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Written by John Crumlish    Wednesday, 09 January 2013 19:09    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Danusia Francis (Great Britain/UCLA)
(7 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

After her successful Sunday debut as a freshman gymnast at UCLA, veteran British gymnast Danusia Francis said she is enjoying her transition into the newest phase of her gymnastics career.

Danusia Francis on bars for UCLA

Francis, who competed on uneven bars and balance beam during UCLA's winning effort against over Southern Utah University, enrolled at UCLA on an athletic scholarship after serving as a reserve gymnast for the British team at last summer's Olympic Games in London. While Francis has yet to declare her major at UCLA, she is considering a career as a television presenter.

Born May 13, 1994, in Coventry, Francis previously trained under coaches Vincent Walduck, Michele Walduck and 1981 world floor exercise champion Natalia Ilienko-Jarvis at Heathrow Gymnastics Club in London.

Francis represented Great Britain at the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo, where she placed 34th all-around in qualifications and helped her team place fifth (the country's best world finish in history) in the team final. She finished 16th all-around at the 2011 European Championships in Berlin, and was a member of the fourth-place British team at the 2012 Europeans in Brussels. Earlier in Francis's career she placed 17th all-around at the 2008 European Junior Championships.

In British Championships competition, Francis's best results include third place all-around, and first place on balance beam and floor exercise, in 2010; second place all-around and first place on balance beam in 2011; and sixth place all-around in 2012.

Francis was one of the reserve gymnasts for the British team at last summer's Olympic Games in London, where she had the opportunity to perform exhibition routines on balance beam under spotlights before each competition session.

IG spoke with Francis at UCLA following Sunday's competition, where she positively assessed her transition to academic and athletic life as a U.S. university student.

Francis competing for Great Britain at the 2011 Europeans

IG: What was it like competing in your first U.S. collegiate meet?

DF: It's such a different experience, competing in such a team environment. I hurt my shoulder in warm-up, so that held me back a bit, but it was a lot of fun. There was so much positive energy around.

IG: How did you manage your nerves, competing for the first time since summer and in a new place?

DF: The atmosphere helps you control your nerves a lot, since it's more like having a team right there beside you. It really helps you. Making sure you support your whole team after you perform makes you forget about your own nerves, as well.

IG: After a lengthy international career, what gives you the motivation to continue competing?

DF: Before I was offered the scholarship, I was definitely thinking I would quit after London, whether I made (the British Olympic team) or not. So being here, my motivation is definitely the team. We have so much support, not just in gymnastics but getting a great education and the whole experience so far. I'm sure the next four years are going to be so much fun.

IG: What has been the biggest adjustment for you – the academic demands, the U.S. culture or something else?

DF: I was very homesick when I came here. I was at boarding school since I was nine, but I knew I could always go home because it was only about an hour and a half away. Being so far from home (at UCLA) and knowing I couldn't go home even if I wanted to gave me a slight feeling of being trapped. But having the support I've had has helped me get through that.

IG: What's the biggest difference for you between England and the U.S.?

Danusia Francis (Great Britain/UCLA)

DF: Everything is so different from England. It's been a big adjustment. The weather, for sure, and there are some small differences, like foods that they don't have here, like baked beans (laughs). I was surprised to find that out! The people are slightly different. I'd says that, in England, people are more sarcastic and to-the-point, so at the beginning if I was a bit honest sometimes to the other freshmen, I was like, "Just let me know!" because they're not used to people being as honest as people are in England, I think (laughs).

IG: What is your course load this term?

DF: This quarter I have English, Architecture and German 59, which is like learning about German culture. I don't have a major yet. I'm undeclared, but I will possibly major in communications. I also love to write, so maybe English or sociology. I'm not sure yet.

IG: What are your thoughts about competing internationally in the future?

DF: I want to do the World University Games in Russia (this summer), and then next year we'll see how my body is, and how my mind is. I'm definitely taking it one day, one month, one year at a time.

Written by John Crumlish    Saturday, 05 January 2013 12:29    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Lisa Ecker (Austria)
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

2013 began in honorable style for Lisa Ecker, who on Jan. 1 was voted Austria’s female Gymnast of the Year for 2012. Pictured: Ecker at Austria's national championships in November.

2013 began in honorable style for Lisa Ecker, who on Jan. 1 was voted Austria’s female Gymnast of the Year for 2012. Ecker earned the Austrian national all-around title and her first FIG Challenger Cup medal last fall, and now looks ahead to the challenges she will face in the new year.

