Written by John Crumlish
Tuesday, 21 September 2010 07:36
| IG Interview: Jessica Savona (Canada)
|Preparing to compete in her first worlds, Canada's Jessica Savona reflects on the struggles and successes she has experienced thus far, and reveals her strategy for reaching her international potential. Pictured: Savona, third from right, stands next to coach Yelena Davydova, 1980 Olympic champion, as Canada accepts the team silver at the 2010 Pan American Championships in Guadalajara.
Preparing to compete in her first world championships next month, Canadian gymnast Jessica Savona says overcoming a torn ACL and winning a team silver medal at the recent Pan American Championships have bolstered her determination to reach top international form.
Savona, who was Canada's team at the world championships Oct. 16-24 in Rotterdam, is steadily returning to full strength following a knee injury she suffered in early 2008. She placed fourth all-around at the Canadian Championships in May, and won a team silver medal at the recent Pan American Championships in Guadalajara.
Prior to her knee injury, Savona achieved solid results in junior competitions in Canada and abroad. She placed first all-around in the Novice division at the 2006 Elite Canada meet; first all-around in the Novice division at the 2007 Canadian Championships; and first all-around in the junior division at the 2007 Elite Canada meet. Savona won a team silver medal and placed eighth all-around at the 2007 Junior Pan American Championships in Guatemala.
Savona, who turned 16 on July 19, trains at Oakville Gymnastics Club in Ontario. She is coached by Kelly and Susan Manjak and 1988 Olympian Lorne Bobkin.
In this IG Online interview, the ambitious Savona reflects on the struggles and successes she has experienced thus far, and reveals her strategy for reaching her international potential.
IG: How are your results from Guadalajara impacting your preparations for Rotterdam, in terms of your personal training program and what you think the team needs to work on?
Savona trains at Oakville Gymnastics in Ontario.
JS: Well, considering I wasn't as pleased with myself too much, it is only making me work twice as hard, because I don't want to second-guess myself at the biggest meet that I have ever been to. And I don't want to let my team down. I as well as the Canadian team pulled together at this meet and we became more of a family, which makes it easier to compete, cheer each other on and feel comfortable with one another.
IG: The Canadian team for Rotterdam will be a relatively untested one. What do you think will be the team's strongest suits in Rotterdam?
JS: I think our team's strongest suits will be our determination to show the world that we are coming back, and that we are all able to do high-level gymnastics compared to the rest of the world.
IG: What are your personal goals for Rotterdam, and what is the team's target ranking?
JS: My goals will be to hit my routines the best possible way I can, and to put forth a full 100 percent effort for my teammates and our overall score as a team. Our target ranking is just to qualify Canada (for the 2011 World Championships) and to be placed with the best of the best.
IG: We understand that you are training with the Manjaks and Lorne Bobkin, but it looks as though Alex Bard was spotting you on bars at the Canadian Championships…
JS: Yes! I moved to Kelly's gym (Oakville Gymnastics) in the summer of 2009 to be with him, Sue and Lorne. Before Oakville I was at Gymnastics Mississauga, and Alex was my coach there. But then I hurt my knee, he retired and hired new coaches, so that was it with us after 12 years of being together. But Alex couldn't stop coaching gymnastics because he loved it too much, so he goes around helping out gymnastics clubs, and just enjoys it with no pressure. So when Oakville needed some help at the recent national championships, due to personal reasons, Alex stepped in and was a coach for us!
IG: How and when did you tear your ACL?
JS: At the end of February 2008, I tore the ACL in my right knee in training a week before a competition. I use to do a triple twist off beam from a round-off. As a warm-up I trained 2 1/2 twists, but landed on straight legs, and I kept twisting once my feet hit the ground after the 2 1/2 twist. I had surgery in May 2008.
IG: As a junior you had great success in 2006 and 2007, and then the injury happened. What gave you the incentive to return to sport at the top level?
