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Written by John Crumlish    Monday, 22 January 2007 19:05    PDF Print
Pugh Ready For Big Things in 2007
Great Britain's Rhian Pugh, the 2004 European junior champion on uneven bars, told IG she is eager for this year's major competitions after spending much of last year nursing injuries.

"I am working toward making the European Championships team in April," Pugh told IG this week. "So my first competition back this year will be British Team Championships, at the beginning of April. I am also working towards making the team for the World Championships (Sept. 1-9 in Stuttgart), so that I can help us qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games."

At the 2004 European Junior Championships in Amsterdam, Pugh became the first British woman to win a European title when she placed first on uneven bars.

Pugh, a native of Wales, traveled to Melbourne for the 2005 World Championships, but suffered a back injury in training and did not compete. Last spring she competed for Wales at the Commonwealth Games (also held in Melbourne), where she placed sixth on uneven bars.

Pugh did not compete at the 2006 World Championships, held in Aarhus, Denmark, in October. There, teammate Beth Tweddle became the first British gymnast to win a world title (uneven bars), and the British women's team finished 11th. The top 12 teams at this year's Worlds will qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Helen May, who coaches Pugh at the Bristol Hawks club in England, said Pugh is now healthy, and hopes to show British national team coaches that she will be ready for this year's Europeans and Worlds.

"It was difficult for Rhian after sustaining a compression fracture of T9 at the Worlds in Melbourne, and having to completely rest for a long period," May said. "She was given the go-ahead to train just before the Commonwealth Games, and worked very hard in order to go and represent Wales. Obviously Wales was very keen for her to compete, as was she. However, with limited time, she competed with cut-down routines and not at the peak of fitness. Following that she had a number of different minor injuries, which meant she did not compete in the British Championships, and did not retain her place in the national squad."

May said the 17-year-old Pugh is determined to succeed, in and out of the gym.

"Hopefully this year she will be able to prove herself," she said. "I know she is keen to do this, so we will keep on working. In the meantime she has passed her driving test and is also doing her 'A' levels (examinations) at school. I believe when they finish in June, she will then use her gap year to concentrate on her gymnastics, which I know has always been a long-term plan of hers."

May said Tweddle's gold medal-winning performances at last year's Worlds and Europeans have generated optimism and healthy competitiveness in the British program.

"It's a really exciting time for all involved with British gymnastics," May told IG. "We've all been enjoying the success of Beth and (coach) Amanda (Harrison), who set such a great example and are such nice people, too. You couldn't ask for a better role model than Beth for all our young gymnasts in Britain. We have a number of great talents up and coming, also, so I'm hoping Britain will continue to rise in the world rankings. It is going to be hard to get into our team, which is a great position to be in."

The January/February 2007 issue of International Gymnast magazine features Beth Tweddle on the cover, and profiles of British gymnasts Ross Brewer and Aisling Williams. Rhian Pugh is featured in the profile "In With the Old," in the December 2004 issue.

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

Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 09 January 2007 18:58    PDF Print
Sekerova Has Designs on Further Success
Although two-time Olympian Zuzana Sekerova of Slovakia did not compete internationally in 2006, she told IG her plans include this year's World Championships as she works toward a degree in graphic design in the United States.

Sekerova, the lone Slovakian gymnast to compete at the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games, last competed for Slovakia at the 2005 World Championships in Melbourne. She said the head of the Slovak Gymnastics Federation presented her in Melbourne with the requirements for her participation in the 2006 European Championships and World Championships.

"One of the requirements, which I knew I would not be able to fulfill, was to train in Slovakia for a month before these major competitions," said Sekerova, who at the time was studying Business Administration at South University in Savannah, Ga. "I could not leave the university for that long. It's their policy. I let SGF know about this issue in Melbourne, so it was not a surprise to me or to SGF when I was unable to leave the school for the Europeans in the spring and for Worlds in the fall. I kept hoping we could work out different arrangement for showing my readiness to compete at major events, but SGF would not allow it."

Sekerova, who last summer earned her Associate's degree in Business Administration from South University, is currently studying graphic design at Savannah College of Art & Design. She said she is inspired by the creative stimulation provided by Savannah.

"Ever since I arrived in Savannah in 2002, I had been thrown between artists," said Sekerova, a native of Trnava. "Savannah is filled with magnificent colonial architecture and home to the Savannah College of Art and Design, which is an International University of the Arts. I think just being in Savannah, it's very easy to be drawn into the arts."

To apply at SCAD, Sekerova submitted a portfolio of projects she worked on while assisting her husband and coach, Wayne Evans. Evans, who produces gymnastics videos and also works in online commerce, helped Sekerova develop her skills in publishing, advertising and logo, web and apparel design.

Sekerova's portfolio earned her a scholarship, and she enrolled at SCAD in the fall of 2006. "My major is graphic design which focuses on 2-D design such as logos, posters, flyers, corporate identity, product labels and Web site design," Sekerova said.

