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Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 29 August 2017 04:01    PDF Print
Rijken: 'I'll Need To Keep Pushing Myself'
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Frank Rijken, the youngest member of the Dutch men's gymnastics team at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, intends to build on the experience he gained in recent years and bolster his team's chances to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Games. Pictured: Rijken at the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow

Frank Rijken, the youngest member of the Dutch men's gymnastics team at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, intends to build on the experience he gained in recent years and bolster his team's chances to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Born November 24, 1996, in Westvoorne, Rijken first took up gymnastics in his hometown because his siblings were already in the sport. He later trained at SDS Rotterdam along with his elder sister Marlies Rijken, who was a member of the Dutch women's team at the 2010 Worlds in Rotterdam and the 2011 Worlds in Tokyo. He now trains at R & D Zwijndrecht.

Rijken helped the Dutch team placed 11th at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, where he finished 33rd all-around in qualifications. He was also part of the Dutch team that finished 11th at the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow, from which it advanced to the Olympic test event in April 2016. Rijken and his teammates clinched their Olympic team berth by virtue of their third-place finish at the test event, becoming the first full Dutch men's gymnastics team at the Olympics since the 1928 Games in Amsterdam.

Rijken recently spoke with IG Online about his plans to return to Olympic competition, starting with this fall's world championships in Montreal.

IG: How would you rate your personal performance in Rio?

FR: I was the most inexperienced member by far, but I still did some big and important competitions. As a senior, I competed in the 2015 European Games in Baku, and I competed at the (2015) World Championships in Glasgow and the test event in Rio. So, I did have a bit of experience in the bigger events. My team trusted me to perform a good all-around competition, and that gave me the confidence to perform one. For me, the competition was an amazing experience with a very decent all-around competition.

Rijken at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio

IG: Qualifying a team for Rio was a huge accomplishment for the Dutch team, but some people think the Dutch could have performed even better than they did. Why do you think you team did not perform well enough to advance to the team final?

FR: Qualifying a team for the Olympics was a huge accomplishment for us. It's something we built towards for four years and it's awesome if it pays off like that. For the Olympic team, the staff had to make a balance between a good team score and a good chance of individual finals. In this balance, you'll have to take some risk, because we didn't have a back-up on some apparatuses. Despite this risk, we managed to get the highest ranking a Dutch team ever made, so we were all pleased with the debut we made.

IG: Knowing that there will be no team competition in Montreal, what do you think you will need to qualify for a spot there?

FR: Our head coach has set certain scores on every apparatus. If you manage to hit that score in the qualifications for the worlds, you'll probably be qualified for a spot in Montreal. I'm doing only parallel bars and high bar for these world championships. So, I'll have to perform well in the qualifications and manage the score the head coach set.

IG: Now that you have one Olympic Games behind you, what will you need to change or improve in your training, in order to become a leader of the team?

FR: I'll need to keep on pushing myself in training, in order to improve, not only by working hard, but also in working efficiently and smartly. My coach, Jeroen Jacobs, and I started working together four years ago. Since then I improved so fast by doing exactly this. I think, if we continue this training, I'll reach my full potential. I'm not where this will take me, but I'm sure it will result in some amazing competitions and experiences.

IG: Although we have three years till Tokyo, there are already several teams who look capable of pushing for a qualifying spot. What do you suggest so the Dutch team will be sure to earn one of those spots?

FR: As a team we will definitely try to qualify for the Olympics again. We have a lot of potential in our team. And I strongly believe we have enough quality to qualify for the Olympic games in Tokyo as a team.

