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Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 04 July 2014 21:57    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Tracie Ang (Malaysia)
(5 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

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    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Tatyana Godenko
(6 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

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)

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

Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 13 June 2014 00:41    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Camila Ambrosio (Argentina)
(6 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Recently crowned Argentinian national all-around champion Camila Ambrosio hopes to expand her success on the global level at this fall's world championships, and ultimately qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Pictured: Ambrosio with coaches Daniele Conde, Lucas Chiarlo and Antonella Blanco

Camila Ambrosio (Argentina)

Recently crowned Argentinian national all-around champion Camila Ambrosio hopes to expand her success on the global level at this fall's world championships, and ultimately qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Born April 30, 1996, in Buenos Aires, Ambrosio trains at the Vélez Sarsfield club, where her clubmates include 2012 Olympian Valeria Pereyra and 2014 Argentinian junior all-around champion Mayra Vaquie.

Ambrosio placed 11th all-around and first with her team at the 2011 Junior South American Championships in Cúcuta, Colombia. She competed at the FIG Challenger Cups of Ghent, Belgium, and Maribor, Slovenia, in 2012. At the 2014 South American Games in Santiago, Chile, in March, she placed 11th all-around, fifth on vault, sixth on balance beam and seventh on floor exercise.

Argentina has not fielded a team at worlds since 2006, but Ambrosio is eye the 2014 Worlds that will take place Oct. 3-12 in Nanning, China. She also aims to follow Pereyra to Olympic qualification. Pereyra was the only Argentinian female gymnast at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, where she placed in 51st all-around in qualification.

After placing first all-around at her country's recent national championships, Ambrosio shared her thoughts and expectations with International Gymnast Online.

IG: What do you think helped you to win your first national all-around title? Was it consistent routines, confidence, or some other factor?

CA: Yes, it was a big victory for me. Besides being a national championship it was the first qualification competition for the Pan American Championships (Aug. 27 - Sept. 1 in Toronto) and the world championships. I thought that the training was the most important factor in reaching the goal. I really prepared so well, physically and mentally, to be strong at the competition. Confidence was an important factor, thinking everything is going to be good despite the fact that I was doing new routines, to increase the difficulty of my routines.

Ambrosio with her national all-around gold medal

IG: You also performed very well at the South American Games in March, and now you are preparing to compete against gymnasts from Europe, Asia and North America. What will you need to perform strongly against those gymnasts from outside of your continent?

CA: It is an honor for me to compete with gymnasts at that level. That lets me think that all my effort is paying off. I have to intensify the routines I have been doing and incorporate more difficulty to obtain a higher level.

IG: How old were you when you began training in gymnastics, and why did you choose to become a gymnast?

CA: I have been doing gymnastics since I was five. My older sister started practicing it and I like seeing her training and going to competitions. Since those days that my parents brought me to the gym, I can't get out of it!

IG: Who coaches you, and on which events?

CA: My coaches are Daniela Conde, Lucas Chiarlo and Antonella Blanco. Daniela is the main coach on the four apparatuses. Lucas and Antonella help her morn beam and uneven bars. They are excellent coaches, and they were excellent gymnasts, too. I am so happy training with them. I represent the Vélez Sarsfield club. It is in Buenos Aires, near the center of the city, but we complement training in CeNARD (Centro Nacional de Alto Rendimiento Deportivo), which is a national center where all the elite athletes train.

IG: Gymnastics in Argentina has become stronger, and you had Valeria Pereyra qualify for the Olympic Games in London. Now, people will be looking to you to help push Argentina towards the 2016 Olympics in Rio. What are your thoughts about becoming a leader of gymnastics in Argentina?

CA: It is a pleasure for me to know that my country is considered like this in this sport. We are doing everything possible to push Argentina to the top. I think that being a leader is a consequence of the hard work and effort I give in every training session. Valeria's experience shows that it is not impossible for me and my country to participate in the Olympic Games. Now it is easier for us to practice the discipline because the government helps us, giving money and new equipment.

