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Written by Admin    Friday, 16 November 2007 14:21    PDF Print
Johnson Ready to Resume Training
After nursing a slight injury to her right leg, 2007 world champion Shawn Johnson should be "100 percent back" this weekend, according to coach Chow Liang.

"Right now we're in the foundation-building stage and getting her body and mind recovered, and getting ready for the Olympics," Chow told IG on Friday.

The injury was a stress reaction to her shin, which could have resulted in a stress fracture if left untreated. Johnson has been wearing a walking boot to allow the leg to heal.

Johnson overcame a few uncharacteristic mistakes to win three gold medals at the Stuttgart worlds in September, capping off an incredible 2007. "She had a lot of competitions this past year, and overall she had a very, very successful season," Chow said. "And everybody has to understand that she is a human being and she makes mistakes. She's not a machine (laughs)."

It was ironic that Chow, a former Chinese national team member, was the coach of an American gymnast in Stuttgart, and one who helped the U.S. defeat China in the team final.

Johnson and Chow

"I do have a lot of friends on the Chinese team," said Chow, who coaches with his wife, Li. "On the personal side we are still friends, and on the competition floor we're competitors. And I believe my friends and I [handled] it very professionally. Before we go to the competition floor we say good luck, and afterward we congratulate each other."

Chow couldn't say what changes, if any, he would make in Johnson's routines for 2008, but we might see her upgrade to a 2-1/2-twisting Yurchenko on vault. After all, she almost competed it at the Visa Championships last August. "We did it during the warm-up," Chow said. "I almost had her do it — almost. I probably felt one month short (of preparation) back then. I didn't want to take any risk."

The 2-1/2-twisting Yurchenko carries a 6.5 difficulty rating, compared with 5.8 for a double twist. But, ultimately, it was Johnson's four-event balance that made the difference. "Honestly, there was no doubt in my mind that she was the one capable of (winning)," Chow said.

Though Johnson is the only elite at Chow's Gymnastics and Dance Institute in West Des Moines, Iowa, Chow says he has more budding stars in the making. "They are 10 and 11 years old," he said proudly. "I'm pretty excited, actually, and I think Shawn set a good example for them."

Written by Admin    Tuesday, 13 November 2007 14:15    PDF Print
Egyptians Test Mettle at Pan Arab Games
Sherine Elzeiny and Mohamed Serour, Egypt's two Olympic qualifiers, will headline the competition at the 11th Pan Arab Games, which begin Thursday in Cairo.

Egypt, the all-time medal winner for the Pan Arab Games, looks to regain its dominance from Algeria, which topped the medal standings at the 2004 Pan Arab Games in Algiers.

The Dutch-born Elzeiny told IG she hopes to do her part for Egypt's cause. She said Algeria will also be Egypt's strongest rival in gymnastics.

"My goal for this competition is to hit my routines very nicely so that I can be stable, and to get as many medals as I can get!" said the 16-year-old Elzeiny.

Competition begins Thursday with the men's team competition. Serour, 21, said he will compete in Cairo despite an injury.

"I have now a small problem with my leg, but I hope it will be fine," he said.

Following the 2007 World Championships in Stuttgart, the FIG Executive Board extended 2008 invitations to Elzeiny and Serour to ensure Olympic representation for each continent. Elzeiny, 91st all-around, and Serour 69th all-around, were the top competitors for Africa in Stuttgart (pictured together at left).

Elzeiny is coached by the Russian-born Boris Orlov in Nijmegen, Netherlands. She first represented Egypt at the 2007 All-Africa Games in Algeria, where she won the all-around and floor exercise gold medals.

Elzeiny will be Egypt's first female gymnast in Olympic competition. Serour will be the first male since Raouf Abdelfaouf competed in Sydney in 2000.

Egypt sent full men's teams to the Olympics in 1948 and 1952, and again in 1960 as the United Arab Republic.

The first Pan Arab Games were held in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1953, with nine nations competing in 10 sports. The games were held every four years through 1965, when political instability began hindering regular organization. The games were held only twice during the next two decades: in 1976 in Syria and in 1985 in Morocco.

The games are still held intermittently, happening in 1992 in Syria, in 1997 in Lebanon, in 1999 in Jordan and in 2004 in Algeria.

The 2007 edition will be the largest yet. Twenty-two countries are competing in 33 sports, including both artistic and rhythmic gymnastics.

External Link: 11th Pan Arab Games

Written by John Crumlish    Monday, 12 November 2007 14:13    PDF Print
Käslin Counting Down to Beijing

After her recent sweep of the Swiss Championships, three-time world all-around finalist Ariella Käslin told IG she is now focusing on qualifying for the 2008 Olympics.

Ariella Käslin

"I am really pleased about winning five titles," Käslin told IG. "I was also very excited by this honor, because this success is also a part of gymnastics history. It is rare for a gymnast to achieve a 'Grand Slam.'"

Käslin said her performances at the Swiss Championships (held Oct. 20-21) were an improvement from those at the World Championships, held Sept. 1-9 in Stuttgart, where she placed 22nd around. Annik Salzmann was the last woman to sweep the Swiss Championships, when she won every event in 2000.

