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Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 18 February 2020 08:30    PDF Print
Norway’s Heggemsnes on Tokyo 2020: ‘The Emotion Took Me’
(7 votes, average 4.57 out of 5)

Having qualified for this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, Norwegian gymnast Sofus Heggemsnes is now taking lofty aim at a top-24 all-around spot in his Olympic debut.

Heggemsnes, who will turn 21 less than two weeks before the start of the gymnastics competition in Tokyo, earned an individual berth for the Games through his performance at last fall’s World Championships in Stuttgart. He ranked a respectable 51st all-around in qualifications in Stuttgart, finishing among the top third of those gymnasts competing on all six apparatuses. Heggemsnes’s best individual apparatus results include seventh place on pommel horse at both the 2017 Challenge Cup of Varna and the 2018 Challenge Cup of Guimaraes, and third place on vault at the 2019 Challenge Cup of Szombathely.

In this International Gymnast Online interview, the self-confident Heggemsnes describes his emotional reaction to qualifying for Tokyo, as well as his training plan and goals for the Games themselves.

IG: Where were you when the news about Tokyo was made official, and which emotion did you feel?

SH: Oh my God, the emotion just took me, or hit me. This was my childhood dream! I decided when I was 11-years-old that I would go to the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020. I was in Stuttgart when it became official. It was so special, with my good gymnastics friends. The day after, when I landed in Oslo, I felt like a day in fame. I was met with television cameras and got interviewed. What a day. You know, it is nice to get recognized for what I do, but I do gymnastics more for the challenge of learning new things. I love to be in the gym and do my stuff.

IG: What key improvements or changes to your routines will you be making between now and Tokyo, so you can achieve your best results in Tokyo?

SH: I think my daily routine in the gym is quite good, so I continue in the same way. I feel that now is not the time to make big changes. The main focus will be on heightening my D-score (difficulty) and getting clean routines.

IG: How realistic for you is a top-24 all-around finish in Tokyo, and what will it take for you to achieve that?

SH: I am really working to get among the top 24. I have already made some changes. On high bar, parallel bars and rings, I have gotten some better improvements. So I hope to score even higher in Tokyo.

IG: You have made Challenge Cup finals on pommel horse and vault, so will you be focusing your training more on those apparatuses, or dividing your time equally among the six apparatuses?

SH: Since all-around top 24 will be the main focus, I'll be focusing on all the apparatuses. I might focus a bit more on vault to try to get in a triple twist instead of the 2.5 twist. I think I won't make a lot of changes on pommel horse.

IG: Norway made an impressive jump from 34th at the 2014 World Championships to 22nd at the 2018 World Championships. To what do you attribute this improvement, and what do you think is needed to continue the rise?

SH: I think part of the improvement is because of me and (2016 Olympian) Stian Skjerahaug. We two together made the big jump upwards. Norwegian gymnastics has in general become better. I think the rise is all about having good coaches that push you and bring out the best in you. Then you have a much better opportunity to become good.

IG: Who are your current coaches?

SH: Valentyn Skrypin has been my main coach since I was 11-years-old. I am so grateful for what he has managed to achieve in me. I also have another coach, Vitalij Solodkijs, who is also important for me. And the good thing is, they work so well together to make me better.

IG: What is your family background?

SH: I have lived all my life in Oslo. I have a twin brother, two older brothers and two older sisters. My mother was born in California, so you may say I am a little American, too, but she and her parents are Norwegian. My father is from Sweden, and his parents are from Jamaica and Trinidad. So you can say I am a good mix of a lot of good genes.

IG: What statement do you intend to make about yourself in Tokyo?

SH: We also qualified a (Norwegian) girl, Julie Dicko Erichsen. Get ready for some black magic in Tokyo.

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

Written by John Crumlish    Wednesday, 12 February 2020 08:45    PDF Print
Leydin’s Legacy: ‘Quality Is Always Better Than Quantity’
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Photo courtesy to Chris Hook - University of Arizona Athletics

As veteran Australian gymnast and University of Arizona senior Maddi Leydin flips through her final year of competition, she credits efficient, intelligent training for generating the stamina that enables her to perform at her best weekly throughout the U.S. collegiate season.

“You just have to learn how to be a smart gymnast and not do so many numbers,” said the 22-year-old Leydin, whose style is a pleasing combination of finesse and power. “Get the good ones in so you don’t have to do as many. I think that’s that main thing that’s gotten me through. Keeping myself fit and healthy throughout the year has been helpful, as well.”

