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Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 09 October 2007 16:15    PDF Print
Interview: Kyle Shewfelt (Canada)
(5 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

A month after surgery on both legs, 2004 Olympic floor exercise champion Kyle Shewfelt of Canada told IG he plans to be 100 percent back by January.

Shewfelt in Stuttgart with Jana Komrskova (CZE)

Shewfelt was injured Aug. 27 while training for the 2007 World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, when he landed stiff-legged on a layout Arabian double front on floor exercise.

The 25-year-old Shewfelt underwent surgery on Sept. 7 by Dr. Nick Mohtadi, a surgeon with the Canadian Sport Centre in Calgary.

Shewfelt is the reigning Olympic champion on the event, as well as the 2003 and 2006 world championships bronze medalist.

Shewfelt's injury sidelined him in Stuttgart, where he remained for the team qualification round to support his Canadian teammates. Even without Shewfelt's scores, the Canadian men finished 11th, earning Canada one of 12 team berths to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Shewfelt plans to spend the next several months rehabilitating his legs and hopes to defend his Olympic floor exercise title in Beijing.

In this IG Online interview, the optimistic Shewfelt describes what happened in Stuttgart, his intended recovery process and his ultimate goal of returning to the Olympic Games next year.

IG: Was the nature of your injury more complicated than you originally thought?

KS: It was definitely more complicated than originally expected. As it turns out, both fractures were displaced, and the left knee had a chipped bone and a stretched ligament. During surgery they put one screw into my right knee, and two screws and a plate into the left. They also had to reattach the bone chip and stabilize the stretched ligament.

IG: Based on the progress you've made between surgery and now, how long do you think you will need to be back at 100 percent?

KS: It's been a few weeks since surgery, and things are going pretty well. I am still very restricted, but I have a bit more freedom in terms of movement and activity.

After surgery, I woke up with two giant braces on my legs. I was able to partially weight-bear on the right, as the brace was set to allow a 30- to 90-degree range of motion. The left was locked in at 30 degrees. I think the first two weeks after surgery were the most difficult, because I couldn't do anything on my own and I was in quite a bit of pain.

During this time, I spent a lot of time doing nothing! It was a struggle to conjure up any motivation because it was a huge effort to do easy, everyday tasks. I had some time to catch up on my movies and read a few good books, though, so that was all right!

IG: What is your present condition?

KS: I got clearance to remove the right brace. I am now allowed to work up to full weight-bearing on this leg — although it is really stiff and I can't bend or straighten it all the way yet. I also get hyperextension flashbacks when I straighten it too much — not a nice feeling!. I am also allowed to partially weight-bear on the left. Dr. Mohtadi said that the left should be about a month behind the right due to the ligament damage.

I think that I should be back to 100 percent by January. I should be back into training in a couple of weeks. I have time right now, so I need to make sure that I heal properly. I have the tendency to get frustrated and try to push myself too much a little too soon, but I need to avoid doing this. It will be counterproductive, and I want to come back strong.

IG: What kind of physical therapy and conditioning are you doing?

KS: I have been doing physio since a few days after surgery. Just basic stuff like ultrasound, laser treatments, muscle stimulation and some massage. I have also done a few acupuncture treatments. I am taking a huge variety of vitamins, as well, to optimize healing. Now that I have the right brace off, we have done some leg conditioning and range of motion stuff.

As for conditioning, I have spent a lot of time on the arm bike, but my main source of activity has been getting around in a wheelchair and using my crutches and walker! I have an amazing support team at the Sport Centre here in Calgary, and we are developing a good plan for my recovery. I am going to start some weight training and core conditioning and continue with physio.

Shewfelt at the 2003 Worlds

IG: What gymnastics, if any, are you allowed to do presently?

KS: I'm not cleared for any gymnastics as of right now. I am still very restricted. Also, I don't want to go into the gym just because I feel like I have to be there. That's pointless. I want to come in with a plan and feel like I'm accomplishing something. I think that I will be able to do some press handstands and specific conditioning within the next couple of weeks, so I will go in when I am more comfortable doing these types of things. I think it's important for me to feel a little more mobile before I head back into the gym.

IG: What have the doctors advised you, regarding your competitive status leading up to Beijing?

KS: We did the surgery with the intention of being in top form for the Olympics. I might not compete until the late spring, but I will be healthy. I want to compete in my third Olympic Games, have the opportunity to defend my Olympic title and contribute great performances to the team. My goals are still the same; it's just going to be a more interesting journey!

