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Written by John Crumlish    Wednesday, 05 September 2018 07:13    PDF Print
Sweden's Castles Building For 'Happy Times Ahead'
(8 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Although Swedish-British gymnast Jessica Castles is only nine months into her senior career, she told IG she hopes she can continue to add value to the Swedish team heading into this fall’s World Championships in Doha, Qatar, and other upcoming competitions.

Castles, a native of West Surrey, England, who turned 16 on July 16, is the daughter of a Swedish mother and a British father. She placed first all-around, first on balance beam and first on floor exercise at the Nordic Championships in Farum, Denmark, held June 30-July 1; and first all-around, first on balance beam and first on floor exercise at the Swedish Championships held July 6-7. Last month she placed seventh on floor exercise at the European Championships in Glasgow, Scotland.

In this IG Online interview, Castles details the balance she maintains between training and academic obligations in Sweden and England, and the merits she believes she can offer to the Swedish team in the future.

IG: As a first-year senior, how have your achievements so far in 2018 compared to your expectations at this point in your overall career?

JC: I didn't have very high expectations this year as I was doing my GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) exams and didn't want to put too much pressure on myself. My long-term goals were to become Swedish and Nordic all-around champion and make the Europeans team. So to have met these goals, and to even make a floor final in my first year as a senior is more than I could have asked for.

IG: Now that you have competed directly against the best gymnasts in Europe, what improvements do you plan to make between now and the World Championships in Doha, so you can fare as well as possible against all of the world's best?

JC: I have been working a few upgrades, so we will see if any of them are ready or consistent enough to compete at Worlds.

IG: When and why did you decide to compete for Sweden?

JC: My mum is Swedish and and my dad is British, and I have had dual citizenships my whole life. I decided to start competing for Sweden in March 2017 after competing at one of the trial competitions for the the European Youth Olympic Festival. I found that I got on really well with all the Swedish girls and coaches. I have also been given a lot of support and encouragement from my Swedish club, Eskilstuna Gymnastik Förening. The coaches there are amazing, and I feel I make constant improvements when I train there.

IG: What is your arrangement for training in England, and attending training camps and competitions in Sweden?

JC: In the U.K. I train at Heathrow Gymnastics Club under Vince and Michele Walduck and (1981 world floor exercise champion) Natalia Ilienko-Jarvis. In Sweden I am a member of Eskilstuna Gymnastik Förening where I train under Sebastian Melander and Helena Andersson Melander. My training arrangements vary depending on school, the competitions in hand and time of the year. My competition schedule is set by the Swedish national coaches, and my training in the U.K. supports this schedule.

School has up until last term dictated that the majority of my training is in England. However, I spend as much time as I can in Eskilstuna during the school holidays, together with all the scheduled national squad training sessions and checkpoints before the major competitions. I am currently considering homeschooling for my A-levels (exams) so that I can have additional flexibility and schedule more of my training in Sweden going forward.

IG: How are you are you with the Swedish language, so you can integrate better with the team?

JC: My mum has always spoken Swedish with me ever since I was born so I have always been bilingual. Holidays in Sweden and visiting family there through the years have also been helpful in keeping the Swedish language alive. Recently, with all the time I have been spending with the team in Sweden, my language skills have improved even more. My teammates and coaches have been very supportive in every possible way, and I do not feel language is an issue at all.

IG: What do you think you can offer to the Swedish team, not just in terms of your own gymnastics strengths, but what they might need overall?

JC: I hope that my strong pieces, being floor and beam, will help the team going forward. I also hope that my positive attitude to training and competitions, together with my happy personality, are assets to the team. The Swedish team already includes some great girls and we have all gelled together really well over the last year. I’m really excited for the times ahead of us.