Born Sept. 19, 1992, in Linz, Ecker trains under coaches Johanna Gratt, Katharina Wieser and Julia Nica. Ecker, who competed at the past three world championships, placed second on floor exercise and eighth on uneven bars at last November’s FIG Challenge Cup of Ostrava, Czech Republic.

Ecker’s recent achievements have compensated for inconsistency and injury that hampered her in 2010 and 2011, said Austrian Gymnastics Federation Secretary General Robert Labner.

"Lisa totally botched her performance at the 2010 Worlds in Rotterdam and also had some mistakes at the 2011 Worlds in Tokyo," Labner said. "Directly following Tokyo she suffered a torn ACL, and therefore she missed the Austrian run for the one available spot at the (2012) Olympics. Lisa started to rebuild her fitness very carefully."

Ecker proved herself anew in November 2012, when she captured two domestic all-around titles and her first FIG Challenger Cup medal.

"Many thought that Lisa would not come back," Labner said. "So the surprise was all the greater when she finished her comeback competition at Upper Austrian regional championships on November 4 with a seriously judged 54.995 all-around total, which was the highest ever by an Austrian gymnast. She won the Austrian championships two weeks later, although she had some mistakes there. The Austrian gymnastics community was very impressed with Lisa‘s comeback. She now seems much more mature and determined than before."

In this IG Online interview, the resolute Ecker reviews her past and assesses her future competitive prospects.

IG: What do you think helped you achieve so much success in 2012?

LE: Concerning my success, there are a couple of things which have to work together. You have to have a lot of discipline and keep your motivation high all the time, and you have to work really hard, giving everything you have! You must be willing to give up most of your spare time in order to achieve things like that. Making sacrifices is very important. But I think the most important thing is to have a real good supporting team - coach, doctor, physiotherapist and especially family.

Ecker and her coach at November's Austrian championships

IG: What are your thoughts on competing at the top level when you are no longer a teenager? What is the benefit to you of doing gymnastics in your 20s?

LE: My benefit of doing gymnastics in my 20s is that I’ve got a lot of experience. Knowing exactly what my body can do and how to deal with injuries give me a big advantage.

IG: How much time away from the gym have you had during the holiday season?

LE: I had one week off. So I had the chance to live a normal life for a couple of days, spending time with friends and going out, but also regenerating my body and mind. I’m looking forward to training again and preparing for the European championships (in Moscow in April).

IG: How, where and with whom did you celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Eve?

LE: I celebrated in a very traditional way with my family and my boyfriend at home. We had a little Christmas tree and I got a lot of presents. I just love Christmas. On New Year’s Eve I was with my best friend in Linz and some other very good friends. We watched the fireworks and had a lot of fun.

IG: What are your goals and resolutions for 2013 in the gym, and in your outside life?

LE: Well, I would say being good at school is one goal. But on the other hand I will do everything to be part of the European and World Championships. In the gym I will try to avoid any injuries by being very focused. I will try to work even harder, because otherwise my main goal, the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, will not be accessible.

Written by John Crumlish    Monday, 03 December 2012 19:42    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Peggy Liddick (Australia)
(5 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Australian national team coach Peggy Liddick gave an IG an update on the state of her squad of veteran and newcomers as they prepare for 2013 competitions ranging from the Australian Youth Olympic Festival to the world championships. Pictured: Liddick and Lauren Mitchell celebrate her gold medal on floor exercise at the 2010 Worlds, the first world title for the Australian women.

Australian national team coach Peggy Liddick gave an IG an update on the state of her squad of veteran and newcomers as they prepare for 2013 competitions ranging from the Australian Youth Olympic Festival to the world championships.

Liddick, a native of Nebraska, has guided the Australians to a consistent place among the world’s best teams since she took over as head coach following the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.

Liddick competed in gymnastics and track-and-field at the University of Nebraska before she embarked on her coaching career. As a coach in the U.S., her most successful gymnast was Shannon Miller, whom she coached with Steve Nunno at Dynamo Gymnastics in Oklahoma. Miller’s accolades included world all-around titles in 1993 and 1994, five medals at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, and gold medals on balance beam and in the team competition at the 1996 Atlanta Games, among others.