Kyle Shewfelt is featured in the following issues of International Gymnast magazine: "Production Values," "Shewfelt's Role Both Familiar and Foreign" - features on Shewfelt's co-starring role in the film "White Palms" (November 2006)
"My Year After Athens" - Shewfelt memoirs (August/September 2005)
2004 Olympic Games Special Issue - includes Shewfelt (October 2004)
"The Style of Kyle" - profile (November 2003)
Quick Chat: Kyle Shewfelt - interview (November 2002)
"IG Profile: Kyle Shewfelt" (January 2001) To subscribe to IG magazine or order back issues, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Thursday, 04 October 2007 17:03    PDF Print
Interview: Marci Bernholtz (Canada)
(8 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)
After serving as alternate on the 2004 Canadian Olympic team, Marci Bernholtz emerged as one of her team's steadiest competitors in the lead-up to the 2008 Beijing Games.
Marci Bernholtz

Bernholtz, born on April 28, 1988, in Toronto, is a product of the Academy of Sport and Fitness in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Until she recently enrolled at UCLA, she was coached at ASF by Paula Johnson and Brenda Mader. Bernholtz placed third all-around at the 2005 and 2007 Canadian Championships, and second all-around at the 2006 Elite Canada meet. She was a member of Canada's 14th-place team at the 2006 and 2007 World Championships.

Bernholtz will compete for UCLA in the coming NCAA season, but says she has not ruled out a shot at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Based on the Canadian team's rank at the 2007 Worlds in Stuttgart, the Canadian women have earned two individual berths to Beijing.

In this interview, Bernholtz reflects on the 2007 Worlds, her new collegiate life and her Olympic prospects.

IG: What are your thoughts on your performances in Stuttgart? How satisfied were you individually, and what could you and your team have done better?

MB: Stuttgart was a great experience. Any time you can step out onto the floor at a World Championships, you automatically realize the accomplishments you have achieved in the sport. I think our team was really excited for the competition and had a great training camp leading up to Stuttgart. Unfortunately, we made some mistakes and didn't quite achieve all that we had hoped for. That's our sport. I think everyone put in 100 percent, and that's all you can ask for. Obviously we had some major errors on bars and floor, but all you can do is learn from them and fix them for next time. I think we have a lot of great gymnasts on our team, and I'm extremely proud of all of them for coming together so well and supporting each other. We had a great team dynamic.

Personally, I was pleased with my performances. I had some minor mistakes, but I was really glad that I was able to contribute two solid scores for the team. My goals were to improve my B scores and show solid routines, so I was pleased with that.

Marci Bernholtz
IG: Did the fact that Canada did not qualify a team for Beijing influence your decision to enroll at UCLA this fall instead of next fall?

MB: The original plan was to defer my enrollment until after the Olympics. There became a possibility for me to start this September, and when the team did not qualify I felt it was in my best interest to come to UCLA. I had a great environment at home. However, there are certain things that I just couldn't keep up with. UCLA has around-the-clock medical facilities and physiotherapists on staff, as well as constant care and support staff. I was literally driving all over town to get in physio treatments and cardio training, so that was a big motivator in my decision to come now.

IG: Do you plan to try for one of the two Canadian spots for Beijing?

MB: At this point I haven't decided what I'm going to do about Beijing. I have not heard exactly what the selection criteria for the individual spots will be. Right now I am just adjusting to being here at UCLA and adapting to the new environment. I'm not closing any doors, though.

IG: What are your competitive plans at UCLA — do you want to compete as an all-arounder, or focus on only some events?

MB: I definitely want to compete as an all-arounder. UCLA has been a dream of mine for a long time, and I am so excited to help the team out in any way I can. I'm excited to see what awesome floor routine (UCLA coach) Val (Kondos Field) will come up with for me - although I've already warned her, she's got her work cut out for her!

IG: What plans do you have to continue competing for Canada?

MB: Similarly to my goals for this year, I am unsure as of yet, of whether or not I will continue my international career. I have had so many great experiences through the sport, and right now I'm just taking things one day at a time. I'll see how my body feels, and who knows? Right now I'm just excited to compete!

IG: How are you enjoying life at UCLA? What are the biggest adjustments so far?

MB: Life here at UCLA is great! The team and coaching staff are amazing. I came in a little later than the other girls because of Worlds, but everyone immediately welcomed me with open arms. It truly is like walking into a family - only in this family I have 15 sisters! I'm slowly learning the ropes and finding my way around campus.

The cut in training hours has been a change for me. The girls sometimes laugh when I get that shocked look on my face when it's time to rotate events. I always want to stay longer. They are all helping me out though.

