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
Pollard Hopes to Channel Inspiration in Commonwealth Debut
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
Northern Ireland's Mahwinney Eager for Commonwealth Games
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:
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.
Written by John Crumlish Thursday, 19 June 2014 11:51
Former Soviet team member Tatyana Godenko, who now coaches in New Jersey, is working to integrate the artistic glory of the sport’s past with the technical demands of contemporary gymnastics.
Godenko, a native of Krasnoyarsk, Russia, competed on the dominant Soviet team in the 1980s. Her performances – which combined extension, posture, originality and difficulty – helped her earn impressive international credentials until a poorly timed ACL injury ruined her chance to try for the 1988 Olympic Games.
In 1995 Godenko moved to the U.S. Today she serves as director and head coach of Future Stars Gymnastics in Hamilton, New Jersey. Her husband, former gymnast Yuriy Marchenko, coaches with her.
Godenko recalls the highlights of her competitive career, and offers her perspectives on the challenges of coaching today’s gymnasts, in this IG Online interview.
Godenko today coaching at Future Stars Gymnastics in New Jersey
IG: Looking back on your competitive career, what do you consider to be your greatest accomplishments, and why? What overall feeling do you have about your career?
TG: I remember winning and losing, tears of happiness and tears of disappointments. I guess it's a part of your experience before you know what needs to be done to make it through and get to the top. I feel that all my meets were my accomplishments, and some were just more valuable than others.
My best competitive accomplishments were in the mid-1980s. My first international meet was a dual meet between Russia and Bulgaria in May 1983. I remember it very well because I got a perfect 10.00 on floor exercise. Somebody even yelled "Bravo!" I won the all-around, as well. It was very unforgettable to be highly recognized by the judges and win the meet. In May 1984, I won the gold medal in the all-around in an international meet in Sofia, Bulgaria. Two months later, I got two gold medals at the Friendship Tournament in Czechoslovakia, as a part of the Soviet team and individually on the uneven bars. I thought I'd done my best-ever bars routine. I caught my release moves and stuck my dismount perfectly, yet the Romanian gymnast did well, too. At the award ceremony, when my name was announced as a winner together with Daniela Silivas (of Romania), I was very happy that my team and country had another gold to claim.
Tatyana Godenko in 1986
Another international gold medal came from the Kraft Champions All tournament in London in April 1986. I felt very calm and sure of every move on every event during this meet. It was an incredible experience to stand on the top of the podium with the winning cup in front of the crowd in that huge arena. British gymnastics expert Eileen Langsley wrote, “It was obvious from the start that she (Godenko) would present a strong challenge for the overall title. And it happened just that way. Godenko moved into the lead after the uneven bars and (was) never passed. She got the gold!"
In November 1986, I competed at the DTB Cup in Stuttgart, West Germany, together with Daniela Silivas and Ecaterina Szabo. I placed fourth all-around. It was a competition to remember. I was never given a chance to be on the podium before the meet, and had to miss the official warm-up due to the delayed transportation. Every country had their own bus to bring the athletes to the arena. The meet started on time. Vault was first. All you have is one touch, cold. All my thoughts were about a huge responsibility before my country, and that I had to represent myself as best as I was trained to do. I made it work. It was a very strong competition among the best in the world.
Domestically, at the (Soviet) Junior Nationals in 1982, 1983 and 1984, I got bronze medals in the all-around, all three years in a row. I also became the junior national champion on uneven bars and floor exercise in 1984 in Donetsk. I got another gold medal during the 1985 Spartakiada Games in Gomel. At the 1986 Summer National Spartakiada I got the silver medal with Russia's team. In 1987 at the National Dinamo Championship in Almaty I got the silver medal in the all-around. Natalia Frolova got the gold. It was always an eager moment to show your new moves. At that last meet I had to try a new vault, a Yurchenko with one-and-a-half twist, and I made it. I did new tumbling passes on floor - a double layout and a whip to two-and-a-half-twist to punch front. It felt good. We were getting ready to be even stronger for the Olympic year (1988).
