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Written by Amanda Turner    Wednesday, 16 March 2011 21:05    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Rohan Sebastian (Ireland/Michigan)
(12 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.

Written by John Crumlish    Thursday, 03 March 2011 23:41    PDF Print
IG Interview: Mélodie Pulgarin (Spain/Denver)
(12 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Outspoken Spanish veteran Mélodie Pulgarin is embarking on a new phase of her career as a freshman gymnast at the Univ. of Denver, but she also hopes to play an ongoing part in the rejuvenation of the Spanish national team.

Former Spanish national team member Melodie Pulgarin competes on beam for the University of Denver

Pulgarin, who trained in Barcelona under coach Javier Gómez, competed in two World Championships and three European Championships prior to enrolling at Denver last fall. She placed 51st all-around and eighth with her team at the 2006 Worlds in Aarhus, Denmark, and 49th all-around and 15th with her team at the 2007 Worlds in Stuttgart, from which the top 12 teams qualified for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Pulgarin competed on three events at the 2002 Junior European Championships in Patras, Greece; and placed 13th all-around, sixth on vault and seventh on floor exercise at the 2004 Junior Europeans in Amsterdam. She finished 15th on vault at the 2010 Europeans in Birmingham, where she also competed on uneven bars.

In World Cup meets, Pulgarin placed second on vault and eighth on floor exercise at the 2008 Joaquim Blume Memorial in Barcelona; and fourth on vault and 12th on uneven bars at the 2010 French International. Last July she placed second all-around, and first on uneven bars and floor exercise, at the Spanish Championships.

Pulgarin is enjoying her cultural, academic and athletic transitions at Denver, where her fellow international teammates include Simona Castro (Chile), Annamari Maaranen (Finland) and Louise Mercer (Great Britain). Her Denver coaches are head coach Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart, and assistant coaches Jay Hogue and Carl Leland.

In this IG Online interview, the outspoken Pulgarin comments on the past, present and future of her gymnastics career, at Denver and in Spain.

IG: What and who brought you to Denver?

MP: I was competing at the Joaquim Blume Memorial, a World Cup competition in Barcelona in 2008, and Nilson (Medeiros Savage), an ex-coach from Denver, came with (Venezuelan Olympian and Denver team member) Jessica Lopez. They saw me practice, and saw that I was studying, because I was preparing for the Selectividad (standardized test required for university entrance in Spain). So they asked my coach if I was a good student, and my coach said yes. They offered me a scholarship. It was a really long wait till I was able to come to Denver, because the NCAA had to see if I was eligible. I took the Selectividad in Spain to go to college there, but I also took the SAT (Standard Aptitude Test) for the U.S. I spent a year in university in Spain before I came here. That's because I did my last year of high school in two years, and the NCAA thought that wasn't OK, so they told me that I could do a year of college and then come in as a transfer instead of as a freshman. Because I did that year of college I had to work a lot, because I needed good grades. And then I came in September (2010).

IG: How did you manage to adjust to a different culture, academics and gymnastics all at the same time when you got to Denver?

MP: It was really hard in the beginning. It's not just a different culture, but a different way to see gymnastics and a different way to compete — as well as new teammates and the language. It was everything at the same time. Fall quarter was really, really hard. I had five injuries — really bad injuries — so I just started to train in December. I went home for a week at Thanksgiving (late November), and after Thanksgiving I was ready to do it. I saw it in a different way, as a great opportunity. When I came back, everything just flowed.

IG: Your routines this season seem easy for you, as though you can do more...

MP: I could do more. The thing is that, at the beginning, I was practicing as if I was in Elite (international level) with all my skills. But then I had these five injuries, so I couldn't do everything. Also, what really counts here is to do everything clean. I'm still working on my skills like a full-in and double layout on floor, and all of my beam skills, and I'm doing bars, too. But for competition, I really need to make everything really clean, so I just do what I can do really clean.

IG: It's not a coincidence that you perform your floor routine to (famous Spanish song) "Malagueña", is it?

