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Written by John Crumlish    Sunday, 05 June 2011 21:59    PDF Print
Canada's Dowling Eager for 'Unique Opportunity' with Dutch Team
(6 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Canadian-born Jessica Dowling told IG she is excited to take part in this month's Dutch championships as the next step in her efforts to represent the Netherlands in international competition.


Jessica Dowling

"Because my mom was born in the Netherlands, I am automatically a Dutch citizen and I have a dual citizenship," said Dowling, who placed first all-around in the Open division at last month's Canadian championships. "I think I can help the Dutch team on floor and bars, and also think I have potential to upgrade my vault and beam to make a contribution there, as well."

Dowling said she began her quest to represent the Netherlands after injuries made her unable to compete at the Elite Canada meet last December.

"As a result I was no longer part of the Canadian selection process," Dowling said. "I then decided to contact the Dutch federation, who put us in contact with the national head coach (Gerben Wiersma). After a successful week of training in the Netherlands with (Wiersma), he invited me to attend the Dutch national championships in order to be eligible for their selection process. We decided to take advantage of this unique opportunity."

Dowling said Wiersma and the Dutch federation welcomed her interest in competing for them.

"They were very enthusiastic with this unexpected development," she said. "(Wiersma) felt I had a good program on bars and floor, and also that I could make a good contribution to the Dutch team on beam and vault. He considered me an all-around athlete."

Dowling said her coaches at Oakville Gymnastics Club in Ontario have also encouraged her to pursue a place on the Dutch team.

"My coaches are very supportive because they were also disappointed that I am no longer eligible for the Canadian selection process," she said.

Among Dowling's most enthusiastic supporters is her mother, Ellen.

"My mom is very proud for my perseverance and coming back after my Achilles', heel and shoulder injuries," Dowling told IG. "Even though she finds it unfortunate that I am not part of the Canadian selection process, she is very happy that I am able to still pursue my goals as an elite gymnast. She loves going home and seeing her family."

 
Written by Amanda Turner    Tuesday, 31 May 2011 07:18    PDF Print
Izurieta, Cuesta Tie for Spanish Cup Title
(13 votes, average 4.08 out of 5)



Ana María Izurieta and Beatriz Cuesta (pictured) shared the women's all-around title at the Spanish Cup, held Saturday in Madrid.

Ana María Izurieta and Beatriz Cuesta (both of Madrid) shared the women's all-around title at the Spanish Cup, held Saturday in Madrid.

After sub-par results in recent years, the Spanish women are showing improved depth, with several promising first-year seniors who could help the team at this year's world championships. Spain failed to qualify a full women's team for the 2008 Olympic Games and finished a disastrous 18th at the 2010 World Championships.

Izurieta, the 18-year-old Ecuador native, made a comeback after 18 months of injuries. Fourth all-around at the 2009 Europeans, she missed the 2009 Worlds and competed one event only at the 2010 Worlds. Izurieta led the field on balance beam (14.50) and had the second-best score on uneven bars (toe-full to Gienger; Jaeger; double layout). She opened with a beautiful triple twist on floor exercise, but stumbled out of bounds on a double tuck.

Cuesta had the top score on floor exercise (13.35), where she had weak tumbling (two whips to double tuck; 2 1/2; front to double twist; double pike) but lovely presentation. She had the third-best score on beam (14.20), again showing typical Spanish extension (beautiful straddle planche mount; ff to two layouts; switch side; front aerial; side somi; ff, ff double pike; click here for video).

Her older sister, Marta Cuesta, finished eighth on uneven bars at the 2010 Porto World Cup in Portugal.

First-year senior Claudia Menéndez (Asturias) won the all-around bronze, earning the high score of the meet (14.85) for a double-twisting Yurchenko.

Madrid's María Paula Vargas, another first-year senior and the silver medalist on vault at the 2010 Youth Olympics, finished fourth all-around. Vargas, a native of Venezuela, was the top scorer on uneven bars (Shaposhnikova to Pak; toe-on blind to Jaeger; double front; 14.50).

Junior Roxana Popa, a native of Romania who now lives in Madrid, finished seventh all-around. Born June 2, 1997, in Constanta, Popa became a Spanish citizen at age 11.

