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Written by John Crumlish    Saturday, 12 July 2008 11:48    PDF Print
Interview: Mattie Larson (USA)
(25 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Larson on floor at the U.S. Olympic Trials

Seventh at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials, first-year senior Mattie Larson spoke with IG about her chance to make the U.S. team to the Olympics next month in Beijing.

Larson's lack of senior international experience has not affected her thus far in 2008. She placed seventh all-around at the Visa [U.S.] Championships in Boston and the U.S. Olympic Trials in Philadelphia, both held in June. Based on Larson's performances in Philadelphia and Boston, she earned a spot on the 12-woman U.S. Olympic training squad.

Following a final selection camp that will take place July 16-20 at the Karolyi ranch in Texas, the U.S. Olympic team will be named. Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin, who finished first and second at the trials, have already been appointed to the team. Larson is one of 10 candidates for the remaining spots.

Born May 20, 1992, in Los Angeles, Larson trains at All Olympia Gymnastics Center in her hometown. She is coached by 1980 Olympic all-around finalist Galina Marinova (Bulgaria) and 1983 world vault champion Artur Akopyan (Armenia/Soviet Union).

Larson's success at the junior level included three gold medals (all-around, floor exercise and team) at the 2007 Junior Pan American Championships in Guatemala; and sixth place all-around at the 2007 U.S. Junior Championships.

In the IG Online interview, Larson describes her preparations for the final U.S. team training camp, and where she hopes her 2008 results will lead her.

IG: You seemed to have gained a lot of confidence and consistency since competing as a junior. What do you think has made you more solid as a senior?

ML: Being put in the situation kind of makes you hit your routines flawlessly, and show everyone what you came for.

IG: What skills or routines did you pay special attention to, going into the Olympic year?

ML: There weren't any specific skills or routines, but we definitely emphasized doing a lot of routines and trying to get through them, and after that, concentrating on the small details.

IG: Most of the gymnasts in contention for the Olympic team have at least one year of senior experience, but you are a first-year senior. How have been able to adjust so quickly to what's expected of you as a senior?

ML: I don't really feel a difference between junior and senior, other than the fact that, in senior, we are closer. We have been with each other more, so I actually like it a little better in senior. Competition-wise, it's exactly the same. I'm doing some of the same routines - just adding some a few new skills. I don't really think there's a big difference.

IG: Have you felt more nervous during the actual competitions of 2008?

ML: I usually feel a little bit of nerves, but not any different from before.

IG: Do you feel you have more to prove to the selection committee, who sees your talent but doesn't know how you hold up in world competition? Or, do you just "do your thing?"

ML: I just do my thing. I want to show that it doesn't matter if you're just coming out of juniors, or if you have already been a senior. What matters is that people can trust you and can count on you to hit your routines.

Larson on beam at the 2008 U.S. Championships

IG: At trials, you seemed to run out of steam on your final floor pass (double pike) on both nights. What was the issue there?

ML: It wasn't that much of an issue, because it doesn't happen that often. I think it was endurance and technique. I was a little slow on the back handspring, Artur was saying. I've been working on it at the gym, and it's back to normal.

IG: How much of the crowd's involvement did you feed off?

ML: I really think they helped me finish that routine, because I was really tired! They were so loud. It was the loudest crowd I've even competed in front of. Even some of the girls who've been on Worlds teams were saying it was one of the most active and loudest crowds they've ever performed in front of. The crowd was really, really supportive. They didn't cheer softly for anyone. They were louder for some, but they were just a really good crowd.

IG: With two coaches — Galina Marinova and Artur Akopyan — who works with you on which events?

ML: I would say they are both my main coaches. They fuel each other to be the best coaches they can be. One will say something, and help the other, and learn something new. Artur coaches me mainly on vault and bars. Galina does beam and floor dance, and Artur does floor tumbling.

I've been working with Galina since I turned 7. I've been with her since the day she opened the All Olympia gym. One other girl and I are the only ones left, the original ones, who were there the day the gym opened - even before they put the equipment in.

IG: Since trials, what have Galina and Artur been focusing on in your training?

