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Written by John Crumlish    Wednesday, 25 June 2008 07:14    PDF Print
Interview: Adam Wong (Canada)
(9 votes, average 4.89 out of 5)

Adam Wong

After winning the all-around title at the Canadian Championships held June 2-7 in his hometown of Calgary, Adam Wong is closing in on his target competition for 2008: the Olympic Games that will take place in Beijing in August.

Wong's performance in Calgary confirmed that he is back in top form, following an Achilles' tendon rupture that kept him out of last year's World Championships in Stuttgart. He was key in helping the Canadian men earn their historically best Worlds finish (sixth place in the team finals) at the 2006 Worlds in Aarhus, Denmark. There, Wong achieved the Canadian men's best all-around finish in Worlds history when he tied for ninth place in the all-around final.

Wong made his Olympic debut at the 2004 Games in Athens, where he was the youngest member of Canada's 11th-place team. He was also the highest ranking Canadian male all-arounder; he placed 29th in the preliminaries and narrowly missed qualifying for the 24-man all-around final.

Wong's other key international finishes include fourth all-around, first on floor and first with the Canadian team at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne; and sixth all-around at the 2008 Pacific Rim Tournament, held in San Jose in April.

Born March 29, 1985, Wong dominated Canadian junior competitions before emerging at the senior national level. He was the Under-15 all-around champion in 1999, the Under-16 all-around champion in 2000, the Novice High Performance all-around champion in 2001, and the junior all-around champion in 2002. In senior national all-around competition, Wong placed seventh in 2007, fourth in 2004, and first in both 2005 and 2006.

Wong is coached by Chinese native Fan Bin, who won a team silver medal and tied for the bronze medal on high bar at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

In this IG Online interview, Wong details his comeback and the contributions he hopes to make on behalf of Canada this summer in Beijing.

IG: What exactly happened with your Achilles' tendon that kept you out of the 2007 Worlds?

AW: I ruptured my left Achilles' tendon. It happened in March 2007, while we were in a training camp in Thessaloniki, Greece. On the third day of the camp I took my second turn on floor doing my whip, 2½ twist, punch front-full line, and after the whip it snapped. They were able to fly me home that evening, and I had it surgically repaired within a couple days after that. It's now 100 percent, and I am able to compete floor and vault without any problems.

IG: How surprised were you to win at the Canadian Championships, and how close to your best were you there?

AW: Winning nationals was a bit of a surprise. I hadn't focused on results at all during my preparation. After coming back from my injury, it took me more time than I had anticipated to get back into competition form. For nationals I was very focused on cleaning up my routines and improving stability. My main goal for the event was to hit my routines. In terms of readiness, I felt well-prepared, but I still have a lot of work to do. Right now my main focus is still on cleanliness and stability.

IG: How did you keep your confidence after your injury last year, so you could show yourself as an Olympic contender in 2008?

AW: I don't know if I was just in shock, or stupid, but it took a few weeks for the severity of my injury to set in. Once that did hit me, I felt a little panic run through me. However, I have a great coach at home, as well as a great gym, and lots of family support. With all that positive influence surrounding me, it was never an issue keeping my morale up. It gave my brain a break from the sport, as well as allowing me to focus more on conditioning and flexibility.

IG: You and Kyle (Shewfelt) are both hoping to be back in peak form in Beijing. In what ways do you support each other in this quest?

AW: Kyle's injury (in training at the 2007 Worlds) happened just as I was just recovering from mine, so we were injured at fairly different stages. We would still be at physio(therapy) together every once in a while, and it was nice to be able to know that we were both working towards a common goal.

IG: How have your "non-leg" events benefited from your injury?

AW: Since I was able to work a lot of strength during my recovery, I think that has translated through to some of my non-leg events. However, I wasn't able to focus on the other four events as much as I had hoped, as there was always the danger of falling and setting back my recovery process, which was definitely not in my plan. We took a very cautious approach to my recovery, being sure to not cut any corners, in order to not jeopardize my post-injury career.

IG: Canada dropped at the 2007 Worlds, compared to 2006. What do you think is your team's potential rank in Beijing, and what do you see as the main challenge to achieving that target rank?