JS: I wanted nothing more than to be back to where I was when I had success in 2007. I was the (junior) champion at the 2007 Elite Canada Championships in Abbotsford, British Columbia, and the thrill and excitement of being at the top were what I loved. I would not let anything stop me from coming back, even if it took many tries and practices before I was successful again.
I had my first meet back from surgery at the 2009 Canadian Championships. That did not go so well because I came in 13th, and it was a bad meet. Many people thought I was finished and I couldn't get back to where I was. But I guess my determination, hard work and my mental strength led me to my recent success placing fourth at the recent national championships, making the world championships team and traveling to my first ever worlds competition!
IG: Of all your routines, bars seems to be the one loaded with tough tricks, from start to finish. How much of this is based on extra training to stay off your injured ACL, or has bars always been your strongest event?
JS: Well, not all of it is because of my injury. I was always a powerful person in the legs, but bars has always been my favorite event to do because I love the thrill of swinging. And, it was the event that had always come natural to me — of course, with some exceptions. But I can say that, even with my knee surgery, I am at 100 percent now and I will soon show my power once again.
Written by John Crumlish
Thursday, 09 September 2010 16:07
| IG Online Interview: Maddy Curley
|Gymnast-turned-actress Maddy Curley spoke with IG this week about her recent projects, including a gymnastics-themed screenplay she hopes will get produced before the 2012 Olympics.
From the set of NBC's "The Event," gymnast-turned-actress Maddy Curley spoke with IG this week about her recent projects, ranging from parts in "The Office" and an unofficial "Footloose" remake to a gymnastics-themed screenplay she hopes will get produced before the 2012 Olympics.
Curley has enjoyed steady work in Hollywood since she earned a B.F.A. in Drama and International Studies at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where she competed in gymnastics from 2000-2004. She made her professional acting debut in 2006 with a co-starring role in "Stick It," Touchstone Pictures' gymnastics-themed film starring Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges.
Among Curley's more recent credits, she played a pivotal role in the two-part season finale of CBS's "Cold Case" last year, and recreated Kevin Bacon's classic dance-and-gymnastics scene for the unofficial "Footloose" remake that premiered in Los Angeles and New York this summer. She is currently shooting an episode of NBC's "The Event," a conspiracy-thriller series that is scheduled to debut on Sept. 20.
In this IG Online interview, Curley details her Hollywood career to date, and outlines her plans to master the arts of acting, writing and directing.
Curley on floor exercise for the University of North Carolina
IG: Can you talk a bit about your role on "The Event"? It's a new show with a lot of buzz...
MC: Actually, I'm a bit sworn to secrecy, but what I can tell you is I play a passenger on the plane that crashes. My character's name is Jackie Granados and so far I only have one line, but hopefully they'll bring me back!
IG: How and why did you get involved with the unofficial "Footloose" remake?
MC: A guy at the gym where I work, CrossFit Hollywood, gave my name to a friend of his that needed someone who could do acrobatics to recreate the warehouse scene. I loved it because it was a combination of comedy, dance and gymnastics!
IG: At both of the screenings I attended, your performance received one of the best reactions from the audience. The dance sequence in the factory was complicated and convincing, as were the giant swings on the high bar. How did you prepare for this scene? Did you study the original choreography from the film, or just improvise?
MC: I watched the dance scene over and over throughout filming, so we could get it as close to the real thing as possible. The director had his iPhone with him and we would watch, film, watch, film. And then we would add in a few spoofy things of our own, as well.
IG: What about your work on the independent film "Turkles."
MC: "Turkles" is a family-friendly movie about a group of kids who set out to stop some bad guys from poaching turtle eggs. I play one of the camp counselors that teach the kids about turtles. It was really fun to film because I had never seen a turtle bigger than the size of my hand, and I got to see two that were huge! One was at least four feet long, and she was making a nest to lay eggs. I don't know when "Turkles" will be released. It was independently financed without a studio behind it. I can only hope a studio snatches it up, because it will certainly be a cute movie.
IG: We understand you had a role on "The Office." Where and when can fans look for you?
Curley and Nastia Liukin in a scene from the 2006 comedy "Stick It."