International Gymnast magazine's recent coverage of Dutch gymnasts includes:
Eythora Thorsdottir chat (May 2017)
"Dutch Master" - Thorsdottir interview (April 2016)
"Marked for Success" - Casimir Schmidt profile (July/August 2014)
"Just Verdict" - Céline van Gerner interview (June/July 2012)
"Ready to Rise for the Netherlands" - Noel van Klaveren profile (June 2013)
"Skilled and Studious" - Epke Zonderland cover story (March 2014)

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

Written by dwight normile    Thursday, 25 May 2017 11:54    PDF Print
Jacki Exclusive in June Issue of International Gymnast
(3 votes, average 3.67 out of 5)

The June issue of International Gymnast includes a fascinating interview with Mike Jacki, who was President of USA Gymnastics from 1983-94. IG recently caught up with Jacki in Oklahoma City, where received the Frank Bare Award at the 21st annual induction dinner for the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame.

Following are excerpts from that interview.

On the root problem with USA Gymnastics right now…

There is currently a lack of leadership, vision and strategy. Where many Olympic sports have made great strides in growth, development and visibility in the last twenty years, gymnastics has gone backwards, both domestically and internationally. You cannot rely on an Olympic Games every four years as your marketing platform. Gymnastics has become stagnant, and the reduction of artistic gymnastics team size and television has damaged the sport and will continue to do so.

On the challenges he faced when he became Executive Director of the U.S. Gymnastics Federation in 1983…

We had not had an Olympics in seven years, and in our last Olympics (1976) we won one medal, Peter Kormann's bronze on floor. We were in significant debt and our membership had little confidence in our ability to provide the necessary services for them. …

And while few people knew this, we could not get insurance. … We had a staff of three people when we moved to Indianapolis and had no money as we were almost $800,000 in debt. The hiring and restructuring the office and staff began almost immediately, but with the financial limitations we had, this was complicated. I hired a CPA to begin trying to unscramble our financial dilemma. She quit after one week because she said we would be facing bankruptcy and there was no way I would be able to pay her! (Jacki eventually got the federation in the black.)

On the FIG abolishing the 10.0 scoring system…

Terrible mistake. Bruno Grandi again, telling everyone the new system would create world records. No one would ever remember the balance beam record, but they would remember a perfect score on the balance beam. I argued against him through my 12 years on the FIG. The open system has done irreparable damage. We went from a deductive system, based on artistry and elegance, to an additive system, based on difficulty.

Read the full interview with Mike Jacki in the June 2017 issue of International Gymnast. To subscribe or to order back issues, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 28 March 2017 07:10    PDF Print
'It Will Get Better From Here,' Says Jamaican Olympian Williams
(5 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Although a recent injury has sidelined 2016 Jamaican Olympian Toni-Ann Williams from competing for the University of California-Berkeley this season, she is determined to remain an icon for her country's national program and a valuable member of her collegiate team.

Williams, who was born in Maryland to Jamaican parents, became Jamaica's first gymnastics Olympian when she competed last summer in Rio following a long and successful season for Cal. A veteran of the 2011, 2013 and 2015 World Championships, Williams suffered a season-ending Achilles' tendon injury in early February. She is in the process of recovery and looks forward to future international and collegiate competitions.

In this IG Online interview, Williams discusses the impact that her recent injury, Rio and her role-model status have had on her ever-evolving gymnastics career.

Williams with track star Usain Bolt in Rio

IG: How and when did you injure yourself?

TAW: It was a couple of days before we left for the (Feb. 4) Utah meet, in workout. I had been feeling kind of tight in my (left) Achilles and calf that day. My trainer said, "Just roll it out and make sure it's super loose." Right before a tumbling pass, I thought, "OK, this is going to be my last tumbling pass, and then I'm going to be done for the day." Then, on the takeoff for my double pike, I felt it snap. In my mind I was like, "How am I going to land this without hurting myself any further?" So I kind of landed on all fours. I cried for about five minutes and then the pain went away, because that's what happens when you snap an Achilles. It's not really painful. I knew exactly what happened as soon as I did it.

IG: How are you doing in terms of recovery at this point?

TAW: I got my stitches out a few weeks ago and I'm allowed to walk without crutches, so it's been good. It's a slow recovery but it's definitely different for me to be in this position — not competing — but I definitely enjoy being in the cheerleader role for the team, and bring the spirit and attitude. It's going to be a long recovery but I'm excited to get back in there.

