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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.

Written by John Crumlish    Wednesday, 23 April 2014 10:48    PDF Print
IG Interview: Ava Verdeflor (Philippines)
(6 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Following her 12th-place all-around finish at this month's Junior Asian Championships in Tashkent, Ava Verdeflor of the Philippines is preparing to take some of the world's best young gymnasts at this summer's Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing. Pictured: Coach Wu Guonian, gymnast Tristan Lopez, Gymnastics Association of the Philippines President Cynthia Carrion, Verdeflor and her coach Natasha Boyarskaya.

Following her 12th-place all-around finish at this month's Junior Asian Championships in Tashkent, Ava Verdeflor of the Philippines is preparing to take some of the world's best young gymnasts at this summer's Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing.

Ava Verdeflor (Philippines)

Verdeflor earned a berth to the Games through her performance at the Junior Asian Championships — held April 10-13 in Tashkent — where she placed 12th despite problems on uneven bars.

Tristan Lopez, another Philippine team member who trains in the United States, also competed in Tashkent in the men's competition. Lopez trains with Chinese legend Wu Guonian at New Hope Gymnastics in California.

Born Jan. 2, 1999, in Tarlac, Philippines, Verdeflor immigrated with her family to Singapore when she was two months old, and then moved to California in 2002. She began taking recreational gymnastics classes at age 6 at Pegasus Gymnastics in Milpitas. Pegasus closed a few months later, at which time she began training at Airborne Gymnastics in Santa Clara.

In 2006 Verdeflor and her family moved to Allen, Texas. There, upon the recommendation of her Airborne coaches, she successfully tried out for World Olympic Gymnastics Academy (WOGA) in Plano.

Verdeflor's first coach at WOGA, Natasha Boyarskaya, remains her coach on balance beam and floor exercise. For the past four years Laurent Landi has been coaching her on vault and uneven bars. Nataliya Marakova has choreographed all of her floor exercise routines.

Verdeflor, who placed first all-around in the junior division at last year's Philippines National Games, began competing internationally for the Philippines this year. In this IG Online interview, Verdeflor describes her plans for performing well for her native country, starting with her performance in Tashkent and thinking ahead to the Youth Olympics.

Verdeflor in Taskhent with six-time Olympian Oksana Chusovitina

IG: Congratulations on not only your performances in Tashkent, but on qualifying for the Youth Olympic Games. What specifically pleased you about each of these accomplishments?

AV: Competing at the Junior Asian Championships was a learning experience for me. It was not as smooth as I wanted it to be. We were waiting for approval of TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemption) for my medicine for my back and ankles. We did not receive the approval until April 17, so I was not able to take my medication until after the competition. My back was hurting and my ankles were swollen the night before the competition.

My first event was vault, so we decided to just do one vault instead of two, because if I hurt my ankles further, I might not be able to do the other events. I pulled on my Jaeger and my Achilles' (tendon) got hooked on the bars, so I panicked, lost my rhythm and fell on my overshoot and dismount. But I am very thankful that I was able to recover and did well on my last two events, beam and floor, and still be able to qualify to the Youth Olympic Games despite the mistakes on bars.

IG: The Junior Asian Championships was your biggest test yet, but now you are preparing to take on the world's best young gymnasts in Nanjing this summer. What will your plan be for making your routines as difficult and consistent as they can be?

AV: I went back to my doctor when we got back from Tashkent. I will be doing physical therapy for my ankles, and continue my back exercises. As my back and ankles get better, my coaches will gradually put back the skills we removed from my program, and maybe add a few more. Our priority right now is to keep me healthy for the Youth Olympics.

IG: When and how did you come to the decision to start competing for the Philippines?

AV: My parents are both from the Philippines, and the idea of competing for the Philippines has always been there from the beginning. We first got in touch with GAP (Gymnastics Association of the Philippines) when I was 11 years old. I was still too young to be on the team, but we went to the gym in Manila just to meet with the GAP president and the national team coach. I met the girls team and trained with them for a few days. In May 2013, I participated in the Philippine National Games, which was also the national ranking. I was able to get gold in the all-around and secure my spot on the national team.

IG: How do you view yourself among your Philippines teammates, considering that you train far away from them?

Verdeflor on floor exercise in 2014

AV: I was able to bond with them when I trained with them in May 2013 during the Philippine National Games. We keep in touch through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. I'm excited to see them again this May when I go back to the Philippines for this year's Philippine National Games. But I will not be competing at the Philippine National Games this year, because I need to rest my back and ankles. I will be there to cheer my team on.

IG: How are you and your WOGA coaches coordinating your training with the national team coaches in the Philippines?