Under Liddick’s leadership, the Australian women’s team qualified for the last four Olympic Games, where it placed seventh at the 2000 Sydney Games, eighth at the 2004 Athens Games, sixth at the 2008 Beijing Games and 10th at the 2012 London Games.

The Australian team in London included three members of Australia’s sixth–place team at the Beijing 2008 Games - Lauren Mitchell, Georgia Bonora and Ashley Brennan – along with Emily Little and Larrissa Miller. 2008 Olympians Daria Joura and Olivia Vivian also tried for spots on the squad for London.

In world championships competitions, Australia won its only team medal, a bronze, in 2003. Australia’s other worlds finishes under Liddick include fifth in 1999, sixth in 2006 and 2010, seventh in 2001, eighth in 2011, and 11th in 1997 and 2007. The next world championships will take place in Antwerp, Sept. 30-Oct. 6, 2013.

Also on Liddick’s radar for 2013 is the sixth Australian Youth Olympic Festival that will take place Jan. 16-20 in Sydney. Inaugurated in 2001 as a legacy event of the 2000 Sydney Games, the 2013 edition will include 17 sports in which 1,700 athletes from 30 countries will compete. (Though originally held every two years, the competition will now take place every four years.)

IG spoke with Liddick this week to assess the state of her team and forecast its prospects for the coming year.

IG: Your team in London, and the contenders for your team in general, included lots of veteran talent. How difficult was it for you to choose among so many experienced gymnasts who had served the team well in previous Games and other big competitions?

Liddick watches an Aussie gymnast warm up on beam

PL: It was really nice that the returning veterans wanted to still be in their gyms and part of the national team. I felt the selected gymnasts were the ones who completed the needs of our team and showed the most consistency in training and competitions, so that was the main criteria for their selection. It is always difficult come selection time, but I feel the gymnasts and personal coaches are well informed and were aware of their standings at any time.

IG: Of the London squad, which gymnasts will continue in 2013?

PL: I have not yet asked for a full commitment to the national team. I wanted the team to have enough downtime and I have given them the responsibility to let me know when they are ready to begin training again for national team assignments or for the 2013 World Championships and beyond. So I will know more by the January training camp.

IG: Has Daria Joura indicated if she will give 2013 a try? If so, what do you think she could contribute to the team?

PL: Dasha is still in and out of the gym, keeping her feet wet. Again, she has not committed either way and I feel she can always contribute to our team when she is fit.

IG: It's also interesting that Olivia Vivian not only spent four years competing in the NCAA (for Oregon State Univ.) but tried for London, and has since won the Level 10 clubs title. What do you think keeps her going?

PL: It is simple. Olivia is one of those gymnasts who absolutely loves the sport, loves performing and has endless energy. She is always a pleasure to have around and her positive spirit is infectious.

IG: Heading into 2013, who are some of the younger girls, and girls coming back from injury such as Georgia Simpson and Nikki Chung, whom you expect will impact your team?

PL: Georgia is training well and has added some new skills to her program. Nikki is still recovering from ACL knee reconstruction from May and finishing up her Year 12 studies. The new young gymnasts are looking good and are excited to begin their journey. I am not ready to single any one out yet, but we just finished a camp and lots of good work was being produced.

IG: How much do you think or hope the Australian Youth Olympic Festival (in January 2013) will boost the motivation of your younger gymnasts?

PL: The AYOF has provided many young gymnasts a platform to break into the international scene. This one will be no exception.

International Gymnast Magazine Related Features:
"Aussie Long Shot" – Joura profile (July/August 2012)
"The Joy of Joura" – Joura profile (March 2007)
Joura on cover (July/August 2006)
"Golden Surprise" – Mitchell cover story (January/February 2011)
Liddick interview (January/February 2011)
Mitchell interview (March 2008)
"10 Questions with Olivia Vivian" – interview (March 2011)

To subscribe or order back issues, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 20 November 2012 14:31    PDF Print
Moors Ready for More Competitive Challenges
(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Canadian Olympian Victoria Moors told IG that she was pleased by her fifth-place performances at last weekend's Elite Gym Massilia competition in Marseille, France.

Canadian Olympian Victoria Moors told IG that she was pleased by her performances at the Elite Gym Massilia competition in Marseille.

Moors claimed fifth in the all-around in the Masters division and in the floor exercise final in Marseille. She debuted a new floor routine that featured outstanding choreography and a beautiful double layout mount.