IG: Being used to competing week in and week out, not to mention for Jamaica, how are you psychologically coping with being sidelined?

TAW: It was definitely hard for me. A few weeks ago I had a breakdown. I just cried. I don't know if it was mourning or grieving over something you have taken away from you, but once I went through that, I realized that it will get better from here. I started walking, and I know my recovery is going to go in great places and I'm going to come back stronger than I was before. It's been challenging to be in that mental space, but having the team behind me and helping me has helped me get through it.

IG: When do you think you'll be back doing actual gymnastics?

TAW: By mid- to end of summer, I can hopefully start to do everything again and be my normal self, but I will definitely, definitely be back for next season.

IG: What was your main take-away, or revelation, from competing at the Rio Olympics?

TAW: During Rio I actually had a knee injury that resulted in knee surgery a couple of weeks later when I got back. But going through that and dealing with my knee and competing for Jamaica after competing for Cal made me realize how strong I am and that I can get through things like my Achilles injury. I can take that experience and bring it to this (Cal) team. It's a team that's growing and going in great places. I can use my experience and grit, going through all of that, to bring it to the team.

Williams on vault for Cal

IG: What was your personal experience in Rio like?

TAW: It was so much fun. I was starstruck the entire time. Usain Bolt was in the room below me. Every little girl dreams of going to the Olympics, and for me to reach that goal — there are no words I can use to describe it. I even got a Rio tattoo, on my left biceps — nowhere scandalous! But having these rings reminds me of where I've been and where I want to go. Continuing to compete for Jamaica and Cal keeps me focused and staying on the right path.

IG: What plans do you have in terms of resuming your international career?

TAW: Coming back from my injury is what I'm focused on right now, and finishing out my last season at Cal. I plan on training internationally once I graduate, continuing to compete for Jamaica. There's still a lot I have to do for the program in Jamaica. Kids need role models and gyms need to be built, and my competing helps that progress. I have more to do and I'm not going to stop after I graduate.

IG: How do you manage the extra responsibility you carry as the "face" of Jamaican gymnastics?

TAW: Making that milestone for Jamaica is something I had been preparing myself for. Being the only gymnast to compete for Jamaica since I was 15 has been a lot on me, and I've been able to handle the pressure. Coming to Cal and being part of this team has also helped me become a leader in my own sense of the word. It was a lot of fun and pressure in Rio, and no matter how I performed, I knew Jamaica was proud and a lot of people saw gymnastics as a sport that can now be in Jamaica, which was the goal the entire time.

IG: What's been happening with the team since Rio?

TAW: My sister, Maya Williams, is also on the national team. She competed at the (2015) World Championships in Glasgow. They've been having training camps in my home gym while I've been out here competing. It's still going. My sister is holding it down for me till I'm back!

To subscribe or to purchase back issues to International Gymnast magazine, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Wednesday, 15 February 2017 09:46    PDF Print
Interview: David Jessen (Czech Republic)
(3 votes, average 4.67 out of 5)

Czech gymnast David Jessen intends to use the valuable experience he gained at last summer's Olympic Games in Rio to motivate him for future competitions for Czech Republic and Stanford University in California, where he is in the midst of his first NCAA season.

Jessen at the 2015 European Games

Czech gymnast David Jessen intends to use the valuable experience he gained at last summer's Olympic Games in Rio to motivate him for future competitions for Czech Republic and Stanford University in California, where he is in the midst of his first NCAA season.

Born in Brno, Jessen holds dual citizenship with the U.S. He was a member of the U.S. junior national team earlier in his career, and won the Czech national all-around title in 2014 and 2015. Jessen, who finished 47th all-around at the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow, is the son of 1988 Olympian Hana Říčná Jessen. Říčná Jessen, who competed for then-united Czechoslovakia, won the silver medal on balance beam at the 1983 World Championships and the bronze medal on uneven bars at the 1985 Worlds.