Starting school again has also been an adjustment for me since I took last year off school to focus on gym. It's been a little hectic, but I'm enjoying the change and balancing everything out.

IG: What is your academic schedule like?

MB: I'm currently taking two general educations and a chemistry course. I am really interested in human anatomy and physiology, and am considering a career in medicine. I'm looking into the physiological sciences major, so that will definitely keep me busy!

Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 21 August 2007 16:30    PDF Print
Interview: David Durante (USA)
(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)
Newly crowned U.S. champion David Durante talks about his quick change of roles, from 2006 team alternate to team leader at the upcoming World Championships.
David Durante

Durante, 27, placed first all-around at the 2007 U.S. Championships (Aug. 15-18 in San Jose), and was named to the American team that will compete at the 2007 World Championships (Sept. 1-9 in Stuttgart).

At the 2006 Worlds, held in Aarhus, Denmark, Durante could only cheer from the stands as an alternate on the U.S. team that finished 13th. The top 12 teams at the 2007 Worlds will qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Durante, who has been training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs since graduating from Stanford University in 2004, is now preparing to help the American team boost its international ranking in Stuttgart.

The self-assured New Jersey native spoke with IG in San Jose, where he outlined his progress as well as the American team's potential for Stuttgart.

IG: Last year in Aarhus you were an alternate, and this year in Stuttgart you will go in as a team leader. How are you preparing to switch roles so quickly?

DD: Last year I really considered myself a team leader also. I just had a bad competition at the U.S. Championships. Going to Aarhus and watching from the stands was a really tough role for me. I know I did everything I could to contribute to the team as an alternate, but I really don't see myself as an alternate. I never want to be in the position of alternate again, and that's the mindset I had coming into this year. I was thinking, "Don't ever allow yourself to be sitting up in the stands again at one of those competitions." I know that this year my role is going to be a lot different. Being out on the floor, I'm going to be the kind of leader the guys need, and do everything I can so we can succeed out there.

IG: In the past, it seems as though consistency was an issue with your performances and perhaps cost you a spot in the line-up in Aarhus. How have you managed to improve your consistency since then?

DD: It's taken a while to get used to the change from Stanford to the USOTC. I've been there a few years now, and I didn't think the adjustment would take as long as it has, but I've finally become accustomed to the way that Vitaly (Marinich) coaches and the training style at the center. I understand that I can succeed with that, and I don't need to do the amount of routines I used to do at Stanford. This new method really works for me, and it's more of a mental game. I can go out and hit cold routines, and it's really not a question of getting myself warmed up and doing things over and over again. I know in my head that I have it down.

David Durante
I'm a little older, and my body can't take the pounding it used to. I think Vitaly understands that, too, having been an athlete at this level. He's also coached people like Jason (Gatson), Brett (McClure) and Steve McCain, who competed at the world and Olympic level at an older age. So he understands that sometimes you have to just go out and be efficient and get your workouts done. You don't need to spend four, five or six hours in the gym. You can go in, get your stuff done and go home. Vitaly completely understands that. He's not about, "Do the numbers." He's like, "If it takes one turn for you to get it right, that's all it takes."

IG: Talk a bit about the other guys on the team for Stuttgart, and what you think they bring to the team.

DD: Sasha (Artemev) has a style and an elegance that's internationally recognized. He really stands out in a crowd. I remember we were in Japan, and on the wall of their training center they had clips of gymnasts from around the world doing specific skills on each event. On pommel horse they had Sasha. The only person they had in the world on pommel horse was Sasha. Everywhere you go, people know that Sasha is someone to watch out for.

(Jonathan) Horton is the ultimate competitor. He lives off the crowd and brings an emotion to the team that we need.

Kevin (Tan) is kind of on the other end of it. He's totally laid-back, and just goes out there and does his routines. He's been around this a while. He's an older guy and he has a coaching mentality. I can definitely see him as a coach when he's finished with gymnastics. He's totally there for the team, and really knows how to pick guys up when they're struggling.

(Sean) Golden is the jokester of the team. He's one of the funnier guys I know. He can lighten up the mood of a room. He's the kind of guy, too, who doesn't get flustered with anything. No matter what kind of day he's having - good or bad - he's going to go out there and do his gymnastics. That kind of consistency, and being able to hit under any kind of circumstance, is what we're going to need.

Guillermo (Alvarez) is like the silent killer. He doesn't speak too much, so you have to get him out of his shell a bit and hang out with him to see his personality. But out on the floor, he's dominant. He hits routine after routine. He already has one Worlds experience, and between Pan Ams and now, there's already been a jump in his performance. So I'm expecting one more jump from him between now and Worlds.