"Compared to the world championships, I performed more stably, but not at the absolute top level," Käslin said of her national championship performance.

Käslin said she and her teammates found it difficult to compete for their national title so soon after the World Championships, which served to qualify teams and individuals for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

"From the view of the athletes, the timing of the national championships was unfavorable, but the situation was the same for everyone," said Käslin, who turned 20 on October 11. "All of us on the team were very tired, because we had such an intensive time behind us. And so, I can say that luck and experience in competition helped me very much."

Käslin also noted that she and her teammates are still adjusting to new coaches. Earlier this year, national team coaches Eric and Cécile DeMay were replaced. Former British coach Zoltan Jordanov is the new national team head coach, and his wife, Snejana, works with the team on balance beam and choreography. Fabian Martin is the team's assistant coach.

Because the Swiss women's team placed 18th in Stuttgart, they earned only one individual berth for the Beijing Olympics. Käslin, a leading candidate for that berth, said the selection procedures as still being negotiated between the Swiss Gymnastics Federation and the Swiss Olympic Association.

For 2008, Käslin said she plans to upgrade her routines on every event. Among the new skills she is training is a layout Rudi vault.

"On vault I have surely not yet exhausted all my capacities," said the 5-foot, 3-inch Käslin. "This is a difficult vault for my body size, but I think it is feasible. On floor I can still increase my Start Value, and on beam I must work on stability. How things will go on bars, I do not know for sure at the moment, because I am recovering from a shoulder injury. Once I know how the recovery goes, I can plan for this event. Of course, it would be wonderful for me to still increase my A-score on bars, too."

Käslin said her Olympic candidacy will be based largely on her performance at the 2008 European Championships, to be held in Clermont-Ferrand, France, in April. Swiss qualifying competitions for Europeans will begin in February, she said.

Swiss team in Stuttgart

"The results in the European Championships will surely weigh heavily for Olympic qualification," said Käslin. "Then still other national and international competitions will follow. The European Championships will be a first test regarding Beijing. I aim for a reasonably good place in the all-around final there. On vault and bars, a place in the finals is nearly an obligation for me. If everything goes well, I wish for a good result in the all-around final at the Olympic Games."

Although Käslin was the Swiss women's top all-arounder in Stuttgart, she said she is not taking an Olympic berth for granted. Käslin said she is counting on competition from within her own team to drive her performances between now and the Games.

"Obviously, my goal is qualification for Beijing," she said. "I want the others on the team to push me and motivate me to give my best performances. These are just what I will need next year."

IG Magazine Related Feature
"Swiss Thrill-seeker" - Käslin profile (January/February 2007)

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

Written by Admin    Saturday, 10 November 2007 14:11    PDF Print
Glasgow Grand Prix Begins Friday
Great Britain is bringing out both its best and its untested for the annual Glasgow Grand Prix, which begins Friday.
Marissa King

The British field in Glasgow includes superstar Beth Tweddle and fellow world medalist Louis Smith, but also new under-18 national champion Kristian Thomas and newcomer Kayleigh Cooke.

Training took place Thursday at Kelvin Hall.

Romania's Steliana Nistor was in top form on uneven bars and has added a new combination of Maloney, shoot 1/2 to handstand, Stalder shoot to high, a sequence which takes her A score to 7.0 if she performs full difficulty. Uneven bars was the highlight apparatus this afternoon with Tweddle, Zhou Zhuoru (China) and Kristina Palesova (Czech Republic) setting the pace.

On beam, Sanne Wevers from the Netherlands performed an exceptional double turn with leg at horizontal, while Russian Lyudmila Yezhova worked through difficult combinations (Onodi, free walkover, side somersault) with ease and aplomb. Her husband, fellow 2004 Olympian Georgy Grebenkov, is on hand as a coach.

China's Fan Ye made a welcome return after her recent success at the 2007 University Games. Performing full difficulty, Ye showed that she is back and keen to fight for her position on the 2008 Olympic squad.

American newcomer Darlene Hill excelled on floor exercise. She performed double pikes and tucked double Arabians alongside a routine which projected artistry and expression - a definite one to watch in the competition.

The men took a much more relaxed approach to the training today, warming up skills rather than working full routines. The highlight was Krisztian Berki's exceptional scissors work, one of which he took right to the handstand before continuing with the sequence.

