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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.

Written by Amanda Turner    Thursday, 18 November 2010 22:59    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Rebecca Bross (USA)
(33 votes, average 3.97 out of 5)

Six-time world medalist Rebecca Bross (U.S.) talks with IG about the recent world championships, her ankle injury, a rivalry with Russia and more. Pictured: 2010 world all-around medalists Jiang Yuyuan of China (silver), Aliya Mustafina of Russia (gold) and Bross (bronze).

IG sits down with U.S. champion Rebecca Bross, a six-time world medalist and a top hope for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Born July 11, 1993, in Michigan, Bross trained at Twistars Gymnastics through Level 7. In 2002, she moved to Texas and began training at World Olympic Gymnastics Academy (WOGA), where her coaches are now Valeri Liukin and Dina Kamalova. Liukin, a world and Olympic champion himself, coached daughter Nastia Liukin to the 2008 Olympic all-around title and nine world medals from 2005-2007. Kamalova coached Russia's Aliya Mustafina, the new world all-around champion, at CSKA Moscow before moving to Texas a few years ago.

Bross performs a sheep jump en route to the silver medal on beam in Rotterdam, her sixth world medal.

Bross, a member of the U.S. junior national team since 2005, won four gold medals (all-around, vault, uneven bars, floor exercise) at the 2007 U.S. Junior Championships. She won the junior title at the 2008 Pacific Rim Championships, but a broken foot forced her out of that year's national championships.

In 2009, her first year as a senior, Bross took third all-around at the U.S. championships and second at the world championships. At the 2009 Worlds in London, she had been leading the competition going into the final rotation, but a botched final pass on floor exercise dropped her to second by a mere .05. In the event finals, she added the bronze on uneven bars.

In 2010, Bross easily won the Tyson American Cup, the Pacific Rim Championships and the U.S. championships, but in September began experiencing pain in her lower right leg/ankle. Despite the injury, Bross captured four medals at the world championships in October in Rotterdam: silver medals with the team and on balance beam, and bronze medals in the all-around and on uneven bars.

Initially diagnosed as a stress reaction prior to worlds, the hot spot on Bross' ankle developed into a stress fracture. On Tuesday, Bross underwent surgery, in which doctors inserted two screws into the bone to ensure the fracture heals properly.

IG stopped by WOGA in Plano, Texas, to chat with Bross a few days before her ankle surgery. The injury limited Bross to mainly uneven bars and conditioning, while her training partners in Liukin's group showed off some impressive new skills for the upcoming season. Grace McLaughlin, a senior next year, threw a beautiful Jaeger-half on uneven bars, while Katelyn Ohashi, a senior in 2013, tumbled a 2 1/2, Rudi combination on floor. Nastia Liukin — who only recently returned to training full-time as she tests the waters for a comeback — looked outstanding, and caught a new layout Jaeger from elgrip. Two-time world team member Ivana Hong, who also trains under Liukin and Kamalova, looked physically fit after a torn ACL in February.

Focused and serious during competition, Bross was bubbly and easygoing while chatting about the recent world championships, her ankle injury, a rivalry with Russia and more.

Bross ices her ankle during podium training at the world championships in Rotterdam.

IG: When did your ankle start bothering you?

RB: Maybe a month or so before our second camp before worlds. I'm not quite sure what happened. I felt it one day at the end of the week but I figured my ankle was just sore. But then it didn't go away over the weekend so it was like, "OK, something's not right."

IG: What was the diagnosis?

RB: I got an MRI before we left and they called it a "stress reaction," so it was just irritated, I guess. And then when I got back [from Rotterdam] I went back and got X-rays, and you could see the fractures on the X-rays. So some time when I was gone it actually broke.

IG: How did you modify your training to protect your ankle?

RB: Just tried to do the least amount of numbers possible, but I still had to work out because we had worlds.

IG: Was there ever a point where you thought you might not be able to compete in Rotterdam?

RB: Yeah, it did cross my mind and it did make me kind of nervous I guess, but the more that I thought about it, it's like, "I've done this, everything I've done so many times! It doesn't matter, I should be able to do it."

IG: Going into the competition, did you think you might not compete all four events?

Bross during podium training in Rotterdam

RB: Yes, and it was being debated whether or not I would. We still weren't sure when we first got over there. It wasn't really decided until podium training, I guess, when I actually did all four events that one time. I guess Valeri pretty much said, "You can do all four events, so we might as well keep trying."

IG: How much was your ankle bothering you during the competition?

RB: While you're competing you don't really think about it. I don't really notice it, but it was kind of sore afteward, but not during the competition.

IG: During the team final, were you aware of the falls from Russia and China on bars? Could you hear the audience reaction?

RB: We did hear that, and I did hear a couple of smacks [when they fell], but I guess one of the [Russian] girls fell twice? But I didn't know that. I only knew that one of them fell. I didn't find out till afterwards that one fell twice. I just knew one girl fell once, and then I saw one of the Chinese girl's mistakes. We weren't watching them, we were more focused on ourselves. You can always hear the crowd so you know something's happened, but you don't know what!

