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Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 11 May 2018 07:55    PDF Print
Chiles On U.S. Team: 'There Is Not Just One Leader'
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

U.S. gymnast Jordan Chiles told IG that her triple gold medal-winning performance at last month’s Pacific Rim Championships in Medellin, Colombia, showed her reliability as a scoring leader and a team leader, as well.

“It was amazing to compete with my teammates and be able to support them,” said Chiles, who placed first on vault, first on floor exercise, first with the U.S. team and third on balance beam in Medellin. “Some of the girls are first-time team members, so it was cool working together to represent the USA.”

Chiles, who placed third all-around at the World Cup of Stuttgart, Germany, in March, said she was pleased with her personal results in Medellin, despite an injury that kept her out of the all-around and a fall from balance beam in the apparatus finals.

“My plan was to compete in the all-around, but in the morning practice before competition, I was training bars and jammed my index finger on a release move,” said Chiles, who turned 17 on April 15. “After discussing the injury with my coaches and the medical staff, it was decided that it was safest for me to not do bars. My routines for the other events went pretty close to what we planned for this early in my season. The goal was to compete clean routines and think of the team, and I think I was able to do that, except my beam in the event final. Why?!”

The 2017 U.S. all-around silver medalist, Chiles said she intends to add content to her routines in time for the U.S. Championships in Boston in August and, should she qualify, the 2018 World Championships in Doha, Qatar, in October.

“I need to focus on putting all my upgrades in my routines,” said Chiles, who trains at Naydenov Gymnastics Inc. in Vancouver, Washington. “I have been competing watered-down routines this year in Stuttgart and Colombia. To do well at Championships and hopefully make Worlds, I will need to compete my full difficulty.”

The stability, confidence and cooperation that Chiles demonstrated in Stuttgart and Medellin are other key focal points for the coming months, she said.

“I also need to show that I can be consistent and hit routines easily,” Chiles said. “I think I was able to show that I can be counted on. I was able to bring USA a medal in every event I was in this year. But mostly I think I can show that I love my team and that competing as a team is amazing. I love the all-around and event finals, too, but there is something about the team competition. I became close with the girls and the coaches, and that makes the experience so cool.”

A second-year senior, Chiles embraces her new role as one of the U.S. team’s leaders.

“It is crazy to think that I would be considered a veteran since I still look up to many of the girls, but I do feel comfortable in a leadership role,” she told IG. “I have been an elite since I was 11 and on Team USA since I was 12, so I have had a lot of experience. I hope that I can encourage the girls to be the best they can be. It really is a team effort and there is not just one leader, but I can help get our team to achieve their dreams. I think that is what makes the USA great. Anyone can step up at any point and we will listen.”

Read “Amazing Grace,” a four-page profile on Chiles, in the March 2018 issue of International Gymnast magazine. To subscribe to the print and/or digital editions of IG magazine, or order back issues, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Wednesday, 09 May 2018 07:00    PDF Print
Romi Kessler: Swiss Vanguard
(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

In an era when Eastern-bloc gymnasts ruled the rankings, Switzerland’s Romi Kessler made remarkable and still-memorable strides as one of Western Europe’s top gymnasts of the late 1970s and early ’80s.

She credits her uniqueness and efficiency to her coaches, Urs Straumann and Gabi Schneider, who were public high-school teachers.

“They also gave me other knowledge and values such as art and culture,” says Kessler, who placed ninth all-around and made three event finals at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. “They were very respectful, intelligent, creative and strict. We also had courses in jazz dance, modern dance and pantomime.”

Kessler’s novel beam routine and superbly interpreted “West Side Story” floor performance from 1984 perhaps best manifested her clever, dynamic style.

“We didn’t let others influence us much,” she says. “We did our thing. Maybe my disposition and versatility was a reason. And also my naturalness, authenticity, joy and passion for this sport.”

She’s encouraged by the current progress of the Swiss program.

“It’s nice to see that more attention is paid to the team again,” says Kessler of Switzerland’s recent rise. “This results in a win-win situation.”

Kessler and her ex-husband, fellow 1984 Swiss Olympian Marco Piatti, have three adult children and one grandson. She works in human resources for Jaagou Ltd. in Zurich, where, as during her gymnastics career, her sense of wonder and purpose thrive.

“I have a lot of freedom here,” she says. “I can bring in my creativity, knowledge, service orientation, common sense, joy and happiness.”

To subscribe to the print and/or digital edition, or to order back issues of International Gymnast magazine, click here.

This story was printed in the May 2018 issue of International Gymnast.

