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Interview: Niki Böschenstein (Switzerland)
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Niki Böschenstein (Switzerland)

Despite missing out on the past two Olympic Games, four-time Swiss all-around champion Niki Böschenstein told IG he is "ready to rock" from 2009 until the 2012 Olympics.

Born Feb. 12, 1985, in Zurich, Böschenstein emerged from the junior ranks to become one of Switzerland's top prospects for the Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 Olympics. He led Switzerland to the team silver medal at the 2002 Junior European Championships in Patras, Greece. Misfortune struck Böschenstein in the all-around final in Patras, for which he qualified in fourth place. On his first event in the all-around final (floor exercise), Böschenstein broke one foot and severely sprained the other after landing awkwardly on a simple tumbling pass, an injury that would require surgery.

Böschenstein's return to competition was quick and remarkable. He became the youngest Swiss men's champion in history in 2003, and was the top Swiss all-arounder (seventh place) at the 2004 European Championships in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Because Switzerland finished 14th at the 2003 World Championships, only two Swiss men earned berths to the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Christoph Schärer and Andreas Schweizer were sent, over Böschenstein, to represent Switzerland in Athens.

Böschenstein was the top Swiss all-arounder (13th) at the 2005 World Championships in Melbourne, Australia, and won the Swiss all-around titles in 2005 and 2006. The Swiss men's 14th-place finish at the 2007 World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, meant only two individual berths for them at the 2008 Olympics. Böschenstein, who placed second all-around at the 2007 Swiss Championships, saw Schärer and Claudio Capelli represent the Swiss in Beijing. Reconciling his missed Olympic opportunities, Böschenstein now aims for new goals — including the 2012 Olympics.

In this IG Online interview, Böschenstein recalls his high and low points of 2008, and outlines his plans for the next phase of his career starting with 2009.

IG: Niki, looking back on 2008, were your biggest accomplishments and biggest disappointments?

NB: 2008 was again — like 2004 — a very hard year for me. I competed at a top level the whole year through and still did not go to the Olympics, which was very disappointing for me. Four years ago, I didn't get to compete in Athens even though I was the Swiss all-around champion. In Beijing, I wasn't part of the Olympics even though I gained most of the points for Switzerland in the team final at the (spring 2008) European Championships and I was completely ready to aim high.

On the other hand, I reached high this year at the Europeans in front of the home crowd in Lausanne. With Ariella Käslin I was third at the Swiss Cup in Zurich and fifth on floor at the DTB Pokal/World Cup in Stuttgart. Finally, I placed fifth at the Champions Trophy in Stuttgart and competed in the Bundesliga (German club league) for the KTV Ries, helping them get into the final of the second division. But the most precious moment was winning the Swiss all-around title for the fourth time, so I moved to spot No. 3 in the all-time leader board. Only Sepp Stalder and Michael Beusch have won more Swiss all-around titles. And I am still only 23 years old, so I should have some time for more.

Absolutely crazy as well was entering Zurich's indoor stadium with 12,000 loud spectators and competing in different funny games for about three hours at the Super10Kampf, a charity event for the Swiss Sport Aid.

So, all in all, I had one very low moment in 2008, but many great and unforgettable ones indeed!

Niki Böschenstein (Switzerland)

IG: The Swiss team placed eighth at the 2006 Worlds, but fell to 14th in 2007, and therefore did not qualify for Beijing. What do you think were the reasons for your team's mediocre performance in 2007?

NB: We were under a lot of pressure. We really wanted to qualify, and maybe we wanted it too hard and made many silly mistakes, like steps out of the area on floor or falls from different apparatus. These were mistakes that we normally don't make, but under pressure, everything is different. Personally, I like the pressure and I can deal with it most of the time, but it is not everyone's business, and many of my teammates were not as experienced with pressure. Switzerland sent a very young team out to qualify. It was all or nothing, and finally we lost it all. But that is the way life goes and the game gets played.

IG: How were Claudio Capelli and Christoph Schärer selected to represent Switzerland in Beijing?

NB: We had a rather complicated qualifying system. You had to be among the top three at the Europeans in the all-around or any individual apparatus, but since no one did that, they counted the eighth place in the unofficial all-around at Europeans by Claudio Capelli, and the third place on high bar at the B-World Cup in Ljubljana by Christoph Schärer. I only got sent to the World Cup in Moscow and I was only allowed to compete in five apparatus at Europeans. So, actually, I didn't have a real chance to qualify.

IG: How did you overcome the disappointment of not making the Olympics for the second time?