MP: (smiles) Our choreographer in Spain, Kima Gratacos, always picked our music, and this was supposed to be my music for my last year. I wanted to do it because (1996 Spanish Olympian and 1996 European floor exercise co-bronze medalist) Joana Juarez had it, and she is my role model, and I wanted to have it.

Pulgarin on floor exercise at the 2004 Junior Europeans in Amsterdam

IG: What do you think made the Spanish team stronger in previous years than it has been recently? (The Spanish team placed ninth or higher at every Olympic Games from 1984-2004, but did not qualify for the 2008 Games.)

MP: It was a different time. When I was a junior and senior, we wanted so badly to go to the world championships and the Olympics. We did everything to get there. But now, the gymnasts think it's not worth it to train eight hours every day, not being able to eat almost everything, and coaches yelling bad things at you. So they just quit. We had a lot of gymnasts in Barcelona and (the national team training center in) Madrid, but now gymnasts from Madrid have quit because they don't think it's worth it. And (Spanish team officials) aren't supporting us in Barcelona, where we have a really good team.

IG: What do you suggest to help the team get better results in the future?

MP: I think we need a change, because gymnasts now need another kind of motivation. You go to Worlds, and it's just another competition. We need to train like Italy or France, and have more opportunities to compete at the highest level.

IG: What are your thoughts on competing for Spain in the future?

MP: I would really like to compete again at Worlds and the Europeans and wherever, because I really think I'm not done yet. But it doesn't depend on me. The boss in Spain, (national team head coach) Jesus Carballo (Sr.), doesn't like me too much. They don't like me in Madrid. They never wanted me to be on the team. They just called me when they needed me, which was every team competition, but then when I had to go to World Cups or things like that, they never called me because they didn't want me. I would really like to compete, though. I'm planning to compete in the Catalunya championships this summer, and in the Spanish championships.

IG: What can you do to improve your relationships in Spain?

MP: I had a really good relationship with the last president of the (Spanish gymnastics) federation. He didn't like me at the beginning, either, because I always said no to going to Madrid. I never wanted to go there. I wanted to train with my team. But at the end he saw I was a good competitor and that I said no because I had my reasons. He was good with me. (Recently elected federation president) Jesus Carballo, Jr., and I had a good relationship before, but you know that (Jesus Carballo, Sr.) is his father...

IG: You're older now, and if Spain doesn't have too many gymnasts, you could probably really help the team...

MP: That's what I think, and what almost everyone in Spain thinks. For the 2009 Worlds in London, I told them (officials) I was planning on going to Denver and could train for Worlds in Denver, but I could not go to Madrid for three months because there's no way. They just said it wasn't fair for the other gymnasts, and if I cannot prove I would be OK... you know, just excuses. I'm older now and I have other priorities. For now it's Denver, because they are paying for my education and I'm doing gymnastics for them. They deserve for me to be for them and not for Spain. (Spanish team officials) know that I'm ready to do everything to help make Spain go up again, but they just don't like my way.

IG: Do you see potential for them to change their view of you?

MP: I hope there is, because they really need gymnasts — not just me, but Thais Escolar, Cristiana Mironescu and the other gymnasts who have been competing internationally for a long time. We know what it is like to go to Worlds and we know what we have to do to make it work. I think they really need it, but I cannot do much. I can just keep on talking. That's another thing they don't like — that I always talk (laughs).

IG: In addition to the talk, though, do you think they see your value to the team going forward?

MP: I hope. I really hope so. Not just for me because, as I said, I have other priorities. But I think Spain needs it. I don't want Spain to lose out on another Olympic Games (by not earning a berth), again. Every country has gone down at one point, but they've changed it quickly. They went down and they thought, "We have to change something." They changed and went up again, but we haven't done that.

IG: Do you think you have a chance to compete for Spain at this fall's worlds in Tokyo?

MP: I hope so. I will try... I will try!

International Gymnast Magazine Related Features:
"10 Questions: Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart" — interview (November 2010)
"Viva Venezuela" — Jessica Lopez profile (March 2008)
"Flight of Faith" — Maaranen profile (November 2007)

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

Written by John Crumlish    Monday, 21 February 2011 18:13    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Brittany Rogers (Canada)
(7 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Coping with recent surgery and considering her training options, 2009 world vault finalist Brittany Rogers of Canada remains optimistic as she approaches this fall's world championships in Tokyo.