The Spanish championships for men begin June 30 in Valencia, and the women's championships will be held in July in Seville.

External Link: Royal Spanish Gymnastics Federation

2011 Spanish Cup (for Women)
May 28, San Agustín de Guadalix, Madrid

All-AroundVTUBBBFXTotal
1. Ana María Izurieta Los Cantos Alcorcon 5.0 13.45 5.6 14.35 5.5 14.50 5.4 12.85 55.15
1. Beatriz Cuesta Las Rozas 5.0 13.85 5.2 13.75 5.5 14.20 5.3 13.35 55.15
3. Claudia Menéndez RGC Covadonga 5.8 14.85 5.2 13.40 5.5 13.80 5.9 12.90 54.95
4. María Paula Vargas Las Rozas 5.0 14.05 5.9 14.50 5.3 13.00 5.3 13.15 54.70
5. Claudia Vilà Salt GC 5.0 13.45 5.0 12.80 5.4 14.25 5.2 13.05 53.55
6. Ainoa Carmona Xelska 5.0 13.45 4.8 12.30 5.8 13.85 5.2 12.85 52.45
7. Roxana Popa CGA Pozuelo 4.4 12.90 3.6 11.35 5.1 13.90 4.8 12.95 51.10
8. Elena Zaldívar CGA Pozuelo 4.6 12.50 5.0 13.00 5.0 12.75 4.9 12.65 50.90
9. Cintia Rodríguez Xelska 4.4 12.90 5.4 12.80 4.3 11.95 4.7 12.90 50.55
10. Toya Rojas Grech 5.0 13.90 5.2 13.55 4.1 9.50 5.1 12.70 49.65
11. Irene Matienzo CGA Pozuelo 4.4 12.30 3.4 10.70 4.4 12.20 4.4 12.30 47.50
12. Paula Raya Terrassa 4.0 11.85 4.8 12.90 4.2 11.80 4.2 10.95 47.50
13. Carolina Sanchez Xelska 4.4 12.20 4.7 12.00 4.3 10.80 4.2 11.65 46.65
14. Noelia Rubio COS-Master 4.2 11.90 3.4 10.95 4.0 11.50 4.5 11.60 45.95
15. Laura Gamell Terrassa 4.2 11.80 4.8 12.10 4.6 11.05 3.8 10.65 45.60
16. Mireia Sanfiz Osona 4.2 11.85 3.2 8.40 4.5 11.80 4.5 11.70 43.75
17. Ariadna Punti Egiba 4.4 12.20 2.8 8.10 4.0 10.45 4.5 11.65 42.40
18. Erika Fernandez Aritza 4.4 12.45 3.9 9.60 3.8 9.45 4.2 9.65 41.15
19. Silvia Puig GGC 4.2 12.30 1.9 6.80 4.0 11.40 3.7 10.60 41.10
20. Sara Montore Natacio Granollers 5.0 13.25 3.3 7.30 4.0 8.50 4.8 11.95 41.00
21. Andrea San Jose Los Cantos Alcorcon 4.4 11.40 2.2 7.35 3.9 10.20 4.3 11.85 40.80
22. Paula Comas Salt GC 4.2 11.85 2.7 7.70 3.8 9.75 2.9 10.00 39.30
23. Judit Luzardo I.Lanzarote 3.8 11.10 1.9 9.00 4.0 7.55 3.4 10.50 38.15
24. Mariona Antó Salt GC 2.5 12.00 3.0 6.00 2.9 10.50 8.90 37.40
25. Cristina Adrover Xelska 4.4 12.30 4.4 11.35 4.5 12.05 35.70
26. Lucia Rosales C. Sur 4.0 10.10 1.8 6.65 3.9 8.15 3.1 9.40 34.30
27. Ana Noceda San Blas 4.0 10.60 1.2 4.10 3.9 8.95 2.8 9.75 33.40
28. Gladis Pujol Natacio Granollers 4.6 12.10 4.1 4.2 11.30 9.70 33.10
29. Eugenia Pujol Salt GC 4.2 11.70 3.7 3.0 11.35 9.75 32.80
30. Laura Barahona Los Cantos Alcorcon 1.8 8.95 4.5 10.25 4.2 11.95 31.15
31. Thais Escolar La Mina Gervasio Deferr 4.9 12.05 4.7 13.60 25.65
32. Andrea Cajamarca Osona 3.0 7.85 3.2 9.35 17.20
33. Laura Navajas Xelska 4.7 11.80 11.80
34. Tamara Ruiz Los Cantos Alcorcon 4.0 11.50 11.50
35. Ana Narros Los Cantos Alcorcón 2.4 10.50 10.50
36. Andrea Corralero Natacio Granollers 3.7 9.90 9.90
37. Laura Casassa Salt GC 3.1 9.90 9.90
38. Ana Moyano CGA Pozuelo 2.2 6.80 6.80
 
