As 2014 comes to a close, a time of reflection is in order. Following are select quotes, ranging from heartfelt to humorous, from the pages of IG magazine. Season's readings!
Kenzo Shirai (Japan), on what he does to relax in his free time:
"I am looking for a hobby. If you insist, I like eating. I often eat snack chips. They are cheap, so I can eat many. I am happy to eat them. I think the time I use to eat them is relaxing."
Alexander Alexandrov (Russia), who will coach the Brazilian women through the 2016 Rio Olympics:
"What will I be doing in 2016 after the Olympics? I really don't know."
Jordyn Wieber (USA), on returning to gymnastics:
"I had an amazing Olympic experience, but I feel there's some unfinished business after not making the all-around final and things like that. So I definitely have that fire within me to keep competing."
Epke Zonderland (Netherlands), (pictured) on his long hair:
"I've heard people say that it's like a Biblical Samson belief, that my strength would be in my hair. It's not true. I have worn it shorter but it just doesn't look good on me. So I suppose it's a matter of vanity."
Kurt Golder (USA), head coach at Michigan, on coaching Sam Mikulak:
"Here at Michigan, one of our team mottos is the team comes first ... and that is very natural for Sam. As a matter of fact, he declined taking his National Championship ring for winning the NCAA all-around title his freshman year, and he declined taking his National Championship ring for winning the NCAA p-bar title his sophomore year. Quoting Sam: 'I don't want a National Championship ring until the team wins it.'"
Allana Slater (Australia), on discovering the vault was set too low at the 2000 Olympics:
"The first vault I went over (in warm-ups), I felt like I was going down onto the horse. And I said to my coach, 'Nikolai, the vault's too low.' He looked at me [and said], 'Get off the mat.' And I said, 'No, it's too low, I'm not getting off the mat.' We told the judges ... and the debacle began, really."
Jim Hartung (USA), on Sam Mikulak tying him and Joe Giallombardo for the most NCAA individual titles (seven):
"Well, I cannot lie. I was pulling for Sam to tie that record. Like Joe, Sam's just a first-class kid. I'm glad to have him join our club, and it was good to see."
Raisa Ganina (Russia), on coaching Aliya Mustafina:
"First of all, you need to be her friend. You have to love her even when she is being prickly."
Aliya Mustafina (Russia), on never making plans:
"This is something my mother taught me: never plan anything. You can have a goal but don't count on it as if it's done. It would be nice to still be doing gymnastics until the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, but it doesn't mean I will. I don't plan what I will be doing this week or next week. As life has shown me, whatever is being planned is not always getting done. So if I don't build something up, there will be nothing to crumble."
Natalia Yurchenko (Russia), (pictured) on the Soviet boycott of the 1984 Olympics:
"It was a really big disappointment when I found out we weren't going. Other teammates of mine were [younger]. For me, it was really depressing because I knew it was just one [chance to be in an] Olympics for me — I'm not going to go."
Jackie Fie (USA), on Andreea Raducan losing her all-around gold at the 2000 Olympics:
"That was so sad for her. I don't know if I would have done what the committee did in the long run by disallowing her medal. I think it was an innocent error; it was a cold tablet, my goodness..."
Mitch Gaylord (USA), on being able to show his risky Gaylord II in the 1984 Olympic team final:
"Doing the Gaylord II was one of those moments that, if you watch the tape, you see Abie (Grossfeld) and I avoiding eye contact, and [we] finally look at each other [laughs]. He gave me that nod and that's all I really needed. I would have been shocked if he said not to do it, just because we came there to do something special ... not to play it safe. It was exciting. It was an incredible relief, too, to catch it [laughs]."
Mary Lou Retton (USA), on a behind-the-scenes memory she recalls from the 1984 Olympics:
"Right before my vault in the all-around competition, I stepped in spilled sticky soda that was on the floor. It got all over my vault shoes ... and I remember Bela telling me it was going to help me 'stick it'. Well..."
Gabby Douglas (USA), (pictured) on her advice for kids:
"Keep fighting for your dreams. Don't let anyone tell you that you're nothing without them. Don't let anyone just bully you. You are amazing, and use that gift and ... shine."
Jani Tanskanen (Finland), President of the FIG Athlete's Commission, on the current length of routines:
"It is true that we see long, difficult routines on each apparatus and sometimes at the expense of execution, which I do not like. Perhaps we are reaching the limit in this direction, thinking about the load all this exposes to gymnasts' bodies, especially all-around gymnasts ... the preparation for the competitions is putting extreme pressure on our gymnasts."
Carly Patterson (USA), joking about whether she got the last laugh by winning the 2004 Olympics after placing second to Svetlana Khorkina at the 2003 World Championships:
"Definitely. You know what? She can have the worlds all-around gold; I'll take the Olympic all-around gold [laughs]. I'm fine with that trade."
Dipa Karmaker (India), (pictured) India's first woman to medal at the Commonwealth Games, on how she learned a handspring-double front vault:
"Mr. Nandi (her coach) began to think about its possibility in 2010. He tells me I'm a powerful and explosive athlete, and I'm ... compact enough to rotate. It's been a long process, and we haven't always had access to a pit. Fortunately, we've had centralized training in Delhi for this past year, and our national training center has permitted me to work it safely, and most importantly, gradually. Thankfully, our efforts in Glasgow were rewarded."
NOVEMBER, Special World Championships issue
Huang Yubin, Chinese national coach, on the winning margin of the U.S. women over China at the 2014 World Championships:
"Well, seven points is not a huge gap."
Shang Chunsong (China), on which routines she was most satisfied with in qualifications:
"Umm ... none."
Simone Biles (USA), (pictured) on winning 'only' silver on vault:
"I'm pretty proud of it, so I guess that's all that matters."
Aliya Mustafina (Russia), on winning the bronze on balance beam:
"It was sheer luck."
Svetlana Khorkina (Russia), (pictured) on how gymnastics has changed since she last competed:
"Men's gymnastics is at a very high level, very serious and complicated. In women's gymnastics I don't see a lot of leaders. In my time there was a lot of competition. Now there is one, two and three (top gymnasts), and that's all. I don't like that. I want to see a lot of contenders for first place, so it's a fight."
Justin Spring (USA), head coach at Illinois, on how to improve men's NCAA gymnastics:
"Adopt a system that simplifies gymnastics and makes it more like X-Games ... I know this sounds extreme, but gymnastics needs ... to keep up with how sensationalized other sports are on TV."