AV: GAP lets my WOGA coaches decide whatever is best for my program. Whenever I go back to Manila to train with the Philippines team, my WOGA coaches send a plan for my training, and that plan is what we follow.

IG: When and how often will you be traveling to the Philippines to train?

AV: I go there once a year, for about a week, for the Philippine National Games.

IG: The Philippines has not been well known in gymnastics, but you are already giving the country a lot of hope for not only Nanjing, but the big competitions leading to the 2016 Olympics. What is your perspective on the part you are playing for the success of the Philippines gymnastics program?

AV: I am hoping to promote gymnastics in the Philippines. My dream is to be able to win medals for the Philippines and maybe inspire more girls to take on the sport. Right now, the Philippines are not well known for gymnastics, but with the help of my coaches and the support of GAP, I am hoping to change that in the near future.

International Gymnast magazine's recent coverage of Asian gymnasts includes:

Deng Linlin two-page center poster (April 2013)
He Kexin cover photo (January/February 2010)
Huang Huidan two-page center poster (March 2014)
"Unbelievable" – Li Ning feature (June 2011)
Liu Yang two-page center poster (December 2013)
Tan Sixin cover photo, 14-page photo feature on IG's visit to Chinese national training center (June 2011)
Yao Jinnan on cover photo collage (July/August 2012)

Hong Kong
"Ready to Rock" – Wai Hung Shek profile (July/August 2012)
"Hope for Hong Kong" – Angel Wong profile (January/February 2011)

"Routine Maestro" – profile on Code of Points illustrator Koichi Endo (March 2010)
Yuya Kamoto cover photo, 2010 Youth Olympic Games coverage (October 2010)
Natsumi Sasada on cover photo collage (July/August 2010)
"Twist of Fate" – Kenzo Shirai interview (January/February 2014)
"10 Questions with Naoya Tsukahara" – interview (September 2013)
Koko Tsurumi two-page center poster (October 2010)
"Virtuoso!" - Kohei Uchimura profile (April 2010)
Kohei Uchimura cover photo and center poster, 2011 World Championships special issue (December 2011)
"10 Questions with Kohei Uchimura" – interview (April 2012)
"10 Questions with Shuko Uchimura (Kohei's mother)" interview (July/August 2012)
Kohei Uchimura cover photo, 2013 World Championships special issue (November 2013)

"The Next Step" – Yang Hak Seon interview (October 2013)

"Tracie Ang Takes Aim at 2011" – profile (March 2011)

"Desert Oasis" – feature on IG's visit to Qatar national training center (January/February 2012)

"True to Form" – Lim Heem Wei profile (June 2012)

"Catching up with Irina Baraksanova" – profile and small cover photo (July/August 2010)
"Swing Shift" – Anton Fokin profile (January/February 2012)
"Angular Precision" – Elvira Saadi feature (April 2013)

Phan Thi Ha Thanh cover photo and profile, feature on IG's visit to Vietnamese national training center (January/February 2014)

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

Written by John Crumlish    Thursday, 17 April 2014 20:20    PDF Print
IG Interview: Cameron MacKenzie (South Africa)
(6 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Previously a junior hope for Great Britain, South African-born Cameron MacKenzie is eager to represent his home country.

A team gold medalist for Great Britain at the 2010 European Junior Championships, Cameron MacKenzie is eagerly adjusting to the new role, opportunities and challenges he is taking on to represent South Africa, the country of his birth.

MacKenzie was born Nov. 18, 1992, in Humansdorp (close to Jeffreys Bay), but moved to England with his family when he was 9.

MacKenzie helped the British team win gold at the 2010 European Junior Championships in Birmingham, where he finished 10th all-around in qualifications. In British senior all-around competition, MacKenzie placed 12th in 2011, 11th in 2012 and sixth in 2013.

While living in England, MacKenzie trained under coach Paul Hall at Huntingdon Olympic Gymnastics Club, where his training partners included three-time Olympic medalist Louis Smith, 2009 world all-around silver medalist Daniel Keatings and 2012 Olympic team bronze medalist Sam Oldham.

MacKenzie, who was hampered by a wrist injury at last month's African Championships, aims to be at peak form for this summer's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and this fall's world championships in Nanning.

In this IG Online interview, MacKenzie details his expectations as a potential leader of South African gymnastics.

IG: 2014 is going to be a big year for you, representing your "new" country at the Commonwealth Games and hopefully Worlds. Although you have competed in big events such as the 2010 Junior Europeans, how are you preparing to not only compete well for yourself, but also take on the expectations that South Africa has for you?

