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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)

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

Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 02 May 2008 08:26    PDF Print
Interview: Carol-Angela Orchard (Canada)
(12 votes, average 4.67 out of 5)

Although Canadian coach Carol-Angela Orchard is only 48, she has decided to retire after this summer's Olympic Games — and more than three decades of coaching. Orchard and Brian McVey, her coaching partner at Toronto's Sport Seneca club, have produced numerous Olympic and World Championships competitors.

Orchard celebrates a hit routine with Luisa Portocarrero at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona

Sport Seneca's Olympians include Monica Covacci (1988), Luisa Portocarrero (1992, representing Guatemala) and Michelle Conway (2000). The club's World Championships participants include Koyuki Oka (1989), Leah Homma (22nd all-around in 1989), Lydia Williams (2003) and Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs (2005, 2006 and 2007).

At the 2006 Worlds in Aarhus, Denmark, Hopfner-Hibbs became the first Canadian woman to win a World Championships medal, when she placed third on balance beam.

In addition to Orchard's prolific coaching career, she worked as a commentator for Canadian television's coverage of major gymnastics competitions from 1994-2000.

Orchard, who was born in Hamilton, Ont, and raised in Burlington, was a provincial gymnastics champion before she enrolled York University in Toronto. "It was 10 miles away from Seneca, so I could coach in the morning 7 to 10:30 a.m., and then go back to York to cram in all my classes, and be back at Seneca to train from 3 to 6 p.m.," she recalls. Orchard graduated with an Honors degree in Physical Education and a Certificate in Advanced Coaching.

Earlier this year, Orchard and McVey announced their retirement from coaching, effective after the Olympics in August in Beijing, China. Orchard will be moving to England in the fall, where she will wed Ed Van Hoof. Van Hoof, who competed for Great Britain at the 1984 Olympics, is the technical director of the British men's team. McVey, who will begin teaching college classes in the fall, plans to relocate to Panama.

As the 2008 Olympics in Beijing approach, Orchard and McVey remain devoted to helping Hopfner-Hibbs realize her Olympic dream. They are also spending their remaining time at Sport Seneca preparing Peng-Peng Lee, one of the Canadian team's rising stars, for the 2012 Olympics in London.

Hopfner-Hibbs won the silver medal on balance beam and the bronze medal on uneven bars at the World Cup of Dohar, Qatar, in March; and the gold medal on uneven bars at the World Cup of Maribor, Slovenia, in late April.

Hopfner-Hibbs and Lee won team silver medals at the Pacific Rim Championships in San Jose, Calif., in March, where Lee finished fifth all-around and second on uneven bars in the junior division.

In this IG Online interview, Orchard outlines her commitment to seeing Hopfner-Hibbs through to Beijing, and the transition she is preparing to make in her own life.

IG: Canada will select its two female Olympians on a "points" system. What exactly does this system process entail, and where does Elyse stand right now?

CAO: The selection process only takes into consideration your best two events. Canada wants to send girls who have potential to rank among the top 8-12, in order to increase funding for our program. We don't have any girls that could do that All-Around, so we have been told to focus on our best two events. We have been told to have Elyse specialize on bars and beam, which, of course, we agree with. Athletes also receive points for their previous World Championships experience.

Orchard and Hopfner-Hibbs

A minimum standard has been set by Gymnastics Canada for each event: 13.600 on vault (average of two vaults); 15.300 on bars; 15.100 on beam; and 14.300 on floor.

The gymnasts are given Olympic Qualifying points when they hit the minimum standards in meets they are sent to around the world, plus Elite Canada and Nationals. The higher their score, the higher number of points they receive. The problem is this — some competitions have been judged more severely than others. Performances and rankings may have been good; however, the scores aren't high enough to attain qualification points. On Day 1 at the Qatar World Cup, Elyse placed second on beam with 15.000. This does not earn her any points because it must be a minimum of 15.100. The opposite has also happened with some competitions being scored high, thereby allowing weaker performances to hit the required score.

Elyse and Kristina (Vaculik of the Gemini club) have both scored over 15.000 several times on bars and beam. Close, but not close enough, and they therefore did not received any points for those performances. It is really challenging.

