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Written by John Crumlish    Thursday, 14 November 2013 02:09    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Sabrina Gill (Canada)
(6 votes, average 4.00 out of 5)

Canadian gymnast Sabrina Gill, who is preparing for the Mexican Open later this month in Acapulco, hopes to finish a challenging year in strong competitive style.

Born June 7, 1996, in Mississauga, Ont., Gill has been a Canadian mainstay for several years. She placed first all-around in the novice division at the 2008 Elite Canada meet, fourth all-around at the 2008 and 2009 Canadian novice championships, first all-around at the 2010 Canadian junior championships, and seventh all-around at the 2011 Canadian Championships. Gill's best international results include silver on uneven bars and bronze on floor exercise at the Toyota Cup in Japan in December 2012.

Gill's achievements in the early part of 2013 showed her potential for further success in domestic and international events. She finished fourth all-around at the Elite Canada meet in February; second all-around, third on uneven bars and third on balance beam at the International Gymnix Senior Challenge in Montreal in March; and fourth on uneven bars at the French International, an FIG World Cup meet in La-Roche-sur-Yon in March.

Hampered by a back injury, Gill competed on only one event (uneven bars) at the Canadian championships in June. She is now healthy and focused on success in 2014 and beyond.

Gill, who trains under 1988 Canadian Olympian Lorne Bobkin and Toni Norman at Futures Gymnastics Club in Mississauga, recently shared her plans with IG Online.

Gill on beam in 2011

IG: 2013 has been an eventful year for you, with international success in the early part of the year, and then only bars at the Canadian championships, and now the upcoming Mexican Open, an all-around competition. What do you hope to show to yourself and others by your performance in Mexico? What are your specific goals for that meet?

SG: Late last year I had some injuries that held me back from performing the way I know I can. The meet in Mexico is a great stepping stone to prove to myself I am on the comeback. I plan on competing a new vault, a new dismount on beam and a couple of other moves on bars. The plan is to compete some new skills.

IG: Why were you not able to compete on all four events at this year's Canadian championships?

SG: I was coming off a slight tear in a back muscle, and the coaches and I decided to at least compete on bars. My timing was not up to snuff on the other events. I am completely healed and looking forward to this upcoming year.

IG: Your style is unique, because your movements are not only graceful but also very dynamic. This shows that you are not only well-trained in dance and technique, but also power. What has helped you develop both sides of gymnastics equally?

SG: Dance was always something that came easy to me. What really helped was the five years of dance I took before I quit and focused my attention on gymnastics. The power aspect is a continual work in progress. The conditioning I do is a big part of my physique and preparation for meets.

IG: When and why did you switch coaches and clubs? And how have your current coaches improved or changed your gymnastics?

SG: The last two years have been a rollercoaster of coaches. Kelly Manjak, Elvira Saadi, and Lawson Hamer and Lisa Cowan are all great coaches, and I have nothing but great things to say about them. There are many factors that I consider very important in a coach and a club. The relationship with the coach, the environment, logistics, stability and familiarity all are important to me. I think I have the best coaching staff going forward. My coaches, Lorne Bobkin and Toni Norman, are both great coaches and my club, Futures, is a great environment to be in.

Gill on floor at the 2012 Elite Gym Massilia

IG: The Canadian team has a lot of rising talent following the great team performance at the London Olympics. In which ways do you feel you can best help the team in 2014 and through 2016?

SG: The best way I can help the Canadian team is to be prepared for whatever the Canadian team needs. That means being consistent on all four events, and staying mentally focused and ready. The Canadian team, especially the younger gymnasts on the team, can lean on me for advice and support.

IG: Speaking of the future, what are your aspirations for competing for a U.S. university?

SG: Over the next few months I will be in the process of selecting a university. From what I hear, university gymnastics is something special and the friendships you gain along the way last a lifetime. I am looking forward to being part of one of these great universities soon.

IG: The 2014 competition season is right around the corner, so what are your aspirations for next year, and what specifically are you doing to reach them?

SG: New skills are definitely part of the 2014 season. My goal for 2014 is to compete the new skills and then repeat them for consistency going forward. The last two years have been difficult, both physically and mentally. I have grown as a person and gymnast and have overcome several obstacles that have made me mentally stronger. The next two years are going to be great.

