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Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 26 December 2006 14:46    PDF Print
Shapiro Enjoys Snowy Holiday Weekend

In the latest IG Online holiday-related feature, U.S. junior national team member Samantha Shapiro talks about her family weekend in the snow.

Samantha Shapiro

Shapiro, who lives in Los Angeles, spent Dec. 23-25 at her family's condo in the ski resort of Mammoth Lakes, 300 miles from her hometown.

"I usually don't ski, but I play games and hang out with the family, and play in the snow," Shapiro told IG.

The weekend followed the Shapiro family's traditional observance of Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish holiday which ended Dec. 23.

"All the days are about the same," Shapiro explained. "We celebrate and come together. We play games, sing songs and exchange gifts."

Joining her were her parents; younger sister Nikki (who competed Level 6 last year, and will compete either Level 7 or 8 in the coming season); and her aunt, uncle and cousins from Indiana.

Shapiro said she and Nikki often receive gymnastics-related holiday presents, such as competition shoes and keychains. "This year, I got mostly regular gifts - clothes, movies and stuff like that," she said.

Although Shapiro did not train over the weekend (and always has Sundays off from the gym), she was conscientious while at Mammoth Lakes.

"At the condo I've been doing some conditioning and stretching," Shapiro said Monday. "Just whatever I feel my body needs, I'll do. I take walks outside to keep my body active."

Shapiro began gymnastics in a pre-school class at age 4. Her potential was quickly noticed by coach Galina Marinova, a 1980 Bulgarian Olympian.

"My mom told me the story," Shapiro said. "We got a call on our answering machine from this woman (Marinova) that my parents didn't even know, saying I had great upper-body strength, and that she wanted me to come a couple mornings a week. My parents didn't really know about gymnastics and didn't know what to expect, but I just loved it."

Shapiro, who trains under Artur Akopyan and Marinova at All Olympic Gymnastics Center in Los Angeles, finished 13th all-around at the 2006 U.S. Junior Championships. She said last year's experience will help her in 2007.

"I think it's a lot about experience," Shapiro said. "It really helps to know what to expect next year, to be in control of your body, to feel powerful in big competitions."

Already known in the U.S. for her excellent technique and execution, Shapiro said the key to good form is attention to detail.

"I've definitely worked on it," she said. "During conditioning, I make sure the body is tight so when you actually do the skill and fly through the air, it just comes."

The 13-year-old Shapiro is age-ineligible for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, but she has a big aim for 2007.

"I would like to represent the U.S. in international competition," she said. "That's my main goal for the new year."

Samantha Shapiro is featured in the following issues of International Gymnast magazine:

November 2006: center gallery (includes Shapiro)
October 2006: "Substance and Style" (profile)

To order back issues of IG magazine, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Monday, 25 December 2006 14:37    PDF Print
Family First for Liukin
(3 votes, average 4.00 out of 5)
Continuing IG Online's series of holiday features, 2005 world all-around silver medalist Nastia Liukin (USA) told IG that her holiday plans include spending quality time with her grandfather visiting from Russia.
Nastia Liukin

"I will stay home for the holidays and spend time with my family," said Liukin, who was born in Moscow and now resides in Texas. "My aunt and uncle, as well as my grandpa, who just flew in from Russia last weekend, will come over on Christmas Eve for dinner."

Liukin, the 2005 world champion on uneven bars and balance beam, is recovering from ankle surgery. At the 2006 World Championships, held in Denmark in October, the injury limited her to competing on uneven bars only. Liukin placed second on the event, and second with the U.S. in the team competition.

Liukin is the daughter of 1988 Olympic triple gold medalist Valery Liukin and former rhythmic gymnast Anna Kochneva Liukin, who tied for the gold medal with clubs at the 1987 World Championships. Valery coaches Liukin at the WOGA club in Plano, Texas.

Liukin explained that her parents' birthdays play important roles in the family Christmas celebration.

Nastia and Valery Liukin

"We always get our Christmas tree on my dad's birthday (Dec. 17) and keep it up until my mom's birthday (Jan. 25)," Liukin said.