I'm so proud of Sho (Nakamori). I've watched him grow up at Stanford, and I was there when a lot of bad stuff happened. His father passed away when he was at a competition with me, and I was there when he broke his femur at the Pan Am Games in 2003. His family is so proud of him, and I'm no different. For him to make the senior national team and be the Worlds team alternate is a huge jump for him. I can see that Thom's (Gliemli) coaching is working for him, and he's going nowhere but up from here.

IG: What is it going to take for the team to lift itself from 13th place last year into not just the top 12, but closer to the medals?

DD: Last year really wasn't as bad as the results show. Kevin got sick (food poisoning), and he can score 16 on rings, and got a 13. We were only about a point away from finishing in the top eight and making team finals. We were one routine away from being in a lot different perspective from right now, but I think this year has helped. Last year's performance has really motivated us a lot. We have a different mentality going into Worlds.

To read IG Online's live coverage of the 2007 U.S. Championships, click here.

For an in-depth interview with Durante earlier in his career, read "All-Around Specialist," in the April 2005 issue of IG Magazine.)

Written by Kaori Miyaura    Friday, 08 June 2007 16:35    PDF Print
Interview: Natalia Ziganshina (Russia)
(1 vote, average 5.00 out of 5)
IG contributor Kaori Miyaura caught up with 2004 Olympian Natalia Ziganshina in her hometown of St. Petersburg.
Ziganshina at the 2001 Worlds

After winning the all-around bronze at the 2000 Junior European Championships in Paris, Ziganshina became one of Russia's most reliable senior gymnasts through the 2004 Olympic Games. At the 2001 World Championships in Ghent, she was a member of Russia's silver medal-winning team and won the all-around silver medal behind teammate Svetlana Khorkina.

At the 2002 European Championships, Ziganshina won gold medals with the Russian team and on vault, and the silver medal on floor exercise. Later that year she won the silver medal on vault at the World Championships in Debrecen, Hungary.

Injury kept her out of the 2003 World Championships, but Ziganshina returned in 2004 to help Russia win the team bronze at the Olympic Games in Athens. In 2005, she placed sixth at the Russian Championships in March and fifth all-around at the University Games in August. Her last international competition was the 2005 Trophée Massilia in France, where she won the bronze medal on vault. She finished 13th all-around and second with the St. Petersburg team at the 2006 Russian Championships, held in March.

Both Natalia and her younger sister, Gulnara, were coached by Viktor Gavrichenkov, who guided Yelena Shushunova to the 1988 Olympic title. Gulnara won the 2001 International Juniors competition in Japan and was a member of Russia's gold medal-winning team at the 2002 Junior European Championships. She is now a coach at their home club, SDYuSShOR No. 1, and Gavrichenkov works with the Russian national team at Lake Krugloye outside of Moscow.

Now 21, Ziganshina returned to training in January after taking nearly a year off from competition. She is now training seven hours a day at SDYuSShOR No. 1. She didn't specify her competition goals, but Gulnara indicated Natalia is aiming for the Russian Cup, to be held in Chelyabinsk in July.

Gulnara and Natalia
IG: Has your life changed since taking a year off?

NZ: My life has changed. It's gotten better. I became a more social person. I'd like to say that I've matured as a person.

IG: Which university do you attend?

NZ: I go to the P.F. Lesgaft Institute of Physical Culture. It is one of the most famous universities in Russia. I'm in the fourth class in the Athletic Trainer department.

IG: How are your friends and family doing?

NZ: My family members - dad, mom, Gulnara and our younger brother, Ruslan - are all doing well. We're very close.

My friends are also all doing well. I hang out a lot with Polina Miller, Yekaterina Kramarenko, Olga Azarkevich and Alexandra Shevchenko. When Viktor Gavrichenkov comes to the gym I see him as well.

Ziganshina trains ballet in 1998
IG: Thinking back, what was your best memory in all the years you have been in gymnastics?

NZ: When I was standing on the Olympic podium with a medal on my neck and a bouquet of flowers in my hands, the fans and spectators were yelling "Good job!" from the audience seats. This was the best moment I've ever experienced.

IG: How did you continue your training when times got tough? What was your motivation for staying in gymnastics?

NZ: Of course training was very hard and difficult. But I had specific goals and dreams. At that time, I had some coaches who helped and supported me in realizing my goals and dreams. My family was also around me, and they cheered me up and supported me.

IG: What do you think is the best thing about living in St. Petersburg?

NZ: My city is the best place for me. I am very happy that I was born in St. Petersburg. We have a lot of art museums and great places. It's awesome to walk around here at night, particularly because we have White Nights in June.

