|Nearly two years after a car accident left him with a broken back, world and Olympic bronze medalist Sasha Artemev (U.S.) is aiming for a full comeback at February's Winter Cup in Las Vegas.
IG Online continues its yearly holiday series, bringing you the scoop on what the world's best gymnasts will be up to at the end of 2010!
Nearly two years after a car accident left him with a broken back, world and Olympic bronze medalist Sasha Artemev (U.S.) is aiming for a full comeback at February's Winter Cup in Las Vegas.
"I'm shooting for Winter Cup — that's my main goal," Artemev, 25, told IG. "I'm getting a lot stronger. Healing up a lot. I feel like my body should feel. I feel normal."
Artemev last competed at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where his nailed pommel horse routine clinched the bronze medal for the U.S. in the team final.
But in April 2009, two months after the post-Olympic tour ended, Artemev was sitting in his car at a stoplight when he was struck by another vehicle.
"From my mid back to my low back, everything pretty much was shattered," said Artemev, who trains at 5280 Gymnastics in Colorado.
While he underwent rehabilitation and cortisone injections, Artemev refused to let the injury force him into early retirement.
"I kept it quiet," he said of the accident.
Artemev entered the Valeri Liukin Invitational, held Dec. 11 in Frisco, Texas, but scratched the meet after warming up all six events.
"This was just kind of a practice," he said after the meet. "I just came out to see where everybody's at. I don't want to compete out here if I'm not 100 percent. I want to come here to win."
While most known for his skill on pommel horse, Artemev said he "definitely" plans to return to all-around competition at the Winter Cup.
"All six [events], and not just [make] the national team," said Artemev, the bronze medalist on pommel horse at the 2006 Worlds. "I want to be up there [in the rankings]. We'll see how it goes."
Artemev said he hasn't shelved the triple-twisting Yurchenko he debuted in 2007, a vault recently performed by world champion Kohei Uchimura of Japan.
"I've been working on it in the gym," Artemev said. "They're comparing my vault to [Uchimura's]. I haven't seen his, but we'll see how mine goes when it gets down to it."
Artemev, who was born in Minsk but grew up near Moscow, said he is likely to spend New Year's Eve with friends or family. His father and coach, Vladimir Artemev, recently married Russian-born coach Irina Bendassova. (Sasha's mother, rhythmic gymnastics coach Svetlana Artemieva, has lived in Chile since 1991.)
"In the Russian tradition, Christmas isn't as big as New Year's Eve, so we're going to celebrate New Year's bigger," he said. "In Russia everybody goes out and celebrates in the city center. It's a big deal with fireworks."
Despite the celebration, Artemev said he plans on being at the gym on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.
"I'll work out of course. Always!" he laughed. "I can't [skip a day] because then I'll feel worse."