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Written by John Crumlish    Sunday, 17 November 2019 08:10    PDF Print
Switzerland’s Gischard on Tokyo 2020: ‘We Are All Hungry’
(3 votes, average 3.67 out of 5)

Celebrating his 24th birthday on November 17, Swiss gymnast Benjamin Gischard has important goals for the coming year that include competing at his second Olympic Games and making apparatus finals after two close calls at the 2016 Rio Games.

Gischard, a Zurich native, competed on four apparatuses at the ’14 World Championships in Nanning, where Switzerland placed seventh. At the ’16 Olympic Games in Rio, where Switzerland placed ninth, he finished 12th on floor exercise and 12th on vault. He was 11th on floor exercise at the ’18 Worlds in Doha, where Switzerland placed sixth. Gischard helped Switzerland earn a team berth to next summer’s Tokyo Olympics by virtue of its seventh-place finish at last month’s World Championships in Stuttgart.

At the Swiss Championships held a month before Worlds, Gischard placed third all-around behind gold medalist Oliver Hegi and silver medalist Pablo Braegger, as well as first on floor exercise, first on vault and third on pommel horse. Hegi and Braegger went on to finish 23rd and 15th, respectively, in the all-around final in Stuttgart.

Gischard has proven himself to be a reliable team performer, but he has also earned individual international accolades. He won the bronze medal on vault at the ‘16 Challenge Cup of Cottbus, and bronze medals on floor exercise and vault at the ’18 Challenge Cup of Koper. Gischard was sixth on vault at the ’15 European Championships in Montpellier, and eighth on vault at the ’16 Europeans in Bern, where Switzerland won the team bronze. He placed fourth on floor exercise and fifth on vault at this spring’s European Championships in Szczecin.

Gischard shares his perspectives and hopes in this IG Online interview.

IG: With so many teams at the same level in Stuttgart, what do you think were the reasons that Switzerland was able to earn one of the coveted team berths for Tokyo?

BG: I think it was due to the consistency in our preparation and the hard work in the gym. We are a bunch of good gymnasts and only the five best can go to the World Championships, so we have a strong rivalry that pushes us to our limits and we have to give our best also in the training. At the same time, we are all good friends and team players. We all live in the same house and are really close friends. The mix is perfect for us. No one has time to relax too long because otherwise some of the younger generation takes your place on the team.

IG: Now that your team has qualified for Tokyo, what do you think your team will need to qualify for the team final there?

BG: We are really hungry. We want by all means to qualify for the final. We had a chance in 2016 (Olympic Games) but we failed. Now that we are given a second chance I’m sure everybody will give his best to profit from this opportunity. We need to work exactly in the same way we did for the World Championships. We’ve learned a lot from our mistakes in 2016. Now we know that we have to take our time to take breaks and to train hard. In 2016, we worked a little bit too hard. In other words, we didn’t take enough breaks so that we were already a bit tired on the competition day. Furthermore, we were very nervous but now we have much more experience in the whole team and we are ready.

IG: At Rio 2016 you came very close to making the floor and vault finals. What changes and improvements have you made, or will you make, in order to make those finals in Tokyo?

BG: I’ve changed a lot on floor since 2016. My D-(difficulty) score is higher and, at the moment, I’m learning two or three new upgrades. My goal is to adapt my floor routine to my current power. If I feel the floor or have really strong legs I will do a 6.4 and if I have weak legs I will just perform a 6.0. My new elements are Zapata double piked ½ , double back with 2-½ twists and double twist forward to 1-½ twist forward. This enables me to vary my D-score between 6.0 and 6.4. On vault I’m learning a Roche and my goal is to compete Dragulescu or Yeo 2. The second one I already competed at several competitions but I stopped because I’m not sure yet which one I will compete. My second vault will be the Driggs and it has to be a very clean one if I want to get into the final.

IG: Although you competed on three apparatuses in Stuttgart, what aspirations do you have for competing all-around in Tokyo?

BG: At home in Switzerland I always train on the six apparatuses. I know that I have to compete on all the six apparatuses in Tokyo so I’m aware of the work to be done. On parallel bars and high bar I’m not good enough for the Swiss team but I can generate good values on floor, vault and pommel horse. So I really hope that I can compete on the team and do all-around in Tokyo. I’ve already showed the federation that I can compete all-around. At the Swiss Championships I was third place in 2019, and in 2018 I was second. This makes me confident that I can be one of the four best all-arounders in Switzerland. I have to give my best in the gym and improve on high bar, p-bars and also rings because we, Team Switzerland, are not the best on rings. This has to be improved by the Olympics.

