Follow Us On
News
News

Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 13 February 2007 19:21    PDF Print
Chinese Legends Make Long-Distance Marriage Work
In recognition of Valentine's Day, IG Online features Olympic medal-winning gymnastics couple Li Yuejiu and Wu Jiani of China. Li and Wu, married for 21 years, are making their intercontinental marriage work.
Wu and Li

"I support what he does," says the Illinois-based Wu of husband Li, who since December 2004 has been working as a coordinator for the Chinese national team in Beijing. "He's really happy what he's doing, and he feels he can do something for the Chinese as an American citizen. The Chinese coaches asked him to help out with our country, and he really wanted to support the Chinese team."

Wu and Li, who ended their competitive careers at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, have been married since 1986. Li accepted a men's coaching position in Canada in 1985, where Wu joined him after their wedding. In 1987 they moved to Las Vegas, and began coaching women's gymnastics together.

For the past five years, home has been the Chicago area, where Wu still coaches at the Aerials Gymnastics Club in Downers Grove. Among the gymnasts they produced is daughter Anna, a former elite who now competes for UCLA. They also have a daughter Andrea, age 5.

Wu says she and Li are together approximately four times per year, for a period of two or three weeks each time. Last fall she enjoyed an extra visit with him, by traveling to the World Championships in Aarhus, Denmark, where he was part of the Chinese delegation. The Li family was last together for the 2006 Christmas holidays.

Wu admits that coaching and everyday life are more difficult with Li so far away.

"It is harder without him," Wu says. "Not coaching with him was hard, especially the first year when Anna was still in the elite program. We always talked to each other and made decisions together, and now I had to do it on my own. I also have to look after the house and fix the car on my own, which I didn't have to do before."

To stay connected, Wu and Li spend time together every day via webcam. The couple meets online after Wu gets home from work, at around 10 p.m. That is noon in Beijing, when Li has a two-hour break after the Chinese team's morning training session.

"It helps a lot, because my little one likes to see Daddy every day," Wu says.

Wu Jiani

A native of Shanghai, Wu helped the Chinese women win their first World Championships team medal, a silver at the 1981 Worlds in Moscow. She also tied for the bronze medal on balance beam, where she performed a back dive across the beam to hip circle around the beam. Although Wu was the first gymnast to perform this trick in World Championships competition, it was later named the "Yurchenko loop" in recognition of Soviet gymnast Natalia Yurchenko. (Wu, who first performed it in 1980, says Chinese officials did not usually submit original tricks for recognition at the time.)

Wu placed ninth all-around, second on balance beam and fourth (tie) on floor exercise at the 1982 World Cup in Zagreb, Yugoslavia. She won the all-around title at the 1982 Chunichi Cup in Nagoya, Japan. At the 1983 World Championships in Budapest, Wu was a member of China's fifth-place team. She ended her career at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, where she won a team bronze medal.

In addition to her balance beam skill, Wu performed an original trick on uneven bars: the "Wu" (facing the high bar, beat uprise to straddle vault over the high bar, catch in eagle grip, straddle back to the low bar). Her dismount was a back hip circle to hecht back salto off the high bar.

Li, who hails from Liaoning, earned the nickname "Thunder Thighs" for his powerful tumbling legs. On floor exercise, his skills included a tucked double-twisting double back, and a straddled side 1-3/4 somersault. He dismounted high bar with a triple back.

At the 1979 World Championships in Fort Worth, Li was 13th all-around and tied for sixth on floor exercise. He and his Chinese teammates finished fifth in their return to world competition.

Li's success at the 1980 World Cup in Toronto earned him a place on the cover of the January 1981 issue of International Gymnast magazine. He finished first on parallel bars, tied for second on floor exercise, and was fifth all-around.

At the 1981 World Championships in Moscow, Li became China's first male world champion when he tied Russia's Yuri Korolyov for the gold medal on floor exercise, and won a team bronze medal. He tied for eighth all-around at the 1982 World Cup in Zagreb. Li helped the Chinese men win their first world team title at the 1983 Worlds in Budapest, where they defeated the Soviet Union by 0.10. At the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Li won a team silver medal.

Wu and Li got acquainted at the Chinese national training center, when Wu was a pre-teen.

