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Written by Amanda Turner    Sunday, 25 February 2007 19:40    PDF Print
Flohr, Kelley Added to American Cup
The U.S. added two gymnasts, Bianca Flohr and Natasha Kelley, to its women's lineup at the American Cup, which starts Friday in Jacksonville, Fla.

Flohr and Kelley will join Jana Bieger, Shawn Johnson and Samantha Peszek in Florida. Ashley Priess, who had originally been selected to compete, was bumped from the lineup Sunday following an intrasquad competition in Houston. Priess finished sixth behind Johnson, Flohr, Bieger, Kelley and Peszek.

Bianca Flohr

"We knew coming in Ashley wasn't completely ready," said Mary Lee Tracy, who coaches both Flohr and Priess. "She had a back injury that set her back about four weeks. Ash has added some new skills that needed more time."

Though five Americans will compete in the qualification, only two are eligible to advance to Saturday's final.

It is the second American Cup for the 16-year-old Flohr, who finished third all-around in the qualification at last year's competition in Philadelphia but was unable to advance because of the two-per-country rule.

It would have been the first American Cup for Priess, who turns 17 on March 8. She finished 10th all-around at the 2006 World Championships.

"Although we are disappointed we accept the decision," Tracy said. "If Ashley needed to be replaced, she is happy it is with Bianca!"

 
Written by Amanda Turner    Wednesday, 21 February 2007 19:43    PDF Print
American Cup Kicks Off March Meets
The international competition season heats up in the coming weeks, starting March 2-3 with the Tyson American Cup in Jacksonville, Fla.

Competitors at the 2007 American Cup include eight medalists from the 2006 World Championships: Sasha Artemev, Jana Bieger and Ashley Priess (USA), Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs (Canada), Zhou Zhuoru (China), Fabian Hambüchen (Germany) and Kristina Pravdina and Maxim Devyatovsky (Russia).

The American Cup will also be the senior debut for Americans Shawn Johnson and Samantha Peszek, who finished first and third at the 2006 U.S. Junior National Championships. The top 16 gymnasts from the qualifying competition on March 2 will advance to the final on March 3, to be broadcast live on NBC.

The World Cup season begins March 17-18 with the French International in Paris, to be followed by the Cottbus Cup on March 23-25.

Two smaller meets attracting international fields are the Gymnix International, March 16-18 in Montreal; and the Friendship Classic, March 23-25 in Pottsville, Pa.

American Cup
March 2-3, Jacksonville, Fla.

Australia: Dasha Joura
Belarus: Dmitry Savitsky
Canada: Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs; Adam Wong
China: Zhou Zhuoru; Lu Bo
Colombia: Natalia Sanchez
France: Dmitry Karbanenko
Germany: Marie-Sophie Hindermann; Fabian Hambüchen
Japan: Kyoko Oshima; Takuya Nakase
Mexico: Elsa Garcia; Daniel Corral
Puerto Rico: Luis Vargas
Romania: Andreea Grigore; Flavius Koczi
Russia: Kristina Pravdina; Maxim Devyatovsky
Switzerland: Danielle Englert
Ukraine: Daria Zgoba
USA: Jana Bieger, Bianca Flohr, Shawn Johnson, Natasha Kelley, Samantha Peszek; Guillermo Alvarez, Sasha Artemev, Raj Bhavsar, Jonathan Horton

Gymnix International
March 16-18, Montreal

ASF Gymnastics: Marci Bernholtz, Caya Colling
Bluewater: Emily Bigras, Dominique Pegg, Emma Willis
Calgary Gym Center: Sydney Sawa
Cambridge Kips: Jennifer Lezeu
Equilibrix: Geneviève Brazeau
Excalibur Gymnastics: Sheriese Clark, Rebekah Conrad, Maria Cross, Gabrielle Douglas, Kaitlynn Hedelund, Krystine Jacobsen, Natalia Joyce, Makyna Kancso, Sara Tiano
Gemini: Brittnee Habbib, Kelsey Hope, Kristina Vaculik
Gym Mississauga: Rochelle Hurt, Jessica Savona
Gym-Alliance: Joanie Fortin
Gymélites: Stéphanie Desjardins, Catherine Dion
Gymnastics Adventure: Alexandra Picton, Danielle Roy
Gymnix: Ann Ly Brouillette-Quenneville, Léa Barro, Nansy Damianova, Coralie Leblond-Chartrand, Ti Liu
Gym-Richelieu: Lisa-Marie Farley, Jennifer Fujs, Laurie-Eve Gagné, Cynthia Lemieux, Kim Lévesque
Lions Pride Gymnastics: Hannah Swift
Mississauga: Stephanie Pacitto
Omega Gymnastics: Charlotte Mackie, Brittany Rogers
Pulsars: Rebecca Simbhudas
Russia: Aliya Mustafina, Tatiana Nabiyeva, Ksenia Semyonova, Margarita Slepchenko
SALTA Gymnastics Club: Laurel Clouston
Sport Seneca: Peng-Peng Lee, Leslie Mak
Taiso: Crystal Gilmore
USA: Sarah DeMeo, Corrie Lothrop, Bridget Sloan
Wimgym: Dawn Patulli