MacKenzie at the African championships

CM: 2014 will definitely be a big year for me as far as establishing myself as a South African gymnast, both continentally and globally. Commonwealth Games qualification is by no means a given, but it would be fantastic to compete in the Games, as well as the 2014 World Championships. I think many people are expecting great things from me. I can certainly feel the pressure to perform and produce results. Although I had my fair share of experience as a junior, a three-year break from international events has left me a little nervy and unpracticed. I plan on building my competition experience this year to reach a consistent and stable level of performance, where I can set about achieving my goals as well as those of South Africa's.

IG: When and why did you come to the decision to start representing South Africa?

CM: In 2010 I competed in a junior international in South Africa. It was the first time I had been back to my country of birth since emigrating when I was 9 years old. I ended up winning the competition and remember feeling uneasy as the British anthem played for me – it felt wrong to be flying a different flag in my own country.

Since then the idea that I should be competing for South Africa took root, but it wasn't until early 2013 that I began communications. The benefits were obvious in that I would have a much better chance to compete in international events for South Africa than I would for Great Britain. Everyone I spoke to agreed that it was a good decision, including my coaches and parents, although it was certainly not something which I rushed into.

IG: How have you physically transitioned from training in England to living and training in South Africa?

CM: I'm currently living near Pretoria and training at Centurion Gymnastics Club. I made the decision to move back to South Africa to be fully part of the set-up and team. I'm serious about progressing in my gymnastics career, and believe that moving back to South Africa is an important gesture in order for people to get behind me and to achieve the necessary support. The move means I've had to leave behind one of the best clubs and coaches in the world at Huntingdon, as well as my parents and sister. For now I have no set plans for travelling back and forth for training, but I'm sure I will still be spending time in Huntingdon over the coming years.

IG: How much will Paul Hall be involved in coaching you going forward?

MacKenzie with a young South African gymnast

CM: Paul will continue to help with training programs and advice. My coach here in South Africa is Gerhard Ferreira, and we send videos of my training to Paul, who can then comment and help out. Obviously it's been difficult adapting to new circumstances, but I've been overwhelmed by the help and support I've received so far. And not only here in South Africa but also in England, where two great companies (Paul Lancaster Ltd and QAV-ltd) have taken it upon themselves to support me, and have made a tremendous impact on my career.

IG: What do you think you can bring to the South African team, in terms of not only scoring potential but your leadership skills and your international experience?

CM: I don't consider myself a very experienced gymnast, especially on a senior level. A lot of the South African team have already competed in world championships and are older than I, so my experience is not something which I think will make a big difference to the team. I would primarily look at contributing scores on each apparatus, and being the consistent all-arounder who can help hold the team together during competition through my performance. I'm also looking at ways to bring the team together regularly for training, as we are split among four clubs.

IG: What you can take away from your performance at the African Championships in terms of preparing for the bigger competitions to come in 2014?

CM: Unfortunately I injured my right wrist in the build-up to Africans. X-rays showed that an old fracture became inflamed, which resulted in taking a lot of difficulty out of my routines. I managed to fight through the competition and finished fourth all-around, which was quite a disappointing result when I consider the winning score was certainly within my grasp if I had been fit. However, I was pleased that I was able to contribute towards the team result, and have now participated in an African Championships. If anything, the competition has further motivated me to make sure I'm properly prepared for upcoming events in 2014.

Written by John Crumlish    Sunday, 30 March 2014 21:59    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Olivia Vivian (Australia)
(8 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

2008 Australian Olympian Olivia Vivian shared her thoughts on her recent international comeback in Doha, and the challenges she faces in the newest stage of her long career. Pictured: The Australian women's squad in Doha - Lauren Mitchell, Vivian, Alexandra Eade and Mary-Anne Monckton

Vivian at the 2013 Australian Championships

2008 Australian Olympian Olivia Vivian's fourth-place finish on uneven bars at the Doha World Challenger Cup on Friday marked her return to international competition, and represented the latest step in her quest to fulfill her gymnastics potential.

Vivian competed at the World Championships for the first time at the 2005 Worlds in Melbourne, where she placed 13th on uneven bars. She was a member of Australia's sixth-place team at the 2006 World Championships and 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, and then enrolled at Oregon State University in the U.S.

After competing for Oregon State in the 2009-2012 seasons, Vivian returned to Australia, and placed first on uneven bars at the 2012 and 2013 Australian Championships.

Vivian's fourth-place finish in Doha last weekend reflected what she deemed a "freak mistake," but she still finished 0.05 only shy of the bronze medal. Her score of 12.725 included her Difficulty (D) score of 4.9, which was significantly lower than her D-score of 5.7 in qualifications, where she scored 12.95 to qualify second.

