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Written by John Crumlish    Thursday, 07 April 2016 12:41    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Samuel Zakutney (Canada)
(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)



Although Canada's Samuel Zakutney, 17, is new to senior international competition, he is eager to take on the important task of Olympic qualification as he prepares for the upcoming Olympic test event in Rio de Janeiro. Pictured: Zakutney with coach Oleksandr Zavadych

Although Canada's Samuel Zakutney is new to senior international competition, he is eager to take on the important task of Olympic qualification as he prepares for the upcoming Olympic test event in Rio de Janeiro.

Zakutney placed sixth all-around at the RD76I International Junior Team Cup in Texas in January, and fifth all-around and first on parallel bars in the senior division at the Elite Canada meet in February. Based on his recent results, including third place on high bar at the Calgary International Cup in March, he was named to the Canadian squad for the test event.

Canada finished 15th at last fall's World Championships in Glasgow, where the top eight teams earned automatic berths to this summer's Olympic Games in Rio. The next eight teams advanced to the test event taking place April 16-18, from which the top four teams will move on to the Games.

Born October 6, 1998, in Saint John, New Brunswick. Zakutney trains at Ottawa Gymnastics Center under coach Oleksandr Zavadych, former coach of the Ukrainian junior men's team. Zakutney, a Franco-Ontarian, is a senior at l'École Secondaire Catholique Franco-Cité in Ottawa. His father, Tim Zakutney, was a member of Canada's bronze medal-winning team at the 2000 World Ultimate Frisbee Championships. Zakutney's younger sisters, Alexandra and Sydney, are also athletic.

Zakutney earned solid results at the junior level earlier in the current Olympic quadrennium.

He placed 15th all-around in the 1997-98 age group at the 2013 International Junior Team Cup in Berlin; 12th all-around at the 2014 Junior Pan American Championships in Aracaju, Brazil; and 11th all-around and third on high bar at the 2015 Japan Junior Invitational in Yokohama.

In domestic competition, Zakutney finished third all-around, first on vault and first on parallel bars at the 2014 Canadian Junior Championships; first all-around, first on floor exercise and first on high bar in the junior division at the 2015 Elite Canada meet; and third all-around and second on high bar at the 2015 Canadian Junior Championships.

Zakutney shares his plans and goals for the test event in this IG Online interview.



Zakutney on parallel bars

IG: You haven't had much time to adjust to major senior competition, so what is your mindset heading into the test event?

SZ: Since this is my first major international senior competition, I'm just hoping to approach it with the most confidence possible. If I trust my training and not worry about scores, I should be cool as a cucumber.

However, there will be seven Canadian gymnasts going, and the final line-up will be made after podium training. Hopefully my self-confidence will also give me the chance to compete.

IG: What exactly do you think Canada will need to do at the test event to earn one of the four spots for the Games?

SZ: If the Canadian team wishes to qualify to the Olympic Games, we need to pull off near-perfect routines. We need to focus on executing our routines to the max.

IG: What do you think makes the composition of this team uniquely strong and cohesive?

SZ: Unfortunately, the Canadian team faced a few injuries which resulted in a couple of our best gymnasts being put out for the rest of this year. However, the rest of the team, including me, has remained determined to not let this year get the better of us. It's through our resilience and our perseverance that I believe we will challenge for one of the top four spots.

IG: What do you feel you can offer to your team at the test event, in terms of your particular strengths and also your sense of team spirit?

SZ: I believe I can offer the team consistency on most of the events, more specifically on floor, p-bars and high bar. Those events are the ones with the highest Difficulty scores and they remain remarkably consistent.

Since I am the only senior national team member from Ottawa, I always make the most of the time together with the team. I will offer as much support and encouragement to all of the teammates from the moment we enter the arena.

International Gymnast magazine's recent coverage of Canadian gymnastics includes:
Jade Chrobok profile (April 2016)
Chrobok and Meixi Semple cover photo inset (March 2016)
"Aiming to Top the Charts" – Maegan Chant interview (October 2013)
"Canadian Beacon" – Ellie Black interview (September 2015)
"Canadian Promise" – Black chat and Robert Watson profile (July/August 2014)
"Canadian Diversity" – Black and Hugh Smith profiles (July/August 2013)
Chat with Christine Peng-Peng Lee (April 2015)
"Sudden Impact" – Victoria Moors interview (January/February 2013)
"Making Tracks" – Scott Morgan profile (December 2013)
Isabela Onyshko profile (July/August 2014)
Megan Roberts profile (April 2015)
Aleeza Yu two-page photo spread (May 2014)

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

 
Written by Amanda Turner    Saturday, 02 April 2016 13:01    PDF Print
Five Champions Crowned on First Day of Cottbus Finals
(4 votes, average 4.25 out of 5)



Five gymnasts won titles on the first day of finals as the 40th Tournament of Masters continued Saturday at the Lausitz Arena in Cottbus, Germany. Pictured: Still rings champion Igor Radivilov (Ukraine

Five gymnasts won titles on the first day of finals as the 40th Tournament of Masters continued Saturday at the Lausitz Arena in Cottbus, Germany.