IG: You were one of many wonderful gymnasts on the mighty 1980s Soviet team. What made you, individually, and your team, collectively, so powerful?
TG: I was crazy in love with gymnastics since I was a little girl. I always wanted to practice all day long to achieve my dreams to be a very beautiful gymnast, to be noticed and make it to the Olympics. Who did not dream about it? Gymnastics then was, in my opinion, the life to live, despite the hard work. You think gymnastics, you dream gymnastics, you walk like a gymnast, you flip like a gymnast, and yet you dance like a ballerina. Day after day, month after month, year after year, you train and do not give up. You dream to be the best, and you work to become the best. Later you train and compete shoulder to shoulder with the best in your country, the Soviet Union. Then you have a chance to compete among the best in the world.
I was very fortunate to be able to train together with very famous gymnasts in 1980s. We shared a lot of hard working hours during our training at Round Lake (near Moscow), competed at many national and international meets together, and shared our great competitive experience and victories. We were teammates, yet we competed against each other. We were competitors, yet we helped one another and pushed one another to be stronger gymnasts, so we could be much better than others in the world of gymnastics, and so we could achieve the same goal in sport for ourselves and our country. We wanted to be successful, and then we were recognized around the globe for our graceful style, strength, passion and beauty in gymnastics. We had a strong reputation. We became successful in sport and in life, as well!
IG: Injury prevented you from reaching your full potential. What was the process that enabled you to reconcile the fact that you would have to stop doing gymnastics?
TG: I had several injuries, including a few knee injuries, through my gymnastics career, which I was able to recover from and get back on track on time. Yet the last knee injury (ACL) was before the 1988 Olympics. It prevented me from being able to achieve the dream goal of my life. I just did not have enough time to recover from it. My teammates - Yelena Shushunova, Yelena Shevchenko, Svetlana Boginskaya, Svetlana Baitova, Natalia Laschenova and Olga Strazheva - went to the 1988 Olympics in Korea. They won the gold as a team, and I was very happy for them. They well deserved it.
IG: What drew you back into gymnastics, as a coach?
TG: I thought I would never be able to get back to it after my last injury. It was very hard, yet it happened. And I had to move on with my life. I had to find another way to succeed. My new goal was the university. That was accomplished with success. But I could not stay away from the sport for long. The love and the passion for gymnastics brought me back as a coach and choreographer. No regrets!
IG: Which aspects of gymnastics from your time do you feel have been "lost"?
Tatyana Godenko in 1986
TG: I’m not sure if it's been "lost" completely, but it would be the virtuosity and the artistry. Let's take a look at some gymnastics performances in the 1980s. Every international gymnast, from the Soviet Union, Romania, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, China and elsewhere, was trying to impress the crowd with virtuosic moves on any event. Skills were very innovative and interesting to watch. There was a lot more artistry in gymnastics performances during the floor exercise routines. It was a different view of gymnastics - very elegant, very graceful, very stylish and very unique!
IG: How do you feel it would be possible to "find" or restore that to today's gymnastics?
TG: It takes the coach and the gymnast to make it happen. When the rules are changing, coaches are trying to add more difficulties and more bonus to be very competitive on either the national or international level. Sometimes it leaves no room for artistry and virtuosity, which is very unfortunate, because gymnastics is a very beautiful sport. Many gymnastics clubs and coaches are helping the gymnasts to restore those aspects of gymnastics now. It shows in the performances of their gymnasts. Nastia Liukin is a great example. At the 2008 Olympics, her bars routine was extremely virtuosic and her floor routine was absolutely graceful. It's great to see when gymnasts surprise us with unforgettable performances or new moves. It makes the sport very interesting to watch.
IG: Which aspects of Soviet gymnastics training have you integrated into your own coaching style? And which have you avoided?
