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Written by Amanda Turner    Saturday, 15 December 2007 17:36    PDF Print
Cucherat Caps Off Busy Year
Yann Cucherat
French veteran Yann Cucherat is capping off a busy year in busy way. He will chalk up Saturday night in Belgium for a gala, and starting Sunday will hit the slopes, mentoring a young gymnast at a ski retreat in the French Alps.

Then Cucherat will return to Lyon to celebrate the holidays with his family, but will be taking off minimal time from training for his third Olympics.

"2008 is an important year and I need all the luck on my side," Cucherat told IG. "I will take a break only for Christmas Day and New Year's Day."

Cucherat is France's only double world medalist to date; at the 2005 Worlds he won the bronze medal on parallel bars and the silver on high bar. He has won three European medals on parallel bars: the bronze medal in 2004 and silver medals in 2005 and 2006.

In 2007 he finished eighth on parallel bars at the world championships in September, but upset world and European champion Mitja Petkovsek (Slovenia) on the event at the Moscow World Cup in May. Other results for 2007 include a silver medal on parallel bars at the French International; fourth-place finishes on parallel bars and high bar at the European Championships; and gold medals on both events at the Blume Memorial held last month in Spain.

On Saturday night, he will take part in the GymGala in Ghent, site of the 2001 Worlds, where Cucherat and the French men's team finished an all-time high of fourth, just .2 behind the bronze medal-winning Ukraine.

This year's GymGala lineup also includes Steliana Nistor (Romania), Alina Kozich (Ukraine), Jordan Jovtchev (Bulgaria) and new rhythmic world all-around champion Anna Bessonova (Ukraine).

Cucherat's role in the Ghent gala will include a synchronized high bar routine with Dutch Olympic qualifier Epke Zonderland.

Beginning Sunday, Cucherat will pair up again in a more significant role: serving as the mentor for a young gymnast at the sixth annual "Les Étoiles du Sport" ("Stars of Sport"), taking place Dec. 16-21 at a ski resort in La Plagne in the French Alps.

Established by the French Ministry of Sport, the event was created to share knowledge and foster friendships among athletes of different sports and generations. Champions in 20 sports select a rising talent to sponsor in the same sport, and spend time having fun while emphasizing sporting values, including teamwork, effort and committment. (Previous gymnasts serving as mentors include two-time French Olympians Isabelle Severino and Dmitry Karbanenko.)

After the event Cucherat will head home to Lyon, where gymnastics has always been a family affair. He began the sport under the guidance of his parents, both gymnastics coaches.

"We usually all get together on Christmas Eve and spend a really nice time together as a family," Cucherat said. "The meal is festive and very nice. The wine complements each dish. Usually we eat seafood but there's no rule — every year it changes."

Vorontzov and Cucherat

There is already one difference this year that Cucherat is happy about: After the meals are done, he will stay in Lyon. In September 2004, Cucherat moved to Paris to train and continue his education. Two weeks ago he moved back to his hometown, where he has resumed training with his coach of many years, Belarusian-born Anatoli Vorontzov.

The pair has a solid goal for 2008: medaling at the European Championships and at the Olympic Games.

"I've always worked for this, but gymnastics isn't an exact science," said Cucherat, who finished sixth on parallel bars at both the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games. "I simply want to put everything together and not have any regrets. It's for this reason that I left Paris to return to train in Lyon with my coach, who knows me perfectly."

Cucherat, who turned 28 on Oct. 2, has already decided to compete in the 2009 Worlds in London, and hasn't ruled out another trip to the city for the 2012 Olympics.

"I wish to go through the 2009 individual worlds," he said. "Then, according to my motivation, projects and physical health, I will make the decision whether or not to continue through London 2012. Right now, I don't want to end my career at all."

External Links
"Les Étoiles du Sport"

Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 07 December 2007 08:51    PDF Print
Sloan Ready To Stay On Competitive Roll
(7 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)
Bridget Sloan

"Good Luck Beijing" and Toyota International medalist Bridget Sloan (U.S.) told IG she is ready for new challenges in 2008.

Sloan, who was the alternate on the gold medal-winning U.S. team at this fall's World Championships in Stuttgart, placed third all-around at the "Good Luck Beijing" competition held Nov. 28-Dec. 3. "Good Luck Beijing" served as the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee's official test event for next summer's Olympic Games.

At the Toyota International in Toyota City, Japan, this past weekend, Sloan won bronze medals on uneven bars and floor exercise, and placed fourth on balance beam.