Jessen, who placed 47th all-around in Rio, shared his thoughts on Rio and his plans for the future in this IG Online interview.

IG: After Rio you posted a Facebook message implying that you weren't satisfied with your results. Looking back, what went right and not-so-right?

DJ: Looking back at the Games, my performance was not as bad as it might have seemed at first. Disappointment is the first thing that hits when something doesn't go as well as you hoped, especially when an opportunity such as the Olympic Games comes only once every four years. I think I may have set my ambitions a little too high instead of letting the competition take its course and enjoying it. The experience is what it was really about. Pommel horse was definitely a rough event to start on, but once I got that out of the way, I felt more relaxed for the rest of the meet. If there was one thing I could relive from the Games, it was the feeling of hitting a really clean high bar set. I was most happy about that.

IG: How did your experience in Rio prepare you for the upcoming major international competitions?

Jessen and Australia's Emily Little, with whom he paired to win the 2016 Grno Brand Prix

DJ: The Olympic Games in Rio was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. After being a part of that experience, I've felt what it's like to be among the top athletes in the world, and I am extremely grateful. Therefore, going into the upcoming international meets, I do not think I will be as nervous, yet I will always pressure myself into performing to the best of my ability.

IG: So far this NCAA season you have not competed all-around. What is your plan for building back into the all-around, in the NCAA season as well as for international meets?

DJ: Stanford has always been a very competitive team, and making the lineup on an event is not an easy task. As of right now, I help to contribute on my better three events – pommel horse, parallel bars, and high bar – in competitions while still getting to train all six during the week. So I will always be fighting to earn an all-around spot, but at the end of the day, the lineup is determined by what is best for the team. As for representing Czech Republic in international competitions, I would like to pursue competing all-around.

IG: What big meets are on your agenda for Czech Republic this year?

DJ: Sadly, this year's NCAA Championships fall on the same weekend as the European Championships, so I will not be able to go (to Europeans) this time. However, I do plan on competing at Czech Nationals in June if school permits. I also look forward to hopefully competing in this year's University Games in Taipei and World Championships in Montreal.

IG: Although you have not declared a major, towards which if any major are you leaning at this point?

DJ: I am leaning towards a biology degree or a similar degree that may help me get into med school. I have always enjoyed learning about the sciences, particularly biology and chemistry, so I figured that medicine was the way to go.

International Gymnast magazine's coverage of Czech gymnasts includes:
Vera Caslavska tribute (October 2016)
Vera Caslavska/Hall of Fame induction feature (June 2012)
"Rebuilding Phase" - Kristýna Pálešová profile (June 2011)
Říčná/Jessen family update (June 2010)
"Central European Sojourn" - includes IG's visit to Sokol Brno (January/February 2010)
"Shooting Star" - Petra Fialova profile (January/February 2010)
"Central European Sojourn" - includes IG's visit to Sokol Brno club (January/February 2010)
"On the Upswing" - Jana Šikulová profile (July/August 2006)
"Reality Czech" - Jana Komrsková feature (November 2003)
"Catching up with Hana Říčná Jessen" - profile (May 2001)
Komrsková profile (August/September 2000)

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

Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 10 February 2017 11:19    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Scott Morgan (Canada)
(3 votes, average 4.67 out of 5)

Although 2016 Canadian Olympian Scott Morgan skipped the recent Elite Canada meet, he is readying himself for challenges to come, including this falls's World Championships that his country will host in Montreal.

Although 2016 Canadian Olympian Scott Morgan skipped the recent Elite Canada meet, he is readying himself for challenges to come, including this falls's World Championships that his country will host in Montreal.

The 27-year-old Morgan was the lone Canadian male artistic gymnast at last summer's Olympic Games in Rio, where he was the first competitor on floor exercise in the first subdivision. He competed on three apparatuses, ranking 14th on vault, 18th on floor exercise and 27th on rings. Morgan, who placed eighth on floor exercise at the 2013 World Championships in Antwerp, came closest to a Rio final on that event, where his score of 14.966 points was 0.234 points shy of the cut-off for the eight-gymnast final.