ML: I have been working on finishing my routines, but concentrating more on vault and floor, because that's where Galina and Artur think I can contribute most to the team. They're giving me tips on the mental stuff, as well as doing as many successful routines as possible. After I get through those routines, I can focus on the details and cleaning things up. They also give me tips, like not to put too much pressure on myself because it's not like my last chance ever. It's just going to be a great experience, whether I make the team or I don't. The next time around, I'll have this Olympics experience — going through trials and training camp. They're just trying to keep me positive.

IG: What improvements are you making on vault (double-twisting Yurchenko)?

ML: I'm trying to do higher vaults, and not pike down, because that's where the deductions come in.

IG: How realistic were your expectations to be in this position? Were you hoping, or more expecting, to be in the top group that is being considered for Beijing?

  • quote

    There is so much media attention, because it's the Olympic year. It's like three years worth of competing, all put together into one year."

ML: I was definitely hoping. I didn't expect myself to do it. I wouldn't expect it of anyone in their first year as a senior. It was more like a hope and desire to get this far. I got this far and I'm going to keep hoping to get on the team, but I'm not going to expect too much from myself. The main people get nervous is themselves getting in the way, rather than other people making them nervous.

IG: How do you think you'll handle both possibilities — making the team, or not making the team?

ML: Galina and Artur have been talking with me about it, and getting me through this time by saying that, either way, it's going to be a great experience for me. If I don't make the team, and can stay away from bad injuries, then I'm definitely going to try for the next Olympics. So much has happened in one year. There is so much media attention, because it's the Olympic year. It's like three years worth of competing, all put together into one year. It's going to help me a lot, because it forces you to know what's going on, and I think that's a good thing. If I don't make the team, I think I will handle it really well. I was hoping just to make it to this point. I want to go in and see what happens, and hopefully, my parents and coaches will be proud of me.

IG: Competitively, how has the trials experience benefited you for future meets?

ML: It's helped me a lot, because I'm competing with the best in this country, and the best in this country are definitely the best in the world. It can show me where I'm standing, and this gives me more confidence.


Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 08 July 2008 07:15    PDF Print
Interview: Joseph Hagerty (USA)
(13 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Joseph Hagerty

Although 26-year-old Joseph Hagerty has not competed at a World Championships, his upward surge in the American rankings this year have earned him a place on the U.S. team heading to the Olympic Games in August.

Hagerty was named to the U.S. Olympic team following a pair of top-three all-around finishes in the key American competitions of 2008. He placed third all-around and first on high bar at the U.S. (Visa) Championships in Houston in May; and second all-around, first on floor exercise and first on high bar at the U.S. Olympic Trials, held in Philadelphia in June.

Hagerty's previous best results were fourth all-around at the 2005 U.S. Championships, and third place with the U.S. team at the 2007 Pan American Games.

Born April 19, 1982, in Albuquerque, Hagerty trains at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. He represents Team Chevron, and is coached by Vitaly Marinitch and Alexander Shchennikov.

In this IG Online interview, Hagerty details the practical approach he is taking to his Olympic debut.

IG: Going into Trials, what did you consider to be the positive factors, as well as negative factors, in your candidacy for a spot on the Olympic team?

JH: Going into trials I thought going 12 for 12 and being in the top five on three events, and taking third in the all-around (at the Visa/U.S. Championships), were my positive factors. Winning high bar (at USAs) always helps. The negative was being so weak on pommels and rings.

IG: Right after your last routine at the trials, how realistic did you think your chances were to be put on the team?

JH: Finishing second in points and winning high bar and floor, I thought my chances were pretty good.

IG: How did you pass the time between the end of the trials and the team announcement?

JH: I went out to dinner with my family and hung out with friends, and played Final Fantasy II, an online game I play a lot.

IG: As an all-arounder, how much do you think the team format, and especially the team selection process, hurts you?

JH: Well, I don't really consider myself as an all-arounder, because I'm strong on four events and really weak on two. I kind of do horse and rings just to do them.

IG: What are your feelings on the team selection process in general?

JH: I don't really have an opinion on the selection process. I just like to do gymnastics and let the cards play, and hopefully I (will) have done enough to be selected.

IG: What are your personal expectations for Beijing?

Joseph Hagerty

JH: My expectations are to do what I do best — go out there and do my routines the best that I can do them.