Uzbekistan's Oksana Chusovitina, who made her debut at the Tournament of Masters back in 1989, added yet another Cottbus title with the vault gold. Clad in a lovely purple ombré leotard, she nearly stuck her layout Rudi and took a large hop on an otherwise clean 1 1/2-twisting Tsukahara for a 14.700 average.

China's Wu Jing had better success with her double-twisting Tsukahara and layout Rudi than in qualification, but execution deductions kept her from challenging for gold. Slovenia's Tjaša Kysselef, a mainstain on the World Cup circuit, added another medal with the bronze.

Germany's Sophie Scheder won uneven bars with a spectacular, truly artistic routine. Scheder's strength is her tight, beautiful form accentuated by her long lines (inside-Stalder full, Komova transition, bail, toe-on full, toe-shoot to high; inside Stalder, insider Stalder blind to Jaeger; kip, cast, pirouette, giants to full-twisting double tuck).

Runner-up Zhu Xiaofang had a high-flying routine also worth 6.6 in Difficulty but of a completely different style (Maloney to Pak; Maloneye-half; healy to Ling to Jaeger; full-twisting double) but a low landing on her dismount might have been enough to bump her to second.

In the men's competition, Ukrainian Oleg Vernyayev, the only gymnast to qualify to every event final, won the bronze medal on floor exercise and silver on pommel horse. He fell on his dismount on still rings, where he was the top qualifier.

Brazilian Diego Hypólito topped Slovenia's Rok Klavora on men's floor exercise, in the same finish as last weekend's Doha World Cup Challenge.

Two-time British Olympian Louis Smith rebounded from his mistake in qualification to win the pommel horse final. Daniel Corral tied Slovenia's Sašo Bertoncelj for the bronze despite a fall late in his routine.

Ukrainian Igor Radivilov, the 2013 co-European still rings champion, won rings over Brazilian Henrique Flores and Dennis Goossens.

The best finish for the German men on Saturday two fourth-place finishes for Marcel Nguyen on floor exercise and still rings.

Competition concludes Sunday with the remaining apparatus finals.

External Link: Official Website

40th Tournament of Masters/FIG World Challenge Cup
April 2, 2016, Cottbus, Germany

Women's Vault FinalDENDScoreAverage
1.Oksana Chusovitina6.28.80015.00014.700
5.58.90014.400
2.Wu Jing6.08.3000.114.20014.350
6.28.30014.500
3.Tjaša Kysselef5.38.76614.06613.966
5.08.86613.866
4.Gabriela Janik5.38.93314.23313.949
4.69.06613.666
5.Lisa Top5.38.6660.113.86613.933
5.09.00014.000
6.Antonia Alicke5.28.60013.80013.666
4.88.73313.533
7.Teja Belak5.37.73313.03313.599
5.38.86614.166
8.Liu Jinru6.28.3330.314.2337.116
0.00.0000.000

Uneven Bars FinalDENDScore
1.Sophie Scheder6.48.50014.900
2.Zhu Xiaofang6.48.33314.733
3.Gabriela Janik5.77.56613.266
4.Simona Castro4.98.20013.100
5.Nora Fernández5.37.66612.966
6.Oksana Chusovitina5.17.66612.766
7.Lisa Top5.17.26612.366
8.Sanne Wevers4.46.36610.766

Men's Floor Exercise FinalDENDScore
1.Diego Hypólito6.88.66615.466
2.Rok Klavora6.28.66614.866
3.Oleg Vernyayev6.58.33314.833
4.Tomas Kuzmickas6.67.83314.433
4.Marcel Nguyen6.08.43314.433
6.Dominick Cunningham6.48.1000.114.400
7.Angelo Assumpção6.77.36614.066
8.Pablo Brägger6.66.4330.112.933