One of her recent projects was contributing to the graphics, animation and overall build-out of the online flash-animated tumbling lessons that Evans authored. Sekerova's career goals include continuing to work with her husband and his partners' companies.

The 22-year-old Sekerova said watching the 2006 Worlds on the Internet brought mixed emotions.

"It was so great seeing my old friends and all the new faces," said Sekerova, who placed first on balance beam at the 2004 La Serena World Cup in Chile. "It was inspiring to see the new routines, but it was frustrating to not be participating."

Sekerova said she is looking forward to testing her skills again in a club competition next month in Las Vegas.

"Now I am getting back into competition spirit," she told IG. "It will be my first time to compete under the new rules and the first time since 2005 Worlds. My goal is to get judged under the new rules, see where I stand with my routines, and consult the judges for improvements."

Sekerova is cautiously optimistic that the Slovakian federation will allow her to compete in this year's World Championships in Stuttgart, which will be the qualifying meet for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

"For someone like me who has been competing at the highest level of gymnastics competitions for a while now, it is an important goal to compete at Europeans, World Cups, Worlds or the Olympics," she said. "I am hoping I will be able to compete at the 2007 Worlds, but I feel I must also be prepared for Slovakia rejecting it."

Ingrid Barutova, secretary for the the Slovak Gymnastics Federation, confirmed the federations's guidelines for Zekerova's participation in 2007 competitions.

"As regards to the 2007 World Championships, our federation give her conditions that she has to compete at the Slovak championships, and one month before the World Championships, she has to prepare in Slovakia," Barutova told IG. "If she fills the bill and will be prepared at this competition, she can compete."

Sekerova, who is balancing full-time course work with training, said she has another ambition if she is not able to compete at the 2007 Worlds and 2008 Olympics.

"If I am not lucky enough to reach these goals, I hope to be following in footsteps of (31-year-old, four-time Olympian) Oksana Chusovitina, and compete well beyond 2008," she said. "I do not know if I'll make it, but that's my goal for now."

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Written by Amanda Turner    Monday, 08 January 2007 18:54    PDF Print
Dutch Rhythmic Gymnast in Serious Condition
Two-time Dutch national champion Anna Pobokova is in serious condition after being struck by a car on Monday evening.
Anna Pobokova

Pobokova, 19, was riding her bicycle home from practice in her hometown of Bergen Op Zoom. According to Dutch news reports, she suffered six skull fractures and an eye injury. She is now at St. Elisabeth Hospital in Tilburg.

The Russian-born Pobokova moved to the Netherlands in 1999 at age 13 and became a Dutch citizen in 2002. She was the Dutch national champion in 2003 and 2004. She missed the 2005 season with a back injury, and returned in 2006 to place second at the Dutch national championships. Her best international showing has been 13th at the 2004 Berlin Masters.

Pobokova had been training for a competition in Belgium that takes place this weekend.

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Written by Amanda Turner    Thursday, 04 January 2007 18:51    PDF Print
Uzelac Back in the Gym
Three-time U.S. junior champion Kristal Uzelac, who decided in October to return to competition, will compete at the upcoming Parkettes Invitational.

"I've been training on and off since November 2005, not sure what I wanted," Uzelac, 20, told IG. "I just decided that I really wanted to get out there again."

Kristal Uzelac

Uzelac will compete as a Level 10 at the Parkettes Invitational in Allentown, Pa. on Jan. 28. She said her main goal in coming back is to have fun.

"I don't have any goals right now, just to get out there again and see if I can do it," she said.

Uzelac won three consecutive U.S. junior national titles in 1999, 2000 and 2001. She was the all-around bronze medalist at the 2001 American Cup in Orlando, Fla. and the 2002 Pacific Alliance Championships in Vancouver, Canada.

Uzelac, who trained at the Parkettes club for most of her elite career, is now training at her family's club, Uzelac Sports and Athletics, in Johnstown, Pa. She trains four and half hours a day with her mother, Brenda, and also assists with her own training.

"I film myself and I try to help," she said.

Uzelac competed for Penn State in 2005, helping the Nittany Lions finish fifth at the NCAA Championships in Auburn, Ala. She graduated from massage therapy school in June 2006, and is a coach at the Uzelacs' club.

Uzelac, who estimated her abilities at 80 percent, said her routines will be watered down from what they were at the elite level, where her difficult skills include a Khorkina II on vault, a double layout on floor exercise and a piked full on balance beam.

Uzelac said she currently has no plans to make a return to the elite scene.

"I've thought about it, but I'm not setting any goals for that," she said. "I'm just here to compete again—I miss it."

Kristal Uzelac is featured in the following issues of International Gymnast magazine:

October 2002: cover photo collage, U.S. Championships coverage
March 2002: cover photo, Parkette Invitational report
October 2001: center poster, U.S. Championships coverage
May 2001: "Krystal's Clear" (short profile)
April 2001: cover photo, American Cup coverage
October 2000: U.S. Championships coverage

To order back issues of IG magazine, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Sunday, 31 December 2006 15:06    PDF Print
Wagner: Family, Food and Fun for the Holidays
In the latest of IG Online's holiday features, Swedish Olympian Veronica Wagner describes her family's yuletide customs and festivities.
Veronica Wagner

Wagner, the sole Swedish qualifier to the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, said her family rotates its Christmas gathering among three locations every three years: the first with her mother's relatives at her aunt's house; the second with her father's relatives; and the third at her parents' house, with relatives from both sides of the family. This year, Wagner and family members gathered at her aunt's house.