French International
March 17-18, Paris

Albania: (women) Ornela Cuka
Algeria: (men) Fatah Ait Saada, Sid Ali Ferdjani, Adbelkader Guetaf, Youcef Sebti
Argentina: (women) Virginia Deluzio
Armenia: (women) Astghik Gyulnazaryan; (men) Harutyun Merdinyan, Vahagn Stepanyan
Australia: (women) Hollie Dykes, Dasha Joura, Chloe Sims; (men) Prashanth Sellathurai
Belgium: (women) Gaelle Mys; (men) Gunther Couckhuyt, Donna-Donny Truyens, Koen Van Damme
Belarus: (women) Anastasia Marachkovskaya, Oksana Novikova; (men) Dmitry Kasperovich, Dmitry Savitsky
Brazil: (women) Jade Barbosa, Lais Souza; (men) Luiz Augusto dos Anjos, Diego Hypolito, Mosiah Rodrigues, Victor Rosa
Bulgaria: (men) Jordan Jovtchev, Alexander Batinkov
Canada: (women) Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs; (men) Grant Golding
China: (women) Fan Ye, Jiang Yuyuan, Liu Hou, Zhang Xin; (men) Du Wei, Feng Zhe, Teng Haibin, Zou Kai
Croatia: (women) Tanja Delladio, Tina Erceg; (men) Marco Brez, Marijo Moznik, Robert Seligman, Filip Ude
Czech Republic: (women) Jana Komrskova, Kristyna Palesova
Egypt: (women) Sarah Osman; (men) Tamer Ahmed Ragab, Mohamed Sayed Sourour, Abdel Rahman Sobhy
Spain: (women) Laura Campos, Lenika de Simone, Patricia Moreno; (men) Victor Cano, Manuel Carballo, Rafael Martinez, Juan San Miguel
Finland: (women) Annamari Maaranen, Annika Urvikko; (men) Sami Aalto, Ikka Kuusela, Timo Niemela, Toni Oikari, Jani Tanskanen, Olli Torkkel
France: (men) Thomas Bouhail, Eric Casimir, Yann Cucherat, Gael da Silva, Danny Rodrigues, Raphael Wignanitz
Great Britain: (women) Imogen Cairns, Lynette Lisle; (men) Adam Cox, David Eaton, Luke Folwell, Steve Jehu, Daniel Keatings, Louis Smith
Georgia: (men) Ilya Giorgadze
Germany: (women) Anja Brinker, Oksana Chusovitina; (men) Philipp Boy, Max Finzel, Robert Weber
Greece: Stefani Bisbikou, Vasiliki Millousi, Eugenia Georgakopoulou; (men) Michalis Doulkeridis, Christos Lympanovnos, Vlasios Maras, Dimitrios Markousis, Vasileios Tsolakidis, Ioannis Zachariadis
Guatamala: (men) Joel Olivas Santos Mynor
Hungary: (men) Krisztian Berki, Robert Gal, Marcel Hetrovics, Vid Hidvegi
Israel: (women) Vered Finkel, Tali Lyak; (men) Alexander Shatilov
Italy: (women) Francesca Benolli, Vanessa Ferrari, Carlotta Giovannini, Silvia Zanolo; (men) Matteo Angioletti, Igor Cassina, Matteo Morandi
Japan: Yosuke Hoshi, Yasuhiro Okamura, Kohei Uchimura
Jordan: (men) Mohammad Abu Saleh, Jad Mazahreh
Kazakhstan: (men) Sain Autalipov, Stepan Gorbachyov, Ildar Valeyev, Yernar Yerimbetov
Latvia: (men) Ivans Gorbunovs, Yevgeny Sapronenko, Denis Zbickis
Luxembourg: (women) Mandy Loes
Malaysia: (women) Fatiha Nurul, Ali Nabihah; (men) Ng Shu Wai
Mexico: (women) Maricela Cantu, Elsa Garcia, Erika Garcia
Netherlands: (women) Tahnee Masela, Lichelle Wong; (men) Yuri van Gelder, Jeffrey Wammes, Epke Zonderland
Poland: (women) Joanna Litewka, Paula Plichta; (men) Leszek Blanik, Emil Hulboj, Adam Kierzkowski, Roman Kulesza
Portugal: Luis Araujo, Felipe Bezugo, Manuel Campos
Puerto Rico: Angel Ramos, Jose David Ramos, Luis Rivera, Alexander Rodriguez, Luis Vargas
Romania: (women) Sandra Izbasa, Steliana Nistor; (men) Marian Dragulescu, Flavius Koczi, Daniel Popescu, Razvan Selariu
Russia: (women) Ksenia Afanasyeva, Anna Grudko, Irina Isayeva, Svetlana Klyukina; (men) Dmitry Gogotov, Anton Golotsutskov, Sergei Khorokhordin, Nikolai Kryukov, Vladimir Olennikov, Alexander Safoshkin
Slovenia: (men) Saso Bertoncelj, Alen Dimic, Rok Klavora, Klemen Rutar, Mitja Petkovsek, Ziga Silc
Switzerland: (women) Ariella Kaslin, Danielle Englert; (men) Nicolas Boescshenstein, Claudio Capelli, Daniel Groves, Claude-Alain Porchet, Mark Ramseier, Christoph Scharer
Sweden: (women) Veronica Wagner
Tunisia: (men) Wajdi Bouallegue
Ukraine: (women) Alina Kozich, Irina Krasnyanskaya, Olga Scherbatykh, Daria Zgoba; (men) Valery Goncharov, Andrei Isayev, Nikolai Kuksenkov, Alexander Yakubovsky, Roman Zozulya
USA: (men) Sean Golden, Kevin Tan, Sean Townsend
Venezuela: (men) Regula Carmona, Jose Luis Fuentes, Darwin Griman