Pommel Horse FinalDENDScore
1.Louis Smith7.27.90015.100
2.Oleg Vernyayev6.78.30015.000
3.Sašo Bertoncelj6.18.60014.700
3.Daniel Corral7.07.70014.700
5.Levente Vagner6.28.46614.666
5.Weng Hao7.07.66614.666
7.Wang Bo6.58.00014.500
8.Stian Skjerahaug6.08.30014.300

Still Rings FinalDENDScore
1.Igor Radivilov6.88.70015.500
2.Henrique Flores6.98.46615.366
3.Dennis Goossens6.68.43315.033
4.Marcel Nguyen6.48.60015.000
4.Vinzenz Höck6.68.40015.000
6.Oleg Vernyayev6.67.76614.366
7.Fellipe Arakawa5.88.23314.033
8.Andreas Toba6.57.43313.933
 
Written by John Crumlish    Thursday, 17 March 2016 13:03    PDF Print
Lee Looking Ahead After Latest Surgery
(5 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Although recent knee surgery will keep Canadian 2012 Olympic gymnastics team honorary captain Christine (Peng-Peng) Lee out of contention for this summer's Games in Rio de Janeiro, she told IG she is eager for the new opportunities that lie ahead after she recovers.


Lee on beam for UCLA in February 2016

"I'm not sure exactly what happened, but I know my left knee was clicking and popping, and it seemed really abnormal," said Lee, a UCLA sociology major from Richmond Hill, Ont. "So I got an MRI and we realized it was a torn meniscus. I just got a scope and they took out the tear. It was a really small tear, so the healing process should be a lot quicker, but I'm still trying to get the swelling down. It's a little more difficult since I've had knee issues, but I'm just trying to everything we can do."

Lee, whose two previous ACL surgeries on the same knee included one that kept her from competing at the 2012 Olympics, said she is unsure how her latest injury occurred.

"It could have been some wear and tear," she said. "I remember landing a vault, and it popped a bit, but it didn't seem like a big issue because sometimes it would pop and sometimes it wouldn't. It was a mysterious thing that was happening, and I was just trying to keep positive, but it came to the point where I needed an MRI to clear my conscience."

Following her surgery three weeks ago, Lee hopes to return to competition in time for the NCAA Regional Championships on April 2.

"It was good that they found something, because then I could move forward and do everything in my will to get my knee really healthy," she said. "For Regionals, I'm looking at competing on bars, because it's not a heavy landing, and hopefully beam. But we're just trying to make sure the swelling is all out and my muscle is firing properly, to make sure it's safe and my knee is super healthy."

Prior to enrolling at UCLA, Lee was one of Canada's leading international competitors. She was the Canadian women's top all-arounder at the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo, where she placed 19th in the all-around final. Earlier in 2011 she placed fourth all-around at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara.

Lee led Canada to a Games-winning team berth at the Olympic test event in London in January 2012, where she was sixth all-around in qualifications. She placed third all-around at the Pacific Rim Championships in Everett, Wash., in March 2012; and first on uneven bars and fourth on floor exercise at the Challenge Cup of Osijek, Croatia, in April 2012.

During training at the Canadian championships in May 2012, Lee tore her left ACL on vault. She traveled to the London Olympics that summer as the Canadian team's honorary captain, after which she enrolled at UCLA.

Lee missed the 2012-13 NCAA season while rehabilitating from the injury, and missed the 2013-14 season after she underwent revision ACL surgery in November 2013.

Although Lee initially planned to try for the Rio Games, her latest injury forced her to reconsider. Last November she underwent thumb surgery.

"I've opted out of the Olympics," she said. "It was a really hard decision, but I realized that I've had two surgeries this year and it's not worth it to put my body at risk. I am getting older and my health is a little more important to me now, because I need my body for the rest of my life."

Despite missing the chance to compete in the 2012 and 2016 Games, Lee said she is realistic about her expectations.

"I love the Olympics, and it was such an honor to go in 2012," she said. "I'm still rooting for Team Canada and I'm sure they will do amazingly, but I think it's the best decision to me. I've definitely put a lot of thought into it. My body is telling me that this isn't my time."

Lee said she anticipates future competitions for UCLA.

"I do have two more years of eligibility," she said. "However, I am only going to use one more year of it to stay for a fifth year."

The 22-year-old Lee said she is optimistic about upcoming experiences in and out of the gym.

"I'm looking forward to other, new things in my life," she told IG. "I'm excited for the future. Rio would have been an amazing opportunity, but the Olympics isn't something that's going to define me. I'm really looking forward to everything else in life. I've learned a lot about myself, especially being in college. There's so much more to life."