TG: We happened to have a very powerful and knowledgeable coaching staff and also great choreographers, who worked with us all those years and made us who we are today. Every coach has a different coaching style, so we had to adapt to them when we were in training. I'm not afraid to say that I have a great understanding of the technical aspects of gymnastics training, based on my previous experience as an international gymnast. I've tried a lot of different skills during my career, plenty more of those specific drills on my own body. I knew which drills were more useful. Yet, I always liked the detailed work our coaches were giving us on different events. I respect their determination in making us to be the best, always with an individual approach. I believe I've adapted that well. Now, being a coach, I have an ability to impart that knowledge onto our gymnasts. I always explain every detail and make sure girls follow through and accomplish it every time on any skill, and on every dance move. It helps to increase the motivation and the desire for the gymnasts to learn, achieve and succeed.
IG: Your gymnastics performances were exquisitely detailed - every body part in perfect position. What method or methods do you employ as a coach, so your gymnasts can also master even the simplest of details?
TG: Thank you for the compliment. We always worked a lot on simplest details, making sure that our muscles’ memory will keep it that way, and we would look superb and very polished. Our training included plenty of different challenges, such as running, conditioning and lots of drills on every event, plus trampoline, ballet and flexibility, as well. Everything had to be very exact and nearly perfect. Details matter in gymnastics. Every step of the way has to be accounted for and thought through. Repetition makes it perfect, and the number of those perfect repetitions helps the gymnasts in skills as well as at competitions. It obviously worked for me. Now it's time for me to share my training experience with our gymnasts. Many introduced skills are broken down to simple drills, just to make sure that every detail is taking care of, polished and memorized. Perfection is the key.
IG: So much has changed, culturally, since you grew up in the Soviet Union. Children are perhaps freer to choose how hard they want to train, or how serious they want to be in the gym. As a coach, how do you handle this challenge, since you want your gymnasts to be the best they can be?
TG: We were free to choose how hard we wanted to train in the Soviet Union. We wanted to be in the gym every day and all day long. We knew that, if we were not serious enough about our training, we wouldn’t be able to get far. Those kids who worked the hardest and were serious about gymnastics had much better accomplishments. Even nowadays the children are still free to choose how hard they want to train. It is not easy to be serious. I believe that it takes a big commitment not only from the kids, but from their parents, as well. Kids are busier these days with different sports and activities. They would like to be involved in everything. As a coach it is very challenging to keep talented kids in gymnastics because of this. Yet we manage. We have kids who are very dedicated to gymnastics. Those kids progress much further than the rest. We help them become the best they can ever be. They win the state title, they go to regionals and nationals. They are recognized. It feels great when coaches’ and gymnasts’ dreams come true.
We have had several situations when other coaches from diving, track, trampoline, softball and even rowing came by our gym to ask us how serious our gymnasts are about the sport, because those coaches wanted our gymnasts to be on a team in some other sport. Our gymnasts stand out. They are well-trained. Some of our former gymnasts have even had scholarships to different universities.
IG: When did you move to the U.S., and why did you decide to live and open a gym in New Jersey?
TG: I moved to the U.S. in the summer of 1995. I always like a challenge. I had a job offer as a coach and choreographer in New Hampshire, and then I had another offer in Princeton (New Jersey). I did not think I would pick New Jersey, but Princeton area is incredibly beautiful and historical, so we stayed in the area and later opened our club. There are new challenges in life. Yet, it's very rewarding to be able to establish our own gymnastics school, and obviously leave our own mark in sport. Our son's name is Vlad, and he is very involved in gymnastics. He is double-flipping and double-twisting practically every day. He loves it!
IG: Now you are coaching the U.S., which has become a world power since your days on the Soviet team. What do you think it will take for the U.S. to maintain a leading position in the world? And what do you think it will take for countries from the former USSR to again rise to the top of the sport?
TG: American gymnastics has been very powerful for the past 20 years. A lot of former international gymnasts and coaches came to the U.S. with their innovative ideas to improve the sport. We (former international competitors and coaches) have been working, creating and developing even more drills, and more different ways for gymnastics training from our own coaching experience, so we can produce better gymnasts and stronger results. It worked and still works! American gymnasts claimed the Olympic all-around gold medal at the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics - not bad at all!