Coached by Martine George and Josh Fabian at the Western Australian Institute of Sport in her hometown of Perth, the 24-year-old Vivian is now aiming for important competitions later this year, including this summer's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and this fall's world championships in Nanning.

Vivian shared her thoughts on Doha, and the challenges she faces in the newest stage of her long career, in this IG Online interview.

IG: What caused the problem you had in the Doha final, and overall, what did your results in Doha show you in terms on your recent progress?

OV: My qualification routine wasn't in any way perfect or to the level I was training at prior the competition, but my D score helped land me a place in finals. In finals I missed my toe-half which lead to me skipping a special requirement. It was a freak mistake that will most likely haunt me for a while! These kinds of mistakes aren't common for me so, it could mean that I might just need a little bit more competition experience, as it's been a while since I've been on the scene. Hopefully I've shaken those rookie nerves and will return to being a solid performer! I can guarantee I won't be missing that same skill in competition again! I might be having nightmares about it for quiet some time!

IG: What led you to return to international competition?

OV: My time at Oregon State University was the best four years of my life, and the coaches and teammates I shared my time with there are the reason I still do it today. They showed me how to love and appreciate this sport for all it is. They taught me to treat competitions like a celebration of all the hard work you put into the gym as an athlete. They are the reason I fell back in love with this sport. I miss them every day and will try to replicate what they taught me in my gymnastics today.

IG: What is your motivation now, as opposed to younger gymnasts who are aiming to make it to their first Olympic Games?

Olivia Vivian

OV: When I was younger my only goal was to be an Olympian. I was naturally talented on the bars but, in all honesty, I wasn't willing to put in 100% in my training and I would just wing it in competition. After Beijing and my time in the States I developed an understanding of hard work and the rewards that come from it, so my goals and the way I approach my training has changed.

I draw my motivation from all areas now instead of one focus to be an Olympian. I do it because I love the uneven bars and I cherish every moment I get to fly, flip and swing like a monkey!

I do it as motivation to others who think there's an age or height limit on gymnastics like I was told. And I do it because it's a sport where you are constantly faced with fears, challenges and opportunities, and I get satisfaction out of overcoming and accomplishing achievements in these areas!

IG: How many hours per week are you training, as compared to while at Oregon State and before Oregon State?

OV: Before I was at OSU I was training 34 hours a week. Then I got to Oregon State and they had a rule of no more than 20 hours a week! I was like "WAHOOOOOO!" I'm now back to 32-34 hours a week but some of those training hours are dedicated to other sorts of training and recovery such as weights, yoga and rehab.

IG: How is gymnastics more challenging for you, and in what ways is it easier for you, in your 20s?

OV: It's easier for me now because I understand the technical side a bit better. I can also stop and appreciate what an amazing sport it really is and the truly incredible things we go through to aim for perfection. It's challenging in ways that I'm not a little skip in this sport anymore, and I have to dedicate more time and importance to recovery and taking care of my body.

IG: What are your specific goals for the rest of 2014, in terms of specific apparatuses and at which competitions?

OV: My passion is the uneven bars, but I would like to get solid, reliable routines on floor and beam for up-and-coming World Cups, Commonwealth Games (in summer) and world championships (in October). With my bars, I want to get an internationally competitive routine that still possesses beautiful quality. We all know that this current Code has forced gymnasts to add extreme difficulty for D scores, but I find it's compromised quality a bit, so I would like to be known for both.

IG: Unlike younger gymnasts you have the challenge of supporting yourself financially while you train. How are you getting by, financially?

OV: I can honestly say I have had extreme difficulty with financial issues in the past couple months, and life got much more complicated after the passing of my father last year. It's extremely stressful and takes focus away from training which then adds further stress, and it ends up being one nasty stress cycle! The Western Australian Institute of Sport and Gymnastics Australia have been working hard to find ways to make things easier, and I give many thanks and gratitude for their support. I work where I can in between training sessions and on the weekends to help support living expenses, but it is hard to get a full-time job because of the required training hours and travel times. I constantly ask myself why I didn't choose a sport like golf or tennis where you get paid to do it, but as all gymnasts know, we do this sport because we love it, and I will continue to try to do so until the day I stop loving it!

International Gymnast magazine's recent coverage of Australian gymnasts includes:
"10 Questions with Olivia Vivian" - interview (March 2011)
"Golden Surprise" - Lauren Mitchell cover story (January/February 2011)
Georgia Godwin cover photo (March 2014)
"Aussie Long Shot" - Daria Joura profile (July/August 2012)
Coach Peggy Liddick interview (January/February 2011)
"Late Bloomer" - Amelia McGrath profile (October 2010)
Lisa Skinner chat (September 2010)
"10 Questions with Naoya Tsukahara" - interview (September 2013)

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


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