IG: The competition within the Swiss team is already tough because your team has several good all-arounders. What will you need in order to earn a sport on the team in Tokyo?

BG: My job is to improve my D-score on high-bar and p-bars in order to achieve an average score so that I could secure the team if someone came off an apparatus. On rings I have to improve my strength so that I can generate an end score of 14.00. The weakness of the Swiss team is rings. If I can show the coaches that I’m able to get a good score on rings, pommel horse, floor and vault and secure the team with an average but not very high value on high bar and p-bars, I have real chances to earn a spot on the team. I really have to make the points on floor, pommel, rings and vault, and be one of the best at those apparatuses in Switzerland, so that I become interesting for the team.

Read complete coverage of the 2019 World Championships in the November 2019 issue of International Gymnast magazine, available now.

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

Written by John Crumlish    Thursday, 14 November 2019 20:46    PDF Print
Visser On Worlds: ‘We Were One Team With One Goal’
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Two-time World Championships all-around finalist Naomi Visser of the Netherlands told IG she was delighted that she and her teammates earned a team berth to next summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo through their solid performance at last month’s World Championships in Stuttgart.

“My biggest goal in Stuttgart was to get the Olympic ticket with the team,” said Visser, who placed 23rd in the all-around final after the Dutch team finished eighth in the team final. “So all the focus was on that competition. I’m really happy and proud of the team that we made it.”

Visser attributed her team’s success to a unified effort to earn one of nine remaining team berths to Tokyo that were available in Stuttgart. Three teams qualified for Tokyo via their performances at the 2018 Worlds in Doha.

“We were one team with one goal,” she said. “Each team member did everything that was needed to achieve the goal. No matter what. And that’s why our team had a very good performance in Stuttgart.”

Visser, who placed 14th all-around at last year’s Worlds in Doha, said she was glad to achieve a personal best on balance beam in the Stuttgart all-around final despite an illness that sapped her strength.

“My all-around final didn’t go as planned,” she said. “During the competition I became a little sick, so I was under my energy level. I hoped for a better competition, but I did everything I could in the moment. Despite that, I’m happy that I made the final and achieved a personal record on balance beam.”

Visser said a combination of time and optimal performances will tell how high the Dutch team can finish in Tokyo.

“That’s really hard to say,” she said. “We are going to do our best and then we will see. But our ultimate goal is to make the team final.”

The 18-year-old Visser said she will concentrate on adding difficulty to her routines and remaining healthy so she can make the Dutch team for Tokyo.

“My focus will be on getting a higher D (difficulty) score on every apparatus and get this stable,” she said. “But the most important is to stay fit.”

Referring to Visser’s calm demeanor, coach Vincent Wevers refers to her as “Cool Frog,” a nickname that amuses her.

“I think it’s really funny,” Visser told IG. “In the Netherlands ‘cool frog’ is a saying, so that’s why he says a frog and not another animal.”

Read complete coverage of the 2019 World Championships in the November 2019 issue of International Gymnast magazine, available now.

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

Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 12 November 2019 20:31    PDF Print
Britain’s James on Worlds Debut: ‘I Felt Like I Delivered’
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

British gymnast Taeja James told IG she was gratified by her World Championships debut last month in Stuttgart, where she helped her team qualify for next summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo and finish sixth in the team final.

“I was definitely proud of myself,” said James, who competed on two apparatuses in qualifications and the team final. “My job for the team was floor and vault, and I felt like I delivered and didn’t let the team down.”

As the only British female gymnast in Stuttgart without prior Worlds participation, James said she relied on her previous Commonwealth Games and European Championships experience to manage the unique stress in Stuttgart.

“I felt a lot of pressure as this was my first World Championships and an Olympic team qualification event,” said James, who turned 17 on October 15, two days after Worlds concluded. “I felt qualifications could have gone better. However, I made the corrections for the team final.”

Both of James’ scores counted in qualifications, where teams dropped the lowest score on each apparatus. In the team final, where all scores counted, she earned the highest British score on floor exercise.

James is confident that cooperation and focus can help her and her team perform to potential at the Tokyo Games.

“I feel as a team we need to continue to work together and support each other to get the best result in Tokyo,” said James, who trains under coach Jody Kime at the City of Birmingham club. “Personally I want to work on consistency when dealing with pressure on the world stage so I can deliver in both qualifications and finals.”

James said stronger vaults and all-around effort will help her in her quest to earn a spot on the British team in Tokyo.

“My biggest goal is to make sure I have my double twisting Yurchenko (vault) for the team, and I’m working on a second vault,” she told IG. “I’m also pushing to work all four pieces again after a number of injuries have set me back a little bit.”

Read complete coverage of the 2019 World Championships in the November 2019 issue of International Gymnast magazine, available now.