Friendship Classic
March 23-25, Pottsville, Pa.

Belgium: Aagje Van Walleghem, Chloe Henry
Canada: Lisa-Marie Farley, Brittnee Habbib, Cynthia Lemieux, Gael Mackie, Laurie-Eve Pepin-Gagne
Czech Republic: Nicole Pechanec
Japan: Maniko Kakitani
Netherlands: Loes Linders
Puerto Rico: Leysha Lopez, Mariecarmen Rivera
Russia: Anastasia Grishina
Ukraine: Valentina Golenkova, Marina Proskurina
USA: Carol Byrnes (Girls In Cooperation), Austyn Fobes (Galaxy Gymnastics), Annette Miele (Lehigh Valley Sports Academy), Stephanie Seich (Rebound)

Cottbus Cup
March 23-25, Cottbus, Germany

Albania: (women) Ornela Cuka; (men) Alon Hasa, Valter Mishova
Argentina (women) Virginia Deluzio;
Australia: (women) Hollie Dykes, Daria Joura, Chloe Sims; (men) Prashanth Sellathurai
Austria: (women) Sandra Mayer; (men) Fabian Leimlehner, Marco Baldauf, Andreas Höller
Azerbaijan: Sabuhi Aslanov
Brazil: (women) Jade Barbosa, Daiane dos Santos, Lais Souza; (men) Diego Hypolito, Mosiah Rodrigues, Luiz Augusto dos Anjos
Belgium: (women) Gaelle Mys; (men) Donna-Donny Truyens, Günther Couckhuyt, Koen Van Damme
Belarus: (men) Igor Kozlov, Alexander Tsarevich, Dmitry Kasperovich
Canada: (women) to be named; (men) Adam Wong, Ken Ikeda
Chile: (men) Tomas Gonzalez
China: (women) Fan Ye, Jiang Yuyuan, Liu Hou, Zhang Xin; (men) Teng Haibin, Zou Kai, Feng Zhe, Du Wei
Croatia: (women) Tanja Delladio; (men) Filip Ude, Robert Seligman, Marizo Moznik
Czech Republic: (women) Jana Sikulova, Eva Verbova, Adela Pavoukova, Martina Strnadova
Egypt: Nourhan Ahmed Saad; (men) Waleed El Deriny, Kareem Aly
Finland: to be named
France: (men) Gael Da Silva, Thomas Bouhail, Danny Rodrigues
Great Britain: (women) Marissa King, Emma White
Germany: (women) Anja Brinker, Kim Bui, Oksana Chusovitina, Marie-Sophie Hindermann; (men) Philipp Boy, Matthias Fahrig, Marcel Nguyen, Thomas Andergassen, Robert Juckel
Greece: (women) Stefanie Bisbikou, Despoina Grigoriadou, Maria Parsantanian, Viktoria Tsakalidou; (men) Vlasios Maras, Konstantinos Barmpakis, Christos Lympanovnos, Eleftherios Kosmidis, Vasileios Tsolakidis, Dimosthenis Tampakos
Hungary: (women) Enikö Korcsmaros, Laura Gombas; (men) Krisztian Berki, Robert Gal, Vid Hidvegi, Marcell Hetrovics
Iceland: (men) Runar Alexandersson
Israel: to be named
Italy: to be named
Jordan: (men) Jad Mazahreh, Mohammad Abu Saleh
Japan: (men) Kazuki Mizutori, Yuto Hayami, Yusuke Tanaka
Kazakhstan: (men) Sado Batsiyev, Maxim Patrishko, Stanislav Valiyev
Latvia: (men) Yevgeny Sapronenko, Yevgeny Zorins, Dmitry Trefilovs, Vitaly Kardashovs
Luxembourg: (men) Sascha Palgen