Written by John Crumlish    Thursday, 19 May 2011 09:00    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Gael Mackie (Canada/Utah)
(7 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)



Canada's Gael Mackie, who recently completed her final season at the University of Utah, shares with IG how she regained her love for the sport after leaving the international scene.

2004 Canadian Olympian Gael Mackie, who recently completed her final season of competition at the University of Utah, reflects on the highs, lows and challenges of her long career.

Born Dec. 16, 1988, in Vancouver, Mackie hails from a family of gymnasts. Her physician parents, Susan and Bill, and her brother, Owen, are former gymnasts. Her younger sister, Charlotte, competed at the 2009 and 2010 World Championships.

Mackie, who won the 2002 Canadian junior all-around title and the 2003 Canadian senior all-around title, was the youngest member of the Canadian delegation at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. During her Elite career she was coached by Vladimir and Svetlana Lashin at Omega Gymnastics Academy.

In 2008 Mackie enrolled at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, where she trained under co-head coaches Greg Marsden and two-time NCAA all-around champion Megan McCunniff Marsden. Mackie helped Utah place among the top six teams at the NCAA championships from 2008-2011, including a best finish of second place in 2008.

Mackie spoke with IG Online about her life in gymnastics – past, present and future.


IG: Looking back, what have been the most memorable parts of your career, in university and elite?

GM: This whole year at Utah has been especially memorable, but NCAA championships was particularly memorable because I had the meet of my life. I hit all my routines and ended my career with a 9.925 (on uneven bars). It was also memorable when I hit a clutch beam routine at regionals, and when I competed my floor routine this year in the Huntsman Center (at Utah) and the crowd exploded. Competing in the 2004 Olympic Games was the most memorable experience while I was in elite gymnastics.

IG: What were some of the most challenging phases of your career, and how did you navigate them?

GM: The last year of elite and the first year of university were tough years for me. I didn't really love the sport anymore and I was just hanging on because my goal was always to compete in college. I knew that I wasn't finished with gym yet, even though I thought about ending my career during those times.


Mackie on floor for the University of Utah

I took the summer off following my freshman year and then I fell in love with gymnastics again in my sophomore year. I think the time off in the summer has been key to overcoming injuries and, in my opinion, contributes to longevity in gymnastics. I fell in love with gymnastics and I loved going into the gym more than I ever had before. It's bittersweet now because I am retired, but I love gymnastics more than ever.

IG: How did you stay motivated when you were injured?

GM: Overcoming many injuries has also helped me stay in the sport. It is really hard to stay motivated, and in good physical shape, when you are injured. I was lucky because none of my injuries required too much time off, nor surgery and I had great doctors and therapists working with me.

However, even with a great team of doctors, coaches and parents to support me, a huge part of dealing with injuries is motivation from within, and I did have a lot of that. In fact, one of the reasons why bars is my strongest event, I believe, is because I frequently injured my ankles when I was younger and therefore trained a ton of bars and got all my basics and skills.

IG: What are your plans for this summer and beyond?

GM: I am staying in Salt Lake for most of the summer and plan on coaching, choreographing, finishing my last few courses and maybe some stunt work. After graduating, I plan on being a yoga instructor and working in the Marketing/PR field back at home in Vancouver, and maybe do some movie stunts in between!

IG: How involved in gymnastics do you plan to stay?

GM: Gymnastics is so much a part of me, and I plan on staying closely involved in any way I can. For now I am really enjoying choreography and coaching.