One of several Australian female and male gymnasts to compete for U.S. universities over the years, Leydin said she has thrived in the relatively liberal setting of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) gymnastics.

“It’s definitely been an adjustment, but I love the college atmosphere and the environment in which we get to train and compete,” said Leydin, a 2017 Scholastic All-American and 2018-2019 member of the Pacific-12 (Pac-12) Conference All-Academic First Team. “Before, I never really got to smile or have fun in the gym or even competing. Now I just wait for the weekends, and I love being out there. I get to express myself a lot more.”

Leydin said she is proud of the progress her Arizona team has made during her collegiate career. Arizona, which achieved a final national ranking of 38th place in 2018 and 35th place in 2019, is ranked 22nd in this sixth week of the 2020 NCAA season.

“Our team has shown a lot of growth over the last three years,” Leydin said. “Each meet we’ve had to prove ourselves and have each other’s back, so it’s a really good feeling to know we have a strong team chemistry and everything like that, but we still haven’t proven ourselves enough yet. We have more to give. We haven’t quite hit everything on the same night yet, but we’re definitely capable of more, and we’re definitely going to show it sometime this season.”

Leydin, the 2013 Australian national all-around champion and her country’s top all-arounder at the 2015 World Championships, said she is eager to contribute her four-event proficiency where and as needed in her final season.

“I’ve had some pretty good performances so far, such as on vault and floor,” she said of her results thus far in 2020. “I still want to get a few more of those in this season. In the last couple of years I competed all-around. This year I’m sort of doing three events and sometimes all-around, but I’m doing what I can for the team to get whatever scores they need. We have a lot of depth this year, so I just do what I can, really.”

Leydin, who is considering graduate studies in sports psychology in Australia, also offered a tip to younger Aussie gymnasts considering NCAA as the next step in their careers.

“I think perfecting your routines in Elite (international gymnastics) will really help you get to college,” she said. “That’s probably the main thing.”

As Leydin prepares for new ventures outside of gymnastics, she would like her focus on camaraderie and productivity to remain a positive influence in the sport.

“I hope that my legacy will be that I was a genuinely caring teammate, I made an effort to check in with my teammates, and I helped those around me get better by sharing my gymnastics knowledge and experiences,” she told IG. “I'd like to be remembered for my efficiency in practice and that, in the gym, quality is always better than quantity."

International Gymnast magazine’s recent coverage of Australian gymnasts includes:

“Enterprising Aussies” - Georgia-Rose Brown/Emma Nedov dual interview (July/August 2019)

Maddi Leydin profile (April 2017)

Rianna Mizzen profile (April 2017)

“Aussie Ace” - Philippe Rizzo update (October 2017)

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

Written by John Crumlish    Saturday, 01 February 2020 15:28    PDF Print
Australia’s Bull Charges Toward Tokyo 2020
(4 votes, average 4.25 out of 5)

Australia’s Tyson Bull, who earned a quota spot to this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo by making the high bar final at the World Championships in Stuttgart last fall, has devised an industrious two-tiered strategy for a shot at a medal in Tokyo.

Born May 21, 1993, in the Melbourne suburb of Wantirna, Bull trains under coach Vladimir Vatkin. From 2015-2018 he competed for the University of Illinois in the U.S., where he studied kinesiology. Bull’s older brother, Jayden Bull, also competed at the international level.

Bull’s advancement to the Stuttgart final, in which he finished seventh after a fall, follows in his other international breakthroughs on the event. Also last year he placed fifth on high bar at the World Cup in Melbourne and eighth on high bar at the World Cup in Baku. He was third reserve for the high bar final at the 2018 Worlds in Doha.

In this International Gymnast Online interview, Bull reflects on his Olympic berth and shares his plan of action for performing at his best this summer in Tokyo.

IG: Where were you when you learned you earned the spot for Tokyo, and about whom or what did you first think?

TB: We competed in the second session on day two of qualifications (in Stuttgart), and after competing I was in fifth position. There were only two more sessions left in quals so I stuck around to watch for the next five or six hours. It came down to the last two gymnasts in the last rotation of the last session, both of whom with the potential to knock me out. I was in the crowd with my team completely on edge with my heart beating like crazy. The last score came in and I lost it, completely at a loss for words and what to think. Twenty years in the sport all coming down to one moment, and more than anything I felt like I was repaying all my coaches, mentors and especially family for all the long hours, sacrifices and hard work that’s gone into achieving this one goal. I probably had only a few hours sleep the following two nights because I was so wired and still trying to process the whole thing.

