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Interview: Barbara Gasser (Austria)
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Barbara Gasser (Austria)

Recently crowned Austrian champion Barbara Gasser spoke with IG about training in Canada, representing her native country and moving up in the world rankings.

Born Aug. 30, 1989, in Lustenau, Gasser has been training at Bluewater Gymnastics in Sarnia, Ont, Canada, with Dave and Liz Brubaker since 2003. She won the Austrian junior all-around title in 2003 and 2004.

At the Austrian Championships in November, Gasser won the senior all-around, balance beam and floor exercise titles.

Gasser was Austria's top all-arounder at the 2008 Senior Europeans held in Clermont-Ferrand, France, in April, where she finished 19th in team qualifications. (No all-around contest was held.)

Gasser's ranking in Clermont-Ferrand marked a significant improvement from her Europeans results in 2005 (47th place in qualifications), and 2006 (43rd in team qualifications - no all-around contest was held).

As Gasser prepares for major competitions in 2009 - including the Europeans in Milan and the World Championships in London - she gave IG her thoughts on reaching her international potential.

IG: What took you from Austria to Canada?

BG: First of all, I did not move to Canada because of my gymnastics but because of my family. My father always wanted to move to Canada because of family connections and occupational reasons. Both my parents really liked Canada in the whole and they decided to move there in the year 2003.

IG: How did you pick Bluewater Gymnastics as your club?

BG: When we first came to Canada we lived on a farm 45 minutes from Sarnia. Bluewater Gymnastics was the closest club I could train at. I was very lucky, as I found out it was one of the best clubs in Canada.

IG: How do you coordinate your training in Canada with the national team and national coaching staff in Austria?

BG: I basically train in Canada and go to compete in or for Austria. My coaches, Dave and Liz, are very supportive and help me to prepare myself as best as I can. It is not always easy, because I do not know the coaches and teammates in Austria very well. However, everyone has been really welcoming, and even though I train in Canada, I definitely feel like I am part of the team. Austria, just like Canada, does not have a national training center where all the girls train together all year long. Of course there are training camps, but after the camps all the girls go back to their clubs. So therefore I usually go to Austria not to train, but to compete.

IG: How often do you train in Austria? Who coaches you while you are in Austria?

BG: I not really go to Austria to train, but rather to compete. I usually go to Austria one week or two weeks before the competitions - depending on the type of competition. Unless it is a preparation for international competitions, which is done with the national coach at an arranged national center, I usually go to the provincial training center. There I do get supported by my provincial coach if I need to, but I mainly try to focus on what I have been taught by my coaches in Canada.

IG: Austria is not yet known as a top gymnastics country. What challenges does Austria face that seem to have limited its international success so far?

BG: There is a limited cooperation between school, work and gymnastics and therefore leads to limited time and space in the gyms.

Barbara Gasser (Austria)

IG: What differences do you notice between gymnastics in Austria, and gymnastics in Canada?

BG: I believe since there is limited time and space in the gyms, Austrian gymnasts have to learn difficult skills fast and have to spend less time on perfecting techniques and execution. Here in Canada, schools are more supportive and gymnastics can be executed almost professionally. In Canada gymnasts often stay longer in their sport because they have the opportunity to apply for scholarships, which is a huge incentive, as secondary education is not free in Canada as it is in Austria.

IG: At 19 you seem to just be "coming into your own" internationally. In the past, 19 was considered "old." How have you been able to maintain your progress so you could win the Austrian title this year?

BG: I have always believed that the age 16 is too young to be considered a senior internationally! I have always looked up to older gymnasts, such as (three-time Russian Olympian) Svetlana Khorkina for example. You have gained a lot of experience when you are 19 and you are able to really express yourself in your own style. However, at the same time it gets harder, because you do not have the innocent mind anymore, but you know all about accidents and injuries. Preparing myself for the Austrian nationals or any other competitions, I try to keep myself physically and mentally fit as best as possible. As long as you do what you love to do, age does not really play a big role. However, the hardest part is growing up, but once you pass that you appreciate gymnastics even more and it motivates you to keep going.

IG: Internationally, what are your expectations for 2009 and beyond?

BG: I will be supporting my provincial team in Austria for the Austrian National Team Championships. I want to take part in the European Championships in spring and in the World Championships in fall. I usually only set short-term goals because that is the best way to prepare myself for competitions.

IG: What are you specifically working on, or looking to improve, so you can break into the top international group?

BG: I do want to improve my Start Values on all events. It usually takes longer for me to put new skills in my routine because I work on cleaning up my skills as best as I can first - I am a perfectionist. I also want to improve my mindset that every gymnast who works hard, no matter what nationality, is capable of being in the top internationally.

IG: What do you think it will take for Austria to compete against the best teams in Europe, and eventually the world?

BG: I believe it will just take time and of course the right mindset and commitment. We have been working towards getting up higher internationally. If you look back, Austria has improved internationally every year. It is a slow approach, but there is clearly an improvement.

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