Gael Mackie is featured in the following issues of International Gymnast Magazine:
"Canadian Standout" – Gael Mackie profile (January 2003)
"Pride for Family and Canada" – Charlotte Mackie profile, includes Gael (November 2006)

To order back issues or subscribe to IG Magazine, click here.

 
Written by John Crumlish    Thursday, 24 March 2011 22:27    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Felix Aronovich (Israel/Penn State)
(11 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)



A native of Ukraine who competes for Israel, Felix Aronovich is gaining confidence and experience as a sophomore gymnast at Penn State University. "I still see myself getting much better," he says.

A native of Ukraine who competes for Israel, Felix Aronovich is gaining confidence and experience as a sophomore gymnast at The Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pa. "I still see myself getting much better," he says.

Born July 18, 1988, in Odessa, Aronovich has lived in Israel since age 2. "We moved mainly because life wasn't good there anymore," he says. "The Soviet Union was collapsing and there was some level of anti-Semitism. My parents didn't want to raise me in that situation."

Aronovich is among several current Israeli national team members who were born in the Soviet Union. He has represented Israel at several European championships, and the 2006 and 2010 World Championships. In Israel he trains under Ukrainian-born coach Sergei Vaisburg in Tel Aviv; at Penn State he trains under head coach Randy Jepson, and assistant coaches Slava Boiko (who competed for the Soviet Union) and 2008 U.S. Olympic team captain Kevin Tan.

While Aronovich is diligently focused on helping Penn State aim for the National Collegiate Athletic Association Championships (April 14-16 in Columbus), he is keeping an eye on future international success. IG recently spoke with Aronovich about the unique challenges he faces in and out of the gym.



Israel's Felix Aronovich on high bar for Penn State University

IG: How is gymnastics training in the U.S. (at Penn State) different from training in Israel?

FA: At Penn State I work a lot more on strength and conditioning than I did in Israel. I feel much more physically fit when I compete, in comparison with Israel. Also, we have around 12 or 13 meets in a season in the NCAA, whereas in Israel I competed at not more than five meets a year. I feel that the workouts here are much more intense then back home, since we have a meet approximately every week, then you have to work a lot more to make yourself better from one week to another. But the main difference is that, back home, I trained mainly for myself since we had maybe two team meets a year, whereas at Penn State I compete for a team. I have a responsibility to be good in what I do, not just for myself, but also for the team, and that is a really strong motivation boost that I didn't have at home. Another important difference is that at Penn State I have three different coaches. Each has something new to contribute when I am learning a skill or working on a routine. In Israel I had only one coach with only one opinion.

IG: How are you coordinating your training so you can meet the goals for the Penn State team, but also stay on track for what is expected of you for Israel?

FA: For the Israeli team I'm expected to compete in European championships and world championships. Europeans usually fall a week or so before NCAA nationals, so I cannot leave. Worlds are in an off-season for NCAA, so it is possible to do. But it has its downfalls since I'm usually out of routine shape in the off-season, and to get ready for worlds, I have to train routines in the off-season, too. In the long run that takes a big toll on your body because it makes you stay in shape for almost a full year. That is why I'm still not sure about competing for this year's worlds (in Tokyo in October).

IG: How will you manage fulfilling your obligations to Penn State while also being available for important meets for Israel? For example, will you miss the European championships in Berlin (April 6-10) because of the upcoming NCAA Championships (April 14-16 in Columbus)?

FA: Currently my obligations to Penn State are my top priority. Only if it doesn't contradict then I can compete for Israel, too. But, unfortunately, I will not be able to compete in Berlin due to NCAA nationals.

IG: Looking ahead, what is your plan for training for and competing at the world championships in Tokyo, which comes at the beginning of your fall semester at Penn State?

FA: After the previous worlds (2010, in Rotterdam) I was expected to compete in the upcoming worlds as well, but I haven't made up my mind about that. Training for worlds will take a lot of time that I need to work on new skills for the next NCAA season. Plus, it's really difficult to catch up with schoolwork if I miss two weeks for worlds. My classes are starting to get challenging, and missing a full two weeks of them is really bad. Plus, this year's worlds is not going to be a team worlds for Israel since we failed to qualify a full team (by placing among the top 24 teams at the 2010 Worlds). So I don't have that much of an obligation for the Israeli national team, since we can only compete individuals in Tokyo.

