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Written by John Crumlish    Monday, 04 January 2016 09:35    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Vid Hidvégi (Hungary)
(6 votes, average 4.00 out of 5)

A medal candidate on pommel horse at the last Olympic Games and other major competitions since then, Hungarian gymnast Vid Hidvégi is putting his 2016 focus firmly on earning a berth to this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

A medal candidate on pommel horse at the last Olympic Games and other major competitions since then, Hungarian gymnast Vid Hidvégi is putting his 2016 focus firmly on earning a berth to this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Hidvégi qualified third to the pommel horse final at the 2012 Games in London, but fell in the final and placed eighth. His best finishes on the apparatus at world championships include 10th place at the 2009 worlds in London, fourth place at the 2011 Worlds in Tokyo, and fifth place at the 2015 Worlds in Glasgow. Hidvégi was also fifth on pommel horse at the 2015 European championships in Montpellier.

Although Hidvégi continues Hungary’s tradition of strong pommel horse workers in his own right, he remains in a longtime friendly rivalry with teammate Krisztián Berki, who won gold on the event at the 2012 Olympics as well as at the 2010, 2011 and 2014 Worlds.

Both gymnasts are expected to contend for berths to the Rio Games at the Olympic test event, the second of two Olympic qualification meets, that will take place in Rio in April. Neither qualified directly to the Games via the 2015 Worlds, which served as the first Olympic qualification meet.

The 29-year-old Hidvégi is also a credible all-arounder. He placed 66th all-around at the 2010 Worlds in Tokyo, 55th all-around at the 2011 Worlds, 61st all-around at the 2014 Worlds in Nanning, and 70th all-around at the 2015 Worlds. Hidvégi is preparing his all-around program for the test event, with the goals of a spot at the Rio Games and a potential medal on his specialty apparatus.

In this International Gymnast Online interview, Hidvégi details his plans and goals for 2016.

IG: You were close to a medal at last year's Europeans and Worlds. Based especially on the field of finalists you faced in Glasgow, what will you need to break into the top three in Rio?

VH: The medal winners of those competitions did so well and they have a very high start value, as well. I definitely need to raise my start value by putting the skills I had been training the last few years. It is quite difficult to me to go above 6.6, but I want to go step-by-step and focus all my energy on getting the berth to Rio.

Hidvégi celebrates his routine in pommel horse finals at the 2015 Worlds in Glasgow.

IG: Between now and the test event, how will you be apportioning your training — for example, all six apparatuses because you need to do well to qualify for the Olympic Games, versus working on your pommel horse routine because you have a good shot at an Olympic medal?

VH: This is my chance to earn the right to go to the Olympic Games. Four years ago we had the test event in January which, first, did not seem very fortunate, although after that successful competition I realized that I still had six months just to train on pommel horse and concentrate only on that apparatus. This time, I have to be in the best shape of my life on six apparatuses, and if the test event is going very well, I will only have about three months to do the same. Well, not the same — a higher start value this time.

IG: Now you and Krisztián Berki are battling each other for medals on pommel horse. What is your partnership like, in terms of motivating and helping each other?

VH: I don’t think I am able to battle him. He is the best on the pommel horse. He had an unfortunate injury, but I know what he is capable of. We are friends, we grew up together and we have been training together for over 20 years. In sports, athletes are battling each other, and perhaps friendships change into something else that's more competitive and less friendly. We are nothing like that, luckily.

IG: With degrees from universities in England (Leeds Beckett University, formerly Leeds Metropolitan University) and Hungary, what are your career goals?

VH: I graduated from Budapest University of Technology and Economics in 2014. My major is Master of Business Administration. My career goals are related to management, although I have not looked for any jobs. I have a lot to do in gymnastics, especially this year.

IG: How did you celebrate the holidays?

VH: I spent Christmas with my brothers, sister and my mother. This is how we do it every year. New Year's Eve was spent with my girlfriend, her sister, one of my brothers, their boyfriends and girlfriends and other friends, too.

IG: What are your New Year's resolutions?

VH: I haven’t got any. If I feel like, and most of the time I do, I need to improve in something, I target it and do my best being better. That applies to the whole year.

Read "Making the Grade," a profile on Hidvégi earlier in his career, in the March 2009 issue of International Gymnast magazine. To purchase back issues, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Wednesday, 16 December 2015 19:42    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Jim Zona (France)
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

International Gymnast Online’s annual series of holiday-themed features continues with this interview with 2015 world championships all-around finalist Jim Zona of France, who looks forward to a peaceful Christmas in the mountains before preparing to qualify for next summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

International Gymnast Online’s annual series of holiday-themed features continues with this interview with 2015 world championships all-around finalist Jim Zona of France, who looks forward to a peaceful Christmas in the mountains before preparing to qualify for next summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Zona finished 22nd all-around at this fall’s worlds in Glasgow, where the French team placed 10th. The top eight teams in Glasgow earned berths to the Rio Games, but France advanced to the Olympic test event in April, from which four additional teams will qualify for the Games.

Born February 12, 1992, in Dijon, Zona has been a steady member of the French team for the past several years. In 2010, he won the French junior all-around title and placed ninth all-around at the European junior championships in Birmingham.