International Gymnast magazine’s coverage of Swedish gymnastics includes:

“Swinging for Success” - Jonna Adlerteg feature (May 2015)

"Swedish History-maker” - Adlerteg profile (November 2010)

"Scouting Scandinavia" - feature on IG's visit to clubs in Sweden and Norway (March 2011)

"Swedish Upswing" - Swedish women's team feature (November 2010)

"Swedish Achiever" - Ida Gustafsson profile (June 3013)

"Sweden's Standout" - Mans Stenberg profile (March 2010)

“A Swedish Champ from Argentina” - Marcela Torres profile (October 2015)

Quick Chat: Veronica Wagner (November 2008)

"Veronica's Date: 2008" - Veronica Wagner profile (February 2005)

"Swedish Sojourn" - Karolina Bohman profile (February 2003)

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

Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 24 August 2018 08:15    PDF Print
Ryan Sheppard: Hopeful For Hungary
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

U.S.-born gymnast Ryan Sheppard, who competed for Hungary at this month’s European championships in Glasgow, Scotland, told IG that he is feeling confident and at home among his new teammates as they prepare for this fall’s World Championships in Doha.

“It's been a great experience coming here, and the team has welcomed me with open arms,” said Sheppard, who is training in Hungary until late September.

Sheppard and his teammates finished 11th in qualifications in Glasgow, less than three points from advancing to the eight-country team final. Although no all-around competition took place in Glasgow, he earned the sixth highest all-around score among gymnasts who performed on all six apparatuses.

Born Oct. 17, 1995, in Silver Spring, Maryland, Sheppard competed for WOGA in Texas in the U.S. junior ranks and then for Stanford University from 2015-18. He finished fourth all-around and first on parallel bars in the 17-18 age group at the 2014 P&G Championships, and ninth all-around at the 2018 NCAA championships.

Sheppard is the second member of his family to represent the homeland of his maternal grandmother, Anna. His older sister, Austin Sheppard, competed for Hungary at the 2011 European Championships in Berlin, where she placed 13th on vault; and was third reserve for the vault final and 52nd all-around in qualifications at the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo. She later competed for the University of Michigan.

In this IG Online interview, Sheppard describes the hopes he has for himself and his Hungarian teammates as they aim for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

IG: Having recently transitioned into a role on the Hungarian team, what were your thoughts on how you personally performed in Glasgow, and how the team did overall?

RS: I thought my performance could have been better. I struggled all week in training on pommel horse and high bar, and that showed in the competition. I was happy with the other four events, though. With that said, I was just extremely grateful to be out there competing on the international stage and I had a lot of fun. The team overall did very well. We improved several places in the team rankings compared to the last European Championships (15th in 2016) and were very close to qualifying to the team final. I think it was a great preparation for the World Championships.

IG: How much influence did Austin's international career, and her own decision to represent Hungary, have on your decision to try for a spot on the Hungarian team?

RS: Austin played a huge role in me wanting to compete for Hungary. My older sister and I have a very unique relationship. I treat her more like a younger sibling and joke with her a lot, but in actuality I have the utmost respect for her, and she is someone to whom I look up. I really wanted to follow in her footsteps and try to compete for Hungary.

IG: Having been born and raised in the U.S., how much do you embrace your Hungarian heritage?

RS: My mom is full Hungarian. My grandmother had to leave Hungary during the Cold War due to political persecution. I believe she regained her citizenship in the early 2000s. My grandmother lived with us almost my entire childhood, and I was never fully able to appreciate what she went through until I got older. I have the utmost respect for her.

IG: How are you embracing your Hungarian heritage in terms of gymnastics?

RS: It's been a great experience coming here and the team has welcomed me with open arms. I am trying to improve on every event, but I am desperately trying to tap into my Hungarian heritage to help me with pommel horse. I struggle a lot with pommel horse despite it being my favorite event. When I was younger I had a very nice swing. However, as I've gotten bigger I've lost a ton of flexibility in my shoulders, and my pommel swing has suffered tremendously due to this. It's kind of a running joke I have with my coach here, where we make fun of this.

IG: The Hungarian team has some very talented guys: Adam Babos, David Vecsernyes and others, not to mention (2012 Olympic pommel horse champion) Krisztian Berki. Where do you see yourself fitting into the team in terms of your strengths and what you can contribute to the team?

