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Written by Admin    Friday, 27 April 2007 08:19    PDF Print
U.S. Finalizes Pan Am Team
The U.S. announced Wednesday the six women who will compete at the 2007 Pan Am Games, to be held July 14-17 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The U.S. team will be Rebecca Bross, Ivana Hong, Shawn Johnson, Nastia Liukin, Samantha Peszek and Amber Trani.

The U.S. men's team, previously announced, will be Guillermo Alvarez, David Durante, Sean Golden, Joseph Hagerty, Justin Spring and Todd Thornton.

External Link: 2007 Pan Am Games Official Site

Written by John Crumlish    Saturday, 07 April 2007 22:16    PDF Print
Johnson Aiming To Take On The World
Featured on the April 2007 cover of IG, recently crowned American Cup champion Shawn Johnson is preparing for her first U.S. Senior Championships and what she calls "the big one" - September's World Championships.

The 15-year-old Johnson, who is in her first year of eligibility for senior competition, won the American Cup last month in Jacksonville. She won the all-around title and led the U.S. team to victory over Great Britain at a dual meet held in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, held March 17-18.

Johnson said she has been working to correct mistakes she made at the American Cup, including a vault error in the preliminary round and a fall from balance beam in the finals.

"I don't really know what it was," Johnson said of the fall on her series (switch leap, layout, whip). "It was one of those freak things that happens and something I couldn't fix, but I'll get it next time."

Johnson said she has watched videos of her American Cup routines "multiple times" and was otherwise pleased with her efforts.

"I thought I performed really well, first of all for my first senior meet and also for my first meet that was televised," she said. "I know there are a few errors and mistakes I can work on and fix. But other than that, it was a good start, and I can only get better."

Johnson is also enjoying the media attention and fan support she has gained since her American Cup victory.

"I don't think people treat me any differently," she said. "I'm the same Shawn Johnson. I like all the fans and the little letters I get. I take one thing at a time and enjoy every bit of it."

Johnson is now preparing for three major competitions: the Pan American Games (July 22-30 in Rio de Janeiro), the U.S. Championships (Aug. 15-18 in San Jose), and the World Championships (Sept. 1-9 in Stuttgart). Worlds are "the big one," she said.

"That's our main goal," said Johnson, who trains under coaches Chow Liang and Liwen Zhuang at Chow's Gymnastics and Dance Institute in West Des Moines, Iowa. "The American Cup and Pan Ams are basically getting experience for that meet."

Although Johnson has yet to compete against most of the world's best senior gymnasts, she is confident in her ability to transition from the junior ranks. She won the U.S. junior title last year with a score that was 0.40 higher than that of senior champion Nastia Liukin.

"I feel I stand pretty well," Johnson said, "but nothing's sure and everything changes every day. It's going to take day after day of hard work like I have been doing, and even 150% every day. Hopefully if I just try my hardest, it will be enough."

Videos offer Johnson's coaches the opportunity to gauge Johnson's prospects against the senior international rivals she is likely to face this year, she said.

"I don't (watch videos of others) very often, but my coaches do it a lot," Johnson said. "Every once in a while they might tell me to look at the (2006) World Championships videos. I just focus on what I'm doing, and I know that my coaches are doing the best for me."

Johnson said she plans to enjoy the Easter holiday weekend with her parents, although she is training her normal schedule. She worked out on Friday, and will also train on Saturday. Sunday is her usual day off from training.

"We normally have a big Easter breakfast and the Easter bunny comes," she said, laughing. "I get a treat once in a while! But other than that, we just spend time with each other."

- John Crumlish

Shawn Johnson is featured in the following issues of International Gymnast magazine:

April 2007 - cover photo, American Cup coverage
November 2006 - "A Taste of China" (Johnson/Chow's profile)
October 2006 - Johnson on cover, Johnson poster, U.S. Championships coverage
January/February 2006 - Johnson "Kids Klub Shooting Star" profile
October 2005 - U.S. Junior Championships photo gallery, including Johnson

Written by Admin    Saturday, 07 April 2007 22:15    PDF Print
Chinese Women Win Big At CCTV Awards
The Chinese women's team emerged as the most decorated sports team at the CCTV Sports Personality of the Year Awards, held April 7 in Beijing.