IG: Israeli gymnastics has improved a lot in the last few years, mostly because of gymnasts such as you, Alexander Shatilov, Eduard Gholub and others who were born in the former Soviet Union. What do you think you and your coaches can show to Israel-born gymnasts that will help them reach your high level, too?

FA: Israel is a very small country and especially in gymnastics, meaning the gymnastics community is really small and everyone basically trains with each other and there is a lot of cooperation. I, for example, can be called an Israeli-born gymnast since my entire gymnastics career developed in Israel, although I worked only with former Soviet coaches. So in that sense I had the Russian doctrine put into me. But now there is not much difference between us and Israeli-born gymnasts, because we all train under the same coaches and all those coaches are ex-Soviet coaches. That is why we had some really good Israeli-born gymnasts like Noam Shaham, my teammate here at Penn State; Shachar Tal, my clubmate from Israel who finished his eligibility at Ohio State last year; and another gymnast, Assaf Tzur, who goes to Temple University (in Philadelphia).


Israel's Felix Aronovich on still rings for Penn State University

IG: What are your realistic hopes for Israel in Tokyo?

FA: I can't really say about myself since I don't know if I'm going, and we are not sending a full team. But all of our eyes are set upon Shatilov and him winning another medal on floor and going even further this year in the all-around. (At the 2009 Worlds in London, Shatilov won Israel's first world medal, a bronze on floor exercise. Shatilov placed 11th all-around at the 2009 Worlds and 10th all-around at the 2010 Worlds.)

IG: Gymnastics has become very competitive among a large group of teams bunched together. What are the key areas on which you feel Israel would need to focus in order to break into the top 12 teams and qualify a team for the Olympics?

FA: We failed that mission (to qualify to the 2012 Olympics). But looking backward at the 2010 Worlds, we missed our goal on pommel horse. That was a really bad event for us, in which we counted some awful scores, which was the main reason we didn't qualify a team for this year's worlds. It was a very doable mission that stood in front of us, but a bad day on pommel horse was the main cause for us failing. In the future I think pommel horse will always be a weak spot for us. We really don't have much depth in that area, while on other events a lot of new guys are stepping up.

IG: What challenges have you been handling in adapting to the life of an American university student — in terms of academics, social life and the demands placed on you as a student-athlete?

FA: Obviously, in the beginning, language was the main challenge. Although my basic English was really good from school and reading books and such, holding a conversation in English or even taking notes in class is an entirely different case. In terms of academics, I came to the university three years after graduating high school, so I was a little bit rusty in the beginning of the school year. By that I mean I had to get used to the fact that I need to do homework and study for exams again. But I have been successful so far, maintaining a 3.86 GPA (Grade Point Average, out of 4.00) and always aiming at As. In terms of a social life, it was a little bit strange for me since I come from a different mentality and society. So there was the small difference, but I wouldn't say it was too bad. Plus, I had my friend and teammate from back home, Noam Shaham, here, so he helped me a lot in getting into the groove of things. I felt like I wasn't a stranger here since day one. But there are definitely still strong emotions for Israel and my friends back home. I get to see my parents in real life, not on Skype, once a year, which isn't easy. But I have my Israeli group of friends on campus and my girlfriend that all together make me not dwell too much on getting homesick. I can't afford that.

IG: How many years do you feel it will take for you to reach your potential in gymnastics?

FA: I still think I haven't reached my full potential, although I improved a lot the past year and a half since I got here, thanks to Randy, Slava and Kevin. I still see myself getting much better. I hope that in a year or so, towards my junior and senior years, I'll reach my full abilities.

 
Written by Amanda Turner    Wednesday, 16 March 2011 21:05    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Rohan Sebastian (Ireland/Michigan)
(11 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)



IG Online chats with Irish world team member Rohan Sebastian, who had a standout freshman year in 2010 for the University of Michigan. Pictured: U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Sebastian outside the White House during a celebration for the 2010 NCAA champion teams.

IG Online continues its annual St. Patrick's Day tradition of celebrating Irish gymnastics. This year, IG Online catches up with Irish-American gymnast Rohan Sebastian, who had a standout freshman year for Michigan in 2010 and is hoping his luck will continue in 2011.