International Gymnast magazine's coverage of Canadian female gymnasts over the last decade includes:
"Gotta Dance!" – Sandra Botnen/Sasha Ivanochko profile (December 2004)
"Aiming to Top the Charts" - Maegan Chant interview (October 2013)
"Canadian Diversity" - Ellie Black profile (July/August 2013)
"Black to Business" - Ellie Black interview (November 2012)
Madeline Gardiner, Anysia Unick and Victoria Moors cover photo (March 2011)
"Candid Canadians" - Madeline Gardiner interview (September 2011)
"A Gymnastics Jet-Setter" – Jordan Harvie (May 2004)
"All in a Day's Work" - Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs profile (March 2007)
"Catching up with... Larissa Lowing Libby" (August/September 2004)
Christine Peng-Peng Lee interview (April 2011)
"A Passion for Performing" - Christine Peng-Peng Lee profile (June 2005)
Gael Mackie profile (July/August 2011)
"Canadian Standout" – Gael Mackie profile (January 2003)
"Pride for Family and Canada" – Charlotte Mackie profile (November 2006)
"Sudden Impact" - Victoria Moors interview (January/February 2013)
"10 Questions with Carol-Angela Orchard" (May 2011)
"Pegg Much More Motivated" – Dominique Pegg profile (March 2010)
"Plante in Bloom" – Amélie Plante profile (June/July 2003)
"Staying Power" – Heather Purnell profile (May 2003)
"Uneven Parallels" – Kate Richardson/Yvonne Tousek profile (March 2004)
"Confident Canadian" - Brittany Rogers interview (May 2012)
"Shooting Star" – Brittany Rogers profile (July/August 2007)
"Savona Surges into Recovery" – Jessica Savona short profile (October 2011)
"Work in Progress" – Sydney Sawa profile (September 2009)
"Holding Pattern" – Richelle Simpson interview (April 2004)
Richelle Simpson cover photo (January 2004)
Richelle Simpson center poster (June/July 2003)
"Catching up with... Lori Strong Ballard" (June 2012)
Jennifer Wood update (June/July 2004)
"Stage Flight" - Yvonne Tousek update (November 2010)
"Veteran Presence" - Kristina Vaculik profile (July/August 2010)
Kristina Vaculik cover photo (April 2010)
"Canadian Conquerors" – Kristina Vaculik profile (September 2007)

To subscribe or order back issues, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 22 October 2013 23:51    PDF Print
IG Interview: Christopher Jursch (Germany)
(10 votes, average 4.60 out of 5)

German gymnast Christopher Jursch said the experience he gained at this month's worlds in Antwerp has encouraged him to increase the difficulty of his routines and well prepared him for future competitions.

Reflecting on his recent world championships debut, German gymnast Christopher Jursch said the experience he gained at this month's worlds in Antwerp has encouraged him to increase the difficulty of his routines and well prepared him for future competitions.

Born Sept. 27, 1992, Jursch trains at SC Cottbus, where he is coached by 1996 Olympian Karsten Oelsch. He won the German junior all-around title in 2008.

Jursch placed fourth on high bar and fifth on vault at the 2012 German championships; and fifth all-around, first on high bar and third on parallel bars at the 2013 German Championships. His best international finishes include first place on parallel bars at the 2011 FIG Challenge Cup of Doha, Qatar; and third place on parallel bars and third place on high bar at the 2012 Toyota Cup in Japan.

Jursch competed on three apparatuses in Antwerp, with mixed results. He finished 28th on parallel bars, 55th on pommel horse and 78th on horizontal bar.

In this IG Online interview, Jursch reflects on his preparations for worlds, what his actual performances showed him, and what he learned from competing on the global podium for the first time.

IG: You recently celebrated your 21st birthday followed quickly by your first start in a world championship. How did you stay focused on your expectations for Antwerp, and not the milestones?

CJ: The main goal for these world championships was to learn (from them). I wanted to get accustomed to the competition process and the atmosphere, see how I could cope with being the newcomer and most importantly learn how to deal with the pressure. Of course I tried my best, but unfortunately it does not always work out.

Jursch on high bar in Antwerp

IG: In Antwerp you had a good finish on parallel bars, but some problems on pommel horse and horizontal bar. Looking back, what do you think you could have improved on all three apparatuses?

CJ: On parallel bars I had a good performance but the Difficulty score was simply too low to be among the top gymnasts. With a slightly better performance on the horizontal bar, a chance for the final would have been there. I know I could have had a good showing on this apparatus. Overall it showed that I need to increase the difficulty score to be competitive. A little more stability and a higher output will be needed in order for me to make the jump into the finals or even onto the podium.