The annual sports awards gala for CCTV (Chinese national TV) is the most prestigious event of its kind in China, and selects winners from the top-achieving stars in all sports. The Chinese women's program won three prizes - Female Sportsperson of the Year, Sports Team of the Year, and Coach of the Year - which was the highest number of awards won by any single sport in the same year.

2006 World Championships triple gold medalist Cheng Fei won for Female Sportsperson of 2006, edging out Olympic table-tennis champions Wang Nan and Zhang Yining, short-track speedskater Wang Meng, and world chess champion Xu Yuhua. Male Sportsperson of 2006 was Liu Xiang, winner of China's first Olympic track-and-field gold medal. He is the most famous and highest-earning sports star in China at this time, excluding basketball player Yao Ming, who now competes in the U.S.

The 2006 World Championships gold medal-winning team won in the category of Team of the Year. All six members of the team - Cheng, Zhang Nan, He Ning, Zhou Zhuoru, Pang Panpan and Li Ya - took the stage and were recognized for winning China's first-ever women's team world title.

Also honored was Lu Shanzhen, Cheng's personal coach and the Chinese women's team head coach, who shared the Coach of the Year award with pairs skating coach Yao Bin (coach of world champions Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo) and track-and-field coach Sun Haiping (coach of Olympic champion Liu Xiang).

This is the most recognition women's gymnastics has received in mainstream Chinese media/pop culture, since sports such as table tennis, soccer and diving typically win the main awards.

International Gymnast Magazine related features:
Chinese team on cover, 2006 World Championships special issue (December 2006)
"Lucky Charm" - Cheng cover story (January 2005)
"Quick Chat: Cheng Fei" (May 2006)
Fan Ye on cover, Fan poster, Fan profile (May 2005)
"Raising The Bar" - Li Ya profile (February 2005)
Zhou Zhuoru poster (May 2006)
"Standout" - Zhang Nan cover story (May 2004)
Zhang Nan on cover collage (August/September 2003)
Zhang Nan poster (May 2003)

Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 16 March 2007 20:26    PDF Print
Lucky Day for Irish Gymnastics
(2 votes, average 2.50 out of 5)
St. Patrick's Day in Belfast brings cultural celebration and international competition, in the form of a dual meet between the U.S. and Great Britain.

The two-day meet commences Saturday with team and all-around competition, and concludes Sunday with event finals. The meet will be held in Northern Ireland's first purpose-built Olympic Training Facility, in the City of Lisburn (10 miles south of Belfast). The facility opened in October 2006.

Tony Byrne, director of the Salto Gymnastics Centre based at the facility, referred to the competition as "the most exciting day in the development of gymnastics in Northern Ireland."

The U.S. team includes recently crowned American Cup Champion Shawn Johnson, Bianca Flohr, Ivana Hong, Natasha Kelley, Hilary Mauro, Samantha Peszek, Bridget Sloan and Shayla Worley.

Nominated for the British team are Olivia Bryl, Hanna Clowes, Rebecca Downie, Laura Jones, Marissa King, Melanie Roberts, Leigh Rogers, Jodie Standish, Emma White and Rebecca Wing.

Byrne said Saturday's program includes St. Patrick's Day festivities for gymnasts from both teams.

"The gymnasts will visit a big display at the civic centre where all cultures of all sides of our community will be represented," he said. "There will be Irish dances, drummers, pipers and other entertainment. We have bought small green ribbons for each of the gymnasts to wear in their hair."

St. Patrick's Day also coincides with the United Kingdom's Red Nose Day, an event organized by Comic Relief, a charity that raises money for disadvantaged people in Africa and the U.K. "We have therefore also bought a small red nose for each of our guests, and we hope they will enjoy this and have fun," Byrne said.

Although no Northern Irish gymnasts will take part in the dual meet, Byrne said the country's young gymnasts show potential.

"We don't have competitors this time, but we have many talented youngsters and hope that they will compete in the future," he said.

Among the Salto club's top prospects are Rebecca Wallace, Emma Gorman, Aimee O'Driscoll and Shannon Garritt - three of whom will compete in this year's European Youth Olympic Days meet, Byrne said.