Mexico: (women) Maricela Cantú, Erika Garcia, Elsa Garcia
Netherlands: (men) Yuri Van Gelder, Jeffrey Wammes, Epke Zonderland
Poland: (women) Joanna Litewka, Maria Frandofert; (men) Roman Kulesza, Kamil Bulboj, Leszek Blanik, Adam Kierzkowski, Krzysztof Mucborski
Portugal: (men) Manuel Campos
Puerto Rico: (men) Luis Vargas, Luis Rivera, Jose David Ramos, Angel Ramos, Alexander Rodriguez
Romania: (women) Sandra Izbasa, Steliana Nistor; (men) Marian Dragulescu, Razvan Selariu, Daniel Popescu, Flavius Koczi
Russia: (men) Alexander Safoshkin, Nikolay Kryukov, Alexander Balandin; (men) Samuel Piasecky, Alexander Benko
Slovenia: (women) Adela Sajn, Sasa Golob; (men) Mitja Petkovsek, Saso Bertoncelj, Alen Dimic, Rok Klavora, Klemen Rutar, Ziga Silc
Sweden: Veronica Wagner
Switzerland: (men) Christoph Schärer, Claudio Capelli, Nicolas Böschenstein, Claude-Alain Porchert, Mark Ramseier, Roger Sager
Turkey: (women) Göksu Üctas; (men) Ümit Samiloglu
Taipei: (men) Huang Yi-Hsueh
Ukraine: (women) Irina Krasnyanskaya, Alina Kozich, Olga Scherbatykh; (men) Valery Goncharov, Vadim Kuvakin, Nikolai Kuksenkov, Alexander Yakubovsky, Roman Zozulya, Alexander Vorobyov
USA: to be named
Uzbekistan: (men) Anton Fokin
Venezuela: (men) Regulo Carmona, Jose Luis Fuentes, Darwin Griman
Yemen: (men) Nashwan Al-Hrazi, Mohammed Saleh Al-Husali, Mohammed Al-Sanea, Mohammed Wahib Sharif

 
Written by Lisa Wang    Saturday, 17 February 2007 19:35    PDF Print
Chinese Get New Year Break
(2 votes, average 4.50 out of 5)
The Chinese national gymnastics team's celebrations for Sunday's Chinese New Year included a national talent gala, reunions with family members and a rare training break.

Although the team is in the midst of its winter training period—typically the busiest time each year during which new skills are invented, routines are re-choreographed, and young talents are groomed for international competition—the gymnasts are enjoying a break in celebration of the Chinese Lunar New Year, which began Sunday. The gymnasts are given one to one-and-a-half days off, in addition to the usual Sunday break. (They normally train six days a week throughout the year, getting only Sundays off as their day of rest and just half a day break on Jan. 1.)

The Chinese gymnasts also enjoyed planning and performing in the annual Chinese New Year Gala, an elaborate talent show where artistic and rhythmic gymnasts put together skits, song and dance. The show is frequently broadcasted on national television, and over the years has been attended by a number of celebrities from the Chinese entertainment industry.