NB: It was hard — very hard! You are working all your life as hard as you can towards the Olympics. Then, you are Switzerland's best all-arounder and you didn't get to compete in 2004 and then again four years later. It was really very hard — especially this time, since I finally got nominated by the Swiss Gymnastics Federation, but the Swiss Olympic Committee didn't accept my nomination because I didn't have the results on paper. I was in perfect shape and I would have so much liked to experience the thrill to compete at the Olympics and to reach high for my country. But, well, maybe next time. This thought was what made me strong again very quickly. I took some days off, went on holidays to Italy and came back fully motivated again to work even harder than ever before towards the 2012 Olympics in London.

IG: What are your personal and competitive goals for 2009?

NB: I have already started to work hard on more difficult routines, especially on floor, vault and parallel bars, and on a more stable routine on pommel horse. In 2009, I want to reach high at the European and World Championships but also do great at different World Cups, the Swiss Cup and any other competition I am taking part in. It could be that I will again start in the Bundesliga. To perform perfectly there would be one of my personal and competitive big goals for 2009. I have been to five European and four World Championships so far, and I am still only 23 years old. I want to reach higher and get closer to the world's elite in order to be able to win medals at events in the future, such as the 2012 Olympics.

IG: Outside of training and competition, what are some of the promotions that keep you busy?

NB: I have different sponsors whom I work with whenever I have time. I love to do show events and to be close to my fans whenever possible. Any kind of event where I can be close to my sponsors and fans is welcome! I have been invited to different events and I am often in the spotlight with my Swiss Cup partner, Ariella Käslin, who became 2008 Sportswoman of the Year in Switzerland. On top of that, I support a foundation called Theodora, which supports hospital clowns who make sick or injured children laugh. And I was part of the Super10Kampf 2008, a crazy and huge event organized by the Swiss Sports Aid. Every year they invite top Swiss athletes to compete in groups and in some funny games against each other in front of 12,000 crazy spectators at Zurich's biggest indoor sports hall, Hallenstadion. This is the same place where the Swiss Cup takes place. I love events like that, any kind of useful promotion, and especially show events that I do a lot of every year. It is a welcome change to daily life in the gym.

Also, I have my own Web site, There you can find my own merchandise, from autograph cards over posters to T-shirts and 2009 calendars. I am working on more, coming soon!

IG: How do you manage to balance your training with all of these promotional activities?

Niki Böschenstein (Switzerland)

NB: I am the type of guy who likes to be in the background in private life but who loves to be in the spotlight as a gymnast. It is my business, and I want to rock the world as gymnast. So, I need promotions and special events in order to keep fun and joy in gymnastics. For me, gymnastics is some kind of entertainment. Whatever chance is given to me to live this entertainment, I am going to take. This is what makes me strong going back to the training hall and my room at the training center again, in order to work out in silence and get back into the spotlight again soon!

IG: What is your normal training schedule?

NB: From Monday to Saturday, I live at Switzerland's national center for gymnastics in Magglingen/Biel. On Sunday I go back to my hometown, Würenlos. My current personal coach is Sandor Kiraly from Hungary, and my other national coaches are Nicu Pascu from Romania and Csaba Bordan from Hungary, but only until the end of the year. From then on it will be two Swiss coaches and one from France. My Swiss club's name is STV Neuenhof, and this year I was competing for Germany's KTV Ries. It is still open as to whom I will compete for in 2009. I cannot tell you yet, but you are going to find out pretty soon.

IG: What is the significance of your motto, "Ready to Rock the Hall?"

NB: This has to do with my personal relationship to gymnastics. To me, gymnastics is entertainment. Whenever I enter a hall full with loud spectators and even if no one is there but I am going to compete, I need to "rock the hall." It happened at the Swiss Cup in Zurich and Champions Trophy in Stuttgart. I didn't even want to get everyone's attention but it just happened and finally, I ended up entertaining the whole crowd. If I said medals are not important to me, I would be lying to you. Still, the wage of the audience is worth much more to me. "Winning" the audience is the biggest trophy you can earn at any kind of competition.

IG: How will you spend your Christmas and New Year holidays?

NB: I will finally have time back home with my family and close friends, celebrating Christmas in a traditional Swiss way — in silence and without thinking of gymnastics! I am looking forward to these moments, since I have waited for them for a long time. I want to thank all my supporters and all gymnastics lovers all over the world for your support in 2008. I wish you Merry Christmas as a great start into a perfect 2009 full of good health, success, fun and happiness!

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