The 17-year-old Liukin said her Russian heritage also plays a factor. "In Russia, New Year's Eve is a bigger holiday than Christmas is," she said. "It is a tradition to spend New Year's Eve with your family. But we celebrate Christmas as well."

Liukin has firm plans for the new year.

"My resolution for 2007 is to get my ankle healthy and get back into the competition season!" she said.

Nastia Liukin is featured in the following issues of International Gymnast magazine:

December 2006: World Championships special issue
October 2006: U.S. Championships coverage
June 2006: Pacific Alliance Championships coverage
May 2006: American Cup photo gallery
April 2006: American Cup coverage
January/February 2006: cover photo, 2005 World Championships special issue
October 2005: cover photo, center poster, U.S. Championships coverage
June/July 2005: Valery Liukin Hall of Fame induction feature
April 2005: cover photo, American Cup coverage
August/September 2005: U.S. Championships coverage
June/July 2004: Pacific Alliance Championships coverage
August/September 2003: U.S. Championships coverage
June/July 2003: cover photo
November 2002: "An Unstoppable Force" (profile)

To order back issues of IG magazine, click here.

Written by Amanda Turner    Sunday, 24 December 2006 14:24    PDF Print
Yelena Mukhina Dies
(11 votes, average 4.55 out of 5)

1978 world all-around champion Yelena Mukhina died Friday evening in Moscow. Mukhina was 46.

No cause of death was announced for Mukhina, who had been paralyzed by a training accident in 1980.

Born in Moscow on June 6, 1960, Mukhina was orphaned at age 5 when her mother died in an apartment fire. Cared for by her grandmother, Mukhina grew up with dreams of being a gymnast. One day a coach appeared in her classroom and asked any girls interested in trying gymnastics to raise their hands. "I nearly cried with happiness," she later recalled.

In 1974, Mukhina began working with men's coach Mikhail Klimenko. She won the Soviet junior national title in 1976, but was not in contention for the Olympic team after a 12th place finish at the USSR Cup.

1977 was Mukhina's breakout year, both domestically and internationally. She placed second all-around at the Soviet Championships and the USSR Cup. At the European Championships, she finished second all-around to Nadia Comaneci and won gold medals on the uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise. At the World Cup, she won gold medals on the uneven bars and balance beam.

Mukhina was the star of the 1978 World Championships in Strasbourg, France, where she won five medals including the all-around title. In Strasbourg she impressed with her difficulty, including a full-twisting Korbut on the uneven bars and a double back dismount off beam. She was the first female to tumble a full-twisting double back on floor exercise, where she won a third gold medal.

Yelena Mukhina
In 1979, Mukhina placed fourth all-around, first on uneven bars and second on beam at the European Championships. Later that year she suffered a broken leg that kept her out of the world championships. Mukhina continued to train before the injury had completely healed, eventually needing surgery to repair the leg.

On July 3, 1980, Mukhina was in Minsk training for the Olympic Games in Moscow. She was attempting a Thomas salto (full-twisting 1 3/4 tumbling pass) on floor exercise when she came up short. She landed on her chin and snapped her spine, leaving her a partial quadriplegic.

Though Mukhina rarely gave interviews, she was vocally critical of the Soviet sports system and others involved in her training. She repeatedly described her accident as "inevitable" because of the conditions under which she trained — exhausted and injured.

"There are such concepts as the honor of the club, the honor of the team, the honor of the national squad, the honor of the flag. They are words behind which the person isn't perceived," she said in 1988. "I was injured because everyone around me was observing neutrality and keeping silent. After all, they saw that I wasn't ready to perform that element. But they kept quiet."

A funeral has been planned for Dec. 27.

Written by John Crumlish    Saturday, 23 December 2006 14:34    PDF Print
Tweddle Treats Dutch with Holiday Display
Continuing IG Online's series of holiday features on gymnasts around the world, 2006 world uneven bars champion Beth Tweddle (Great Britain) talks about her Christmastime visit to the Netherlands.

"I will be in Holland until Christmas Eve doing a display," Tweddle told IG. "I will then spend Christmas Day with family and friends. Then I'll travel down south on the 27th to see grandparents and cousins, as they are all based down there."

In 2006, Tweddle's outstanding uneven bars performances made her the first British gymnast win gold at several major events — the senior European Championships, the World Championships and the World Cup Final.