Northern Ireland's most successful gymnasts to date are Holly Murdock and Katie Slader. Representing Great Britain at the 2001 World Championships, Murdock finished 14th all-around - the highest British women's all-around rank in Worlds history until Beth Tweddle placed fourth in 2005. Slader won the 2004 North European all-around title.

The independent nation of Ireland became a member of the FIG in 1976. Barry McDonald, who competed in Atlanta in 1996, is the first and only Irish Olympic gymnast.

Ciaran Gallagher, National Development Director of Irish Gymnastics, said the country's program has improved dramatically in the past year alone.

"Sport in Ireland has been going through a process over the past number of years of modernization – moving from voluntary run to professionally led," he said. "Irish Gymnastics put in place a modernization program over a year ago, and as a result the sport has seen great development in the Emerald Isle."

Other recent advances include a planned Irish National Training Centre program in Dublin, and an Irish Gymnastics Coach Education team that has recently been appointed to facilitate the ongoing development of the federation's coaching ladder.

"The future of the sport in Ireland looks very bright," Gallagher said. "We will have numerous Irish representatives across all of our disciplines stepping out onto the international stage this year, and we look forward to further exciting developments."

Gallagher said the Irish program still replies in part on the country's fabled good fortune.

"While it's great to see that the hard work regarding the modernization of the federation is showing real benefits to the sport in Ireland," Gallagher said, "all at Irish Gymnastics are hoping that the 'luck of the Irish’ will have its part to play!"

International Gymnast Magazine Related Features
"Pride of the Irish" - Katie Slader profile (March 2005)
"Pressing Her Luck" - Holly Murdock profile (August/September 2001)
"A Taste of China" - Shawn Johnson profile
Johnson on cover, Johnson center poster (October 2006)
Natasha Kelley profile (March 2006)
Samantha Peszek profile (November 2006)
Shayla Worley poster (July/August 2006)

Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 13 March 2007 20:23    PDF Print
Swiss Women Striving for Success in '07

Led by 2006 world all-around finalist Ariella Käslin, the Swiss women's team has high hopes for the upcoming Europeans, and September's Worlds in Stuttgart. "Stuttgart is the goal, and we would like to be in the top 15," head coach Eric Demay told IG.

Linda Stämpfli

The French-born Demay said the Swiss team is busy preparing for its two most important competitions of 2007: the European Championship (April 26-29 in Amsterdam) and the World Championships (Sept. 1-9 in Stuttgart).

As a team, the Swiss placed 10th at the 2006 Europeans in Volos, Greece, and 17th at the 2006 Worlds in Aarhus, Denmark. In Stuttgart, the top 12 teams will qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, and others will earn individual berths.

Demay cited Käslin, Danielle Englert and Linda Stämpfli as the team's probable leaders this year. Missing will be 2004 Olympian Melanie Marti, the top Swiss all-arounder at the 2004 and 2005 Europeans, and the 2005 Worlds. Marti retired after the 2006 Worlds.

"The experience of Danielle, Linda and Ariella, combined with the younger girls, will be a very good (impression)," Demay said. "For individuals, Ariella is strong on vault and has the possibility of a final in Stuttgart, but she needs to have perfect preparation."

Demay said Käslin did not compete at the American Cup held earlier this month in Florida, because of an injury to the talus ligament in her ankle.

"Now she's begun with normal training, and I think she can compete a simple program in two weeks in the match with France in Switzerland," Demay said.

Käslin placed 22nd all-around at the 2005 Worlds in Melbourne, and 18th all-around at the 2006 Worlds. In recent European Championships, she was 13th all-around in 2004; fourth on vault in 2005; and sixth on vault in 2006.

Englert took Käslin's place at the American Cup, but competed on uneven bars only because of an injury to the underside of her foot. "I didn’t want to take risk near the European Championships," Demay explained.

Demay said the Swiss are still in their selection period for the European Championships, but they are optimistic for success in Amsterdam.

"We know that Ariella has the possibility to make a final and maybe win a medal in the Europeans, the first in the history of Swiss women's gymnastics," Demay said. "But with the injury, she’s very late in preparation. In Amsterdam, one or two finals is realistic. More would be fantastic."

International Gymnast Magazine Related Feature
"Swiss Thrill-Seeker" - Käslin profile (January/February 2007)


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