IG: What are your plans for competitions leading to the world championships in Nanning?

CA: The first next competition I have is Pre Pan American Championships in Canada. My objective is to obtain a good position in the all-around and team competition. We hope we can be closer to Rio. That is my biggest wish!

Read "Ardent Argentine," a profile on Valeria Pereyra, and a chat with 1992 Argentinian Olympian Romina Platatori, in the July/August 2012 issue of International Gymnast magazine. To order back issues, or subscribe to the digital and/or printed edition of International Gymnast magazine, click here.

Written by Amanda Turner    Monday, 12 May 2014 10:02    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Lieke and Sanne Wevers (Netherlands)
(11 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Dutch twins Lieke and Sanne Wevers are celebrating sisterhood in Sofia as they prepare to represent the Netherlands for the first time together in major competition as part of the same team. Pictured: The twins pose in Venice Beach, Calif., during a trip to Los Angeles in 2013.

With the 2014 European Gymnastics Championships beginning this week in Bulgaria, Dutch twins Lieke and Sanne Wevers are celebrating sisterhood in Sofia as they prepare to represent the Netherlands for the first time together in major competition as part of the same team.

Born Sept. 17, 1991, in Oldenzaal, the Wevers twins are coached by their father, Vincent Wevers. They have been mainstays in Dutch gymnastics over the past decade, since Sanne made her major international debut at the 2004 Junior European Championships in Amsterdam. Until this year, however, injuries to one or both have prevented them from representing Netherlands together at a major competition.

Both gymnasts are known for their work on balance beam, in particular their excellent turning technique. At the 2010 World Championships in Rotterdam, Sanne had the "Wevers" turn named after her on balance beam (double turn with leg held horizontal).

At the end of April, Lieke won the gold medal on beam in an international friendly against Great Britain in Lilleshall, England.

IG Online quickly caught up with the twins on Sunday, after they had arrived in Sofia ready for the 2014 European Championships. The twins chatted about their careers and various injuries, and what it means to support each other through the highs and lows of elite gymnastics.

Sanne Wevers at the 2004 Junior Europeans

IG: You have not been on a team together because of injuries to one or both of you. Can you each tell us about the injuries you have had over the past few years?

LW: Unfortunately I've had a lot of injuries in my career. My big injury was in 2009, when I tore a part of my ACL at the European championships in Milan, Italy. I had surgery and the injury took me out for about two years. My comeback was in 2011, when I was a member of the Dutch team for the world championships in Tokyo, Japan, and then the 2012 Olympic Test Event in London.

After that I got injured again, to both of my wrists. I had to do surgery and once again all the recovery went very slow.

I was not sure if I could come back, but my passion and motivation were great enough to give it a try, andI worked very hard to get in this shape again. I'm very happy to be back and be able to compete on the international field again.

SW: In 2004 I competed at Europeans as a junior, and over the past 10 years I represented the Netherlands in 10 other major competitions (European Youth Olympic Festival, Europeans and world championships). Lieke and I have never been on the team together. When I made the team, she was injured and vice versa. So in 2009 I had an elbow injury, but I was there to watch my sister compete. In 2010 was the highlight of my career, when I got my own skill named on the Worlds (Wevers pirouette). After that I had a really tough time to pass, because I had a shoulder injury. I had surgery, and it toke me a long time to recover.

In 2011 I was ready for the trials for Tokyo, but than I fell on floor and hurt my foot. So that's why I couldn't compete in Tokyo or at the Olympic Test Event. After all of that, I took some time off and decided to start training for the worlds in Antwerp. This January Lieke and I were both fit and started training for the Europeans together.

IG: What does it feel like to be on a team together, representing both your family and the Netherlands?

LW: It feels very special to me. Many times when I was injured I supported my sister when she competed on the big events, and that was nerve-wracking for me. And now to be able to be very close on the competition floor together feels very safe and comfortable with her. We have been in a very good training process with each other, and we can help each other very well. I'm very excited that finally both Wevers are showing the world what we have worked for!