AW: Our team looks very good now. We have the same working group as we did at the 2006 Worlds, where we qualified for team finals in fifth position. A top-eight finish for Canada would not come as a surprise to me.

Wong shows off his wild hair at the 2008 Cottbus Cup

IG: Heading to Beijing, you have two unique Chinese connections: your heritage and your coach, Fan Bin. What kind of inspiration has each given you in terms of the Olympics?

AW: My father's parents were originally from China, and my mother's parents are of Scottish and German descent. I was born in Canada, as was my father, so my heritage doesn't have too much to do with inspiration towards the Games this summer. In terms of my coach, he has been a great influence in the last four years. I was sceptical in late 2004 to 2005 when I found out I wouldn't be working with my long-time coach, Mark Van Wyk, as much anymore. But Bin came into the picture and couldn't have been a better fit for both myself and the Calgary Gymnastics Centre, my gym. He has helped me a lot both in the gym and out, and I would consider him one of my few role models that I look up to.

IG: The Canadian team includes a pack of reliable all-arounders. Now that you have risen to the top in Canada, what do you think you need to do to stay there?

AW: Right now I'm more focused on my contribution toward the team, and far less on my own all-around situation. However, by improving my events, I will be able to help the team more. To do this, I need to continue to work on improving my B Scores as well as making sure that I can hit my routines.

IG: Finally, what was with the "wild hair" look you were sporting in competitions earlier this year?

AW: It was taken care of after Cottbus (Tournament of Masters, April 11-13 in Germany). I have returned to the old faithful buzz cut!

Adam Wong is featured in the following issues of International Gymnast magazine
October 2005: "Quick Chat: Adam Wong"
January 2003: "Canada's Sure Bet" - Wong profile

To subscribe to the print or digital version of IG Magazine, or order back issues, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 17 June 2008 17:03    PDF Print
Interview: Filip Ude (Croatia)
(9 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Filip Ude
Although Croatian gymnast Filip Ude earned the right to compete at this summer's Olympic Games in Beijing on the basis of his all-around performance at the 2007 World Championships, he is aiming for Olympic glory on just two events.

Ude finished 22nd all-around at the 2007 Worlds in Stuttgart that served to qualify teams and individuals for Beijing. He will be one of two Croatian gymnasts in Beijing; Tina Erceg will represent the women. Prior to 2008, the only gymnast to represent independent Croatia in Olympic competition was Russian-born Alexei Demyanov, who tied for 56th all-around at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Ude enters the 2008 Olympics as a legitimate medal candidate on pommel horse, the event on which he won the silver medal at the European Championships, held May 7-11 in Lausanne.

Born June 3, 1986, in Cakovec, Ude began training at age 8. He is coached by Mario Vukoja and Igor Kriajimski at the Marijan Zavradec Macan club. "Very often I consider them as my older brothers because we have been working together for 15 years now," Ude says of Vukoja and Kriajimski.

Ude's international rise during the current Olympic cycle is impressive. His 22nd-place all-around finish at the 2007 Worlds represented a remarkable jump from his ranking at the 2006 Worlds, where he was 66th.

In World Cup competitions, Ude's best performances include first place on floor exercise at Moscow and Maribor in 2006; third place on floor exercise at Ghent in 2006; and third place on parallel bars at Maribor in 2007. He also placed fourth on floor exercise at the 2006 World Cup Final in Sao Paulo.

In this IG Online interview, Ude describes his Olympic agenda, and the way he is managing the high hopes his fellow Croatians have for him in Beijing.

Ude won the silver medal on pommel horse at the 2008 Europeans

IG: Filip, congratulations on your silver medal in Lausanne. Your teammate, Robert Seligman, was third. What makes Croatian gymnasts so strong on pommel horse?

FU: Thank you very much. To be honest, I'm also surprised that a country as small as Croatia has two top gymnasts competing on pommel horse. I think that everything is just matter of good training.

IG: It is unusual for a gymnast to have floor exercise and pommel horse as his two best events. How have you managed to become strongest in these two very different pieces, but also become a consistent all-arounder?

FU: Yes, I'm an all-around gymnast but I think that my best apparatuses are floor and pommel horse, because I always liked to jump and spin around, and these are two apparatuses I always liked to train on. That is the reason why they became my favorite and best apparatuses.