IG: What has your experience at the world championships shown you, in terms of how prepared you are, physically and psychologically, to compete against the very best gymnasts

CJ: The fact is that the top athletes such as Fabian Hambüchen and (world high bar champion) Epke Zonderland (Netherlands) have much more experience at these competitions and know how to deal with these high-pressure situations. They have competed against the other world class athletes before, thus to them it is not so special anymore. The whole preparation was very exhausting up to the world championships. This type of preparation was new to me and demanded a lot. Therefore it must be said that my physical shape was perhaps a little worse than I would have liked. But my morale was very high.

IG: What is your perspective on Fabian's all-around success (third place) in Antwerp, and how will it motivate you?

CJ: I don't use someone else's success to motivate myself. For me the motivation coming out of being nominated and competing in world championships alone was incredibly high. Over the course of the competition and with the results achieved, I can say that the shown performances were better than what we expected talking before the competition. Yet seeing what the others do, knowing what is still possible for me, I know that there are hardly any limits for my routines. In the end I can say that being part of the world championships has given me motivation to train even harder in the future.

IG: You competed on three apparatuses in Antwerp, but what are your plans for competing on up to six apparatuses in the future?

CJ: Of course I want to concentrate not only on individual events. My goal is to compete in the all-around competition, but that takes a lot of training and hard work. So in the future I want to be useful for the team not only on three apparatuses, but hopefully be an important part on all events.

IG: The competition to make the German team in 2014, 2015 and ultimately 2016 is going to be tough. What strategy will you use to earn a place on the team?

CJ: I don't think determining a strategy is a good choice. Never will everything go according to plan, and that's why you cannot fully plan ahead. But to remain part of the team for the future, I will have to go far beyond my actual boundaries and provide a higher difficulty score and stable routines. Not only do I want be good on three, but on all six events, which will be helpful for the team, as well.

German male gymnasts are featured in the following issues of International Gymnast magazine:

Philipp Boy: interview (May 2011)
Matthias Fahrig: profile (July/August 2007)
Fabian Hambüchen: cover photo (April 2009), cover photo and profile (November 2007), cover photo (June 2007), center poster (April 2007), profile (May 2003)
Sebastian Krimmer: profile (January 2011)
Marcel Nguyen: interview (November 2012), profile (June 2011)
Ronny Ziemser: interview (January 2005)

To subscribe or order back issues, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Thursday, 12 September 2013 08:41    PDF Print
IG Interview: Teja Belak (Slovenia)
(4 votes, average 4.00 out of 5)

IG chats with Slovenia's Teja Belak, who is hoping to overcome a recent injury and perform credibly at the world championships that will begin in Antwerp on Sept. 30.

A vault finalist at this year's European championships and University Games, Teja Belak of Slovenia is hoping to overcome a recent injury and perform credibly at the world championships that will begin in Antwerp on Sept. 30.

A vault finalist at this year's European championships and University Games, Teja Belak of Slovenia is hoping to overcome a recent injury and perform credibly at the world championships that will begin in Antwerp on Sept. 30.

Born April 22, 1994, in Ljubljana, Belak trains under coach Andrej Mavric at GD Zelena Jama in her hometown.

Belak's vaulting prowess has earned her honors at several competitions over the past three years. She won vault at the 2010 World Cup of Maribor, Slovenia, and the 2012 FIG Challenge Cup that was also held in Maribor.

This year on the apparatus Belak placed fifth at the FIG Challenge Cup of Doha, Qatar; tied for fourth at Europeans in Moscow; placed eighth at the FIG Challenge Cup of Ljubljana; placed sixth at the Mediterranean Games in Mersin, Turkey; and placed seventh at the University Games in Kazan. Her current vaults are a well-executed handspring, tucked front-full; and a 1-1/2-twisting Yurchenko.

Belak is also strong on balance beam, on which she finished sixth at the 2013 FIG Challenge Cup of Doha and eighth at the 2013 FIG Challenge Cup in Ljubljana.

In this IG Online interview, Belak details her recent successes and struggles, and outlines her strategy for qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Games.

Teja Belak (Slovenia)

IG: You came very close to winning a medal in Moscow. What do you think of your performance there, and what you think you could have done better to win a medal?