 
Written by Amanda Turner    Wednesday, 09 March 2016 14:39    PDF Print
Iordache Out of Rio Qualification with Injury
(6 votes, average 3.67 out of 5)



Romanian star Larisa Iordache will miss the upcoming Olympic qualification event due to a broken finger, the Romanian Gymnastics Federation reported Wednesday.

Romanian star Larisa Iordache is expected to miss the upcoming Olympic qualification event after breaking her finger, the Romanian Gymnastics Federation reported Wednesday.

Iordache suffered a broken finger while training on balance beam on Tuesday, fracturing her fourth metacarpal bone. The injury will require surgery, and she is expected to be sidelined for six weeks, forcing her out of the Olympic test event in Rio de Janeiro, April 16-18.

Iordache's untimely injury is a big blow to the Romanian women, who failed to qualify a full team to the Olympics at last year's world championships in Glasgow, where the top eight teams earned a team ticket to this summer's Olympic Games. Romania team must finish in the top four at the test event to clinch a team berth to Rio de Janeiro, where they will be competing against Olympic hosts Brazil, Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, the Republic of Korea and Switzerland.

Iordache has been Romania's top gymnast for the past four years, and won the individual all-around bronze medal in Glasgow and the all-around silver at the 2014 World Championships. She has won 11 medals at the European Championships, including five gold.

The Romanian women have won a team medal at every Olympic Games since 1976, winning in 1984, 2000 and 2004. From 1974 to 2014, Romania never finished below fourth in the team competition at the world championships, a success streak no other country can claim. Romania struggled in Glasgow, however, finishing just 13th.

External Link: Romanian Gymnastics Federation

 
Written by John Crumlish    Monday, 29 February 2016 08:54    PDF Print
Interview: Sophina DeJesus of UCLA
(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Sophina DeJesus has enjoyed a decade’s worth of success as a hip-hop dancer and competitive gymnast, but it took a viral video of her February 6 floor routine to light up the Internet and place her in the public eye. Now pondering her next moves, DeJesus shares her thoughts and aspirations in this IG Online interview.

DeJesus is in the last season of her collegiate gymnastics career at UCLA, but mass interest in her trendy performance style has rekindled her passion for dance and acting.

As a child, DeJesus excelled in hip-hop dance, where in 2006 her talents earned her a role on Discovery Kids’ “Hip Hop Harry,” a part in Debbie Allen’s musical play “The Bayou Legend,” and performances with her dance crew on “Ellen” and other television shows.

DeJesus, who as a junior gymnast was featured in a profile in the April 2010 issue of International Gymnast magazine, placed 14th all-around at the 2008 U.S. junior championships and ninth in 2009. She finished fourth all-around and first on floor exercise at the 2009 Japan Junior Invitational. Although the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) approved her to represent Puerto Rico in 2013, she has yet to pursue that option.

Since DeJesus’s floor routine in the February 6 meet against the University of Utah made her an Internet sensation, she has been the subject of numerous feature articles, and segments on news and entertainment shows, including the February 17 episode of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."

IG caught up with DeJesus, who discusses her recent fame, her lifelong passion for performing and the new opportunities she hopes to pursue.

IG: What was your reaction to the different stages of your performance against Utah, starting with the actual routine, continuing with the online views and finishing with all the media attention you’ve gotten?

SDJ: It was my first time competing that routine, so I was just excited to finally go out and do it, and then my day was kind of normal after that. The next day I woke up and my mom called and I asked her, “How are you doing?” And she said, “Honey, do you know you have like five million views on your floor routine?” I didn’t even know it was posted anywhere, and I thought that maybe she was just being nice because she’s my mother, and all moms are biased towards their children. So I was like, “OK, thanks, Mom. I’ll talk to you later.” Then my coach (Valorie Kondos Field) called me and said the same thing, so I thought, OK, then this has to be real. This is unbelievable. I was just super excited, and I was on this high-excitement roller-coaster.

IG: How have you coped with the expectations since then?

SDJ: We had a meet on February 13 (against Oregon State University), and I had thoughts like, Oh my gosh, what if I don’t live up to the expectations of all this excitement? I was up on bars, and those thoughts were going through my head. Bars is one of my best events, and I went up and face-planted my mount. That never happens. I think that, if I wouldn’t have thought of any of those things, I would have done better. After that, I recuperated and did the best beam routine I’ve ever done, and got a 9.975, so that was an amazing feeling. After that I have been soaking it up and accepting it all, and being excited with all the support from fans and my family and my team. It’s all been amazing.

IG: How are you managing to squeeze all of the interview requests and other demands on your time, logistically and emotionally?

