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Interview: Epke Zonderland (Netherlands)
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Epke Zonderland
Despite missing the recent European Championships, world high bar finalist Epke Zonderland (Netherlands) tells IG he is on track for this summer's Olympic Games in Beijing.

By virtue of his 29th-place all-around finish at the 2007 World Championships in Stuttgart, Zonderland earned the Dutch men's single berth for this summer's Olympics.

Zonderland missed the European Championships, held May 8-11 in Lausanne, but is now preparing for World Cup competitions in Moscow (May 29-30) and Barcelona (June 6-8) as he works toward peak form in Beijing.

Zonderland, who turned 22 April 16, also recognizes the much-debated Olympic selection procedure that will prevent teammates Yuri van Gelder and Jeffrey Wammes from competing in Beijing. Van Gelder, 25, won rings at the recent European Championships, and placed second on the event at the 2007 Worlds. Wammes, 21, has won several World Cup medals on floor exercise, vault and high bar.

Because the Dutch men's team placed only 20th at the 2007 Worlds, however, only its top all-arounder (Zonderland) received a nomination for Beijing. Zonderland aims to represent the Dutch men proudly at the Olympics by qualifying for the final on high bar. In World Cup competitions, Zonderland won the gold medal on the event at Tehran in 2006, and Glasgow in 2007.

Additionally, he finished sixth all-around and third on parallel bars at the 2007 Europeans in Amsterdam, and placed 11th all-around at the 2005 Worlds in Melbourne.

Zonderland, who is coached by Gerard Speerstra, is the youngest of the three Zonderland brothers on the Dutch national team. His brother Herre, who turned 25 on March 15, competed in the 2006 and 2007 Worlds. His brother Johan, 23, competed alongside Epke at the 2002 Junior Europeans.

In this IG Online interview, Zonderland details his preparations for Beijing, and offers his thoughts on the controversial Olympic selection procedure.

IG: Why didn't you participate in the European Championships in Lausanne?

EZ: In January I had inflammation of a nerve in my shoulder. Because of that the nerve was damaged, and I wasn't able to use my infraspinatus and supraspinatus muscles. Also, my serratus anterior wasn't functioning 100%. At this moment, the serratus anterior is functioning very well, but the other two muscles are still not working because the nerve hasn't recovered yet.

Surprisingly, I am able to do high bar. There were only two elements that I had problems with: Rybalko and Stalder-Rybalko. I tried to rotate in the other direction and that worked pretty well. The Rybalko is already in my routine, and the Stalder-Rybalko is also going pretty well. So, high bar won't be a problem at all.

The all-around isn't going to work, unfortunately. But now I can spend a lot of time on my best apparatus, high bar, and I hope I can manage to do an excellent routine at the Olympics.

IG: With Beijing approaching quickly, how satisfied are you with your preparations for the Games?

EZ: Well, of course it could have been better for me, but I really think that I can get good results because I only focus on high bar now, which is my best apparatus.

Zonderland prepares the parallel bars

IG: What key improvements do you want to make before Beijing?

EZ: I would like to increase my Start Value on high bar. I will try to manage that with some new flight elements.

IG: What do you think of the Dutch team's performance in Lausanne, especially Yuri's (van Gelder) success on rings, Jeffrey (Wammes) and your brother Herre.

EZ: Yuri did an amazing job on rings. It was clear that he was the best gymnast at the moment. I also think it is worth a compliment that he is in this good shape, even though he knows that he will not compete in Beijing, which is very sad for him. I also don't understand why a gymnast like he isn't competing in the Olympics. I always thought that the best gymnasts in the world were competing at the Olympics, but now I have some questions about that.

Jeffrey also did well with his finals on vault and bigh bar. On both apparatus he was fifth, which is very good, but I think that he would have liked a medal on vault very much.

"There are 98 male gymnasts who are allowed to be in the Olympics. That isn't enough..."

My brother Herre had a pretty good competition. You can always count on Herre in a team competition. He never makes a lot of mistakes. This time he was pretty happy with his competition. Only vault wasn't very good for him. In podium training he injured his heel. I think that was the reason why he didn't land his vault during the competition. Also, on floor, he made a little mistake. But his favorite apparatus, parallel bars and high bar, were very nice, so after all he was happy with how his competition went.

IG: What are your feelings on the Olympic nomination process, especially that medal candidates like Yuri and Jeffrey won't be competing?

EZ: It is also sad for Jeffrey that he wasn't able to qualify for Beijing. He is also a gymnast who is able to get into the finals during the Olympics, and I think that everybody who is able to do that, has to compete in the Olympics. I think there are 98 male gymnasts who are allowed to be in the Olympics. That isn't enough, and I hope that in the future they will increase that amount.

IG: What are your realistic goals for the all-around and individual events in Beijing?

EZ: The all-around probably won't work for me. At the last World Championships I was fourth on high bar. Based on that, I think I am able to make it to the finals in Beijing when my routine is going well.

IG Magazine Related Features
"Much for the Dutch" - Zonderland profile (July/August 2006)
"Comebacks Complete" - Wammes profile (September 2007)
"Double Dutch" - van Gelder profile (May 2005)
"Destiny's Child" - Wammes profile (August/September 2002)

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