2007 Glasgow Grand Prix Participants
Nov. 9-11, Glasgow

Austria: Marco Baldauf, Marco Mayr
Belgium: Donna-Donny Truyens, Koen van Damme
Canada: Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs, Nansy Damianova
Chile: Tomas Gonzalez Sepulveda
China: Fan Ye, Zhang Nan, Zhou Zhuoru; Du Wei, Feng Zhe, Lu Bin
Croatia: Tina Erceg; Tomislav Markovic, Robert Seligman, Filip Ude
Cyprus: Giorgalas Iriodotos, Aristotelous Constantinos, Spanos Georgios
Czech Republic: Kristina Palesova, Jana Sikulova, Nicole Pechancova
Spain: Arkaitz Garcia, Christian Guillen, Javier Gomez
Finland: Annika Urntho; Jani Tanskaneen, Tomi Tunha, Olli Torkkel
France: Johan Mounard; Danny Rodrigues, Raphael Wignanitz
Great Britain: Hannah Clowes, Kayleigh Cooke, Marissa King, Beth Tweddle; Adam Cox, Luke Folwell, Stephen Jehu, Daniel Keatings, Louis Smith, Kristian Thomas
Germany: Jenny Brunner, Kim Bui, Julia Hanel; Brian Gladow, Robert Weber
Greece: Eleftherios Kosmidis, Barmpakis Khonstantionos
Hungary: Eniko Korcsmaros; Krisztian Berki, Vid Hidvegi
Israel: Valeria Maksyuta
Japan: Takehito Mori, Eiichi Sekiguchi
Latvia: Yevgeny Sapronenko, Dmitry Trefilovs
Luxembourg: Sascha Palgen
Netherlands: Verona van de Leur, Sanne Wevers; Yuri van Gelder, Jeffrey Wammes, Epke Zonderland
Norway: Espen Jansen
Poland: Paula Plichta; Kamil Hulbuj
Romania: Steliana Nistor, Daniela Druncea; Cosmin Popescu, Daniel Popescu, Robert Stanescu
Russia: Lyudmila Yezhova Grebenkova, Daria Yelizarova; Alexander Balandin, Dmitry Gogotov, Sergei Khorokhordin, Konstantin Pluzhnikov, Anatoly Vasilyev
Slovenia: Adela Sajn; Mitja Petkovsek, Aljaz Pegan, Saso Bertoncelj, Sebastijan Straus, Ziga Britovsek
Slovakia: Alexander Benko, Samuel Piasecky
Tunisia: Wajdi Bouallegue
Ukraine: Marina Kostyuchenko, Marina Sergiyenko, Daria Zgoba; Vadim Kuvakin, Vitaly Nakonechny, Alexander Suprun
United States: Darlene Hill, Natasha Kelly
Venezuela: Regulo Carmona

Written by Admin    Tuesday, 06 November 2007 14:09    PDF Print
Bijak Still Considering Beijing
Although German veteran Daria Bijak missed this year's World Championships in her home country, she may still contend for the 2008 Olympics. "Only time will tell," she told IG this week.
Daria Bijak

Bijak, a sophomore at the University of Utah, placed 20th all-around at the 2003 World Championships in Anaheim, and eighth all-around at the 2005 World Championships in Melbourne.

Bijak's rank in Melbourne remains the highest all-around finish by a German woman in World Championships competition since East Germany's Dorte Thümmler placed sixth all-around at the 1987 Worlds.

Bijak did not compete at the 2007 World Championships (held Sept. 1-9 in Stuttgart) because she was recovering from a knee injury. The German women earned a team berth to the 2008 Olympic Games with their 10th-place finish.

Bijak, whose German residence is Cologne, said she intends to try for a spot on the German team bound for Beijing.

"That is still my goal and I am working towards it, but I think the most important thing for me is to stay healthy," said Bijak, who will turn 22 on November 12. "I've had quite a few injuries in the past four years. So I guess only time will tell."

Germany's top performers in Stuttgart were Marie-Sophie Hindermann, who placed 14th all-around and fifth on uneven bars; Anja Brinker, who placed 18th all-around; and Oksana Chusovitina, who placed sixth on vault. The team also included Katja Abel, Joeline Möbius and Jenny Brunner.

"I am very happy they qualified for the Olympics next year," Bijak said. "The qualification was their biggest goal, so I think they did a great job."

Bijak said she and her German coaches plan to keep one another well-informed as her 2007-2008 NCAA season progresses. At the University of Utah, Bijak is coached by Greg Marsden, Megan Marsden, Jeff Graba and Mary Wright.

"Right now I'm talking to my club coach, Shanna Polyakova, a lot," Bijak said. "I let her know about everything I plan to compete here, and we also discuss our plans for my (international) routines. And once our season here in Utah starts, both my club coach and the German head coach will watch my routines online."

Bijak's career since her success in Melbourne has included injuries to both knees, but she wants to remain confident.

"It's not easy to stay positive, and there are times when I am pretty down and frustrated because of injuries, but that's sports, isn't it?" Bijak said. "It's all about getting through the hard times and then enjoying the good times. I think I have kind of learned how to deal with injuries, and I know people that help me get through it. I just love doing gymnastics and especially competing in front of a big crowd. I think that's what keeps me motivated."

Bijak has optimistic goals for both NCAA and international competition in 2008.

"My hopes for the new season? To win NCAAs with my team," she said. "That would be great. And for Germany? To have a healthy and good team at the Olympics, in order to show off some big skills."

IG Magazine Related Features
"It Was All Academic" - short Bijak profile (January/February 2007)
"Standing Our For Germany" - Hindermann profile (November 2007)
"Breaking In" - Brinker profile (November 2007)
"Double Break" - Abel profile (July/August 2006)
"On Good German Terms" - short Chusovitina profile (January/February 2007)

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


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