We have drastically changed tactics in order to get Elyse more points. She is now vaulting. She is not what we would consider to be a great vaulter, but it is easier to get vault points. We have had less time to spend on bars and beam in order to push vault; however, it is working. She has now learned a 1-1/2 twisting Yurchenko. Her second vault is Yurchenko half-on, front salto off. We are not under any illusion that this would qualify her for an Olympic final; however, it is enough to get points — and that has become our first priority right now. Her Yurchenko 1-1/2 is actually quite good, and everyone at our last training camp was excited to see it. More importantly, she earned points at Maribor last week by competing her new vault for the very first time, so we are on the right track!

Nansy (Damianova of the Gymnix club) is a strong vaulter and has attained the vault score 12 times now, and the floor score five times. Elyse has attained the beam score five times and the bars score only once - that is why we now have her vaulting. I don't think the vaults come even close in comparison to Elyse's bars at 6.8 and her beam at 6.6 ("A" scores). However, we are now doing whatever it takes to earn those valuable qualification points.

Nansy is currently first in the points system with 32 points. Elyse has 30 points. Kristina has 19 points. They have another opportunity to earn points at the China World Cup (May 14-15 in Tianjin). Elyse will do vault, bars and beam. Nansy will do vault and floor. Kristina will do bars, beam and floor. They will then attend the National Championships during the first week of June in Calgary. All three girls are committed and pushing very hard for Beijing.

IG: How do you plan to handle this challenging Olympic year — working to get Elyse to Beijing - with the same energy and focus as before, especially when you are planning your life after 2008?

CAO: My energy and passion are probably even greater knowing that my days are numbered! I absolutely love to coach. The competitions, trips, etc., are all very nice. However, it is the day-to-day work with the girls in the gym that I love the most.

Peng and Elyse know about our retirement, and we have all agreed to stay even more focused on the task at hand. This is an incredibly important year for both of them. We want to finish on top! So the hard work, passion and dedication continue, and are perhaps even more amplified knowing we have a deadline date. Elyse and I are both planning another aspect of our lives after Beijing. She will be heading to UCLA on a full scholarship when I move to Britain.

This being Elyse's last year before heading to UCLA, I wanted to select international assignments that would really be memorable for her. When the World Cup in Qatar came up, I jumped at the opportunity.

IG: How long had you been considering retirement?

CAO: I seem to think about retirement after every Olympic Games, and then there is another wonderful gymnast I feel committed to, and I continue on through another quadrennial cycle. I started coaching at this level when I was 17, and now I am 48 — so I have had a lot of good years!

There is no "good time" to retire. This time is much harder due to leaving Peng-Peng Lee behind. However, Brian and I have worked very hard on her program. She has virtually everything she needs for 2012 now. Vault — Yurchenko double twist. Bars — three releases, plus Pak-full and double layout full-out. Beam — you name it, she's got it! With the new triple twist dismount and a triple turn, she is well over 7.6 (in difficulty). Floor — double layout, full-in, Arabian double front, triple twist, etc. Now that she has learned all of her skills, she can take the time to grow into her program.

IG: When and why did you decide to retire from coaching?

CAO: When Ed (Van Hoof) and I became engaged last year, we knew we had to figure things out. I made my final decision over the Christmas holiday when we had two weeks away from the gym to just relax.

My relationship with Ed is the most incredible thing I have ever experienced. We seem to be absolutely perfect for each other. We first met at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. I was coaching Luisa Portocarrero and he had (1992 British Olympian) Neil Thomas. We ended up spending a lot of time together as a group. Ed and I were always fond of each other. However, that big "pond" between Canada and Britain kept us apart. It took us another 14 years to get us together. Now that I have what we have, it was definitely worth the wait.

If Ed lived here, I would definitely stay at Sport Seneca until 2012 for Peng. As the Technical Director of the (British) men's team, Ed is committed to Britain until at least London 2012. We have been doing the very long-distance relationship for two years now, and we don't want to spend another four years apart. So, I will be a spectator in the front row in London 2012, cheering Peng on every step of the way. It will be nice to be there when she wins her Olympic medal!

IG: Did you and Brian discuss retiring as the same time, together, or were these independent decisions?

CAO: Brian and I not only coach together; we are also the very best of friends. He has always been an important part of my life. We enhance each other's strengths, and the gymnasts benefit from our unique partnership. We wanted to retire together, and always planned to. Both of us have willingly given up so much for the sport that we love. It is now time to enjoy a completely different aspect of our lives.