RS: I think the Hungarian team has a bunch of great gymnasts. Adam Babos, David Vecsernyes, Botond Kardos, Krisztian Boncser, Balazs Kiss and Krisztian Berki are the guys currently on the senior national team, and they all have lots of experience and talent. I just want to help the team in any way I can, whether that be in the all-around or on a few events. At Stanford, I have really learned to put the team before myself, and I view competing for the Hungarian team the same way. The goal is to qualify the country to the next World Championships (2019 in Stuttgart) and the (2020) Olympics in Tokyo. We are working really hard to make that happen.

IG: What is your arrangement with the Hungarian team, in terms of training there and training in the U.S.?

RS: I head back to the United States on September 24, after the Szombathely World Cup in Hungary. I go back to Stanford for the start of classes because I am not finished with school yet. I should be finished with my master's degree next December. My coaches at Stanford are Thom Gliemli, Quazi Syque Caesar and Karl Ziehn. The plan is, if I make the team, I will meet everyone in Doha on October 19. We have not planned anything else beyond Doha in terms of training.

IG: Hungary placed 22nd at the last Worlds in which a team competition took place (2015), and Doha will be an important step for all the teams trying to make it to Tokyo. With so many teams at a similar level these days, what do you think you and your teammates will need in order to advance beyond Doha and eventually to Tokyo?

RS: The main goal is to qualify a team to the Olympics. We need to place in the top 24 in Doha to advance a team to the next World Championships. After seeing our results at Europeans, the team is very optimistic about achieving this result in October. We don't have the highest difficulty, but where the team lacks in difficulty we make up for in our execution. We just need to go out and do our gymnastics.

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

Written by dwight normile    Thursday, 16 August 2018 07:12    PDF Print
Tom Forster: New High-Performance Director For USA Gymnastics
(4 votes, average 3.50 out of 5)

Tom Forster was born in Kansas and grew up in Colorado. He graduated from Penn State with a bachelor of science in physical education and 
health. He and wife Lori Bresciani Forster own Colorado Aerials in Colorado Springs, where they coached Doni Thompson, Kristy Powell, Theresa Kulikowski and many other gymnasts.

Forster replaced Valeri Liukin, who resigned in early 2018.

You were quoted as saying, "I believe in coaching through inspiration, not intimidation." Do you think Bela and Marta Karolyi were intimidating?

TF: In the interview process for this job I was asked a list of questions by athletes and coaches. That quote was in response to some of the questions by athletes. I was not comparing myself to anyone, only answering the question of what I believe is my style of coaching.

How will you choose world and Olympic teams? Competitive results or will a committee still select teams?

TF: The selection of teams will be a combination of both. The hope is that every team is selected on the field of play, but in fairness to every athlete we need the flexibility to select an athlete in an extenuating circumstance.

For example, if one of the top two athletes from the U.S. Championships wakes up with 104 fever the morning of the selection camp—we’re probably making an exception for her in the best interest of the team and fairness to her. Balancing the athletes’ experience with the duty of putting the best team on the field of play will always be my goal.

Will there be trainers at future camps and, if so, which gender?

TF: We have a list of vetted female trainers available for the athletes at every training camp that we can use. It may not be the same trainer each time. We do not use male medical personnel for women’s gymnastics any longer.

Read the complete interview in the September issue of International Gymnast.

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

Written by John Crumlish    Thursday, 05 July 2018 07:40    PDF Print
Canada's Pellerin Shooting For World Final
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Professional photographer and recent Challenge Cup pommel horse gold medalist Thierry Pellerin of Canada says his characteristic focus has allowed him to perform at his best with national and international titles in sight.

Pellerin placed first on pommel horse at last month’s Challenge Cup of Guimaraes, Portugal, a month after he earned his second consecutive Canadian national title on that apparatus. He plans to upgrade his routine this summer with an eye on making the Canadian team for this fall’s World Championships in Doha, Qatar. Pellerin placed 29th on pommel horse at the 2017 Worlds in Montreal.

Born July 19, 1997, in Levis, Quebec, he trains on three apparatuses at Gymnamic Gymnastics Club in his hometown, where his coaches are Martin Bordeleau and Simon Bordeleau.

Pellerin shared his thoughts on his recent international breakthrough, and his aspirations on the podium and behind the lens, in this IG Online interview.