Morgan refers to his gymnastics in terms of "we," a consciously chosen pronoun by which he means himself and Valentin Stan, his coach at Flicka Gymnastics Club in North Vancouver. "It certainly wouldn't have been possible to get to where I've gotten without his support, so I look at us as a team," Morgan says.

In this IG Online interview, Morgan details his strategy for skipping Elite Canada, his performances in Rio and how they impacted him, his plans to revise his routines and his goals for Montreal.

IG: Why didn't you compete at Elite Canada?

SM: Following a very busy cycle and a demanding Olympic Games, we (Morgan and Stan) decided to rehab a few injuries this fall and winter that needed attention. Progress has been great so far, and our goal this year is to learn and progress as much as possible. We've decided that more time towards skills was best for our long-term plans of obtaining finals and reaching the podium, so opting out of this year's early competitions just made sense.

IG: You were reasonably close to making the floor final in Rio. Looking back, what do you think cost you a higher score and a better chance at the final?

SM: After qualifying as Canada's representative we knew we had an uphill battle starting off the competition first on floor. Perfection was our only objective and although we hit one of our best great routines, it wasn't enough to keep us in the mix as the competition progressed. It wasn't easy watching the rest of qualifications unfold but, at the end of the day, we were extremely happy with my routine and had a great experience.

IG: What did your experience in Rio teach or show you in terms of the changes or improvements you need to make in your gymnastics?

SM: Our experience certainly taught me that, regardless of competition order, it has zero reflection on how you as an athlete perform. We knew that, come competition day, the pressure to perform first up was going to be huge, and our preparation paid off. Rio was just one of many examples of how deep the the talent pool is in men's gymnastics, which is why we're planning on taking a step back and learn as much as possible. It's difficult to make it with just Start Value or form, so our goal is to maximize both in order to reach our full potential heading into this (2020 Olympic) cycle.

IG: What specific skills or combinations are you training for this season, not only on floor but your other apparatuses?

SM: We're going to try and change up a few things on floor. We want to keep it clean while opening up the door for higher Start Values, and maximizing connections while keeping some big skills in the mix. The same goes for rings and vault. It seems like everyone's pushing the envelope, so we're testing out a few new 5.6 vaults, as well as a couple new rings routine compositions, in hopes of improving our chances on multiple events.

IG: This year's worlds in Montreal present a new challenge for you competitively, compounded by the chance to compete in front of your home audience. How are you preparing for this opportunity, in terms of the extra expectations that may be placed on you there?

SM: We're planning the same as we did for Rio. Although the situation is different, we know the expectation will be just as high, and we're looking forward to showing something new and competitive at home. We expect Montreal's World Championships to be a similar experience to Toronto's 2015 Pan American Games, with loads of energy with immense pressure to do your country proud. Competing on home soil is always a pleasure, and we couldn't be more excited for this event and opportunity.

International Gymnast magazine's coverage of Canadian gymnasts includes:
"Making Tracks" - Scott Morgan profile (December 2013)
"Canadian Pace-setter" - Ana Padurariu profile (December 2016)
Jade Chrobok profile (April 2016)
Jade Chrobok and Meixi Semple cover photo inset (March 2016)
"Canadian Beacon" – Ellie Black interview (September 2015)
Chat with Christine Peng-Peng Lee (April 2015)
Megan Roberts profile (April 2015)
Isabela Onyshko profile (July/August 2014)
"Canadian Promise" - Ellie Black chat and Robert Watson profile (July/August 2014)
"Aiming to Top the Charts" - Maegan Chant interview (October 2013)
"Canadian Diversity" - Ellie Black and Hugh Smith profiles (July/August 2013)
"Sudden Impact" - Victoria Moors interview (January/February 2013)
Aleeza Yu two-page photo spread (May 2014)

Subscribe today and read this entire issue digitally, on your computer!

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