IG: How are your preparations for Beijing going?

FU: Well, just a few days ago we opened a new gymnastics center in Nedelisce, a place just a few kilometers away from Cakovec, my birthplace, so I can finally train at "home." Preparations are going so far, so good, and I believe that I will give my best to be prepared for the Olympics.

IG: What are your expectations and dreams for Beijing, in the all-around and in the individual apparatus?

FU: Because I have injured my right shoulder I will not compete all-around in Beijing. I will compete only in my two best apparatuses — floor and pommel horse. My wish is to get into finals in one of these apparatuses, and in finals, everything is possible.

IG: What kind of support and encouragement are you receiving from the Croatian people and government?

FU: Well, gymnastics isn't a very popular sport in Croatia. But, after all these good results, it is becoming much more popular, so that is why a lot more people know about us. Therefore, it is financially a lot easier for us than it was earlier.

IG: How are you managing the expectations for you to perform well in Beijing?

FU: Now so many people expect a medal at the Olympics, but I don't feel any burden because of that. I know that I have to give my best and the result will come.

IG: Happy belated birthday (June 3). How many more years do you wish to compete in gymnastics?

FU: Thank you very much. I wish to compete in gymnastics for another 10 years, and of course, I wish to be at the top.

IG Magazine Related Feature
"Erceg's Rightful Place" - profile (April 2008)

To subscribe to IG Magazine or order back issues, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Wednesday, 04 June 2008 17:05    PDF Print
Interview: Georgia Bonora (AUS)
(15 votes, average 4.93 out of 5)

Bonora at the 2006 Worlds

One of nine women in contention for the 2008 Australian Olympic team, Georgia Bonora outlines the journey she hopes will take her to the Olympic Games in Beijing.

The 18-year-old Bonora placed fifth at the Australian Championships (May 22-25 in Melbourne), earning a spot on her country's nine-woman Olympic training squad. The other gymnasts include Dasha Joura and Shona Morgan, both of whom secured Olympic team berths based on their one-two finish at the championships; as well as Ashleigh Brennan, Lauren Mitchell, Emma Dennis, Olivia Vivian, Amber Fulljames and Melanie Jones.

Bonora and the other eight gymnasts will attend a training camp June 22-29 at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra. Following a final selection trial on June 28-29, the final Olympic nominations — six gymnasts and two reserves — will be announced by Gymnastics Australia on June 30.

Born in Melbourne on May 19, 1990, Bonora trains at Waverley Gymnastics Center in Mount Waverley, Victoria. Bonora's coaches are John Hart and Shaoyi Jiang, and her choreographer is Stacey Umeh-Lees, the sister of 1992 Canadian Olympian Stella Umeh. Bonora's clubmates at Waverly include fellow Olympic training squad members Morgan and Dennis.

Bonora was a member of Australia's sixth-place team at the 2006 World Championships in Aarhus, Denmark; and was the alternate on the 11th-place team at the 2007 Worlds in Stuttgart.

In this IG Online interview, Bonora comments on the work that has led her to Olympic team consideration, and the finishing touches she wants to make in order to get to Beijing.

IG: Georgia, congratulations on your performance at nationals.

GB: Thank you. I still made some mistakes, but I plan on fixing those before the final selection camp.

IG: You moved up from seventh place in 2007. What made the difference in your results this year?

GB: Well, I just buckled down and concentrated on the areas that needed work. I stayed relatively healthy this year, so that helped. We are given quite detailed feedback from each camp and competition, so there is no excuse for not fixing things that were asked of us. Also, I took only one class at school this year. That helped me keep the stress level down, so I had the time to do both gym and studies well.

IG: Between now and the final team selection, what aspects of your gymnastics are you targeting for improvement?

GB: Obviously, the same as everyone else — stay healthy and work on consistency. I am also really working on staying positive. I have learned from the past that negativity just wastes time and energy, and it is not fun either! I really try to enjoy my gym experience.

IG: Going back in time, when and why did you choose gymnastics?

GB: Like everyone else, my mum wanted me to expend my energy anywhere but on her furniture! My older sister was already in gymnastics, so she took me there, hoping to tire me out.