IG: After Mattie Larson missed her floor routine in the third rotation, what did you say to her?

RB: There's not much you can say. You just have to tell her it happens and she has to move on, and it's not something she can change now. It's something that happened and she has to move on to get past it.

IG: Were you aware of how close the competition was, going into the final rotation?

RB: We weren't sure. We knew it was closer than it was in qualification obviously. We were happy that we started on bars because vault was our last event and we have pretty good vaulters. I'm not one of them [laughs] but we had Ali (Alexandra Raisman) and Macko (Mackenzie Caquatto) and Alicia (Sacramone) and they all had, like, three perfect vaults, so we were happy we were ending on vault because vault is one of our strongest events. We were ready for it.

IG: When Mustafina stepped out of bounds on her last pass, did you think you had the gold?

Bross on beam during qualification in Rotterdam

RB: We weren't sure. We obviously finished vault before they finished floor. So we were all standing over in the corner and we kind of watched her floor routine, and we were like, "OK, this is going to be close! Either it's going to be us barely, or it's going to be them barely." And it was them.

IG: Were you happy that you at least beat China, after being third in qualification?

RB: Yeah, that's what we said. At least we beat China!

IG: You were second all-around to Mustafina in qualification. Going into the final, did you feel like you had to be perfect for a chance to win, or were you more laid back?

RB: Of course I wanted to be perfect, I wanted to do all my routines the best I can. It didn't exactly turn out that way (laughs) but I put a lot of effort into it.

IG: You put up an impressive fight to stay on beam on your standing Arabian, ending up in a handstand!

RB: Yeah, I was off to the side and then I put my hands on the beam... (laughing)

IG: After beam, you went on to earn the highest score all week on floor exercise. What did Valeri tell you before your floor routine?

RB: He was just like, "You need to go out there and do a really good floor routine." It doesn't matter, I had already messed up on beam, so it was like, "I don't have anything to lose, now I just need to go out there and do everything I do in practice."

IG: Was your fall on your last pass at the 2009 Worlds in the back of your mind at that point?

RB: I guess. I kind of did think about it a little bit, but [I was thinking], "I haven't been doing floor very much lately, and I already fell on beam, I've just got to make this!"

IG: You have six world medals already, all silver and bronze. How badly do you want a gold?

RB: It would be amazing. It would be like a dream come true, but it's one of my goals and we're just going to have to see what happpens next.

IG: What's it like having Nastia back in the gym every day?

RB: It's great! We talk a lot.

Bross on floor at the 2009 Worlds in London

IG: You seemed to follow Nastia's pattern a little bit, in that you were second all-around at your first worlds, and suffering from an ankle injury at your second worlds a year later. Did you talk about that coincidence?

RB: Not really, but she did talk about it at one point, how she never won a world all-around gold. I was just kind of like, "That's true, everything happens. Nothing you can do to change it."

IG: Does it make you hungrier going into 2011 and 2012?

RB: I don't know, of course I want to get it, but it's like after doing two worlds I know what to expect next. I know how it goes. Last year was kind of different from this year because it wasn't team, so it was a little bit of a different atmosphere. It's still competition regardless. You want yourself to do well and the whole team to do well.

IG: Are you close with any of your teammates in particular?

RB: We all know each other pretty well. I roomed with Chelsea Davis [in Rotterdam]. We live close to each other but we never see each other! (laughs) We're going to try to change that.

IG: Do you feel like you have a rivalry with Mustafina?

RB: You're always competing against everyone, not just a single person. It doesn't matter who it is, you're always competing and you always want to do your best. I wouldn't say there's a real rivalry, but we just want to do our best and whatever happens, however the judges score it, it's how it happens.

IG: Has Dina Kamalova told you any stories about her days coaching Mustafina?

RB: We don't really talk about it much, we more talk about stuff that goes on here [at WOGA].

IG: So would you say Russia is now the top rival for the U.S., or is it the same?

RB: It's the same. It doesn't matter, there's always going to be countries coming up and down and it changes every year. People get hurt, people aren't hurt. It's just the same.

IG: How is your relationship with the gymnasts from Russia and China? Do things get tense down on the floor, or is it more of a relaxed atmosphere?

RB: I think it's more relaxed. We don't really talk to each other or look at each other because everyone is focused on themselves and how they want to do, and if it's a team competition, how their team is doing.

IG: So any idea when your next competition will be?

RB: We'll see!

External Link: Official Website of Rebecca Bross

Written by Stelios Karaoglanidis    Friday, 08 October 2010 00:05    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Stefani Bisbikou (Greece)
(13 votes, average 4.92 out of 5)

Two-time Greek Olympian Stefani Bisbikou, 22, is making a comeback to help Greece qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Preparing for the world championships this month — almost two years since she last competed — two-time Greek Olympian Stefani Bisbikou is already aiming for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Bisbikou is the only Greek female artistic gymnast to compete in two Olympic Games. She placed 15th all-around at the 2004 Games that took place in her hometown of Athens, but she did not perform at her best at the 2008 Games in Beijing because she was recovering from a knee injury suffered five months before the Games.