This year's gala, held Feb. 16, featured 2006 World Championships triple gold medalist Cheng Fei and 2006 men's world all-around champion Yang Wei as the masters of ceremonies. Former national team member Sang Lan, who was paralyzed during a vault accident at the 1998 Goodwill Games, also made a special guest appearance on stage.

Since gymnasts hail from all over the country, only those from Beijing (such as 2004 Olympic all-around bronze medalist Zhang Nan and 2004 Olympic pommel horse champion Teng Haibin) returned home for a Chinese New Year celebration with their family. Some gymnasts have parents who travel to Beijing for the special occasion. For many gymnasts whose hometown is farther away, the New Year's Eve dinner is often spent at the home of their coaches, who take in their pupils alongside their own family members for the special meal. Cheng, He Ning and Zhou Zhuoru ushered in the New Year at the home of Lu Shanzhen, the head coach of the women's team.

The Lunar New Year celebration brought Yang's parents and sister from Hubei to Beijing, a rare family gathering for the gymnast who has been training in Beijing for more than 10 years. Yang, second all-around at the 2000 Olympics and 2003 Worlds, reflected on realizing his dream of winning the world all-around title last fall.

"Realistically, I know my achievements in 2006 are hard to surpass; they do epitomize a type of pinnacle for me," Yang said. "But my goals for the next two years are to take things one step at a time. Of course the 2008 Beijing Olympics is the ultimate goal, for me as it is for my teammates, but right now I'm focusing on the 2007 Worlds and this year's training. I don't like to overthink the next step too much, or to predict precisely which titles I ought to win in the future."

Aside from training, Yang is also working towards his post-graduate degree in sports management through a series of online courses geared to professional athletes.

In other training news, Cheng is beginning to work on a new vault, and Li Ya is stabilizing her 7.5 Start Value routine on uneven bars and possibly working more skills to boost the Start Value.

International Gymnast Magazine Related Features

He Ning center poster (January/February 2007)
Chinese women's and men's teams on cover, Yang Wei center poster, 2006 World Championships special issue (December 2006)
Zhou Zhuoru center poster, "Quick Chat: Cheng Fei" (May 2006)
"Lucky Charm" - Cheng cover story (January 2005)
"The Spirit Moves Her" - Sang interview (January 1999)

 
Written by Amanda Turner    Thursday, 15 February 2007 19:36    PDF Print
Liukin on the Mend
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)
Three months after surgery on her ankle, U.S. champion Nastia Liukin says she is on the right track for the 2007 season.

"I'm still doing a lot of therapy and rehab but I'm definitely back on the road to recovery," Liukin told IG.

Nastia Liukin

Liukin severely sprained her right ankle in October while training for the 2006 World Championships in Aarhus, Denmark. The injury limited her to the uneven bars in Aarhus, where she won silver medals with the team and on bars.

Liukin, who turned 17 on Oct. 30, had surgery in November to remove two bone chips from her ankle. She is back in the gym at the World Olympic Gymnastics Academy in Plano, Texas, where she is coached by her father, world and Olympic gold medalist Valery Liukin.

"[I'm doing] everything on bars and almost everything on beam, tumbling on the tumble track, running, a lot of conditioning and therapy," she said of her progress.

Liukin said changes are likely in store for her routines, including reordering her skills on bars and and tumbling passes on floor.

"But we really haven't really sat down and wrote out (new routines) because it's so early right know, it's kind of hard to say," she said.

Liukin said they will start to plan her return to competition after the next national team training camp, to be held at the end of February. Though she was recently featured in Newsweek Magazine as America's top Olympic gymnastics hopeful for Beijing, she said she prefers to concentrate on short-term goals.

"(I'm not thinking about the Olympics) any more than usual," she said. "There's basically a full two years (to go), plus worlds this year. I'm really not even looking toward the Olympics right now."

At the 2005 World Championships in Melbourne, Liukin won gold medals on uneven bars and balance beam and silver medals in the all-around and on floor exercise. She said she is over the disappointment of being injured at the 2006 World Championships.

"It was definitly hard watching the all-around finals and knowing I could have been there competing, but things happen and you can't go back and change anything," she said.

Audio Download: Hear Nastia's answer to the question: "Are the judges too strict about taking deductions for pirouettes on uneven bars?"

 
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.

 


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