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

Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 01 November 2019 07:59    PDF Print
‘Belgium Belongs Amongst The Top Nations,’ Says Deriks
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Belgian team veteran Senna Deriks heads towards her second Olympic Games more confident than ever after she helped her team qualify for next summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The 18-year-old Deriks was a member of the Belgian team that placed 10th at last month’s World Championships in Stuttgart, thereby earning a team berth to Tokyo. She also competed at the 2016 Games in Rio, where Belgium placed 12th.

In this IG Online interview, Deriks shares her thoughts on her individual prospects as well as her team’s potential for success in Tokyo.

IG: How does it feel knowing that you are headed towards your second Olympics with your entire team?

SD: I’m super excited and proud to be a part of this achievement. This is important for all of us. It proves that the system is working very well and that Belgium belongs amongst the top nations. Now we will work hard so that we can send the best team possible to Tokyo. The Olympics in Rio were very special to me, especially because I was so young. Now that I’m a little older, my position in the team has changed a bit. I’m one of the more experienced gymnasts now. I’m really looking forward to preparing for these Games with all the girls.

IG: How did you manage the conflicting emotions in Stuttgart: the excitement of qualifying for Tokyo, but at the same time, the disappointment of not qualifying for the team final by a tiny margin?

SD: I don’t think we can have any regrets about missing the team final. Coming into this competition, our only focus was to make the top 12 and qualify a full team to the Olympics. We knew that was going to be tough, but if we just hit our routines like we did in practice it was certainly possible. Yes, afterwards it was a bit of a pity when we saw how close we were to making the top eight, but it is a great motivation to train hard and make that final in Tokyo.

IG: What improvements or changes will your team need to make in order to make it into the team final in Tokyo?

SD: We need to work a lot on our vaults. It has been our weakest event for years, due to our lack of difficulty. But at these Worlds we already had Jade (Vansteenkiste) who performed a great one-and-a-half twisting Yurchenko which contributed a lot to the team result.

IG: What do you think is your team's potentially best ranking in Tokyo?

SD: Our goal is definitely to make the team final. We still have a lot of work to do, but with a good preparation we believe it is possible to present great routines and make the top eight.

IG: Since only four gymnasts will qualify for the team for Tokyo, what will be the focus or your training between now and Tokyo, so you can earn one of those spots?

SD: I will try to upgrade my difficulty on every apparatus and work on my conditioning. Once the routines are ready it’s mostly getting them stable and clean to get the highest scores possible.

Read complete coverage of the 2019 World Championships in the November 2019 issue of International Gymnast magazine.

To subscribe to the print and/or digital editions, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 25 October 2019 08:15    PDF Print
Confidence Key To Italian Women’s World Bronze, Says Coach Casella
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Italian women’s team coach Enrico Casella told IG he never doubted his gymnasts as they pursued and captured the Italian women’s first world championships team medal since 1950 in placing third at the World Championships held October 4-13 in Stuttgart.

“I have always believed in the possibility of fighting for a position among the top five teams,” said Casella of his team’s bronze medal-winning performance, behind gold medalist U.S. and silver medalist Russia. “The medal therefore depended not only on our performance but also on that of the other teams. We also worked psychologically on the girls to make them aware of the possibility of earning a medal. I personally had the certainty of competing for it until the end, after the first rotation on floor.”

Casella said he remained confident in a top-three finish even when Elisa Iorio, Italy’s last competitor in the last rotation, fell off balance beam.

“The pressure on Elisa was obviously very high,” he said. “We knew there could be a fall, but not two. So when she fell on the mount, we all suffered a little. But she was superlative in not losing concentration. Her acrobatic series, flic-salto-salto, was amazing and the proof of her solidity.”

Casella is equally sure that, at next summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, his young team can retain their podium finish. In addition to Iorio, the Italian team in Stuttgart included Desiree Carofiglio, Alice D’Amato, Asia D’Amato and Giorgia Villa.

“First of all we must remember that these girls were in their first World Championships,” he said. “A little more experience will no doubt be useful. We want to fur-ther improve our content and not look at the possible final position of the team in Tokyo. For gold there is nothing to do with this U.S. team. The rest is all possible between five or six teams.”

Although 2006 world all-around champion and three-time Olympian Vanessa Ferrari did not compete in Stuttgart, Casella, her personal coach, said she is still challenging for a berth to Tokyo one way or another.

“In our plans Vanessa should not be part of the team, but qualify as an individual through the World Cups,” he told IG.

Read complete coverage of the 2019 World Championships in the November 2019 issue of International Gymnast magazine.

To subscribe to the print and/or digital editions, click here.


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