Rogers at the 2009 Worlds in London

Rogers, the 2008 Elite Canada senior champion, broke her left foot at last spring's Pacific Rim Championships in Melbourne. The British Columbia native is determined to regain her form and earn a berth to the 2012 Olympic Games in London. She placed 19th all-around and seventh on vault at the 2009 World Championships that also took place in London.

In this IG Online interview, the 17-year-old Rogers offers her thoughts on recovery, returning to competition and her ongoing role in Canada's quest to qualify a full team to the 2012 Olympics.

IG: How close to completely healed is your foot, and when you think you'll be training full-force?

BR: When I broke my foot in April, the doctors didn't want to do surgery on it and wanted to see if it would heal on its own. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case, so I had surgery done in November. After seeing the surgeon again recently, he gave me the go-ahead to start increasing my training load with no restrictions, which was pretty exciting news after hearing doctors telling me to hold back and take it easy for nine months. There's no set time or date that I'll be training full-force. I'm just taking it day by day, but I'll be back at it very soon! I have a great physio(therapist) and orthopod (orthopedist) who are working with me with rehab.

IG: After a great year in 2009, you had to sit out most of 2010 with your injury. How have you managed to stay patient and not feel you are missing out too much?

BR: Gymnastics is the biggest part of my life, and it was far from easy missing almost a full season of competitions. I have the best support system behind me, who have helped me tremendously by keeping me focused and in shape, gearing up to get back at it and be the best I can be.

IG: What are your goals for 2011 - regaining your old tricks, learning new tricks and/or going to worlds?

BR: My main goal for 2011 is to maintain a healthy body. If I can do that, I'll be the happiest girl in the world! As far as competitions go, Nationals (in May) will be my main goal for the near future. Depending on how well Nationals go, it will determine if I compete at Worlds or any other upcoming competitions. For skills, I've always been trying to focus on cleaning my routines up and focusing on my E (Execution) scores. I've also started wearing grips on bars, which is super-exciting and a huge change, but I love them!

IG: We noticed on the latest Canadian team listing that your affiliation is "unattached." If this means you are training under different coaches or a different club, when and why you made a change? (Rogers has been training under coaches Vladimir and Svetlana Lashin at Omega Gymnastics Academy in Coquitlam, B.C.)

BR: Due to the length of time my injury has taken to heal, I have used that time to reflect on where I was and where I wanted to go. I am currently evaluating my coaching options and will be making a final decision soon.

IG: 2011 is such an important year not only for you, but the Canadian team trying to qualify for London. Although it's early in the year, what do you think are the key areas on which you personally need to focus, and on which your team needs to focus?

BR: All of the teams looking to qualify for the Olympics are looking for stability and consistency. We need to be sure our team can perform under pressure and put our best routines out there. I'm really making sure that my routines are stable and clean.

Brittany Rogers is featured in the following issues of International Gymnast magazine:
January/February 2010 – 2009 World Championships photo gallery
July/August 2007 – “"Shooting Star" (Rogers profile)

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

Written by Admin    Saturday, 19 February 2011 14:35    PDF Print
Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 11 January 2011 14:48    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Vanessa Zamarripa (USA)
(19 votes, average 4.21 out of 5)

Second on vault and eighth all-around at the 2010 U.S. Championships, Vanessa Zamarripa of UCLA is determined to recover from a recent Achilles' tendon injury and resume her career — even at the international level.

Zamarripa's rise to a position on the U.S. national team last year was sudden and strong. Born Aug. 1, 1990, in Redlands, Calif., she was raised in Illinois and competed as a Level 10 gymnast for the Midwest Twisters club. (Level 10 is USA Gymnastics' second-highest level of competition, just below the Elite or international level.) She was the Junior Olympic (Level 10) all-around champion in her age group in 2003, 2004 and 2007. Zamarripa earned an athletic scholarship to UCLA, where she enrolled in 2008.