IG: How has the level of training intensity changed, from USAs to Trials, and in the training period from now till Beijing?

JH: It has not changed at all. I'm just going to consider this like any other competition and train as hard as I can.

IG: The other men on the team have World Championships and/or Olympic experience. How are you preparing to cope with the Olympic experience?

JH: I have lots of experience in competitions like Pan Am Games and World Cups, so I'm just going to treat this as nothing special, even though it's the biggest meet of my life! I like to think of it as me doing just one more routine that I have done 1,000 times. It should not matter where (I do it).

IG: Now that you have had a little time to bond with your Olympic teammates, how would you describe them?

JH: I have known these guys for so long, I consider everyone of them like a brother.

IG: How much further do you think you can progress, even if the Beijing Olympics was your ultimate goal?

JH: I love to be challenged, so I think I could progress far enough to get any goal accomplished.

Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 01 July 2008 19:47    PDF Print
Interview: Philipp Boy (Germany)
(23 votes, average 4.96 out of 5)

Philipp Boy

Germany's Philipp Boy continues his impressive rise at the senior international level, approaching both his 21st birthday and his first Olympic Games this summer as his country's No. 2 all-arounder.

Born July 23, 1987, in Schwedt, Boy trains in Cottbus, where he is coached by 1996 Olympian Karsten Oelsch. He won the German junior all-around title in 2004 and 2005, and was part of the silver medal-winning German team at the 2004 European Junior Championships in Ljubljana.

In 2006 Boy placed third all-around at the German Championships; and 32nd all-around in preliminaries and seventh with his team at the World Championships in Aarhus, Denmark.

In 2007 Boy placed third all-around at the German Championships, and 18th in the all-around final at the World Championships in Stuttgart. Also in Stuttgart, Boy helped the German men win their first Worlds team medal (a bronze, behind gold medalist China and silver medalist Japan) since 1991.

Boy's performances this far in the Olympic year of 2008 have been consistently successful. He finished second with his German teammates (behind Russia) at the European Championships in Lausanne; first all-around at the first German Olympic Trials; and second all-around to 2007 world all-around silver medalist Fabian Hambüchen at the German Championships, which doubled as the second German Olympic Trials. (Hambüchen did not compete in the first trials.)

In this IG Online interview, Boy details the motivation, challenges and personal growth that have defined his Olympic journey and his international career to date.

IG: Philipp, congratulations on being selected for Beijing. Between the Trials and the Games in August, on which areas of your gymnastics are you focusing?

PB: Thanks. As I'm an all-arounder, I put my complete attention on the all-around. That means to work on existing mistakes on all apparatus, and in the end to perfect my performances in order to present myself well at the Olympic Games, and also to help the team as much as possible.

IG: You were one of several promising junior gymnasts in Germany, some of whom have not advanced into the top senior group as you have. To what do you attribute the progress you have made, especially in the jump from junior to senior competition?

PB: That's right. I had a smooth transition from the juniors to the seniors - that means directly to the senior national team, and also to my first World Championships in Aarhus in 2006. I think there are many reasons for this. At the beginning of 2006 I still thought about quitting gymnastics for several reasons. However, maybe exactly that helped me towards the smooth transition. When I had overcome this "crisis" I had a motivation like never before, which helped me to get over cruel and rough times in training. After I'd been written off I wanted to show everyone how things are done and that they could count on me, actually more than ever.

And Fabian opened my eyes in a certain way, as he showed me that a German gymnast is also able to be internationally successful. That was an additional boost of motivation for me.

IG: At the 2007 World Championships in Stuttgart, your team won the bronze medal. What improvements has your team made, to finish at least third in Beijing, as well?

PB: Third place at the World Championships in Stuttgart was a sensation for German gymnastics, and not only for the German Gymnastics Federation, but also for us. Before these World Championships nobody would have reckoned that the Germans would be in one of the top ranks. It was an unforgettable experience for us all. And we don't expect to repeat this success again in Beijing. We want to reach the team final and then look further, like we did also in Stuttgart.

In 2000 the German team was in 10th position. In 2004 they reached the team final and got eighth place. So when we'll again manage to reach the team final and assuming that we get seventh place there, this already would be an improvement compared to the Olympic Games before, and thus already a success for us. It remains to be seen, as also the teams from the other countries are training hard!