"We met the first day I went to the national training center," recalls Wu. "Yuejiu was already there. He was always a really big help to the little ones going to the training center because we were away from home. Our group really enjoyed his help. We didn't start dating till I was 18. A couple months before the Olympics we started being boyfriend and girlfriend. We kept it quiet!"

Wu says their nine-year age difference became less significant as she got older and their romance blossomed. "At that time he was way older than I," Wu says, laughing. "But it just came naturally. You can't help it; it happens."

Li Yuejiu

Gymnastics has always been the center of their family life, but Wu says she and Li enjoy their mutual profession.

"Our whole family is in gymnastics, and we actually work really well," she explains. "We really don't have that many conflicts. If we do have a difference, we talk about which way works better for the gymnast. We coached together for almost 20 years. I don't think we had any problems with that, but maybe sometimes coaching your own daughter, when she got injuries."

Wu says that coaching Anna could be difficult at times, since she and Li served dual roles as Anna's parents and coaches.

"It is really hard," Wu admits. "I'm sure Anna sometimes didn't feel she had people to comfort her when she had a bad day in the gym, because we rode home in the car together. We really tried not to talk about gym at home, but the tension was still there. But she always held her own. She's really hard on herself, so sometimes I have to turn around the other way, to comfort her. But she doesn't think it's working for her, even though deep down she knows what I'm saying and what we're thinking."

In January 2007, Wu and Li had the opportunity to watch Anna compete in her first home meet at UCLA - held in Pauley Pavilion, the arena in which the couple won their 1984 Olympic medals.

Wu said she and Li are proud of Anna's accomplishments, which include qualifying for the 2004 and 2005 U.S. Championships. Anna place 16th all-around at the 2005 U.S. Championships, in spite of a foot injury that prevented her from training vault or floor exercise for a few week weeks prior to the meet.

"Anna's a really tough girl, and she went through a lot with her injuries," Wu says. "Most of the frustrating things were because of injury. It wasn't a problem with skills, because she's a really hard worker. But an injury is so emotional with the mom, dad and the kid involved. Even when we didn't want her to train that hard, she wanted to. But we tried to help her do the best she can do. It was tough, but somehow we managed and got her through to a scholarship."

Wu said Anna is ambitious for more gymnastics success.

"Anna's not happy just getting a scholarship," Wu says. "She really wants to do well. She thinks she wants to go back to the elite level. She's always thinking about it. Gymnastics is everything to Anna. She never gives up."

Wu says she continues to offer Anna some coaching advice from afar, although she defers to the UCLA coaching staff.

"I do a little bit, because I really know her," Wu says. "Sometimes she gets a little frustrated with the training, because she's not used to the different way. The thing I constantly remind her is that, because she's not naturally powerful, when you're in pain, you don't have to do the skills and pounding. Just keep up all the conditioning and strength, and the skills are going to be there. You don't forget the skills. Also, to be sure she has safe, healthy workout. My husband and I have always had safe training for our gymnasts, so I keep reminding her of that."

As Wu and Li continue their gymnastics careers on a professional level, Wu says she is grateful that Anna has the opportunity to compete while learning how to be independent.

"Anna knows the sport very well with her body, and hopefully she can keep up that way," Wu says. "I try not to interfere with the college coaches, because they have their way to deal with the college kids. I'm happy with what they do. It's not just gymnastics. They teach the kids how to live their lives."

Wu and Li are featured in the following issues of International Gymnast magazine:

February 1983 - 1982 Chunichi Cup photo gallery (includes Wu)
September 1982 - Li on cover photo collage, 1982 International Invitational coverage (Wu)
October 1981 - USA vs. China coverage Part II (Wu and Li)
September 1981 - USA vs. China coverage Part I (Wu and Li)
May 1981 - International Mixed Pairs coverage (Li)
January 1981 - Li on cover, 1980 World Cup coverage (Li)
March 1979 - 1978 Asian Games report (Li)

To order back issues of IG Magazine, click here.

 
Written by Admin    Tuesday, 06 February 2007 19:16    PDF Print
Hamms Launch Comeback
Following a two-year competitive layoff, twins and two-time Olympians Paul and Morgan Hamm on Wednesday officially announced they will return to competition.
Paul Hamm

The Hamms launched a new Web site, makingtheolympics.com, with a video of their announcement.

"There are 546 days until the next Olympics," says Paul, the 2003 world and 2004 Olympic champion. "Morgan and I have decided to make a comeback and every day counts."