IG: With Peng-Peng and other promising young gymnasts, how are planning to emotionally handle the transition from coaching — in other words, knowing you will not be seeing them through to 2012 or whatever their potential is?

CAO: I don't actually know how I will handle this when the time comes. Leaving Sport Seneca and Peng will be the hardest thing of all.

IG: Considering your coaching background, that the next Olympics after Beijing will be in London and that you will have connections with British clubs, how much thought are you giving to perhaps coaching in England in the future?

CAO: Currently, I do not have any plans, and I have not made any arrangements to coach in Britain. With the next Olympics in London, perhaps their coaching staff would consider using me to assist them as you suggested. This, however, has never been discussed. We are all very focused on Beijing right now.

I have known exactly what what I would be doing every day for the past 32 years. I have always known from one year to the next, from one quadrennial cycle to the next. So to suddenly not know what waits for me, gymnastically speaking, after Beijing, is a phenomenally strange feeling!

The only plan I have after the Olympic Games is to spend some time with Ed. We will be married on a private island (Turtle Island) in Fiji on Sept. 24. We will spend 10 glorious days there for the wedding and our honeymoon. Sounds like absolute heaven to me! After that? Anything is possible.

IG Magazine's features on Orchard and Sport Seneca gymnasts include:
"How to Deal with Adversity" - advice column by Orchard (September 2007)
"All in a Day's Work" - Hopfner-Hibbs profile (March 2007)
"A Passion for Performing" - Lee profile (June 2006)
"Canada Can" - Canadian team feature, including Orchard and Homma (January 2001)
"The Comfort Zone" - Conway profile (June/July 1998)
Portocarrero, Homma and UCLA team on cover (June/July 1997)
"Guatemala's Gift to Gymnastics" - Portocarrero interview (May 1993)
Portocarrero center poster (January 1993)
1990 Champions All coverage - features Homma (June 1990)
Covacci U-Frame-It mini poster (May 1988)
1987 Champions All coverage - features Covacci (June 1987)

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

Written by John Crumlish    Sunday, 20 April 2008 16:26    PDF Print
Interview: Olivia Vivian (Australia)
(13 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Australia's Olivia Vivian is looking forward to this summer's Olympic Games in Beijing, and starting a new phase of her career this fall at Oregon State University in the U.S.

Olivia Vivian

Vivian, who competed at the 2005 and 2006 World Championships, recently accepted a scholarship to study and compete at Oregon State University, where she will train under head coach Tanya Service Chaplin and associate head coach Michael Chaplin.

Born July 13, 1989, in Perth, Vivian is coached by Martine George and Nikolai Lapchine at the Western Australian Institute of Sport. She placed 13th on uneven bars at the 2005 World Championships in Melbourne; and 12th on uneven bars and sixth with her team at the 2006 World Championships in Aarhus, Denmark.

Vivian's best results in World Cup competitions include fifth place on uneven bars and sixth place on balance beam in Shanghai (2007); and seventh place on uneven bars in Glasgow (2007).

Vivian won the Australian junior title on uneven bars in 2003 and 2004; and the Australian senior title on uneven bars in 2006. Also in Australian Championships senior competition, she placed second on uneven bars in 2007, and third on balance beam and floor exercise in 2005. In the senior all-around, Vivian was sixth in 2005, fifth in 2006 and 11th in 2007.

In this IG Online interview, Vivian, Australian national team coach Peggy Liddick and OSU head coach Tanya Chaplin comment on Vivian's accomplishments and her future prospects.

IG: When and how did you decide to try for a U.S. university scholarship?

OV: In early 2007 Peggy mentioned the idea of trying to gain a college scholarship, and I was immediately interested.

IG: When did you make your first contact with the OSU coaches?

OV: I came into contact with Tanya and Michael Chaplin in October last year. Peggy had actually made the first contact with Tanya earlier in the year, and told Tanya that she might be interested in me. I had made my mind up that I would go to college in America not long before that.

I arranged to take the SAT [Standard Aptitude Test, used to help gain admission to U.S. university], and when I got the results I showed them to Peggy. She suggested that I take them again, now that I knew what the SAT format was. We don’t have anything like that over here! I was much happier with my second set of results; I did quite well!