SW: I definitely feel the same, and I'm very proud that we made the team together this time. It feels very nice to have my sister close to me on the floor, instead of her supporting me from the stands. I hope we can help each other a lot, and perform the best we can!

Lieke Wevers at the 2011 Worlds

IG: What are your personal goals for the European championships?

LW: My personal goal is to hit my routines on bars and beam the best I can. I want to be clean and stable, and be a good member of the Dutch team.

SW: I also want to perform the best I can on bars and beam. This week I also want to be there for my teammates, to help and advice them where they need me. This is a team competition, so we have to look after each other.

IG: You are coached by your father. How often do you train together with the national team?

Both: We are coached by our dad at our home club. We only train together with the national team in preparation for the major competitions. Also we have a few meetings/camps a year with Dutch selection team.

IG: What do you think Netherlands needs to do to get back into the top teams?

Both: We think we're on the right road to get back in the top teams again. We are working on our D-scores, to get them higher, and of course we also pay much attention to our presentation, to show clean and beautiful routines.

For the future we really hope the old members of the Dutch team, like Céline van Gerner, Wyomi Masela and Joy Goedkoop, will work very hard to get back and be able to add their good qualities again.

Written by John Crumlish    Wednesday, 30 April 2014 20:08    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Alex Naddour (USA)
(8 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

An alternate on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team and winner of three consecutive U.S. titles on pommel horse, Alex Naddour is carefully calculating his progress as he advances toward the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

An alternate on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team and winner of three consecutive U.S. titles on pommel horse, Alex Naddour is carefully calculating his progress as he advances toward the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Naddour, who turned 23 on March 4, placed fourth all-around and first with the U.S. team at this month’s Pacific Rim Championships in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada. Among his plans between now and Rio are upgrading his routines and marrying his fiancée, 2003 world uneven bars co-champion Hollie Vise.

Naddour has been a medal contender on one or more apparatuses during the past two Olympic cycles. In 2010 he won the silver medal on pommel horse at the Stars of the World meet in Moscow. In 2011 he placed third all-around at the Stella Zakharova Cup in Kiev and won a team bronze at the world championships in Tokyo.

Last spring Naddour won three medals (silver on floor exercise, bronzes on pommel horse and rings) at the Challenger Cup of Ljubljana. He competed on pommel horse and rings at last fall’s Worlds in Antwerp, where he finished 13th in qualifications on both apparatuses.

As Naddour aims for this fall's worlds in Nanning, he is likely to continue to face some of his strongest competitors on native soil. He won pommel horse at the U.S. Championships in 2011, 2012 and 2013, as well as the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials. Verifying his diverse strengths, Naddour placed second all-around and second on rings at the 2013 P&G (U.S.) Championships.

Naddour on still rings

IG: How do you feel your results at the Pacific Rim Championships — where you were second to John Orozco among U.S. gymnasts — positions you for this summer's P&G (U.S.) Championships and this fall's world championships?

AN: I think I am exactly where I want to be. At the Pacific Rim Championships, I didn’t include all of the new skills that I plan to add, because we are still working to perfect them and they were not ready for a team competition. With those additions to my routines and getting to compete this early in the all-around, my coach and I think that I am right where I need to be four months out from the P&G Championships. A lot of good things should come during that time, as well as more consistency.

IG: You have earned your best international results on individual apparatuses, especially pommel horse and rings. What is your perspective on continuing to train and compete all-around, rather than focus on your best apparatuses for a possibly better chance to make the U.S. team for worlds and Olympics?

AN: Like you said, my best two events typically are pommel horse and rings, which is a pretty unique combo in the world. My focus right now is to add one skill on pommels, which I have been working on but have not performed in competition, and changing up my rings set and adding a little difficulty. For the other events, we are looking at adding more on floor and possibly vault. We are trying to maintain on parallel bars and high bar, which could give me the opportunity to be a first-day competitor on those events during team qualification, and then let our heavy hitters on those events perform in the team finals. My coach and I feel that my combined difficulty score for rings and pommel horse, along with where I am on the other events, will carry weight for me when the committee is selecting the six-man Worlds team.