Written by John Crumlish    Wednesday, 02 May 2018 07:05    PDF Print
Australia's Tone Set For Further Success
(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Australian gymnast Michael Tone told IG that, following a long absence from all-around competitions, his all-around finish at the recent Commonwealth Games marked a promising return and a solid step towards the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

“I was quite pleased with my all-around performance, especially considering that I only started training all six events again within the last 18 months and this was my first all-around competition since 2013,” said Tone, who placed eighth all-around, fifth on high bar and seventh on pommel horse at the Games that his country hosted in Gold Coast from April 4-15. “I was also very happy receiving a solid score on pommel during the first two days to help the team score and my individual all-around.”

Tone credits his success in Gold Coast to the experience he has gained since making his international debut at the 2017 World Cup of Melbourne. He competed in four World Cup meets and the University Games last year, and made two finals at the World Cup of Melbourne in February.

“Those events helped me to fast-track learning the skills that are needed to compete at a high level, such as handling the pressure of an international competition while still being able to enjoy myself on the competition floor,” said Tone, who placed first on pommel horse and second on rings at the 2017 Australia Championships. “This, in addition to all the support I received from my coach, Sean Wilson, helped me to refine my gymnastics within the last 18 months.”

Tone said his training strategy between now and this fall’s World Championships in Doha, Qatar, will include a combination of increasing his difficulty and improving his execution, as well as a “major focus” on consistency.

“There are several changes to my routines that I will be looking to implement for Worlds,” he said. “But the key areas for increasing my difficulty will be some additions to my pommel horse routine as well as upgrading my vault to a Dragulescu.”

With Doha serving as the first qualification meet for the 2020 Olympics, Tone said he has reasonable prospects for Tokyo.

“Tokyo 2020 has been a major goal of mine for a number of years, and I think I’m on the right track to making it a reality,” Tone told IG. “Individually, my best chance will be qualifying through one of the all-around positions with the hope to also take one of the three spots on pommel at next year’s Worlds. I know that my teammates have similar aspirations.”

To subscribe to the print and/or digital edition or to order back issues of International Gymnast magazine, click here.

Written by dwight normile    Monday, 30 April 2018 07:20    PDF Print
Streak Snapped: At Age 29, Can Kohei Uchimura Win Another World All-around Title?
(4 votes, average 4.00 out of 5)

Kohei Uchimura’s goal has always been to perform beautiful gymnastics. He simply wants to entertain the audience with complex and beautiful gymnastics. The judges are merely an afterthought. That’s probably why he’s been so successful. “I think the performance that touches people’s hearts is beautiful,” he says.

So when he injured his left ankle on vault, his second event during the qualifications at the 2017 World Championships in Montreal, he was devastated. Uchimura had won an unprecedented six world all-around titles, starting in 2009 and ending in 2015. He was going for his seventh.

“I am very frustrated with myself that I could not compete in all six events,” he says. Uchimura competed on three events in Montreal: rings (14.000); vault (15.166); and parallel bars (14.033). He landed his vault a little low (Li Xiaopeng: roundoff half-onto the table, front layout-21/2 twists). He had only a small hop forward, his left ankle absorbing most of the force of the landing. When he turned to leave the podium, however, he lifted his tender left ankle and leaned over to rub the outside of it. (After an MRI and X-ray, he was diagnosed with an incomplete tear of the anterior talofibular ligament.)

After competing a somewhat loose parallel bars routine, he limped off the podium after his double pike dismount. He tried warming up high bar but was forced to withdraw from the competition.

“My ankle is recovering well,” says Uchimura, who competed on four events at the Doha (Qatar) World Cup in March: pommel horse (where he fell), rings, vault and high bar. He did not make any finals.

But competing in Doha will enable him to get a feel for the Aspire Dome, since the 2018 World Championships will also be held in Doha in October. And will he compete in the all-around at those Worlds? “Yes, of course,” he says.

Japan was still represented on the podium at the 2017 Worlds, with Kenzo Shirai winning the all-around bronze. He was .017 shy of the silver. Uchimura said that if his teammate had stuck more landings, he might have won the gold.

Uchimura was born Jan. 3, 1989, near Nagasaki, where his parents, Kazuhisa (father) and Shuko (mother) owned a gym. His younger sister, Haruhi, is also a gymnast. Little Kohei grew up in that gym. “[My father] just told me to enjoy the sport, and if I can’t enjoy it, it means nothing,” he says. “I think this was very good for me.”

When Uchimura was 15 he left his parents’ gym to train in Tokyo with is role model, Naoya Tsukahara, son of the great Mitsuo Tsukahara. “At first [my parents] were against me, but I was a child that never listens to somebody once I made up my mind firmly,” he says. “So in the end, they said OK, reluctantly.”