MC: Unfortunately you will not see me because my scene was deleted. I actually filmed it way back during Season 3 and can be seen in the Deleted Scenes section of the episode called "Product Recall." I got to do a scene with John Krasinski, which was tough because he's so funny that I wanted to laugh.
IG: In addition to your acting roles, you have some interesting writing, directing and producing credits. What are your aspirations in these areas, compared to your acting aspirations?
MC: Writing definitely falls closest in aspirations for my entertainment career. I love writing and I have an amazing writing partner, Brooke Buffington, that I do all my writing with. If I could live off of acting and writing, I would say I had the perfect job. As far as directing and producing go, I'd be much more inclined to direct rather than produce. Producers do a lot of the grunt work that goes unnoticed, and they have to find money. I know from experience that I hate trying to raise and find money. Brooke and I have entered a Disney Fellowship and are hoping to be picked to write for Disney. We've also been working on a mystery screenplay involving Cinderella and a dead Prince Charming.
IG: What other projects or goals are on your horizon?
MC: My goal is to become a series regular on a TV show or a lead in a feature film, and to finish another screenplay by the end of the year. The latter I can control, the former we'll have to see what miracles God has in store!
Curley and Emmy Award-winning actress Jane Lynch.
IG: How involved do you remain in gymnastics?
MC: My gymnastics has now become "playing gymnastics" when I do it. I recently went to a gymnastics camp and found I could still do back handspring layouts on beam and double fulls on floor. I'd say that, if I had to, I could go Level 9. Every now and then I go with friends to an adult gymnastics class.
Besides gymnastics, I've gotten really involved in a thing called CrossFit, and even competed. I got second at sectionals. CrossFit is a combination of Olympic lifting, body weight movements like pull-ups and push-ups, running, etc. It has workouts that range from two to 30 minutes that are super-intense. I'll say a floor routine is still harder, but these workouts come close. I like to say it's good competition for former athletes. For the first time in my life I lift weights. I also coach group classes in between acting jobs.
I still love gymnastics and am still actively trying to get Brooke's and my script, "Chalk It Up," into the hands of an investor. It would be so great to have made before the 2012 Olympics. I think that, with the success of (ABC Family's gymnastics-themes series) "Make It or Break It," making my film is a no-brainer. People love gymnastics! I was so excited to hear about "Make It or Break It," and went to a network test to play the part of Payson. Another girl, Ayla Kell, got the part. Alas, I still watch the show and support anything that brings more notoriety to such a difficult and amazing sport.
Maddy Curley at the Internet Movie Database
NBC's "The Event"
The "Footloose" Remake
Written by John Crumlish
Thursday, 02 September 2010 20:44
| IG Online Interview: Glen Ishino (USA)
Currently in Mexico to compete in the Pan American Championships, U.S. gymnast Glen Ishino gave IG his thoughts on his rising gymnastics profile.
Ishino finished sixth all-around at last month's Visa (U.S.) Championships in Hartford, which was a one-rank improvement from his results in the 2009 competition. As a junior gymnast, he finished second all-around in the 16-18 age group at the 2007 U.S. championships; and first all-around and first on four events in the 16-18 age group at the 2008 U.S. Championships.
Born May 10, 1990, in Santa Ana, Calif., Ishino competes for the Univ. of California–Berkeley, where he will be a junior this fall. His older sister, Allyse Ishino, was an alternate on the 2004 U.S. Olympic team and then competed for Stanford University.
Ishino was featured in the Aug. 23 issue of "Sports Illustrated." The photo of Ishino's hands gripping the rings ran on a two-page spread in the "Leading Off" photo gallery in the front of the magazine.
This week Ishino is competing at the Pan American Championships in Guadalajara. He placed second all-around and first with the U.S. team at the 2007 Junior Pan American Championships in Guatemala City.
In this IG Online interview, Ishino details his plans to continue his rise in the gymnastics rankings, in the U.S. and abroad.
Glen Ishino (U.S.)
IG: Your results in Hartford were one position better than last year, but are significant in terms of your potential for upcoming international events. To what do you attribute your results in Hartford, and overall improvement since 2009?
