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Interview: Olivia Vivian (Australia)
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Australia's Olivia Vivian is looking forward to this summer's Olympic Games in Beijing, and starting a new phase of her career this fall at Oregon State University in the U.S.

Olivia Vivian

Vivian, who competed at the 2005 and 2006 World Championships, recently accepted a scholarship to study and compete at Oregon State University, where she will train under head coach Tanya Service Chaplin and associate head coach Michael Chaplin.

Born July 13, 1989, in Perth, Vivian is coached by Martine George and Nikolai Lapchine at the Western Australian Institute of Sport. She placed 13th on uneven bars at the 2005 World Championships in Melbourne; and 12th on uneven bars and sixth with her team at the 2006 World Championships in Aarhus, Denmark.

Vivian's best results in World Cup competitions include fifth place on uneven bars and sixth place on balance beam in Shanghai (2007); and seventh place on uneven bars in Glasgow (2007).

Vivian won the Australian junior title on uneven bars in 2003 and 2004; and the Australian senior title on uneven bars in 2006. Also in Australian Championships senior competition, she placed second on uneven bars in 2007, and third on balance beam and floor exercise in 2005. In the senior all-around, Vivian was sixth in 2005, fifth in 2006 and 11th in 2007.

In this IG Online interview, Vivian, Australian national team coach Peggy Liddick and OSU head coach Tanya Chaplin comment on Vivian's accomplishments and her future prospects.

IG: When and how did you decide to try for a U.S. university scholarship?

OV: In early 2007 Peggy mentioned the idea of trying to gain a college scholarship, and I was immediately interested.

IG: When did you make your first contact with the OSU coaches?

OV: I came into contact with Tanya and Michael Chaplin in October last year. Peggy had actually made the first contact with Tanya earlier in the year, and told Tanya that she might be interested in me. I had made my mind up that I would go to college in America not long before that.

I arranged to take the SAT [Standard Aptitude Test, used to help gain admission to U.S. university], and when I got the results I showed them to Peggy. She suggested that I take them again, now that I knew what the SAT format was. We don’t have anything like that over here! I was much happier with my second set of results; I did quite well!

After that, I put together a DVD of my latest competitions and training, and sent it to Tanya. She must have liked what she saw, as she called me and said she was coming to Perth to see me. They only had one scholarship left when I spoke with them, so I was very lucky to catch them when I did.

IG: What about OSU specifically, and U.S. university gymnastics in general, appealed to you?

OV: To be honest, my thoughts on going to college on scholarship increased dramatically when my parents said I would have to pay for my own university fees! But I also thought it would be a great opportunity for me to get an education whilst still doing the sport I love. Australia doesn’t offer any sporting scholarships in university. OSU appealed to me because of its great staff and location. If anything is close to Perth, it would be a university on the west coast of the U.S. It is still a 24-hour flight!

IG: What about the OSU coaches in particular?

OV: Tanya and Michael are so lovely. Tanya flew to Australia to meet with my parents and me. I knew by that gesture that the coaches at OSU really cared and looked after their athletes, and that I would be well looked after over there. America isn’t close to Australia, and I can’t just hop in a car and drive home. So it was important that my parents knew the strangers that would be in charge of me for the next four years and try to keep me out of trouble!

IG: How are your preparations for the Beijing Olympics going? What is your strategy for the lead-up to Beijing?

OV: Preparations are going well. I am focused on taking each day as it comes and making every training session count. Training for the Games is really exciting, and I hope to be at my best for the first cut in May, and then on the day of the final trials in June.

Liddick on Vivian:

IG: As national team coach, how do you feel Olivia has benefited the Australian team?

PL: Olivia has been a survivor, one of those gymnasts who has never given up and has been ready to take advantage of every opportunity that has come her way. She is a real team player and keeps the atmosphere in the gym a happy one; she enjoys her training and training with her teammates. I like having Olivia in the gym. She is a team leader and has the respect of the rest of the team. She is the first one to help out with mats, bar preparation or with the music. She has had enough experience in the gym so she can see situations arising that she can attend to before they escalate into an “issue.” I am counting on Olivia continuing to represent Australia internationally as she pursues her degree at OSU.

IG: How do you think Olivia will benefit the OSU Team?

PL: Olivia will be the loudest voice and the most enthusiastic booster on the team. I hope they are ready for her! Her energy is contagious and her personality is engaging. We will miss Olivia’s spunk, but OSU will just love her. Besides that, she is a very tough competitor. She will add to the OSU team tremendously in that area.

Chaplin on Vivian:

Tanya Service Chaplin at the 1983 Worlds

Newer fans of the sport may know Tanya Chaplin as a successful collegiate coach, but she also enjoyed a prominent international competitive career.

Under her maiden name of Tanya Service, Chaplin finished 22nd all-around at the 1983 World Championships in Budapest. Her powerful but polished style enabled her to perform skills that are unusual even today. On uneven bars, Service's mount was a stem rise, immediate Jaeger. On balance beam, she performed a standing front salto (without a hurdle); and dismounted with a double tuck from a cartwheel, instead of the customary round-off.

Chaplin competed collegiately for UCLA, and tied for second place all-around at the 1989 NCAA Championships. Her husband, Michael, is also a former UCLA gymnast and U.S. national team member.

IG: When and where did you first notice Olivia's gymnastics?

TC: Olivia contacted me through email and video. We have been watching the Australian team for a few years and were able to watch Olivia through some of her international competitions, as well as invitationals that the Australian teams have come over for.

IG: What qualities of Olivia's gymnastics motivated you to recruit her?

TC: Olivia is an excellent uneven bars worker, and that caught our attention right away. I was also impressed with her skill level on floor and beam. I believe her artistry, clean lines and competitive experience will make her a very successful collegiate gymnast.

IG: When you got to know Olivia during your trip to Australia, what personal qualities did she show that made you feel she would be a good fit for your program?

TC: As I sat and talked with Olivia, I could see the passion she has for the sport and the excitement about coming to the States and continuing to compete. After my visit with her family in Perth I flew back to Sydney and drove to Canberra where I was able to watch her compete at the National Club Championships. It was obvious that she was a talented gymnast, but I was really impressed with how she interacted and worked with her teammates.

IG: In what ways do you think Olivia can benefit your program, from a gymnastics standpoint and a team-morale standpoint?

TC: From a gymnastics standpoint our team will benefit from her outstanding skill level and international competition experience. From a morale standpoint she will already have a strong team concept developed because of her experiences with the Australian national team and training at WAIS.

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