IG: What do you think caused your fall in the final, and what changes to your technique or mental approach have you made to avoid it going forward?

TB: I think more than anything it was an over-adjustment from my qualifying routine. In qualifications my connection was a little off and messy, and in the final I was trying to put everything perfect and not hold back. Unfortunately I toed the line a little too hard on the first release and fell. Moving forward I still want to approach the routine in much the same way — not holding back and not playing safe— maybe just with a little more emphasis on that mindset in training so it's natural in the final.

IG: The competition to make the final in Tokyo is likely to be the most competitive yet, so what will you need to make it? For example, as you looking to upgrade your D-score, E-score or a different strategy?

TB: Ideally both. I'm working on a few upgrades that I'm planning on trialing during the World Cup series. From there I can get a better idea of what’s viable and has the best risk versus reward for potential Tokyo routines. Ideally I'll have a separate qualifications and final sets with the potential for challenging for a medal. Working on bringing the E-score up is always a constant battle and just as important if not more so than the D-score, so I am pushing hard for every 10th on that end.

IG: With injuries to key teammates Chris Remkes and Clay Stephens in the past year, how are you coping with the responsibility you have as the "name and face" of Australian gymnastics in this Olympic year?

TB: For now there haven't been too many media responsibilities — just a few things here and there. I'm sure it will ramp up with the Melbourne World Cup (February 20-23) and as we get closer to Tokyo, but for the most part I am just taking it all in and enjoying the ride. I am definitely looking forward to one of my teammates potentially claiming the continental quota spot (via the Pacific Alliance Championships in April).

IG: Although your Tokyo quota spot is for high bar, what are your plans for training full-strength on the other apparatuses between now and Tokyo? Or will you train only on high bar?

TB: For the most part my training centers on high bar quite heavily, with an eye on the final and a medal. However, I'm still training parallel bars and pommel horse for fitness and haven't ruled out competing them in Tokyo so long as they don't hinder my high bar chances.

International Gymnast magazine’s recent coverage of Australian gymnasts includes:

“Enterprising Aussies” - Georgia-Rose Brown/Emma Nedov dual interview (July/August 2019)

Maddie Leydin profile (April 2017)

Rianna Mizzen profile (April 2017)

“Aussie Ace” - Philippe Rizzo update (October 2017)

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

Written by John Crumlish    Saturday, 25 January 2020 13:56    PDF Print
Turkey’s Savranbasi on Tokyo 2020: ‘I Dreamed, I Believed, I Succeeded’
(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Turkish gymnast Nazli Savranbasi told IG that desire, faith and hard work produced her berth to this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.

“I always believed that I had a chance,” said Savranbasi, who earned an individual spot for Tokyo based on her performance at last fall’s World Championships in Stuttgart. “I was less experienced than my teammates but I focused on this for four years. I dreamed, I believed and I succeeded in it.”

Savranbasi is the third Turkish female gymnast to qualify for the Games, following teammates Goksu Uctas Sanli (2012) and Tutya Yilmaz (2016), both of whom have inspired her as she makes her own mark on the sport at home and abroad.

“Goksu and Tutya always supported me,” said Savranbasi, who was born October 9, 2003, in the Konak district of Izmir. “I learned a lot of things from them. And of course, I want to represent my country just like they do. Also, I want to be in the final for the the all-around and uneven bars, which will be the first time in our history.”

Savranbasi’s ambitious targets for Tokyo are based on her respectable all-around and apparatus results in the past couple of years. She placed 19th all-around at the 2018 European Junior Championships in Glasgow, 31st all-around in qualifications at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires and 61st all-around in qualifications in Stuttgart. Last year Savranbasi was first on uneven bars and fifth on vault at the Challenge Cup of Mersin, seventh on uneven bars at the Challenge Cup of Koper, and ninth on floor exercise at the World Cup of Baku.

“Of course, I’m training on all four apparatus and I will do my best to be in the apparatus finals,” said Savranbasi, who trains in Izmir under coaches Ozgur Gumuslu (vault, uneven bars and floor exercise) and Aysel Gumuslu (balance beam and floor exercise).

Savranbasi said she is also benefiting from mental coaching that helps her manage the pressure unique to preparing for and competing at the Olympic Games.

