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IG Online Interview: David Jessen (Czech Republic)
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David Jessen, the son of legendary Czech gymnast Hana Říčná, is eager to begin following in her footsteps at this week's European championships in Montpellier, France.

David Jessen, the son of legendary Czech gymnast Hana Říčná, is eager to begin following in her footsteps at this week's European championships in Montpellier, France.

Jessen, who was born in Brno and raised in the United States, enjoyed a successful career in U.S. junior rankings prior to his debut for Czech Republic earlier this year. He placed sixth all-around in the 14-15 age division at the 2012 Visa (U.S.) junior championships, 10th all-around in the 15-16 age division at the 2013 P&G (U.S.) junior championships, and third all-around in the 15-16 age division at the 2014 P&G (U.S.) championships.

In this IG Online interview, Jessen details his decision to represent his native country, his goals for Montpellier and his role in rebuilding the Czech men's national program.



IG: When and why did you decide to officially represent Czech Republic?

DJ: I have been a part of the U.S. junior national team for five years and even had the chance to compete for the U.S.A in a couple of small competitions against Canada. Additionally, with my mother being an Olympian representing Czechoslovakia, I always knew I had the option to go that route, but at the same time I did not want to give up my position on the U.S. team. It was not until late last year that I decided to pursue competing for Czech Republic. I had received multiple emails from people, including members of the Czech Gymnastics Federation, telling me that I should help the Czechs out. Finally, I decided for myself that representing Czech would provide me a better opportunity to compete on an international level, considering the U.S. was still very competitive. Therefore, in dreams to follow my mother's footsteps, I hope to get the chance to compete in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games for Czech Republic.

IG: What is your citizenship status?

DJ: I have dual citizenship with the United States and Czech Republic. Not too long ago I applied for Czech citizenship because my mother is a Czech citizen, and I officially got it earlier this year.

IG: How well do you speak Czech, and how do you communicate with the Czech coaches and team members?

DJ: Ever since I was a little child, I learned Czech and English sort of at the same time, considering my mother spoke Czech and my father spoke only English. However, as I grew up, I used Czech less and less and only used it when I traveled to Czech to visit family, or if my mother got mad at me. But since I have become a part of the Czech team, I started to become more serious with speaking it and can now speak fairly well. I would not necessarily say that I am fluent with the language, but I can definitely converse with all of the coaches and my teammates.

IG: What is your schedule like, in terms of training in the U.S. and Czech Republic?

DJ: I actually have not trained in Czech Republic much at all, the only times being before a competition. But when I do get the chance to train there, it is in a gym in Brno, my birth city and where my grandparents live, called Sokol Brno I. There, I am coached by my mother's friend and former Czech national team member, Petr Hedbávný. For the majority of the time, I train in Florida with my coach Vasili Vinogradov, a former member of the Soviet Union team. Hopefully, when I compete in the European Games (in Baku in June) and world championships for Czech later this year, I will be able to have Vasili with me.

IG: What are your goals for Europeans, relating to all-around and apparatuses?

DJ: As for the European championships, this will be my first time competing in such a big international competition, and with all the best guys in Europe for that matter, I do not expect too much. At the least, I want to be able to make the all-around final, which means I will have to be in the top 24 gymnasts from qualifications. I also do not expect to make an apparatus final, but if I do, I will have the biggest chance on pommel horse, parallel bars or high bar.

IG: The Czech men's team has not had a strong international presence in recent years, so what do you think you can offer to help improve its standing?

DJ: Knowing that Czech has not been strong in recent years and that they want me to help them puts a little bit of pressure on me, but I embraced the challenge and am honored to be given this opportunity. There is nothing I can really say as to what I can offer for the Czech team specifically, except for giving them the best of my ability and to hopefully put Czech back on the floor as a strong international contender.

International Gymnast magazine's coverage of Czech gymnasts includes:
Vera Caslavska/Hall of Fame induction feature (June 2012)
"Rebuilding Phase" - Kristýna Pálešová profile (June 2011)
Říčná/Jessen family update (June 2010)
"Central European Sojourn" - includes IG's visit to Sokol Brno (January/February 2010)
"Shooting Star" - Petra Fialova profile (January/February 2010)
"Central European Sojourn" - includes IG's visit to Sokol Brno club (January/February 2010)
"On the Upswing" - Jana Šikulová profile (July/August 2006)
"Reality Czech" - Jana Komrsková feature (November 2003)
"Catching up with Hana Říčná Jessen" - profile (May 2001)
Komrsková profile (August/September 2000)

To order back issues, or subscribe to the print and/or digital edition of International Gymnast magazine, click here.

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