After that, I put together a DVD of my latest competitions and training, and sent it to Tanya. She must have liked what she saw, as she called me and said she was coming to Perth to see me. They only had one scholarship left when I spoke with them, so I was very lucky to catch them when I did.

IG: What about OSU specifically, and U.S. university gymnastics in general, appealed to you?

OV: To be honest, my thoughts on going to college on scholarship increased dramatically when my parents said I would have to pay for my own university fees! But I also thought it would be a great opportunity for me to get an education whilst still doing the sport I love. Australia doesn’t offer any sporting scholarships in university. OSU appealed to me because of its great staff and location. If anything is close to Perth, it would be a university on the west coast of the U.S. It is still a 24-hour flight!

IG: What about the OSU coaches in particular?

OV: Tanya and Michael are so lovely. Tanya flew to Australia to meet with my parents and me. I knew by that gesture that the coaches at OSU really cared and looked after their athletes, and that I would be well looked after over there. America isn’t close to Australia, and I can’t just hop in a car and drive home. So it was important that my parents knew the strangers that would be in charge of me for the next four years and try to keep me out of trouble!

IG: How are your preparations for the Beijing Olympics going? What is your strategy for the lead-up to Beijing?

OV: Preparations are going well. I am focused on taking each day as it comes and making every training session count. Training for the Games is really exciting, and I hope to be at my best for the first cut in May, and then on the day of the final trials in June.

Liddick on Vivian:

IG: As national team coach, how do you feel Olivia has benefited the Australian team?

PL: Olivia has been a survivor, one of those gymnasts who has never given up and has been ready to take advantage of every opportunity that has come her way. She is a real team player and keeps the atmosphere in the gym a happy one; she enjoys her training and training with her teammates. I like having Olivia in the gym. She is a team leader and has the respect of the rest of the team. She is the first one to help out with mats, bar preparation or with the music. She has had enough experience in the gym so she can see situations arising that she can attend to before they escalate into an “issue.” I am counting on Olivia continuing to represent Australia internationally as she pursues her degree at OSU.

IG: How do you think Olivia will benefit the OSU Team?

PL: Olivia will be the loudest voice and the most enthusiastic booster on the team. I hope they are ready for her! Her energy is contagious and her personality is engaging. We will miss Olivia’s spunk, but OSU will just love her. Besides that, she is a very tough competitor. She will add to the OSU team tremendously in that area.

Chaplin on Vivian:

Tanya Service Chaplin at the 1983 Worlds

Newer fans of the sport may know Tanya Chaplin as a successful collegiate coach, but she also enjoyed a prominent international competitive career.

Under her maiden name of Tanya Service, Chaplin finished 22nd all-around at the 1983 World Championships in Budapest. Her powerful but polished style enabled her to perform skills that are unusual even today. On uneven bars, Service's mount was a stem rise, immediate Jaeger. On balance beam, she performed a standing front salto (without a hurdle); and dismounted with a double tuck from a cartwheel, instead of the customary round-off.

Chaplin competed collegiately for UCLA, and tied for second place all-around at the 1989 NCAA Championships. Her husband, Michael, is also a former UCLA gymnast and U.S. national team member.

IG: When and where did you first notice Olivia's gymnastics?

TC: Olivia contacted me through email and video. We have been watching the Australian team for a few years and were able to watch Olivia through some of her international competitions, as well as invitationals that the Australian teams have come over for.

IG: What qualities of Olivia's gymnastics motivated you to recruit her?

TC: Olivia is an excellent uneven bars worker, and that caught our attention right away. I was also impressed with her skill level on floor and beam. I believe her artistry, clean lines and competitive experience will make her a very successful collegiate gymnast.

IG: When you got to know Olivia during your trip to Australia, what personal qualities did she show that made you feel she would be a good fit for your program?

TC: As I sat and talked with Olivia, I could see the passion she has for the sport and the excitement about coming to the States and continuing to compete. After my visit with her family in Perth I flew back to Sydney and drove to Canberra where I was able to watch her compete at the National Club Championships. It was obvious that she was a talented gymnast, but I was really impressed with how she interacted and worked with her teammates.

IG: In what ways do you think Olivia can benefit your program, from a gymnastics standpoint and a team-morale standpoint?

TC: From a gymnastics standpoint our team will benefit from her outstanding skill level and international competition experience. From a morale standpoint she will already have a strong team concept developed because of her experiences with the Australian national team and training at WAIS.


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