SDJ: I’m taking it one day at a time, one hour at a time, one minute at a time, and enjoying every moment of it, because this doesn’t happen normally. I’m really blessed that this is happening, and I’m so happy that I’m getting any of these opportunities to talk to you, to be on the Ellen show and all of that awesome stuff.

IG: What do you think made your performance, and the routine itself, special enough to blow up as it has?

SDJ: All the routines that people do are amazing, and our team is known for doing really fun, crowd-pleasing routines. I think that mine was really pleasing to the whole population, because it was more of a worldwide dance that everyone could dance along with.

IG: How did you work several dance moves and styles into one floor routine that would be cohesive?

SDJ: I thought about it over the summer. I didn’t expect to put all of those dance moves in there. I thought of two. The two main ones I wanted to put in were the Whip and the Nae Nae. So I listened to music, and one of the pieces of music in my floor routine is one of the Whip and Nae Nae songs. So I thought those were perfect because they already kind of went into it. As I continued I accidentally stumbled upon the dab, because I ended my routine in a different way, and Miss Val (Kondos Field) said, 'You should change your ending.' And I said, 'OK, sounds cool.' I was talking to one of my teammates and asked, 'How funny would it be if I dabbed at the end?' They said, 'Try it.' I did, and they said, 'Yes, you have to keep it in!' When I was listening to my music, I was thinking about the Quan. At the end of my routine the music gets really fast, and I thought then would be a perfect place to put it in.

IG: How much has the impact and attention contributed to your interest in resuming your dancing and acting career?

SDJ: It came at the perfect time because I’m graduating, and it’s a great stepping stone to continuing to do things I love.

IG: What is your plan for getting out there professionally after the season?

SDJ: I haven’t had much time yet, because I’m in school and in season, and trying to graduate, so I think next quarter I will try. Because of NCAA rules I can’t really do any of those things (for money), but once I’m done with college gymnastics I will try to ramp it up and get an agent and keep it going from there.

IG: Even though you are in your last season for UCLA, and based on recent interest in your gymnastics, what kind of thoughts are you giving to a shot at international competition for Puerto Rico?

SDJ: I feel that would be an amazing opportunity, even it they don’t need me on their team per se. On my bucket list is to go to Puerto Rico, so even just to go there and be supportive or on the team or not, I think that would be an amazing opportunity. So I don’t want to close any doors.

IG: What are some of the most amusing or flattering comments you’ve read or received since your routine went viral?

SDJ: [Laughs] My marriage proposals and prom invitations on Twitter and places like that have been great, and when I went on the Ellen show, I met tWitch (dancer/actor Stephen “tWitch” Boss), and that was amazing. He said, 'You’re so awesome.' I was like, 'Oh my gosh, he just called me awesome. No, he’s awesome!' And then I recently found out that Chris Brown posted my video, and he was like, 'Work it, Sophina!' I am in awe, and bouncing off the walls right now!

IG: Although collegiate gymnastics seems to be more flexible in terms of choreography, how much further do you thing gymnastics rules in general could go, in terms of expression and creativity?

SDJ: In general, gymnastics is already a very subjective sport, so that would be a subjective thing, as well. In college gymnastics it’s about how much the crowd loves it, and that’s kind of what we do it for. In Elite (international) gymnastics it’s more about the judges, the critical, the technique and things like that. I think it could go a long way and people could have more fun doing it in Elite gymnastics, but also it would be a little difficult, because you’d have to do more tumbling passes and get in more things. So it’s a possibility, and you can have more fun and put your personality into it, but it’s really subjective, either way.

IG: What guidelines would you suggest to other gymnasts regarding expression?

SDJ: I feel that, if the judges see you’re having fun, they will tend to give you more points, if that makes sense. Because, if you make it look hard and not as fun, it’s not as pleasing to watch. Also, for me, my routine is my personality. If you put your personality into it and do “you,” it will reflect in your score. You don’t have to be a hip-hop dancer. It’s still subjective as to how you want to express it, but as long as you’re yourself and you show it in your routine, nothing can go wrong.

IG: What advice can you offer to young gymnasts who might not feel they have the potential to be as expressive as other gymnasts?

SDJ: My advice would be to, first of all, have fun. If you’re having fun, it will show. You have to be yourself. If you’re not having fun, you’re probably not going to do as well as you want to do anyway. Go out and do your best. As long as you’ve worked hard and do your best, it will show and you will get good scores. I don’t think anyone should ever change who they are or what their personality is, just because of what they think others will think of them.

 


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