IG: What do you think gave you the advantage over your rivals in Guimaraes?

TP: At this time of the year, I perform the same routine since it is in summer that I add new skills to my routines, to increase the difficulty. The competition, which took place just before the beginning of the summer, allowed me to present to the judges a stable routine that I had been training for several months. In addition, a few weeks before, I had broken my personal best score at the Canadian championships in Waterloo, Ontario. So I think the advantage I had over my competitors was my stability and my confidence, and that's what allowed me to offer two good performances (qualifications and final).

IG: How would you rate your performance in Guimaraes in comparison with all of the other routines you’ve competed?

TP: Most of the time I am a good competitor. When there is a lot of issues I transform pressure and stress into performance. This World Cup was the sixth of my career. In previous World Cups I reacted differently to stress. It made me lose fluidity in my routine, my movements were more jerky and I lost a lot of points in execution. This time, the experience of my other World Cups that I attended returned. I was able, despite a level of stress as high as usual, to keep a fluidity that allowed me to win in the final.

IG: What value do you think you could add to the Canadian team, as a pommel horse specialist, in Doha?

TP: With a potential D-score high enough to reach a final at the World Championships, I can take pressure off other gymnasts. For many, pommel horse is a device with a high risk of falling. Knowing that someone like [me] is on the team allows the team to have better depth. On the other hand, it will be very difficult for a specialist like me to go to the World Championships because Canada is giving more priority to the gymnasts competing on all six apparatuses for the 2018 World Championships.

IG: What attracted you to photography, and what are your favorite subjects to shoot?

TP: Photography is a passion that I discovered. It did not take much time after I used a camera for me to use it professionally. I mostly shoot for commercials—food in restaurants, sports in both studio and competition, and architecture, but I also do portraits. I would like to continue to grow my company, Ablson, and work with architectural firms and several restaurants. I would also like to be able to continue photographing the Canadian gymnastics team in competition.

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

“Canadian Grace” - Brooklyn Moors interview (December 2017)

2017 World Championships special issue, incl. Canadians (November 2017)

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

“Canadian Candor” - Ellie Black and Zachary Clay interviews (July/August 2017)

“Canadian Pace-setter” - Ana Padurariu profile (December 2016)

“Canadian on a Roll” - Jade Chrobok profile (April 2016)

Chrobok, Meixi Semple on cover inset photo and featured in 2016 Nadia International coverage (March 2016)

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

Written by dwight normile    Wednesday, 27 June 2018 08:06    PDF Print
Exclusive Interview With 2018 Hall Of Fame Inductee Nastia Liukin
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

That Russian-born Nastia Liukin had quite a career would qualify as an understatement. She is a four-time world champion and won five medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, including the all-around title.

Liukin was the second gymnast from WOGA, formerly a grocery store, to win an Olympic all-around gold. The first was Carly Patterson at the 2004 Athens Games.

Following are excerpts from her interview, which will appear in the July/August 2018 issue of International Gymnast magazine.

IG: With various injuries prior to the 2008 Olympics, how did you manage to win the gold there?

NL: One hundred percent because of my dad’s (Valeri Liukin) very thoughtful plan he put together for me. The most important thing was to first get healthy and physically as fit and strong as I could possibly be. That meant hours of conditioning every single day, but that’s what my body needed.…

IG: What was it like to go back to your room after the all-around final in Beijing, with Shawn Johnson, who had won the silver, as your roommate?

NL: While it’s not something we’ve really discussed publicly, yes, it was very difficult for two 16- and 18-year-old girls, who truly were the best of friends. We were emotionally just drained, physically exhausted, and I know we both just wanted to be with our families.…

IG: What does it mean for you to be inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame?

NL: I remember watching my dad get inducted in the Hall of Fame, and I was so proud to be able to be there and watch him get inducted. I remember telling myself, ‘How cool would it be if one day I could also be inducted’? It’s truly the greatest honor in the world.…

Among other questions, her interview includes her commentary for NBC, her major at NYU and what projects she’s working on.

Read the complete interview in July/August 2018 issue. To subscribe to the print and/or digital edition, or to order back issues of International Gymnast magazine, click here.


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