drive and passion for gymnastics as she prepares for the upcoming Pan American championships and world championships.

At 25, Chilean Olympian Simona Castro has found new drive and passion for gymnastics as she prepares for the upcoming Pan American championships and world championships.

Castro and her older sister, Martina, are icons of Chile's gymnastics program. Simona became the first Chilean female gymnast to compete at the Olympic Games when she took part in the 2012 London Games. She also spent four years studying at and competing for the University of Denver in the United States. Martina, 28, competed at last year's world championships and in May made two finals at the World Challenge Cup of Anadia, Portugal. Simona also competed in Anadia, where she placed sixth on uneven bars.

In this IG Online interview, Simona details the unspoken challenges she faced in her Olympic debut, the inspiration she gains from her sister, and the forces that continue to drive her.

IG: We have not seen you compete much since the South American Games in March. What are your plans in terms of your next competition, for example, the upcoming Pan American championships/Pan American Games test event in Mississauga (Canada) and the world championships in Nanning?

SC: I had the chance to compete in Portugal this past May but we were not quite ready to start our season yet. I will in fact be at Pan Ams test this August, so hopefully we get to fight for a team spot for our country. And if everything goes well, worlds in China this October.

IG: Where and with whom are you training?

SC: I am training with my all-time coach, Isabel Lazo. She's my mother and has coached me since I was little. I train at a facility here in Santiago, and plan on staying. I believe that she can provide me the knowledge and hours of dedication that I need to get where I want to go. Add to that the fact and all the experience that I gained with my college coaches in Denver, which I can also share with her and the little ones in the gym.

2012 Olympian Simona Castro (Chile)

IG: What has kept you motivated to continue your career, after competing at the Olympics and graduating university?

SC: One of my biggest motivations was the Olympics in 2012. I thought that transitioning after college gymnastics was a bit hard because your body is really tired and all you want to do is take a break. So, I decided to take it easy that year, after graduating, and decided to spend some extra time on my professional career. I spent a couple of months doing my practical training in Colorado and Miami. I had lots of fun and learned lots of new things about the world and about myself, but I was a bit unsatisfied with how many hours I got to spend in the gym. After South American Games in March, which was hosted by my country, I came back to Chile and decided to pursue gymnastics entirely and put a couple of things aside, prioritizing my goals for the next couple of years.

IG: We understand that you were not competing at 100% strength in London; what injuries were bothering you, and how is your injury condition these days?

SC: I must say it was a bit of a rough process going into the Olympics. We definitely tried to ignore all the unfortunate injuries that I encountered, but considering how strong the college season is we were pretty happy with how it turned out. I had some chronic pain in my Achilles' [tendon], an inflamed supraspinatus (muscle in shoulder) and had barely come out from a torn abdominal muscle. After that, injuries were just part of the mental game. Fortunately, I had various doctors and people working with alternative therapies to help me deal with them, and I'm really thankful for it. It just shows me how determined I can be, so that nothing can stop me from doing what I love.

IG: You and your sister Martina have been holding up the Chilean team for many years. In what ways do you and Martina keep each other motivated?

SC: I think we really like to challenge each other. We are competitive in a very positive way, and try to push each other whenever we can. She's always been there for me, and I try to reciprocate. I believe the best memory I've gotten from her is when she was cheering for me on floor at the Olympics, and you could actually hear to her from all the way at the top of the stadium. It meant the world to me.

IG: Looking ahead, what do you think Chile needs to boost its international ranking?

SC: I think we really need to provide good training for the upcoming coaches. There is a lot of interest in gymnastics but I believe there's a lack of quality in coaching. There's been a lot done, but I believe it could be done better. The actual coaches that provide gymnasts for the national team are very few, and I believe we are not taking advantage of their work. We would need to, hopefully, educate people more about gymnastics, its rules and its requirements so they could at least have a basic understanding of how it works. Hopefully we turn into the pioneers who can make that change.

Read "Role Model for Chile," a profile on Simona Castro, in the March 2012 issue of International Gymnast magazine. To order back issues, or subscribe to the print and/or digital versions of IG magazine, click here.

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.


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