The Hamms train with three-time Olympian Blaine Wilson at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, with coach Miles Avery.

Avery told IG in January that both Hamms and Wilson are training all six events.

"They all will do the all around," Avery said. "Now which competitions happen before the 2008 Olympics will be determined with how training goes. As we are getting ready we will evaluate and decide what competitions to enter."

Wilson, 32, announced his comeback last fall and will compete at the U.S. Winter Cup, which begins Thursday in Las Vegas.

"Blaine wants to get out there and start competing as soon as he can," Avery said. "That's just Blaine, though. He has one gear and that is all out, all the time."

Both Hamms and Wilson were a member of the silver-medal-winning U.S. teams at the 2003 World Championships in Anaheim and at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

Paul Hamm's Olympic all-around gold was soured by controversy after the competition, when it was revealed that the judges awarded Korean Yang Tae Young the wrong start value on one of his routines in the all-around final. The judges on parallel bars evaluated his routine out of a 9.9 instead of a 10.0, but arbitrators later ruled that it was too late to change the results.

Both Hamms are pursuing degrees at Ohio State, Morgan in exercise science and Paul in accounting. They announced plans to continue to add new video online chronicling their comeback.

"Morgan and Paul are more concerned with the preparation that goes into getting them back to being the best in the world," Avery said. "They all still have new skills that they must perfect before they are where they want to be. I am concerned with it all. I will be careful with them knowing what is at stake and what our goal is."

 
Written by Dwight Normile    Sunday, 04 February 2007 19:12    PDF Print
Masao Takemoto Dies at 87

Three-time Japanese Olympian Masao Takemoto died Feb. 5 in Kanagawa, Japan. He was 87.

Takemoto competed at the 1952, 1956 and 1960 Olympic Games, and won individual medals in each. At the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, he tied for 15th place all-around and placed second on vault. At the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, Takemoto was fourth all-around, third (tie) on parallel bars, third on high bar and second with his team. At the 1960 Rome Olympics, a 41-year-old Takemoto placed fifth (tie) all-around, second on high bar and first with his team.

Takemoto won the gold medal on floor exercise at the 1954 and 1958 World Championships. In addition to those victories, he tied for 15th all-around and won the bronze medal on high bar in 1954; and placed fourth all-around, second on vault and third (tie) on high bar in 1958.

"I loved gymnastics," Takemoto said in 1997, when he was part of the inaugural induction class to the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame. "Before I knew it I was 40 years of age."

Takemoto's name is in the Code of Points for a jam-shoot to full turn on high bar.

International Gymnastics Magazine Related Feature
1997 Hall of Fame Induction feature (August/September 1997)

 
Written by Amanda Turner    Tuesday, 30 January 2007 19:06    PDF Print
Kramarenko Headlines WOGA Classic
2006 Russian Cup all-around champion Yekaterina Kramarenko headlines the international field at the 2007 WOGA Classic, to be held Feb. 3 in Frisco, Texas.

Saturday evening's elite session will include gymnasts from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Japan, Russia, Ukraine and the United States. Ukraine is bringing 2004 European champion Alina Kozich, 2006 world balance beam champion Irina Krasnyanskaya and 2004 Olympian Olga Scherbatykh.

Ksenia Semyonova will also represent Russia. In October, Kramarenko and Semyonova finished first and second at the Massilia Cup in Marseille. Teammate Ksenia Afanaseva, a member of Russia's gold-medal team at the 2006 Junior European Championships, had been slated to take part but was forced to withdraw because of injury.

WOGA will be without national team members Nastia Liukin (recovering from surgery) and Rebecca Bross (back injury). Hawaiian native Randi Lau, who relocated to WOGA in 2006, will make her debut for the host club.

U.S. junior standouts Ivana Hong (GAGE) and Mattie Larson (All Olympia) will make their senior debuts in Frisco. (Larson's clubmate, U.S. junior national team member Samantha Shapiro, will be unable to compete because of an elbow injury.)

More than 1,000 gymnasts total will take part in the three-day event, with sessions being held simultaneously at the Frisco Convention Center and WOGA's club in nearby Plano.

External Link: WOGA Gymnastics

 
Written by John Crumlish    Monday, 22 January 2007 19:05    PDF Print
Pugh Ready For Big Things in 2007
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.

To subscribe to IG Magazine or order back issues, click here.

 


Page 206 of 209