I would like to believe that the U.S. will continue to maintain a leading position in the world. Now, Valeri Liukin (1988 Olympic all-around silver medalist and high-bar co-gold medalist, and Nastia’s father/coach) is USA Gymnastics’ development team coordinator, and this should guarantee the increase in the number of young athletes in the U.S. No doubt they will be recognized in the world. Those girls are our "Future Stars" and big hopes for the country. And hopefully, Marta and Bela Karolyi, who brought up numerous world and Olympic champions, will continue to (help) leading the U.S. team to more international victories and gold medals.
And let's remember that we should never underestimate the rest of the world's best gymnastics countries - Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, China, Romania, Japan, Australia, Germany and Great Britain. They too will be working even harder up to the next world championship and then the Olympic Games. Time will tell. It's always a challenge to compete among the best in the world, and always will be.
International Gymnast’s profiles and updates on former Soviet female gymnasts include:
Polina Astakhova/Hall of Fame Induction coverage (August/September 2002) "Catching up with Irina Baraksanova" – profile and cover photo (July/August 2010) Armine Barutyan photo page/update (January/February 2008) Svetlana Boginskaya/Hall of Fame induction coverage (June/July 2005) Lyubov Burda Andrianova/Hall of Fame induction coverage and interview (July 2013) "Dancing Spirit" – Olga Chudina profile (May 2003) "True Original" – Yelena Davydova photo page (July/August 2010) Yelena Davydova interview (July/August 2007) Yelena Davydova/Hall of Fame induction coverage (June 2007) "Catching up with Olesya Dudnik: Returning to Glory" – profile (November 2002) "Catching up with Maria Filatova: Evolving Style" – profile (August/September 2005) "Catchigg up with Natalia Frolova" – profile (November 2011) "Catching up with Roza Galiyeva: Irreplaceable" – profile (March 2007) "Catching up with Lidia Gorbik and Alexander Tkatchev: Still Keeping Pace" – profile (June/July 2005) "Catching up with Tatiana Groshkova: Still Flying" – profile (May 2007) "Elegant as Ever" – Natalia Ilienko profile (September 2007) "Good Karma" - Natalia Kalinina update (July/August 2013) "10 Questions with Nellie Kim" – interview (January/February 2008) "Beaming Mother" – Vera Kolesnikova/Viktoria Komova photo page (March 2010) "Catching up with Vera Kolesnikova: Still Willful" – profile (June/July 2001) "Forty Year Later" – Olga Korbut photo page/update (November 2012) Olga Koval club update (April 2007) "Catching up with Olga Koval" – profile (January 2003) Natalia Kuchinskaya Hall of Fame induction coverage (June 2006) "Happy Days are Hers Again" – Natalia Kuchinskaya profile (November 2001) "Catching up with Natalia Laschenova: Second Youth" – profile (April 2002) Larisa Latynina photo gallery (October 2012) "Dream Realized" - Olga Mostepanova profile (November 2008) Yelena Mukhina tribute page (January/February 2007) "Angular Precision" – Elvira Saadi photo page/update (April 2013) Elvira Saadi interview/Hall of Fame induction (July/August 2009) "Perfect Harmony" - Yelena Sazonenkova profile (January/February 2013) Natalia Shaposhnikova/Hall of Fame induction coverage (June 2012) Natalia Shaposhnikova photo page (April 2007) "Catching up with Natalia Shaposhnikova and Pavel Sout: Parallel Dedication"– profile (August/September 2003) "Catching up with Yelena Shevchenko: Keeping it Together" – profile (October 2001) "Catching up with Lyudmila Stovbchataya and Vladimir Shamenko" – profile (November 2006) Yelena Shushunova/Hall of Fame Induction coverage and interview (June/July 2004) "Catching up with Olga Strazheva: Still Stopping the Show" – profile (June/July 2003) "Turning Point" – Lyudmila Turishcheva interview (February 2004) "Tuzhikova's Historical Twist" – Tatiana Tuzhikova profile (November 2003) Natalia Yurchenko/Hall of Fame induction coverage and interview (June 2014) "10 Questions with Natalia Yurchenko" – interview (May 2006) "A New World of Beauty" – Natalia Yurchenko profile (May 2001)
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