GI: I think that having a setback like hurting my back early on in the year made me work twice as hard to catch up. I actually would have liked to progress further as a gymnast this year, but due to my back injury, perfecting my current skills became my main goal rather than learning new
ones. It's a definite honor to be a national team member, and it feels great to be considered for major international meets.
IG: What was your reaction to the photo spread in Sports Illustrated? What effect, if any, has that exposure had on your confidence level?
GI: I actually have not seen that edition of Sports Illustrated, but I plan on purchasing a copy when I have the chance. It's really nice to be recognized in such a major magazine. As far as confidence goes, I can't say it has changed much because I think the thing that gives me the most confidence is my ability and skill level. Regardless, it is a huge honor, and I am flattered to have been featured.
IG: How has it been having Tim McNeill as a coach, whereas he was a former Cal teammate? What do you think Tim offers you a coach that perhaps an older coach cannot offer?
GI: Tim has been a great coach. We had him as our assistant coach in my freshman year, so it isn't a huge stretch. However, now with his as head coach, I begin to really appreciate how invested he is in each individual team member, as well as the Cal team as a whole. Tim's school pride is obvious, and it is perfect for him be leading us towards our goal of an NCAA title. The fact that Tim is younger and still competing is pretty refreshing to have in a coach. He understands our difficulties and is able to push us without being overbearing.
IG: What advice has your sister given you, relating to your preparations for the 2012 Olympics?
GI: Allyse has always been very supportive of me in my life, inside and outside of gymnastics. She has always taught me to persevere and work hard for everything I want without losing perspective.
IG: What are the key aspects of your gymnastics on which you plan to focus?
GI: I plan on just maintaining my endurance and concentrating on details of my routines. My style is more aggressive, which requires a certain degree of control, so that's what I plan to focus on.
IG: You list a unique hobby, modifying airsoft guns. Can you relate it to gymnastics at all, or is it a complete departure for you?
GI: Modifying airsoft guns was a hobby of mine a while ago. I think it was just fun to make them and shoot targets when I was a kid. There was less pressure back then, so I don't think I used it as an escape mechanism. As far as hobbies go now, I enjoy biking, outdoor activities and sleeping. They seem like my escape nowadays.
Written by John Crumlish
Wednesday, 14 July 2010 01:36
| Interview: Isabelle Severino (France)
Two-time French Olympian Isabelle Severino's gymnastics career ended with a painful injury just prior to the 2008 Olympics, but she has moved on and is thriving as a journalist, graphic designer, television personality and French Olympic committee official.
Isabelle Severino (France) at the 2005 Worlds
Born April 9, 1980, in Paris, Severino won the bronze medal on uneven bars at the 1996 World Championships in San Juan and placed 13th all-around at the 1996 Olympic Games. She was 10th all-around at the 1997 World Championships in Lausanne. Severino retired from competition prior to the 2000 Olympics, and embarked on careers as an internationally-ranked aerobics competitor, Cirque du Soleil performing artist and owner of a graphic design firm.
Severino returned to training less than a year before the 2004 Olympics in Athens, where she helped France place sixth in the team final. She won the gold medal on floor exercise at the 2005 Europeans in Debrecen, Hungary. She was a bars finalist at the 2005 Worlds in Melbourne and a beam finalist at the 2007 Worlds in Stuttgart. A double injury at the 2008 Europeans in Clermont-Ferrand, France, formally ended her competitive career.
Although Severino's gymnastics career ended in disappointment just a few months prior to the 2008 Olympics, she quickly shifted her focus toward other professional options. She runs Arts et Conception, a graphic design firm in Paris, and also works as a gymnastics journalist and commentator. Last summer she appeared on the popular French game show "Fort Boyard," where and her fellow celebrity teammates completed a series of physical and endurance challenges to win money for the children's charity "Un maillot pour la vie." (She also appeared on the show in 1998.) The episode in which Severino appeared was broadcast again in June. In addition, she holds two high positions in the Comité National Olympique du Sport Français.