TB: This year I was really prepared for the European championships in Moscow. Before Moscow I had even more competitions. And so, in these competitions, I could practice my new vault. I was able to correct my mistakes, and perform my new vault very well at the European championships. My goal was to make it to the final. My coach and I didn't even think of winning a medal on this competition. At the end I saw that I actually did have some chance to win a medal, but my competitors had more difficult vaults. Their vaults were [worth] half a point higher than mine. To win a medal I think that I would have had to add a half-twist more to my (1-1/2 twisting Yurchenko) vault, and, of course, do it with no mistakes.

IG: In 2013 you have achieved great results on vault and balance beam, but what are your plans for performing in the all-around at the world championships in Antwerp?

TB: I always compete at the world championships on vault and beam. I don't compete on uneven bars and floor because I have too easy routines on those apparatus. At the world championships I will only compete on the beam and bars. That's what my coach and I decided. At the moment I have a lot of problems with my foot. Since the European championships I have not been able to train normally. Now they've given me an injection in my foot so that I don't feel any pain, and also due to this, I couldn't train consistently. But I will still try to be as good and as ready as possible next competition.

IG: What will be the focus of your training between now and Antwerp?

TB: For this competition I don't have any high hopes to achieve a good result because, in such a short of period of time, it is really hard to get prepared and ready to vault as well as possible in the competition. Of course, I still think that, for entering the final, I would have to perform a more difficult vault, like at the European championships. But you never know what might happen, so that's why you never know what to expect. At the moment I'm only focused on not getting injured anymore, and training as well as possible.

IG: We are already a full year into the new Olympic cycle. What do you think you will need to qualify for the Rio Olympic Games?

TB: To qualify for the Olympic Games I would have to perform a harder element on vault, and I would also have to make my routine on the beam much harder. On the uneven bars I would have to start training a harder routine so that I will be able to achieve a good result in the future. This also counts for my routine on floor. Plus, I have to work on my conditioning on floor. The Olympic Games are in three years. You never know what happens in the next few years, but if I stay without injuries in the future, then I think that I'm on the right path to Rio.

Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 10 September 2013 20:05    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Kevin Lytwyn (Canada)
(4 votes, average 4.00 out of 5)

Heading into the world championships in Antwerp at the end of this month, Canadian team veteran Kevin Lytwyn is determined to build on his experience towards the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Born April 21, 1991, in Burlington, Ont., Lytwyn was a member of the Canadian team that finished 14th at the 2010 Worlds in Rotterdam and 12th at the 2011 Worlds in Tokyo. He also competed at the 2009 Worlds in London, where no team competition took place.

The top eight teams in Tokyo, along with the top four teams at the Olympic test event held in London in January 2012, qualified for the 2012 Games in London. Canada placed fifth at the test event and therefore did not advance to the Games.

Lytwyn’s top individual international finishes include gold on floor exercise, and bronze on floor exercise and parallel bars, at the 2010 World Cup of Montreal; fourth place on high bar at the 2012 FIG Challenge Cup of Maribor, Slovenia; and 12th on rings and 13th on vault at the 2013 FIG Challenge Cup on Anadia, Portugal.

In domestic competitions, Lytwyn was first on rings at the 2010 Canadian Championships; first on rings and high bar at 2011 Elite Canada; and first (tie) on rings at the 2013 Canadian Championships.

Lytwyn spoke with IG Online about his goals for Antwerp, and his determination to place Canada in contention for an Olympic team berth three years from now in Rio.

IG: Having already competed at the 2009, 2010 and 2011 Worlds, how are you approaching this competition in terms of confidence and nerve control?

Kevin Lytwyn (Canada)

KL: Confidence and nerve control really come with practice in the gym during training. I am really trying to focus on doing my daily training plans efficiently without extra turns. Also, mock meets are a great tool to put me in the mindset of a real competition.

IG: What are your specific goals for Antwerp?

KL: My specific goals in Antwerp are completing my routines without major errors and finishing with at least one top-16 finish.

IG: You have been very successful on rings, an apparatus that is particularly crowded with strong specialists. What are you focusing on so you can break into the top international group, and perhaps the apparatus final in Antwerp?

KL: On rings I have been conditioning hard in training with the hope that it will make me strong enough. I want to solidify my holds as well as hopefully replace a swing element with another strength element.

IG: You've also had international success on vault, floor, p-bars and high bar. What is your perspective on remaining an all-arounder versus sticking to the apparatuses on which you have the potential to be a finalist?