IG: You were a solid member of the team at the 2006 Worlds, and alternate on the 2007 Worlds team. How did you maintain and build your confidence so you could move up into a place on the starting team in 2008?

"Peggy [Liddick] is always telling us to convince her that you are the one she can rely on in a podium situation. That is what I am trying to do."

GB: Well, I knew what I needed to do. My coaches, the national coach [Peggy Liddick] and I had a meeting at the first camp of the year and really narrowed down what I should concentrate on, and tried to eliminate all the things that I could not control. So, I just tried to follow that plan as closely as I could. Some things I accomplished and some things still need more attention. So that is what I will do over the next month. Peggy is always telling us to convince her that you are the one she can rely on in a podium situation. That is what I am trying to do.

IG: Your 2008 training squad is missing [retired] Hollie Dykes and Chloe Sims, two key members of past two Worlds teams. How do you think you and your teammates have been able to rally and build a solid team for Beijing without them?

GB: We have a really good team culture, and all the gymnasts that participated in the nationals and the first Olympic Trial are really great gymnasts with great and positive attitudes. They really bring something to the team. We all have attended the camps, we all had detailed feedback, so it was up to us to go to our home gyms and do the work, come back to camp and show our progress or show our results at the trials, which we did. So I think everyone is very focused on the team and trying really hard to maintain that culture with a good individual performance. We all respect each other very much, and our coaches all work well together. I think the best gymnasts will eventually make the team. No matter who it is, we know that the selectors have a difficult job, but in the end, we know that all of us at the final camp and trial deserved to go to Beijing.

IG: What are your realistic goals for Beijing, individually and as a team?

GB: I don't like to make predictions, but we just want to have a good performance and see where we can place amongst the teams of the world. We have yet to show our real potential. I still need to go through the second selection trial, so I personally am not thinking beyond that.

IG Online Related Features
Interview: Olivia Vivian
Joura Leads Oz Olympic Squad (May 25, 2008)
Joura Wins Third Straight Title (May 23, 2008)
Joura Leads Australian Nationals (May 22, 2008)
Joura: "Onward and upward" for Australian Women's Team (April 2, 2008)

IG Magazine Related Features
"The Joy of Joura" - profile (March 2007)
Joura on cover (July/August 2006)
Interview: Lauren Mitchell (March 2008)
"National Pride" - Dennis profile (September 2007)

To subscribe to IG Magazine or order back issues, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Monday, 26 May 2008 08:54    PDF Print
Interview: Bridget Sloan (U.S.)
(22 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Rehabbing from a knee injury, Bridget Sloan of the U.S. is confident she can rise to the occasion at this summer's Olympic Games in Beijing.

Sloan, who will turn 16 on June 23, was the alternate member of the gold medal-winning U.S. team at the 2007 World Championships in Stuttgart last fall. Following the 2007 Worlds, she finished third all-around at Good Luck Beijing, the Olympic test event held in the 2008 Games host city.

Now close to full recovery from a meniscus injury she suffered in Italy in March, Sloan is aiming for a starting spot on the American team at this summer's Olympics. She plans to compete on one or more events at the Visa [U.S.] Championships, June 5-7 in Boston; and then compete all-around at the U.S. Olympic Trials, June 19-22 in Philadelphia.

"Bridget is doing well," said Marvin Sharp, Sloan's coach at Sharp's Gymnastics Academy in Indianapolis. "She has been working very hard. Her strength is back and she looks better than ever. She plans to compete at the Visa Championships, but our focus, peaking, is really on the Trials."

In this IG Online interview, Sloan details her injury, recovery and the progress she is making toward Beijing.

Bridget Sloan

IG: What exactly was the nature of your injury?

BS: I injured my knee in vault warm-ups, and we didn't really know what was wrong with it until we got back to the States. They did a lot of testing, and although I had a slight tear in the (left) meniscus, I actually passed all of the meniscus tests. Then they did an MRI and that showed the tear. I had arthroscopic surgery and was back in the gym in a couple of days.

IG: Getting injured in an Olympic year, were you afraid it would ruin your chances?

BS: In a way, but the surgeon was great about explaining everything relating to the rehab and how long it would take. This was the quickest option and the best option, so it's really helped out.

IG: Are you on schedule with the rehab?

BS: I'm ahead of schedule.