Asked what he liked most about his streak, Uchimura says, “My proudest competition was the 2011 Tokyo World Championships.” Uchimura won the all-around by more than 3.0, and he also won the gold on floor exercise and the bronze on high bar. It’s interesting that he would name those Worlds. After Japan dominated the team competition in qualifications, his team placed second to China in the team finals.

The majority of Uchimura’s career has been under the open-ended Code of Points. Given how it has been constantly changed since it was implemented at the 2006 World Championships in Aarhus, Denmark, Uchimura does not want to return to the 10.0 judging system. “I personally believe that the current rules are good for me, because I have won a number of titles using this system,” he says.

Since only one component of the Code of Points is open ended (Difficulty), would he like to see the Execution deductions also subtracted from the Difficulty score? “It would be great if beautiful execution were rewarded in this way,” he says.

And if he could change the Code? “I’d like to bring back the bonus for virtuosity,” he says. “I would like to see excellent scores for excellent performances that nobody can equal.”

Few gymnasts can match Uchimura in terms of pure technique, perfect form and virtuosity. In that respect, he’s a tuxedo in a rack of tweeds.

Uchimura was married after the 2012 London Olympics, where he won his first Olympic all-around title. (He placed second at the 2008 Olympics.) His wife, Chiho, is a former gymnast, and the couple have two daughters, born in 2013 and 2015.

With regard to having two kids, Uchimura says, “I feel a greater sense of responsibility. It positively affects my performance.”

Even at 29, Uchimura says he is not training fewer hours than he did when he was younger. “It hasn’t changed much,” he says. But the aches and pains are always a factor. “As a gymnast, everyone has nagging injuries. In my case, it’s back pain.”

He’s also working on a few new skills, such as a Bretschneider (double-twisting Kovacs). He may need it. In April 2017 he won his 10th straight All-Japan Championships, but he beat runner-up Yusuke Tanaka by only .05. He defeated bronze medalist Kenzo Shirai by .25.

It may seem odd that Uchimura has won zero event titles over three Olympics, and only three event titles at World Championships: floor exercise, 2011 (Tokyo); parallel bars, 2013 (Antwerp); and high bar, 2015 (Glasgow). But it is really a testament of his balance as an all-around gymnast.

The 2016 Rio Olympics must have been satisfying for Uchimura. He won his second Olympic all-around title, but more importantly, Japan won its first team title since the 2004 Athens Games.

As Uchimura looks ahead to the new year, he understands his ultimate goal. “The serious part is the (2018) World Championships,” he says. “I have to consider what kind of routines I’ll do at Worlds. The things I’m hoping for are fairly big. That’s a battle against myself. I do it to battle on the world stage, after all. It’s not about what happened last year. More than reclaiming a title or getting revenge. I just want to get back out there; I’ve kept everyone waiting.”

Regardless of what aspirations Uchimura has, or what his future goals are, he has already written his chapter in the history of gymnastics. Until some other amazing gymnast comes along — and one day that may happen — he will always be considered the greatest gymnast the sport has ever seen.

Father time remains undefeated, but he’s definitely given Kohei Uchimura a few years more to work his magic.

This story was printed in the April 2018 issue.

To subscribe to the print and/or digital edition or to order back issues of International Gymnast magazine, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 17 April 2018 08:33    PDF Print
Rogers: 'I'm Going To Let The Wind Take Me'
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Two-time Canadian Olympian Brittany Rogers told IG that, despite intimations of her imminent retirement, her medal-winning performances at this month’s Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, have her eying the 2020 Olympics Games in Tokyo.

“My performances in Australia could honestly go either way,” said the 24-year-old Rogers, who won gold in the team competition and silver on uneven bars in Gold Coast. “It could seal the deal and give me satisfaction and closure on my career, or it could motivate me to continue on. Considering I’ve been pushing back my retirement for a few years now, all signs would point to me continuing on to Tokyo.”

As fans reveled in the Canadian women’s first Commonwealth Games team victory in 28 years, Rogers, who competed for the University of Georgia, said teamwork and confidence assured her of their potential for gold in Gold Coast.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say it was a surprise that we won the gold, due to the amount of talent and experience within the team,” said Rogers, who competed at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. “I think the key this time was the unity and bond we developed throughout the week that really made us trust each other and step up when it mattered the most. I had no doubts that this team was going to have a successful Games. It was more of a question regarding which color medal we’d win.”

Rogers, who placed first on vault and fifth on balance beam at last summer’s University Games in Taipei, said she is not rushing a decision relating to Tokyo 2020.

“All I know for right now is that I am soaking in all of the success the team and I had in Australia, as well as giving my mind and body a break,” she told IG. “I have a few job opportunities in the works which I am really looking forward to, but in the meantime I’m going to let the wind take me where it wants to take me.”

To subscribe to the print and/or digital edition or to order back issues of International Gymnast magazine, click here.


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