Severino recently gave IG her thoughts on her experiences as a gymnast, and the bountiful life since has since been enjoying.
IG: What was your experience like as a competitor on "Fort Boyard"?
IS: I did three events, each of which required an agility that was not very easy, but I carried them out with success. In the past year, we had the team that earned the most money for our charity – over 20,000 Euros. My teammates were Fabien Pelous, the ex-captain of the French rugby team; Élodie Gossuin, former Miss France; Joel Abati, a member of the French handball team; Romain Mesnil, world silver medalist in pole vault; and Nathalie Besançon, an actress on a French television series.
IG: What kind of charity did your group play for on "Un maillot pour la vie," and what is your ongoing involvement with it?
IS: The association comes to the aid of sick children, with all kinds of illnesses. We organize visits in hospitals with children, and we take some of them to sports events and do kick-offs for matches in soccer, rugby, handball and basketball, and other events.
IG: Besides this show, and your work as chief of Art et Conception, what other projects are you currently involved in?
IS: I am also a representive of high-level athletes within the National Olympic Committee as well as vice-chairwoman of the National Olympic Committee of French Sports. As well, I do a radio program every Saturday to speak about sports.
IG: When you were injured in Clermont-Ferrand, you seemed devastated. However, we saw you working behind the scenes at the Olympics in Beijing, and it seemed that your injury quickly opened new doors for you. How were you able to overcome the disappointment of your injury so soon, and find new goals to pursue?
IS: My injury in Clermond-Ferrand was a catastrophe, because I ruptured the Achilles' tendon and displaced the internal malleolus medialis. This injury handicapped me for more than a year, and I knew right away that I was going to have to stop my career because of it. It was very tough! And three months later, the Olympic Games! French television was very nice in that they offered me to work on the commentary, and this allowed me not to be too focused on my sport, since I had to detach myself in the role of journalist. It was a hard summer, but better than if I had stayed in France all alone! And furthermore, we had two medals for the guys (all-around bronze medalist Benoit Caranobe and vault silver medalist Thomas Bouhail). I lived these Games through them!
IG: How do you manage to run a company that is so creative, while pursuing other projects?
IS: I adore my work because we can work with the world and in completely difference circles, the purpose being to emphasize society or people. I confess that high-level sports helped me a lot. It is necessary to be definite, careful, to search for perfection and to be listening while being reactive. I am surrounded by a very good team, and it has been 10 years of hard work. I would like to be able to last for a very long time.
IG: What plans if any do you have to continue in competitive gymnastics?
IS: I'm not training anymore. My injury handicapped me for a long time, and to come back would certainly not have been very reasonable. From time to time I do small exhibitions, but nothing of a high level. I meet with many young gymnasts, I talk with them and sign autographs. I do some fashion photo shoots, and I do a little bit of stunts with friends for small TV movies, but it stops there!
IG: Beyond competitive gymnastics, how involved do you wish to stay in gymnastics?
IS: If one day I am given to become crazy and to dream, I shall like to train in the United States. After the film "Stick It" (in which she was a stunt double), where I had worked with certain American coaches as I was alone for three months, I came to love the manner, ambience and psychology around training. This positive mind, and thinking always that nothing is innaccessible, pleases me tremendously!
But I really believe I am now too old for this type of challenge. Today my challenge is more in the transmission and trying to improve the conditions of all the athletes in France! I want to give back to sports all the beautiful and magnificent things that it has brought to my life.
If I should stay in gymnastics, I prefer to do it as a commentator or journalist. I know that I can transmit my passion to people who don't really know this sport. I like to share, and excite people. This was already the case when I was a gymnast, and therefore I will like to do it if TV asks me to!
External Link: Arts et Conception
Isabelle Severino is featured in the following issues of International Gymnast magazine:
May 2008: 2008 European Championships coverage
August/September 2005: Severino cover photo, 2005 European Championships coverage
November 2004: Athens Olympic profiles, including Severino
To order back issues or subscribe to IG Magazine, click here.