Bisbikou is also the only Greek female artistic gymnast to win a medal at a Senior European Championships, having tied for the bronze medal on balance beam at the 2007 Europeans. (Compatriot Vasiliki Tsavdaridou won the bronze medal on vault at the 1994 Junior Europeans.)

Following the 2008 Olympics, Bisbikou (whose name appears as 'Bismbikou' in official results as the result of a typographical error on her passport) took an extended break from training to focus on her studies. She resumed training late last year, through the encouragement of Anastasia Donti, one of her two coaches. Her other coach is Thodoros Stathopoulos; in Greece, all female artistic gymnasts are trained by a pair: a male coach and a female coach.

The 22-year-old Bisbikou is now focused on the 2010 World Championships that will take place Oct. 16-24 in Rotterdam. There she hopes for individual success, as well as to help her Greek team place among the top 24 and thereby advance to the 2011 Worlds in Tokyo.

IG Greek correspondent Stelios Karaoglanidis recently spoke with Bisbikou, who revealed the inspiration for her comeback and the big plans she has for the coming years.

IG: Had you been thinking about a possible comeback since the day you decided to take a break?

SB: Not really. First of all, after the Olympics in Beijing, I planned to carry on with my career. I returned to the gym for a little while, but then I felt that I needed to stop. That happened in November 2008, and for exactly one year I didn't practice any gymnastics at all. To be honest, during that time I didn't miss the sport so much! Of course, I kept on watching all gymnastics events on TV and I missed the feeling of the competition, the trips and things like that, but I wasn't really considering a comeback.

The insistence and encouragement of my coach, Anastasia Donti, made me reconsider. She kept telling me that I should give it another try. In the end she convinced me, and I think that it was the right thing to do. If I didn't go for this comeback, I would probably regret it later on in my life.

IG: When did you resume training? Was it hard for you to try and gain your form?

SB: I started last November, little by little. However, I was spending much time on my studies in the Dietetics and Nutrition department at the University of Athens. I'm quite close to getting my degree, and hopefully I will achieve it in the near future. During the first months of my comeback I wasn't fully dedicated to gymnastics, but since April I focused on training and I saw a lot of progress. Along with it, the desire to return to my previous form was growing bigger and bigger.

IG: What was the motivation for you to take another chance on gymnastics?

SB: My biggest motivation is to compete in the Olympic Games for the third time. It is something that I have been thinking and wanting for many years, even before the Beijing 2008 Games. I would love to be able to compete in the 2012 Olympics in London.

IG: Do you believe that the best is yet to come for you in this "Phase Two" of your career?

Bisbikou finished 15th all-around at the 2004 Olympic Games, held in her hometown of Athens.

SB: I'm trying and will keep on trying to become as good as I was before, if not better. One always tries to make a step higher. I'm not at 100 percent right now in terms of fitness and readiness, but I'm quite well. I think I am at maybe 70 or 80 percent. If the world championships were held a couple of months later, things would be much better for me. Still, I'm pleased with the level I have reached in such a short time.

IG: What would be the Greek team's aspirations at the world championships?

SB: The reason for me to compete in Rotterdam will be to help the Greek team make it into the top 24. It will not be easy, but we will try as hard as possible. In the beginning we were thinking that I would only compete on balance beam and vault. However, my progress was fast, and eventually I will compete in all four apparatuses, although we are on a time limit.

IG: Have you set any individual goals as well?

SB: If everything goes well, I might have a chance to qualify to the all-around final. Also, on balance beam, my routine has got a quite high B-score, 6.1 or 6.2. However, I haven't reached the desired level of consistency so far. We are trying to take advantage of each of the remaining days.

IG: You haven't competed in any national or international competition for two whole years, ever since the Beijing Olympics. How tough will your official comeback directly at the highest level, in Rotterdam, be for you?

SB: Of course it's a challenge to make my international comeback straight to the World Championships. However, in every competition, bigger or smaller, a gymnast has got the same mission: to perform his or her routines as well as possible. So, any competition is equally important in that aspect.

IG: How special is the Netherlands for you, after your achievements at both the 2004 and 2007 European Championships, held in Amsterdam?

SB: Definitely yes! I only have pleasant things to remember from both my previous appearances in the Netherlands. In 2004 I placed eighth in the all-around final and in 2007 I won the bronze medal on balance beam, which was the best thing in my career so far. I'm happy that I'll compete there once again and I hope that it will bring me luck, just as before.

Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 21 September 2010 07:36    PDF Print
IG Interview: Jessica Savona (Canada)
(18 votes, average 4.83 out of 5)

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.


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