"You know, I have tried to make every meet seem smaller than it actually is," Sloan told IG during her travels. "So when I was competing in the test event, I tried to think of it as a small meet, and that helped with pressure and my nervousness. But going to all these big meets has really helped my experience in what to expect at a big international competition."

Coached by Marvin Sharp at Sharp's Gymnastics Academy in Indianapolis, the 15-year-old Sloan said concentration was the key to her success at the Beijing Olympic test meet.

"When I walked into the competition, my main focus was just hitting my routines," she said. "I wasn't thinking about, you now, where I stand in the line-up or the scores. I was just thinking about making my routines as clean as possible."

Chellsie Memmel, Yewki Tomita and Sloan in Toyota City

For the Olympic year of 2008, Sloan said she wants to upgrade the content of her routines, while maintaining good form.

"My main focus for this coming year is just to make my routines stronger," said Sloan, who finished fifth all-around at the 2007 Visa (U.S.) Championships. "I will add skills to make my Start Value higher but still make my routines clean."

Sloan said she is not sure when her next major competition will be, but she will train with the intention of being prepared for anything.

"I don't know, so I will just keep working on making my routines stronger so that when a competition comes up, I will be ready."

For the remainder of 2007, Sloan said she will balance her training with holiday celebrations. She will take Christmas Day off, and head to Illinois for a large family gathering.

"For Christmas I always go to Illinois because that is where the rest of my family all lives, except for my Uncle Tom, who lives in Virginia," Sloan said. "But we all get together for Christmas and just catch up on everything that has been going on. It is so fun because I have 30 first cousins, so it is a big deal when all of us are able to come together and spend time together. It is so much fun."

Sloan said she has solid goals for 2008, both in and out of the gym.

"Of course, the 2008 Olympics, and in my regular life it is just to be a teenager and have fun," she said of her ambitions. "Oh, and all As and Bs would be nice in school for my freshman year!"

Written by Dwight Normile    Tuesday, 04 December 2007 13:56    PDF Print
2008 Women's NCAA Preview
(1 vote, average 4.00 out of 5)
Courtney Kupets and Suzanne Yoculan (Georgia)
Though the women's preseason rankings are not yet out, Georgia is considered the favorite at the NCAA Championships next April. It has to be. The Gym Dogs have won the last three titles, they will play host to the 2008 NCAAs in Athens, they lost no routines from last season's Super Six Final and they just began training this year in a new, state-of-the-art facility named after their coach, Suzanne Yoculan, who will retire after the 2009 season.

That's a lot of upside for one program, but Yoculan knows that a ninth team title, which would tie Utah for the record, is far from a done deal. She says that in 1997 she had her "best team ever" but lost the meet because of mistakes. "I saw how our team reacted to that," Yoculan explains.

Last April her team managed to recover from early errors, while other teams faded. "I don't know what (Florida coach) Rhonda (Faehn) or (Alabama coach) Sarah (Patterson) or anybody says to their teams, obviously, but I think that those teams did react to their mistakes," Yoculan says.

Focus was one of Georgia's themes at the 2007 NCAAs, and Yoculan used inspirational videos to prepare the collective mindset of her team last April in Salt Lake City. Before preliminaries, she showed them a Muhammad Ali tape, and before the Super Six Final the team watched "The Last Samurai." "Too much in your mind — no mind," quotes Yoculan of the film's message.

Yoculan's team adopted tunnel vision to avoid needless distractions. During Georgia's bye round at the NCAAs, sophomore Courtney Kupets stood on a bench in the locker room "singing at the top of her lungs, 'How bad do you want it? How bad to you need it?'" according to Yoculan. Soon the whole team joined in, oblivous to what was happening out in the arena.

"We spent a lot of time on focus prior to the meet," Yoculan says. "If I saw them look up (at the scoreboard) I bopped them on the head."

Yoculan says she used to scout the other teams during Georgia's bye. Now she avoids it. "I would never do that again, because I want to keep my focus on my team," she says.

Something surely affected Florida's focus last April. Ranked No. 1 at the NCAAs and feeling confident after winning their first SEC title at the expense of Georgia, the Gators finished third in the Super Six. The cause could have been inexperience, fatigue, or both. "We felt as a coaching staff that we had too many competitions last year," says Faehn, who has trimmed her schedule this season. "We were possibly freshest at SECs. We're hoping that with less meets this year, our athletes will be stronger and fresher at NCAAs."

Rhonda Faehn (Florida)
Utah, runner-up in 2007 and still looking for that elusive 10th win, should be a factor again, but coach Greg Marsden concedes that Georgia is still the team to beat. "They have won three in a row, are hosting this year and have another good team," says Marsden, whose Utes last won in 1995.