Read "For St. Pete's Sake," an in-depth profile on Ziganshina, in the March 2002 issue of International Gymnast magazine. To order back issues, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Thursday, 31 May 2007 18:00    PDF Print
Interview: Katja Abel (Germany)
(9 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)
Germany's Katja Abel has been working toward her Olympic opportunity a long time. The daughter of 1972 Olympic team silver medalist Irene Abel (who competed for East Germany), Abel finished 13th all-around at the 1998 European Junior Championships in St. Petersburg. A bad back hampered Abel for the remainder of the 2000 Olympic cycle.
Katja Abel

Abel was a member of Germany's eighth-place team at the 2001 World Championships in Ghent, where a unified Germany qualified for the team final for the first time in Worlds history. Abel was also a member of Germany's 13th-place team at the 2003 World Championships in Anaheim, where 0.040 separated the Germans from team qualification at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

Considered a candidate for one of the two individual Olympic berths that Germany earned in Anaheim, Abel broke both bones in both forearms in a training accident in early 2004. She returned to major competition in 2006, and won the bronze medal on vault at the European Championships in Volos, Greece. She then suffered a foot injury that kept her out of last fall's World Championships in Aarhus, Denmark, where Germany placed 16th.

Abel, who last year left her native Berlin to train in Stuttgart, is getting close to her best form in 2007. She placed 20th all-around in preliminaries (with a fall on balance beam) at the European Championships in Amsterdam in April, and made three event finals at World Stars, a World Cup meet held May 25-26 in Moscow. She is now preparing for a World Cup meet to be held June 2-3 in Buenos Aires. Abel's main target for 2007 is the World Championships, Sept. 2-9 in Stuttgart. There, she hopes to help Germany earn a top-12 team finish, and thereby qualify a full team for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

In this interview, the 24-year-old Abel details her plans to make it to the Olympics at long last.


IG: How and why did you decide to leave Berlin and start training in Stuttgart?

KA: After my foot injury last summer, I analyzed the last year and my plans for gymnastics. I came to the conclusion that I wanted to compete at the Worlds and hopefully in Beijing 2008, but for this, I needed to change something. In Berlin I did gymnastics without training partners for years, and I couldn't stand it even one more year. So I decided to leave my lovely home for two years, and moved to Stuttgart after getting in touch with the coaches there.

IG: Who coaches you now?

KA: Tamara Khokhlova is the main coach but (1996 Russian Olympic team silver medalist and former Khokhlova pupil) Yelena Dolgopolova helps on the beam and floor. If we need help on the bars especially because of new elements, then Robert Mai supports us. He once did gymnastics, too.

IG: With whom do you train?

Katja Abel

KA: Marie-Sophie Hindermann, 16, and Kim Bui, 18, are my training partners. We aren't together constantly, because of school, university, etc., but we are for most of the time, and that's fantastic! I missed it a long time, since (former Berlin training partner) Gritt Hofmann moved to the University of Utah.

IG: You won the bronze medal on vault at last year's Europeans, so why didn't you try to qualify for the vault final at this year's Europeans by performing two vaults in preliminaries?

KA: I didn't try to qualify on vault in Amsterdam because I wasn't able to raise the difficulty, after my injury, and that would have been the requirement to vault two times to get the chance of a final. The team coach fixed the criteria.

IG: Are you completely recovered from your injury?

KA: Everything is OK with the foot. There's nothing bothering me.

IG: What are your goals for the World Cup meet in Buenos Aires?

KA: I'll try to make finals. I'll start on all four apparatus. I don't know who the other participants will be, but I will give everything to be better than place five, six or seven.

IG: How satisfied were you with your performance at Europeans?

KA: I don't like the word "satisfied" because there's always development, even if everything went right. Bars and floor were all right. On vault I could have done better, and you know my fudged performance on beam.

IG: How is the German team looking right now?

KA: In general most of the team who will go for Worlds is in good condition, besides the known small problems. There is no gymnast without those!

IG: How is (2006 European junior all-around bronze medalist) Marie-Sophie Hindermann doing, following her own injury?

KA: I'm very confident that Marie will do well in September. Recent times have been hard for her and sometimes she was desperate, but everything changes for the better and there's time, if only a bit.

IG: What is your team goal for Stuttgart?

KA: I am sure the team will do everything to qualify for the Olympic Games. We work hard, we'll come together one month before and so we'll grow closer together. Every one of us will give her best.

Read "Double Break," an in-depth profile on Abel, in the July/August 2006 issue of International Gymnast magazine. To order back issues, click here.


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