As a freshman in 2009, Zamarripa placed third all-around at the NCAA Championships. At last spring's NCAA Championships, she won vault and helped UCLA win the team title. In July she entered her first Elite meet — the CoverGirl Classic, a qualifying meet for the Visa (U.S.) Championships — and placed seventh all-around. Zamarripa went on to place eighth all-around at the Visa Championships and thereby earn a spot on the U.S. team. Zamarripa's excellent Cheng Fei vault (round-off, half-on, layout Rudi — Click here for video) on the first day of competition earned her second place on that event behind Alicia Sacramone.

Zamarripa continues to aim for international success, despite tearing her left Achilles' tendon while tumbling on Dec. 7, 2010. IG spoke with Zamarripa at the Pac-10 Showcase, held Jan. 9 at UCLA, where she outlined her plans for recovery and beyond.

IG: How exactly did you injure yourself?

VZ: I was working on my 2 1/2 twist, punch layout. Everything was feeling fine. I wasn't overtraining or anything because I was coming off a minor injury of my foot. I was tumbling and felt a pop, and that's when I knew I tore it.

IG: How long until you can train at full strength again?

VZ: There's not much pain. I'm starting rehab on Wednesday (Jan. 12). I'm not quite sure yet, but they said I'll be able to apply 20 percent of my body weight on my foot, and then progress from there. They said I should be able to train again toward the beginning of summer, but the surgery went really well and they expect a full recovery.

IG: When do you think you'll be ready to compete the Cheng Fei vault again?

VZ: I guess it all depends on how things go, but the doctor said that, when I recover, I'll be just as good as, or even better than, before. There's no setback to this injury.

IG: What kind of feedback have you received from (U.S. national team coordinator) Marta Karolyi and the other U.S. team officials?

VZ: They seemed really concerned about my injury. Kathy Kelly (USA Gymnastics' Vice President of Women's Program), for example, emailed me and was wondering how I was doing, and wanted me to let them know my recovery process and see how I'm doing with it, and just keep them up-to-date.

Recovering from a torn Achilles, Zamarippa provided commentary at the Pac-10 Showcase held Jan. 9 at UCLA.

IG: Do you plan to return to Elite?

VZ: Absolutely. There's not a doubt in my mind. I definitely still want to pursue that, and compete internationally and do everything I can do.

IG: Having to miss the current NCAA season and wait till summer to start training again, how are you staying motivated?

VZ: I look at my teammate, Brittani McCullough. She tore both of her Achilles', and to me she's really inspiring because she came back really strong. She ended up being the NCAA floor champion (in 2010). What also keeps me motivated is that it's something I've always wanted to do since I was young. Something like this (injury) is not going to get in the way of me pursuing my dream.

IG: How did you adjust so quickly to Elite competition last summer, after a long NCAA season and no experience at the Elite level?

VZ: When I compete, it's just gymnastics, no matter where I compete or what it's for. It's still the same thing. So when I competed individually again, it wasn't that big of a difference to me.

IG: Besides vault, how much do you think you can contribute to the U.S. team?

VZ: I would definitely love to contribute on every event. When I competed at Classic and Visa [U.S. Championships], all my other routines except for vault were basically my college routines, so I didn't really do too much upgrading. So once I do, I feel I can contribute a lot.

IG: What advantage do you feel you have as a collegiate gymnast competing Elite?

VZ: I guess a lot of people feel that, once they come to college, they have to choose between Elite or college. Or maybe they feel they've passed their prime, because girls are usually at their best when they're about 16. I feel that, when they come to college, they think they're not good anymore. But that's not true. We have more experience when we're in college, and I think that puts us at an advantage.

IG: How much do you feel staying at Level 10 helped prolong your career and enable you to add new skills in your 20s?

VZ: When I came to UCLA, I was pretty healthy. So I feel that being at that level made me a stronger, better person, because I wasn't all beaten up by the time I came here.

Vanessa Zamarripa is featured in the following issues of International Gymnast magazine:
June 2009 - 2009 NCAA Championships coverage
June 2010 - 2010 NCAA Championships coverage
September 2010 - 2010 Visa (U.S.) Championships coverage

To order back issues, click here.


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