IG: Why do you think you've been able to get ahead of schedule?

BS: I have a very high pain tolerance. So when my knee hurts, I just come to the conclusion that my knee's going to hurt, and deal with it. You can't do anything about it. You can't erase or rewind time, or change anything. You just have to deal with what you have.

IG: How close to 100 percent do you feel?

BS: About 98 percent.

IG: When do you think the other 2 percent will come?

BS: Hopefully soon. I can feel my knee getting stronger every day.

IG: How much do you think your injury has set you back?

BS: It really hasn't set me back much. It's made me stronger and work harder, and it's given me more perseverance.

IG: How much do you think your injury is affecting how the (U.S. Olympic team) selection committee views you?

BS: The selection committee is great in how they choose assignments for everybody at that point in time. You could be hurt now, but 100 percent by the time of the competition. They know when you are ready.

IG: What's been the biggest upside to your injury?

BS: It's made me stronger. You know, you get rips on your hands, and I think, "I've been through a knee injury. I can work through anything."

IG: In the tight race for spots on the Olympic team, what are you working on to be ready for Trials?

BS: With gymnastics, you really want to be strong on all four events. I've been working on all four. Right now I'm just trying to clean up my routines, and keep (repetitions) to a minimum. I don't take as many turns to warm up, and I just try my best.

IG: Are there any girls in particular that you feel are your toughest competition to make the team, especially on your best events?

BS: Gymnastics is a sport where anything can happen. We're all competing for six spots, and everybody is a team. We all cheer for each other. We don't pick out someone specific and say, "I have to beat her to make it." It's more of a team sport, and the best are going to go to Beijing.

IG: Marvin mentioned that you plan to perform two new skills on bars at the U.S. Championships. What are they?

BS: You'll just have to see!

IG: Have you added the new tricks on bars because you've needed to stay off your legs, or because you felt you needed them to be competitive in the Olympic year?

BS: In a way, I think that the rehab has made my legs stronger and more powerful, so bars has definitely come a lot easier for me. Hurting any part of your leg, you work a lot more on bars because bars is mostly arms. So getting an injury is never good, but it can help you in some ways.

IG: Internationally you came out of nowhere last year. In what ways have you changed as a gymnast since then?

BS: It's made me a much more confident gymnast, going to these competitions and seeing what it's like. Good Luck Beijing definitely helped my confidence level and focusing. When I go out in competitions now, since I've been to these big meets, I handle anything below it. [At Good Luck Beijing] I thought, "Well, Worlds is the biggest meet there is, and I did it last month..."

IG: In what ways do you think you can best help the team in Beijing?

BS: Right now, bars is one of my best events, and I really hope to represent the U.S. at the Olympics, and show them what I can do. The whole U.S. team has such chemistry, and we have great athletes on each event. So it's going to come down to who can do it the best, who has the most consistency and who can hit each routine. It'll be a tough competition, but everyone is looking great and everyone will be ready for it.

IG Online Related Feature
Sloan Ready to Stay on Competitive Roll (Dec. 8, 2007)

IG Magazine Related Feature
"Sitting Pretty" - profile and center poster (March 2008)

To subscribe to IG Magazine or order back issues, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Monday, 19 May 2008 04:39    PDF Print
Interview: Epke Zonderland (Netherlands)
(7 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Epke Zonderland
Despite missing the recent European Championships, world high bar finalist Epke Zonderland (Netherlands) tells IG he is on track for this summer's Olympic Games in Beijing.

By virtue of his 29th-place all-around finish at the 2007 World Championships in Stuttgart, Zonderland earned the Dutch men's single berth for this summer's Olympics.

Zonderland missed the European Championships, held May 8-11 in Lausanne, but is now preparing for World Cup competitions in Moscow (May 29-30) and Barcelona (June 6-8) as he works toward peak form in Beijing.

Zonderland, who turned 22 April 16, also recognizes the much-debated Olympic selection procedure that will prevent teammates Yuri van Gelder and Jeffrey Wammes from competing in Beijing. Van Gelder, 25, won rings at the recent European Championships, and placed second on the event at the 2007 Worlds. Wammes, 21, has won several World Cup medals on floor exercise, vault and high bar.