Tweddle, who resides in Bunbury, Cheshire, is looking forward to a quiet Christmas, spending the day with her family.

"I don't get much time to see them through the year," she said.

Coached by 1984 Olympian Amanda Harrison Kirby, the 21-year-old Tweddle plans to take a training break after the Dutch display. "After that I won't be back in the gym until after New Year, probably January 2, as I haven't had much time off this year and it's been a long year," she said.

Tweddle has avoided making any New Year's resolutions for 2007.

"To be honest I don't usually set them, as I usually break them soon after anyway!" she said.

Why does six-time world medalist Nastia Liukin leave her Christmas tree up for six weeks? Find out tomorrow here at IG Online!

Beth Tweddle is featured in the following issues of International Gymnast magazine:

December 2006: World Championships special issue
June 2006: European Championships coverage
January/February 2006: 2005 World Championships special issue
May 2005: "Tweddle Still Has the Mettle" (profile)
March 2002: "Ready For Anything" (profile)

To order back issues of IG magazine, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Saturday, 23 December 2006 14:18    PDF Print
Kupets: Home for the Holidays
(11 votes, average 3.18 out of 5)

Continuing our week-long series featuring prominent gymnasts from around the world, world and Olympic medalist Courtney Kupets talks to IG Online about her upcoming holiday plans.

Courtney Kupets
Kupets, a sophomore at the University of Georgia, said she is looking forward to celebrating the holidays at her parents' home in Athens, Ga. Joining her will be her older sister, Ashley (who also competes for Georgia), and her older brother, Mark, who attends Georgetown University Law School in Washington, D.C.

"My family has never done the same thing year after year," Kupets told IG. "We usually have something different going on each time. But the one thing that does stay the same is our Christmas meal. It's almost like a second Thanksgiving, and I love helping my dad prepare it."

During Kupets' international career, she lived in Maryland and trained at Hill's Angels with coaches Kelli Hill and Jen Bundy. Kupets won the world title on uneven bars in 2002 and was a member of the gold-medal U.S. team at the 2003 World Championships. She finished first all-around at the 2003 U.S. Championships, and tied Carly Patterson for first place all-around at the 2004 U.S. Championships.

At the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Kupets finished ninth all-around, third on uneven bars and second with the U.S. team. She was hampered at the Games by an injury that was later diagnosed as a stress fracture in her hip.

Kupets led Georgia to the team title at the 2006 NCAA Championships, where she placed first all-around, and tied for first place on uneven bars and balance beam.

Now preparing for Georgia's first meet of the upcoming season on Jan. 6, Kupets has been training consistently during the academic holiday break. The team has voluntary workouts Dec. 10-27.

"Since I don't travel anywhere and Georgia is basically my resident gym, I am lucky enough to have coaches who will take time out of their holiday break to come in on a few occasions so that I can work out some during our break," Kupets said.

Beyond the current NCAA season, Kupets said a return to international competition is a "hard question to answer," but not unreasonable.

"I always love a challenge, and if everything fell into place and I was capable I would not turn down the opportunity," she said. "But right now I am in collegiate gymnastics and that is where all my focus goes to, not to mention all the school work involved in it. Basically I don't rule out the possibility, but as of now it is not my intention."

Kupets joked about her resolution for the new year. "As of now the biggest thing I would like to keep under control is the messiness of my room," she said. "Lately it never stays clean. So my New Year's resolution is to maintain a clean room!"

How is world uneven bars champion Beth Tweddle celebrating Christmas Eve? Find out Sunday here at IG Online!

Courtney Kupets is featured in the following issues of International Gymnast magazine:

April 2002: cover photo, "Kupets Answers the Call" (profile)
January 2003: cover photo collage, 2002 World Championships special issue
February 2003: center poster collage
May 2003: "Common Bonds" (Kupets/Ashley Postell interview)
August/September 2003: cover photo collage, U.S. Championships coverage
August/September 2004: U.S. Olympic Trials and U.S. Championships coverage
October 2004: Olympic Games special issue
June 2006: NCAA Championships coverage.

To order back issues of IG magazine, click here.


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