Marsden believes Florida could be even stronger than last season, and that four-time winner Alabama has something to prove after failing to make the Super Six in 2007. (It finished ninth.) "They were embarrassed by their performance at last year's championships," he says. "I think they'll be on a mission and very comfortable in Athens."

Yoculan, on the other hand, won't feel too relaxed at home. "I'm not crazy about hosting if we're No. 1," she says. "There are some high expectations for us on campus. (The pressure) is constant."

That pressure will intensify if the Gym Dogs don't round into form by April. Five key gymnasts had surgery after last season, including two-time defending all-around champion Kupets (knee) and Tiffany Tolnay (knee and ankle), who placed fourth all-around in 2007. "We're going to get off to a slow start, no question about it," Yoculan says.

The experienced coaches know that it's not how you start, but how you finish. And since its inception in 1982, the women's NCAA championship has gone to only four different schools: Utah (9), Georgia (8), UCLA (5) and Alabama (4).

Can Florida finally be the next team to break into that exclusive club?

Written by Admin    Friday, 30 November 2007 14:46    PDF Print
Mazeika: Pre-Olympics 'Invaluable Experience'
Despite an eighth-place finish in Thursday's team final at the "Good Luck Beijing" meet, U.S. coach Kevin Mazeika told IG his team has had a positive experience here.

"It was an up-and-down day, but overall it's always great to get the 6-3-3 experience," he said, referring to the team final format in which six gymnasts comprise a team, three compete on each event and all three scores count. "And being in the Olympic arena is always an invaluable experience."

Fourth at the World Championships in Stuttgart in September, the U.S. earned the eighth and last position for the team final here during qualifications. In the team final, the Americans performed inconsistently to finish eighth, more than 14 points behind the winning Chinese.

There was no all-around competition held for the men. David Sender, who qualified fifth to Saturday's floor exercise final and eighth to Sunday's vault final, will be the only American in the men's event finals.

Mazeika said he and the American gymnasts will learn from their performances at the National Indoor Arena, the same facility that will house the gymnastics competition next summer.

"Having been in the arena, on the equipment and in the warm-up gym here has been really helpful," he said. "We're going to go back and continue our mission of improving our Start Values, work on details and get ready for the Olympic year."

Watch streaming video of the men's competition!

For results, schedule, photos and more, visit the official event Web site

Written by Admin    Monday, 26 November 2007 14:41    PDF Print
Test Event a Dry Run for Durante, U.S. Men
The U.S. men hope to put pressure on the Chinese team, starting with the Olympic test event that begins Wednesday in Beijing, U.S. national champion Dave Durante told IG.
David Durante

Thirteenth at the world championships in 2006 and fourth in 2007, the U.S. men are hoping to move up another few spots — possibly even three — at the Olympics next summer.

Beating the eight-time world champion Chinese men's team is a difficult — but not an impossible—feat, U.S. national champion Dave Durante told IG.

"We want to not only medal at the Olympics, but we are going in to try and win — which of course will be very difficult, but it is not out of the realm of possibility," he said.

The U.S. men hope to start challenging China at the "Good Luck Beijing" Olympic test event that begins Wednesday. Joining Durante on the U.S. team in Beijing are Sean Golden, Sho Nakamori, David Sender, Clay Strother and Todd Thornton.

"We are training to put pressure on China," said Durante, 27.

The Chinese are fielding a team of newcomers — none of the six gymnasts on the roster for this week's competition were at the 2007 World Championships in Stuttgart. Japan, second in Stuttgart, is also sending a less experienced team. Germany, which eclipsed the U.S. by 1.35 points to take the bronze in Stuttgart, is sending its top team.

"I don't know where we will finish, but we will be competing hard and doing what we can to represent the U.S. well," Durante said.

Belarus, Canada, France, Korea, Romania, Russia and Spain are also sending full men's teams. Of the 12 countries that qualified men's teams to the 2008 Olympics, Italy is the only one not to send a full team to the test event.

The artistic gymnastics competition will feature men's team, women's all-around, and men's and women's individual event finals.

Despite a slight shoulder injury a few weeks ago, Durante plans to compete increased difficulty on floor exercise and rings.

"I am looking forward to get a sense of what Beijing is like and to get a feel for the arena," Durante said. "I think this will help me out for next summer."

The competition is one of a series of test events to prepare the city for next summer's Olympic Games, the first in China. A record 740 journalists have received credentials for the gymnastics events, which also includes rhythmic and trampoline competition.

"I have heard lots of great things about what they are doing for the Olympics and I am excited to see everything," Durante said.


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