IG: With three U.S. titles on pommel horse, and coming close to making the final at last year's Worlds, what are you doing to boost your D- and E-scores to stay on top in the U.S., as well as challenge for a Worlds medal?

AN: This is always a difficult task, because too much emphasis on difficulty can cause you to not hit or hit with poor form. I’ve revamped my set from Worlds last year by adding another skill to raise my difficulty from last year and eliminated my leg cuts, which gave me a six-tenth deduction. We are also working on an even higher set if I make finals and have to go big, if the guys are putting up some large numbers.

IG: You and (2013 Worlds rings bronze medalist and three-time U.S. rings champion) Brandon Wynn are a formidable pair on rings. What do you think it will take to outscore him at USAs this year?

AN: Brandon Wynn is an animal, I have lived with him on tour and when we traveled to last year’s Worlds. He is all business when it comes to his health and rings. He knows that it could be his ticket into the world championships. When I compete it isn’t about beating one of my teammates, so I definitely do not think like that. I think that anyone who thinks that way is significantly hurting his chances of doing well. I look at how I can beat my best score, which is a 15.6, and myself. To do that, I recently purchased a strength machine I saw in China when I was there for camp. Every rings guy they had was using it. In fact, Chen Yibing - one of the best, if not the best, rings man of all time - has his name on the side of it. I think this machine can help my rings strength and possibly move me up a level on that event.

Naddour and fiancée Hollie Vise

IG: What are your wedding plans?

AN: Hollie and I are officially engaged, which is awesome. With her busy schedule and mine, we would like to get married sometime in May 2015. Since her whole family lives in Dallas and I want her to be the happiest girl on planet Earth, our wedding will be in Dallas! It is a beautiful place, so I am very excited about that. Her family is amazing; they have always been very nice to me. I definitely get along with their whole family. I cannot wait until May when it is official and we are all a family.

IG: Being coached for so long by your father (Mike Naddour), how has your training program shifted since the 2012 Olympics?

AN: Since London we have shifted my training slightly and emphasized more on getting my body in the best shape it can be. We have found that if I am in good shape, I tend to compete and hit my sets more often than not. After leaving OU (Oklahoma University), which was one of the hardest things I have had to do in my whole life, it took a while to get on a training schedule that we knew would work for me. I still miss my friends there. They were like brothers to me, and every chance I get, I tell them how much they mean to me. OU has a phenomenal facility and coaching staff. I hope that many athletes get the same opportunity that I had and really take advantage of everything the University of Oklahoma has to offer. London was a great learning experience for me. To be a part of that team and to know what happens during the Olympics, especially behind the scenes, is something I will always remember and could help me when it comes time for 2016 in Rio.

International Gymnast magazine’s recent coverage of U.S. male gymnasts includes:
Jake Dalton cover photo (April 2013)
"Jacob’s Ladder" – Dalton profile (July/August 2011)
Paul Hamm interview (September 2010)
Quest Hayden profile, Dan and Dennis Hayden update (December 2013)
Jonathan Horton two-page center poster (April 2011)
"Catching up with Steve Hug" – profile (December 2013)
"Like Mother, Like Son" – David Jessen profile (June 2010)
"United State" – Danell Leyva/Yin Alvarez profile (May 2010)
Leyva cover photo (September 2011)
Leyva cover photo (April 2012)
"Back to the Future" – Leyva cover photo and profile (December 2012)
"Sam I Am" – Sam Mikulak cover photo and interview (July/August 2013)
Mikulak two-page center poster (April 2014)
"Ready to Rise Again" – John Orozco center poster and profile (November 2012)
"Bronx Bomber" – Orozco interview (April 2012)
"Athlete Retreat" – visit to U.S. Olympic Training Center (October 2011)

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


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