KL: Actually I have not competed in all-around for a few years now. I was never very good on pommel horse, and, after I stopped training pommel horse, it took a lot of stress out of my training and let me focus on my better events. This enabled me to help out our team and increase my Start Values so I can be more competitive internationally.

IG: Although Antwerp won't include a team competition, what is your take on the state of the Canadian men's team thus far in the new Olympic cycle?

KL: We will have a much better take on how our team will fare this cycle come next year, but, for now, if everything goes to plan and the team can all stay healthy and motivated, I feel as though we will look good. There are a few new up-and-comers, and everyone else on the team is really working on increasing their level of gymnastics, which will go a long way if we can gain consistency.

IG: As a member of the Canadian team in the build-up to London 2012, what do you think could have made the difference between not qualifying a team and qualifying a team?

KL: Not qualifying for the Olympics was very tough on me and I am sure the rest of the team. We all knew we were better than how we performed that day (the Olympic qualification meets – 2011 Worlds and 2012 Olympic test event), and we will be working very hard to ensure that that situation will not happen again.

IG: What is your training situation these days?

KL: I have been training in Calgary for about a year and a half, and I am coached by Jason Woodnick at the University of Calgary Gymnastics Center. As I am from Ontario and started university at McMaster, I have continued my education there by correspondence, taking a few online courses and a few courses at the University of Calgary that transfer.

IG: With Rio three years away, what do you think you will need to push yourself so you can peak in 2016?

KL: In order for me to peak for Rio, the most important thing will be to remain healthy. Getting injured is a waste of time and very frustrating. Staying healthy will allow me to continue good, consistent training, which will go a long way to peaking for Rio.

Written by John Crumlish    Monday, 22 July 2013 23:47    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Gaelle Mys (Belgium)
(6 votes, average 4.33 out of 5)

After representing Belgium at the past two Olympic Games, Gaelle Mys has her sights set on future competitions including this fall's world championships that the Belgians will host in Antwerp.

The 21-year-old Mys rejuvenated her career at this spring's Belgian championships, where she placed first all-around. Mys finished 24th in the all-around final at the 2008 Games in Beijing and 31st all-around in qualifications at the 2012 Games in London.

In this IG Online interview, Mys assesses her recent performances and explains her incentive for extending her long career.

IG: What was your goal going into the Belgian championships, and what was your impression of your performance?

Gaelle Mys at the 2012 Olympics

GM: My goal was to do a nice and clean competition and to get my points for worlds. Unfortunately I fell on bars and beam, and just came one point short for my qualification [target] for worlds. It was a very difficult competition for me. After bars I started to feel a heavy pain in my back, but I still had to perform on beam and floor. I didn't want to quit the competition because I trained well for it, and I wanted to qualify, so I went on. But I could feel that the pain wasn't just muscular, so after the competition I went to get X-rays and I couldn't do anything for one month.

I think with these circumstances I still did well for myself, but I had hoped to do better.

IG: You have already competed in two Olympic Games, and to many gymnastics followers, it is a nice surprise that you continue your career. What is your motivation for doing gymnastics now, and how is your motivation different from when you were younger?

GM: I found it a great opportunity that worlds will take place in Belgium, and after that we'll see where it goes. I'm just looking at one year at a time now. I'm older, so it depends on my physical condition and my studies. If I get there I'm hoping to get into the all-around final. It was a pity to be second reserve for the final in London, and I want to make that right.

IG: This year's world championships will be a unique opportunity for you to compete in front of your Belgian audience. What are your personal expectations for Antwerp? And what is your plan for managing the public's expectations there?

GM: First of all I still have to qualify for worlds. I missed some competitions because of my back injury. Then when I get there my goal is to get into the finals. During competition I try to stay focused and isolate myself from the crowd. I'm not really thinking about the public's expectations. The most important for me is to achieve my own goals.

IG: How much further would you like to compete in gymnastics?

GM: I have no idea yet. I'm just looking one year at a time, and we'll see how it goes. It depends on my physical condition, my studies, and if I can still improve, all of which are very important for my motivation.

International Gymnast Magazine's coverage of Belgian gymnasts includes:
"Quick Chat: Julie Croket” – interview (December 2012)
"Gaining Confidence” – Julie Croket profile (November 2010)
"Rising Moonen” - Lynn Moonen profile (December 2004)
"Mighty Mys” - Gaelle Mys profile (October 2005)
"Making Her Way” - Aagje Vanwalleghem profile (August/September 2004)

To subscribe or order back issues, click here.


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