Born in Ireland to Indian parents, Sebastian grew up in Oklahoma City, training at Dynamo Gymnastics with coach Binh Le and at Bart Conner Gymnastics with Ivan Ivankov. He joined the Irish national team in 2007, placing 14th all-around at the 2008 Junior European Championships and fifth all-around at the 2008 Northern European Championships.

Now a pre-med sophomore, he trains with Michigan coaches Kurt Golder, Xiao Yuan and Geoff Corrigan. He competed for Ireland at the 2009 Worlds in London, but decided to skip the 2010 Worlds in Rotterdam in order to prepare for this year.

At the 2010 NCAA Championships in New York, Sebastian contributed on floor exercise, still rings and vault to help Michigan take a surprise team victory. In September, he and his Michigan teammates traveled to the White House for a celebration honoring all the past year's NCAA champion teams. The visit led to a memorable photo opportunity that saw Sebastian shaking hands with U.S. President Barack Obama.

IG Online caught up with Sebastian, who turned 20 on Monday, on his upcoming plans for collegiate and international competition.


IG: How is training going right now?

RS: Training is going very well. The main goal at the moment because of the current time in the collegiate season is becoming consistent on the events that help the team and staying healthy. I injured my wrist quite seriously at our first collegiate competition of the year in Chicago, the Windy City Invitational, and was forced to immobilize and sit out of competition for the following couple of weeks. For the last month I have been back and just been limited on pommel horse, one of my stronger events which I won't be competing this year. The wrist is feeling much better and I have competed five events for the team these last few competitions.


Irish team member Rohan Sebastian on rings for the University of Michigan

IG: When is your next trip to Ireland?

RS: As of right now, I'm not sure when my next visit to Ireland is. Due to competition conflicts with Big 10 Championships and NCAA Championships, I am unable to attend the 2011 European Championships in Berlin which is unfortunate, because last year's Icelandic volcano issues caused me to miss Europeans following the NCAA Championships. I am hoping to find a competition in Europe over the summer and train with the Irish team for a week or two after.

IG: What led to your decision to skip the 2010 Worlds in Rotterdam?

RS: It was a tough decision to not compete at 2010 Worlds, but I decided that in order to really do well in future competition, it was necessary for me to upgrade and increase difficultly on my two weaker events. Due to the demands of the NCAA season and the conflict with the international schedule, I have been unable to work difficulty for a long period while having a consistent coach for the last couple of years. The first opportunity to really add the needed difficulty was this past summer, and going to worlds would have forced me to get into routine shape early again and revert back to past routines which I did not want to do. I also took a larger load in school being pre-med, so I could take a little less in my next few years. Ultimately, it was a smart decision in the long run for my career both collegiate wise and internationally.

IG: What are your goals for 2011 Worlds?

RS: My goals for 2011 Worlds are to do well on my stronger events, but mainly to score better on my weaker events now that I have a little more difficulty, but regardless to have much better execution on everything I do. This will lead to a much better all-around score which is my best chance of qualifying to the 2012 Olympics, my ultimate goal. At 2011 Worlds specifically, maybe some individual success on floor and doing whatever I can to help Ireland in the rankings.

IG: You had a very memorable freshman year at Michigan. What was that like?

RS: My freshman year in college was fantastic. Michigan is a fantastic school academically and the tradition and history is incredible. Joining that with the fantastic facilities and great coaching, it had everything I was looking for. Even though I'm not a fan of cold weather, I was pleasantly surprised as I was expecting worse (and have seen worse given the extremes in Oklahoma). The NCAA experience was a blast competing with 20 other guys who are practically my brothers and winning a national championship — can't ask for much more competing on three events as a freshman and contributing to the title.

The White House experience was just icing on the cake as our team traveled to our nation's capital to have a banquet in front of the White House and end with a speech by our president and shaking his hand — I was able to twice!. Being honored both in Michigan upon returning and at the White House was incredible. Standing next to a group of guys and knowing that we all worked very hard day in day out to achieve greatness, motivates me very much to do again this year and every other chance I get!

IG: Any plans for St. Patrick's Day on Thursday?

RS: Definitely wear some of my Irish gear around campus and rep Ireland gymnastics! Then maybe go out and eat with a couple of my teammates and celebrate after workout that night.

 


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