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Pugh Ready For Big Things in 2007
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Great Britain's Rhian Pugh, the 2004 European junior champion on uneven bars, told IG she is eager for this year's major competitions after spending much of last year nursing injuries.

"I am working toward making the European Championships team in April," Pugh told IG this week. "So my first competition back this year will be British Team Championships, at the beginning of April. I am also working towards making the team for the World Championships (Sept. 1-9 in Stuttgart), so that I can help us qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games."

At the 2004 European Junior Championships in Amsterdam, Pugh became the first British woman to win a European title when she placed first on uneven bars.

Pugh, a native of Wales, traveled to Melbourne for the 2005 World Championships, but suffered a back injury in training and did not compete. Last spring she competed for Wales at the Commonwealth Games (also held in Melbourne), where she placed sixth on uneven bars.

Pugh did not compete at the 2006 World Championships, held in Aarhus, Denmark, in October. There, teammate Beth Tweddle became the first British gymnast to win a world title (uneven bars), and the British women's team finished 11th. The top 12 teams at this year's Worlds will qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Helen May, who coaches Pugh at the Bristol Hawks club in England, said Pugh is now healthy, and hopes to show British national team coaches that she will be ready for this year's Europeans and Worlds.

"It was difficult for Rhian after sustaining a compression fracture of T9 at the Worlds in Melbourne, and having to completely rest for a long period," May said. "She was given the go-ahead to train just before the Commonwealth Games, and worked very hard in order to go and represent Wales. Obviously Wales was very keen for her to compete, as was she. However, with limited time, she competed with cut-down routines and not at the peak of fitness. Following that she had a number of different minor injuries, which meant she did not compete in the British Championships, and did not retain her place in the national squad."

May said the 17-year-old Pugh is determined to succeed, in and out of the gym.

"Hopefully this year she will be able to prove herself," she said. "I know she is keen to do this, so we will keep on working. In the meantime she has passed her driving test and is also doing her 'A' levels (examinations) at school. I believe when they finish in June, she will then use her gap year to concentrate on her gymnastics, which I know has always been a long-term plan of hers."

May said Tweddle's gold medal-winning performances at last year's Worlds and Europeans have generated optimism and healthy competitiveness in the British program.

"It's a really exciting time for all involved with British gymnastics," May told IG. "We've all been enjoying the success of Beth and (coach) Amanda (Harrison), who set such a great example and are such nice people, too. You couldn't ask for a better role model than Beth for all our young gymnasts in Britain. We have a number of great talents up and coming, also, so I'm hoping Britain will continue to rise in the world rankings. It is going to be hard to get into our team, which is a great position to be in."

The January/February 2007 issue of International Gymnast magazine features Beth Tweddle on the cover, and profiles of British gymnasts Ross Brewer and Aisling Williams. Rhian Pugh is featured in the profile "In With the Old," in the December 2004 issue.

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