Because the Dutch men's team placed only 20th at the 2007 Worlds, however, only its top all-arounder (Zonderland) received a nomination for Beijing. Zonderland aims to represent the Dutch men proudly at the Olympics by qualifying for the final on high bar. In World Cup competitions, Zonderland won the gold medal on the event at Tehran in 2006, and Glasgow in 2007.

Additionally, he finished sixth all-around and third on parallel bars at the 2007 Europeans in Amsterdam, and placed 11th all-around at the 2005 Worlds in Melbourne.

Zonderland, who is coached by Gerard Speerstra, is the youngest of the three Zonderland brothers on the Dutch national team. His brother Herre, who turned 25 on March 15, competed in the 2006 and 2007 Worlds. His brother Johan, 23, competed alongside Epke at the 2002 Junior Europeans.

In this IG Online interview, Zonderland details his preparations for Beijing, and offers his thoughts on the controversial Olympic selection procedure.

IG: Why didn't you participate in the European Championships in Lausanne?

EZ: In January I had inflammation of a nerve in my shoulder. Because of that the nerve was damaged, and I wasn't able to use my infraspinatus and supraspinatus muscles. Also, my serratus anterior wasn't functioning 100%. At this moment, the serratus anterior is functioning very well, but the other two muscles are still not working because the nerve hasn't recovered yet.

Surprisingly, I am able to do high bar. There were only two elements that I had problems with: Rybalko and Stalder-Rybalko. I tried to rotate in the other direction and that worked pretty well. The Rybalko is already in my routine, and the Stalder-Rybalko is also going pretty well. So, high bar won't be a problem at all.

The all-around isn't going to work, unfortunately. But now I can spend a lot of time on my best apparatus, high bar, and I hope I can manage to do an excellent routine at the Olympics.

IG: With Beijing approaching quickly, how satisfied are you with your preparations for the Games?

EZ: Well, of course it could have been better for me, but I really think that I can get good results because I only focus on high bar now, which is my best apparatus.

Zonderland prepares the parallel bars

IG: What key improvements do you want to make before Beijing?

EZ: I would like to increase my Start Value on high bar. I will try to manage that with some new flight elements.

IG: What do you think of the Dutch team's performance in Lausanne, especially Yuri's (van Gelder) success on rings, Jeffrey (Wammes) and your brother Herre.

EZ: Yuri did an amazing job on rings. It was clear that he was the best gymnast at the moment. I also think it is worth a compliment that he is in this good shape, even though he knows that he will not compete in Beijing, which is very sad for him. I also don't understand why a gymnast like he isn't competing in the Olympics. I always thought that the best gymnasts in the world were competing at the Olympics, but now I have some questions about that.

Jeffrey also did well with his finals on vault and bigh bar. On both apparatus he was fifth, which is very good, but I think that he would have liked a medal on vault very much.

"There are 98 male gymnasts who are allowed to be in the Olympics. That isn't enough..."

My brother Herre had a pretty good competition. You can always count on Herre in a team competition. He never makes a lot of mistakes. This time he was pretty happy with his competition. Only vault wasn't very good for him. In podium training he injured his heel. I think that was the reason why he didn't land his vault during the competition. Also, on floor, he made a little mistake. But his favorite apparatus, parallel bars and high bar, were very nice, so after all he was happy with how his competition went.

IG: What are your feelings on the Olympic nomination process, especially that medal candidates like Yuri and Jeffrey won't be competing?

EZ: It is also sad for Jeffrey that he wasn't able to qualify for Beijing. He is also a gymnast who is able to get into the finals during the Olympics, and I think that everybody who is able to do that, has to compete in the Olympics. I think there are 98 male gymnasts who are allowed to be in the Olympics. That isn't enough, and I hope that in the future they will increase that amount.

IG: What are your realistic goals for the all-around and individual events in Beijing?

EZ: The all-around probably won't work for me. At the last World Championships I was fourth on high bar. Based on that, I think I am able to make it to the finals in Beijing when my routine is going well.

IG Magazine Related Features
"Much for the Dutch" - Zonderland profile (July/August 2006)
"Comebacks Complete" - Wammes profile (September 2007)
"Double Dutch" - van Gelder profile (May 2005)
"Destiny's Child" - Wammes profile (August/September 2002)

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