"Competing in France was a big accomplishment for me," said Moors, who turned 16 on Nov. 5. "My goal was just to compete and to try the new floor routine. I didn't expect to do that well individually because all my routines were very watered down. It was nice to get the competition feeling in me again, though."

Moors said competing in Marseille was a challenge, following the Canadian team's history-making, fifth-place finish in the team final at this summer's Olympic Games in London. The team qualified eighth to the eight-team final, but improved more than 3 points to finish a best-ever fifth place.

In addition, Moors' famed floor routine to "Tango's Assassin" helped Canada earn the third-highest floor exercise total in the team final.

"It was tough coming down from such a high after the Olympics, although I went to the gym the day after I came back from London," she said. "I stayed in shape, and I'm still continuing to work on it."

Moors is coached by the legendary Elvira Saadi, a member of two Olympic gold medal-winning Soviet teams, at Dynamo Gymnastics in Cambridge, Ont. She said she is eager to continue making competitive progress.

"My focuses are on just getting myself back into shape and working on new skills," she told IG.

Read more on Moors in an upcoming issue of International Gymnast magazine. To subscribe or order back issues, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Thursday, 15 November 2012 18:56    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Lisa-Katharina Hill (Germany)
(7 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

2012 German Olympic team alternate Lisa-Katharina Hill spoke to IG this week, sharing her perspective on her past accomplishments and her plans for the new Olympic cycle.

Overcoming her disappointment of her alternate status on the German team at this summer's Olympic Games in London, veteran gymnast Lisa-Katharina Hill is making the most of the international opportunities that face her as she heads toward 2013.

Hill placed third all-around at the Arthur Gander Memorial held Nov. 1 in Chiasso, Switzerland. Later this month she is slated to compete in the small premiere league final for her Grossburgwedel team in Berlin, and in December she will take part in the DTB-Pokal team competition in Stuttgart.

Hill helped Germany place 14th at the 2010 World Championships in Rotterdam and sixth at the 2011 Worlds in Tokyo. In German national all-around championships, she was second in 2010, sixth in 2011 and fifth in 2012. Hill placed fourth all-around at the second German Olympic team qualification meet, but was named alternate on the German squad that finished ninth in London.

In this IG Online interview, the 19-year-old Hill shared her perspective on her past accomplishments and her plans for the new Olympic cycle.

IG: Congratulations on your solid performance at the Arthur Gander Memorial. What was it like for you to get back into the feel of major competition since the Olympic Games?

Germany's Lisa Katharina-Hill during podium training at the 2012 Europeans in Brussels

LKH: Thank you. It was a good feeling to be allowed to compete at the Arthur Gander Memorial. Also, I was really excited because there was no ideal preparation for this event. After the Olympics I took a rest for more than four weeks. So I did my best, and performed simply and safely. After the competition I felt very happy, of course.

IG: It is both an honor and a difficulty for a gymnast to serve as an Olympic team alternate. What are your feelings on coming very close to competing in London, but not getting the chance to compete?

LKH: Yes, you are right. On one hand, it is an honor to be the Olympic team alternate. Many people outside serious sports complimented me on this success. They couldn't understand why I was dissatisfied with the result to be number six. Now I can think about it more clearly and be proud of my results in 2012. On the other hand, to compete at the Olympics was my dream since I was 5 years old, and now I have missed that big aim. I was very, very disappointed! But life must go on.

IG: What gives you the motivation to continue competing at the top level?

LKH: That is very good question. After the disappointment in August I wasn't sure whether I could and wanted to go on with gymnastics. But I knew I should not make a decision in a depressed state of life. First I should try to get normal and then decide if I would go on with gymnastics or finish. So I started training after long holidays and made myself able to compete.

IG: Based on your performances up to London, and your training after London, in which ways do you think you can best help the German team in 2013?

LKH: I think I have a solid performance in the all-around, and especially on uneven bars I have a high-scoring routine. I will see if I can support the German team with my performances next year. There are many good gymnasts who want to compete for the German team in 2013.

IG: Technically the next Olympics Games are less than four years away. What are your thoughts on trying for Rio?

LKH: More than three years is such a long time, and it's still a long way to go for Rio. 2016 is the next chance to realize the big dream. So if I can go on with gymnastics, I will try to catch it. But don't forget that I've finished school now, and I'm looking for an occupational decision. Hopefully I can realize both.


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