Christmas Day brings the family and friends together for games and food.

"We meet some different people that day, friends and others," Wagner told IG. "We play games like Monopoly, and none of us will be the loser without a big fight. We have lot of fun, because all of us like to win. Or, should I say, we can be silly in my family, because no one can take a loss very well. If I get the time, I will also make gingerbread. I love to make my own."

Wagner said ice-skating is another wintertime activity she and other Swedes enjoy.

"We try to go and skate on a lake a few minutes from our home," she said. "In Sweden almost every kid and parent can skate. Maybe that's why we are Olympic and world champions in that sport right now. But right now the weather is too hot to go and skate on real lakes, so we are still waiting for the snow and the cold to come."

Above all, Wagner said she is looking forward to quality time with loved ones.

"The thing I enjoy most is being with my family and friends, because I love them all, and Christmas is the time to take care of those you love!" she said.

Coached by Staffan Soederberg, the 19-year-old Wagner placed 55th all-around in preliminaries at the 2004 Olympics, and 30th all-around in preliminaries at the 2005 World Championships in Melbourne.

In 2006, Wagner was 13th all-around at the European Championships in Volos, Greece; and 62nd all-around at the World Championships in Aarhus, Denmark. She was also a finalist in three World Cup competitions: the Cottbus Cup in Germany (vault, balance beam), the French International in Lyon (balance beam, floor exercise) and the Ghent World Cup (vault).

Wagner had a training break from Dec. 22-27, and returned to full training Dec. 28-30. Wagner and her teammates will not train on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day, but they have a national training camp beginning Jan. 2.

"We have one more day (off) than normal, and I'm excited," Wagner said. "But I know myself. After a few days I will do a lot of stuff to keep me busy - not too much though, because I need the rest, too! But I have the time to hang out with my friends, and that will be fun. I hope we will have a big, great party on New Year's Eve. If we have a dance floor, I'll be there!"

Wagner, who aspires to become a chiropractor, said her goals for 2007 include winning a World Cup medal and qualifying for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The social Wagner said World Cup competitions will also give her the opportunity to mingle with her competitors.

"I will also enjoy meeting all the girls at all the World Cups this year – and some of the boys, too!" she said. "I miss many of them, and we do have such a great time. I really hope to meet Alicia Sacramone because we always have so much fun! I will take this chance to wish her a late happy birthday (Dec. 3). I wish everyone a happy, fun, and great Christmas. Take care, and enjoy the new year. I know I will! Let us hope 2007 will be the best year ever!"

A Wagner Family Christmas

The family has lunch at 1 p.m. on Christmas Eve, leaving time to prepare for another Swedish tradition that begins at 3 p.m., Wagner said. "In Sweden, at 3 o'clock, everyone young and old will watch Donald Duck, and many short (cartoons) like Santa and Mickey Mouse, and so on," she said. "That is tradition for everyone."

Wagner said the typical Swedish Christmas menu includes ham, smoked salmon, boiled egg halves with caviar, meatballs, small sausage, chipolata, herring and potatoes. "We have many different kinds of herring, such as pickled in mustard," she said.

Wagner noted several menu items that are unique to Sweden, including:

Porridge mixed with a single almond: "The one who gets that in their bowl will make a wish and will have some good luck," she said.

Glögg (mulled wine with sugar and herbs): "We drink it with almonds and raisins in it, which we add for the taste," she said.

Julmust: a cola-type soda unique to Sweden, which kids drink while their parents enjoy glögg.

"The recipe is so secret that only one person knows the exact things to put in it," Wagner said. "Many years ago people made their julmust the Christmas before they were going to drink it, and they opened the bottle one year later," Wagner said. "Now you can buy it in any store in Sweden. If you want to try it you can certainly buy it in Ikea, too!"

Pepparkaka: hard gingerbread biscuits. "If you have tried them you will for sure eat a lot of them during this time of yea," Wagner said.

Is chocolate: a sweet, softer kind of chocolate that is popular on Christmas.

Knäck: a taffy/toffee-like sweet. "The taste is wonderful!" Wagner said.

Lussebulle: roughly translated as "Lucia bread," this is a saffron bun resembling a figure eight. Served with coffee, it is usually eaten from December 13-24, but sometimes throughout the winter.

Jansson's frestelse: roughly translated as "Jansson's temptation," this is a gratin type dish of herring, onion and sliced potatoes.

Veronica Wagner is featured in the following issues of International Gymnast magazine:

February 2005: "Veronica's Date – 2008" (profile)
November 2004: "Just Getting Started" (short Olympic profile)

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


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