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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)

 
Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 06 March 2007 20:16    PDF Print
Church Hopeful for 2007 Comeback
Nearly recovered from a torn ACL, Commonwealth Games silver medalist Shavahn Church of Great Britain is eager for this year's European and World Championships. "She's looking great," coach Chris Waller told IG.
Church at the 2006 Commonwealth Games

The 17-year-old Church, who holds dual citizenship in Great Britain and the U.S., placed 20th all-around at the 2005 World Championships in Melbourne. She was coached by Don Peters and Yu Feng at SCATS in Huntington Beach, Calif., and began training under Waller in December 2005. Church finished second with the English team, fifth all-around and second on uneven bars at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, held in March in Melbourne.

Last spring, Church injured her knee on floor exercise at the European Championships in Volos, Greece.

Waller, a 1992 U.S. Olympian, said the injury was particularly frustrating because Church had torn the ACL in her other knee in 2004.

"It's taken Shavahn much longer to come back from this one," said Waller, who with his wife, Cindy, owns Wallers' GymJam Academy in Santa Clarita, Calif. "There's no real reason why, so she started getting kind of down about that. But we've been very pragmatic about coming back steady and stable, doing tons of landing drills. She's been strong enough for the last month to go ahead and do stuff, but the confidence hasn't been there to use both legs the same."

Waller said he noticed a rise in Church's confidence about two weeks ago.

"She made a huge breakthrough," he said. "Mentally, she's like, 'OK, I guess my leg's good to go.'" She's doing great now."

Church plans to travel to England for an April 1 competition that will serve as a British team trial for the European Championships, which will take place April 26-30 in Amsterdam.

Waller said he is also grateful to Heathrow Gymnastics Club, where Church trains when she is in England. At Heathrow, Church's coaches include 1981 world floor exercise champion Natalia Ilienko, and Vincent and Michele Walduck. Last year, Church trained at Heathrow from January through April. Waller said Church will spend six weeks based at Heathrow, beginning March 26.

As a warm-up, Church competed in the Friendship Challenge, a club meet held last weekend in Burbank, Calif.

Waller said Church performed impressively in Burbank, although she performed watered-down routines. To protect her leg, Church did not compete her recently learned double layout on floor exercise, and did a simple layout Yurchenko vault.

"If we had had another week, she probably would have been doing real tumbling, or something close to it, and a real beam routine," Waller said.

On uneven bars, Church performed full difficulty, with the exception of a simple dismount. Waller said Church's new routine includes a toe-on, layout Tkatchev; layout Jaeger; Shaposhnikova, back uprise to free hip; and a toe-on, full turn on the low bar.

"We're going to see what dismount she's going to do—either a double front, or a piked double front-half," Waller said. "Shavahn actually does that (latter dismount) better, but that's a big dismount to do after a routine with 10 crazy, hard skills."

Waller said he believes Church will be ready to compete at the Europeans on at least uneven bars and balance beam. "The goal at the end of this week is to do landings on the regular floor, and be ready for two to four events at elite level by the time she goes back to England," he said.

Waller said Church, who will turn 18 on May 3, will be ready for all four events at the 2007 World Championships, to be held in Stuttgart in September. He noted the new strength that she is showing on vault and floor exercise.

"Her vault is better than I've ever seen it, as far as technique and power go," said Waller, who also serves as an assistant coach at UCLA. "It's just a matter of what vault we're going to do. We want to make sure Shavahn has safe landings. She could do a Yurchenko double full and make it, but I'm not sure we want to go that route."

On floor exercise, Waller said Church has been training various skills including a double layout, a piked full-in and a piked Arabian double front. "I'd like to keep Shavahn away from front landings as much as possible," Waller explained. "Back landings are easier to stick, and landing a double layout is safer than landing an Arabian double front. We've been working a variety of skills so she has more in her toolbox. Plus it's good for her training. We're trying to get her fully rounded, but her double layout is stellar. She has a long body and long legs, and when she takes off, it's a gorgeous skill."

Although Church trains most of the time in California, Waller and British national team coaches keep one another apprised of Church's progress via e-mail. "I give them updates as to what she's training and what skills she's working on," Waller said. "They have their opinion on what skills they want her to do, so we converse back and forth."

Waller said he believes Church has the determination and talent to successfully return to world-class competition.

"Shavahn's an amazing person," Waller said. "She's hard-working and humble. She's great, and I'm wishing the best for her. She's what every athlete should be."

Shavahn Church is featured in the following issues of International Gymnast magazine:

May 2006 - Commonwealth Games coverage
March 2006 - "New British Royalty" (short profile)

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

 
Written by Amanda Turner    Wednesday, 28 February 2007 20:03    PDF Print
Worley Replaces Bieger at American Cup
Shayla Worley will replace teammate Jana Bieger at the Tyson American Cup, which begins Friday in Jacksonville, Fla.

Bieger injured her leg while training Wednesday evening.

"I am very disappointed and frustrated to have this happen now because I have been training very hard for this competition," Bieger said. "Everything happens for a reason, and we'll know more once we get additional information. I hope to be back sooner than everyone thinks. I also will be pulling for my teammates to do well this weekend."

Worley finished second all-around to Nastia Liukin at the 2006 American Cup. Hamstring injuries kept her out of the 2006 National Championships and World Championships.

 


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