IG: How realistic do you think a team gold or silver medal is for Germany in Beijing?

PB: Unlikely!

Boy (center) and his teammates won the team silver at the 2008 Europeans in Lausanne

IG: How do you balance the energy you need to achieve your personal goals for the Olympic Games, with the energy required to help the team achieve its goals?

PB: When I give the best for the team it's consequently also the best for myself. So there's no need to balance anything! No, seriously, I'll give the best for my team, as that's good for the team and myself. Here in Germany, mainly the team counts, and this is the reason why we're that successful. Everyone is there for each other as we all have one dream: "to win a precious medal at the Olympic Games." Team spirit is a really big thing for us.

IG: What are the "A" (Difficulty) scores you plan to achieve in Beijing?

PB: Umm...good question. Take it as a surprise!

IG: How have injuries impacted your motivation?

PB: I think my serious injuries in the past in a way were caused by my mentality. I've always been very impulsive, spontaneous and a hit-or-miss kind of person, and because of that I often didn't think about possible consequences which were caused by not training continuously. My body obviously didn't like this constant up and down! However, I think that, meanwhile, I was able to change this in a positive way, and I hope to be able to get through life with fewer injuries now.

Like I mentioned before, in the past I had a lot of problems with injuries, among them a shinbone and fibula fracture, surgery on my foot last year, and, after last year's World Championships, shoulder surgery.

In my opinion, any kind of injury has a distinctive effect on the character of a person. You see a lot of things with different eyes, and for me that certainly had a positive influence on my future development. No matter from which kind of compulsory break, I always managed to come back stronger than before. At the beginning you always live through some kind of down, and then you have to fight to get out of it again.

Philipp Boy

Also, the right environment is essential. You need people who motivate you again, and who you know stand behind you, no matter what could still happen. You need this support in order to start a comeback, and fortunately I had it!

I can only say that injuries were always a large setback for me but, nonetheless, I never had doubts about being able to get back into the international competitive scene again.

IG: You won the first German Olympic Trials, but Hambüchen did not compete. Hambüchen has also become known as the new icon of German gymnastics. How do you cope with the attention and success he has, so you avoid comparisons or feelings of jealousy?

PB: I grant Fabian the success, as he also has worked hard for it, and I'm not jealous at all. He only shows me where I, too, want to get to! Fabian shows me that it is possible to be successful, in various aspects, in a sport which isn't that popular. And that's my incentive to train even harder in order to reach this goal, too.

IG: We understand you intend to become a banker. What draws you to this line of work? And how good are you with your own money?

PB: Yes, that's right, too. After the Olympic Games I'll start professional training in the "Sparkasse Spree-Neisse," a bank in my region. I'm interested in everything concerning the topic of money. And where could you learn more about the trade with money, stocks, etc. than in a bank? Banking is a field full of variety, and that's the reason why I want to start a career in it.

I think I'm dealing with (my own money) quite well. I'm able to get along well with the financial resources which I have at my disposal!

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

PB: I owe this to my mother. She was the one who sent me to gymnastics lessons at the age of almost 5. She thought my excess energy needed to be guided in the right direction, and she was convinced of gymnastics. Through this kind of sport you learn how to control your body. Let's face it, is there any kind of sport with which gymnasts aren't able to cope? I would have to think about it for a while in order to find one!

And you learn discipline, which has an important meaning if you want to be successful in today's society. I could mention many more things which gymnastics has taught me for my life, but I think that would go beyond the scope of this interview! In my opinion it's always a good decision when parents send their children to gymnastics lessons.

IG: Finally, how much longer beyond Beijing do you see yourself competing? At what age do you think you will be at your competitive peak?

PB: I definitely want to continue after Beijing, as I'm still at the beginning of my sports career. I certainly want to try to compete also in London 2012 (Olympic Games). "Try" — because you never know who moves up from the juniors or if my body continues to cope with competitive sports, etc. Anyway, my goal is the 2012 Olympic Games and maybe even 2016, if, as I mentioned before, my body copes with it. But one thing is certain: Gymnastics is getting more popular again!

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)

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