“I’m getting professional help from a psychologist,” she said. “We are doing really good work with him. It will be my first Olympic Games experience. Therefore, I feel excited and a bit stressed. But I believe I will overcome it, too.”

Since qualifying for Tokyo, Savranbasi has welcomed the attention she has received from Turkish media, as well as from Turkish youngsters for whom she is a new role model.

“I learned that I have become an example for the children,” she told IG. “This made me very happy. It has positively affected my training and boosted my motivation. I think I could show people that women can perform sports that require strength, such as artistic gymnastics. And I think I’m an example for my little ‘sisters’ in this sport.”

International Gymnast magazine’s coverage of Turkish gymnasts includes:

“Turkish Delight” - interviews/profiles of Goksu Uctas Sanli, Tutya Yilmaz, Ibrahim Colak and Ahmet Onder (October 2018)

Onder on cover photo collage, Onder profile (July/August 2019)

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, 21 January 2020 08:48    PDF Print
Black ‘Progressing Every Week’ Following Ankle Injury
(2 votes, average 3.00 out of 5)

Diligently rehabbing from an ankle injury she suffered at the World Championships in Stuttgart last fall, two-time Canadian Olympian Ellie Black updated International Gymnast Online this week on the status of her recovery, her training progress and her hopes to lead Canada at this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The 24-year-old Black, who has won six Canadian national all-around titles and two Pan American Games all-around titles, sprained her right ankle on landing her vault, her last event in the all-around final in Stuttgart. She nonetheless finished fourth, which marked her second-best all-around ranking in the six Worlds in which she has competed and her best all-around finish since she won silver at the 2017 Worlds in Montreal.

At full capacity, Black looks to lead the Canadian team in Tokyo, where she could well improve upon her achievements at the past two Games. She placed eighth on vault at the 2012 London Games and fifth all-around finish at the 2016 Rio Games. The gallant Black shares her thoughts in this IG Online chat.

IG: Your vault landing aside in Stuttgart, you made an impressive improvement from the 2018 Worlds in Doha (12th place) and came close to your performance in Montreal in 2017. What about your Stuttgart performance gave you the most satisfaction?

EB: For me I was satisfied with hitting all four events, and doing good routines on each. I scored one of my highest beam scores in a while in the all-around competition and improved my floor and vault scores. Placing fourth in the all-around, with so much depth and these high-calibre athletes, was very satisfying, and I am very proud of my whole performance. It’s great to show that Canada can be near the top.

IG: What was the official diagnosis of your ankle injury, and what is the expected recovery time until you have 100% strength on it again?

EB: I had a high ankle sprain and a tightrope surgery repair. The expected recovery time until I am back to full strength on it is around four to five months. Things are coming along well and I am happy with the recovery progress thus far.

IG: Given the time needed to rest and rehab your ankle, how are you adjusting your training program - for example, perhaps spending more time on non-leg events and upper-body conditioning?

EB: After surgery we took some time to rest my ankle and the rest of my body, mentally and physically. Since then we slowly started to work on ankle rehab, strength, stability and proprioception. While in the early stages of rehab I continued to work on conditioning the rest of my body, and maintaining some basic bars. Once I was able to start walking, doing low-impact jumping and landing, I was able to start training a higher load on bars and continue building the strength back in my leg and the rest of my body. Now I am able to continue more normal bars workouts and start some basics on all of the events, progressing every week as long as the ankle handles the new things we try. We are still managing the load and how many repetitions we put through the ankle to give it the best healing and recovery increase.

IG: With several teams now bunched together in a fight for a podium finish, what do you think Canada will need to consolidate between now and Tokyo, to challenge for a team medal there?

EB: We are very excited to have qualified a team for Tokyo. It is going to be a great year and journey to build towards the Olympics in the summer. I think our team needs to continue to increase difficulty, execution and consistency on all our apparatus. We have been working hard to come together and push one another to be better. We are working on the confidence and unity of our team. Belief and confidence will be key as well. All of these things will play a part in being the best team we can be for Tokyo.

Ellie Black is featured in the following issues of International Gymnast magazine:

Black on cover photo collage, 2019 Worlds preview (October 2019)

Black center poster (September 2019)

2017 World Championships special issue (November 2017)

Black on cover photo collage, 2017 Worlds preview (September 2017)

“Canadian Candor” - Black interview (July/August 2017)

“Canadian Beacon” - Black interview (September 2015)

“Canadian Promise” - Black chat (July/August 2014)

“Canadian Diversity” - Black profile (July/August 2013)

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

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