Zona’s rise in the French senior rankings has been steady. He placed ninth all-around at the 2011 French Championships, fifth all-around at the 2012 French Championships, and third all-around at the 2013 and 2015 French Championships. Also, Zona won the French floor exercise title in 2013, and the French high bar title in 2015.

IG: Looking back on 2015, what are your fondest memories of competition, and why?

JZ: When I think about this past year I feel very happy and proud. I qualified for the European championships in France, which was a big goal for me because a big competition in your country doesn’t happen very often, and I would have been very frustrated not to be part of it. Sadly I did not make the all-around final (ed. note: he was third reserve). I was a little bit injured so it wasn’t a good memory after all, but still, I feel very happy to have been part of this event.

Jim Zona (France)

My greatest memory is for sure the world championships in Glasgow. This summer I did everything I could to get away from my injuries, to get back in good shape. Once my body felt better I could work very hard to Glasgow. This competition was incredible, the arena was so impressive, the organization was perfect and I did pretty well there!

IG: How satisfied were you with your advancement to the all-around final in Glasgow, versus making the team final?

JZ: This was one of my goals, to qualify for Rio with the team and be in the all-around final. First of all, we all feel disappointed with 10th place, but we are ready to get back to work to qualify the French team at the test event in Rio (in April). Personally, I feel of course very happy and proud to have done it. I knew that I needed to do a nearly perfect qualification. Despite the high pressure, I succeeded, and it felt so good. The final was a little bit less good. I made too many mistakes and a fall on my last rotation. I was a little bit tired from the qualification, but it is a great memory for me and a big achievement.

IG: What will it take for you to better your 22nd-place finish in Glasgow, in future all-around finals?

JZ: In order to do better next year I know exactly what I need to do — increase my difficulty scores, and keep good execution at the same time. I know that I can do much harder routines. That’s what I’ve been working on since the return from Glasgow, and hopefully it will pay off soon.

IG: What are your most important goals for 2016?

JZ: This year is a big year! Of course I want to get to the Olympics. In order to do that we need to qualify in April. I also want to get a medal at the European championships, and why not make a final in Rio? I also want to be the French all-around French champion, which is something I’ve never done before and something I deeply want.

IG: The French team will face tough competition at the test event, so what will your team need to earn one of the four spots for the Rio Games there?

JZ: Like I said, we were very sad about our 10th place in Glasgow. We deserved better, in my opinion, but it is gymnastics. All the work that we’ve been doing, unfortunately, didn’t pay off that day. We are already focusing on test event and making it to the top four. We know we have the potential but we also know that other teams are getting stronger every day. We are going to work as hard as we can to have five gymnasts in Rio, which will give me more chances to be in Rio obviously!

IG: How will you be celebrating the holidays?

JZ: I will spend Christmas with my family in Le Mont-Dore, which is in the center of France, in the mountains. I will enjoy those moments which are precious. Especially after what happen in France few weeks ago, we know how important family is. I will spend New Year’s Eve in Paris with some friends, and then I will go to London for a short vacation, before getting back to work very quickly!

External Link: Jim Zona's Official Facebook page

International Gymnast magazine’s coverage of French gymnasts includes:
"French Muse" - Claire Martin story (June 2015)
Arnaud Willig profile (January/February 2014)
"Marseille Magic" - IG’s visit to French training center (March 2013)
Samir Ait Said interview (June 2013)
"Catching up with Elvire Teza" - profile (January/February 2012)
"Uncorked" – Benoit Caranobe interview (April 2009)
"Shooting Star" - Youna Dufournet profile (April 2009)
"Debauve Departs" - Marine Debauve profile (April 2006)
Isabelle Severino cover photo (August/September 2005)
"French Evolution" - feature on Ludivine Furnon in Cirque du Soleil (April 2005)
"A La Mode" – Emilie Lepennec profile (August/September 2004)
"Taking Success in Stride" - Benoit Caranobe profile (May 2004)
"Horse Sense" – Coralie Chacon profile (March 2004)
"Karbanenko Makes It Count" - short profile (February 2003)
"Together Again" - Ludivine Furnon cover photo and profile (January 1999)
"Maree Makes His Move" - Florent Maree chat (July/August 1998)
"C'est La Vie" – Dmitry Karbanenko cover story (May 1998)
"Tempting Teza" – Elvire Teza profile (May 1997)
Elvire Teza cover photo (April 1997)
"Begging to Differ" – Laetitia Begue profile (January 1996)
"Little Elodie Can Win Big" – Elodie Lussac profile (January 1995)
Elodie Lussac cover photo (May 1994)
Elodie Lussac two-page center poster (August/September 1993)

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

Written by John Crumlish    Wednesday, 23 September 2015 10:33    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Emma Larsson (Sweden)
(11 votes, average 4.09 out of 5)

Sweden's top all-arounder at last year's world championships and a gold medalist at one of this year's Challenger Cup meets, Emma Larsson hopes to lead her country to a top-20 team finish at next month's worlds in Glasgow.

Larsson helped Sweden place 21st at the 2014 world championships in Nanning, thereby advancing to Glasgow. The top eight teams in Glasgow, and four additional teams at a test meet early next year, will qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

A month after the 2014 worlds, where she finished 43rd all-around in qualifications, Larsson underwent foot surgery. Sixth months later she won the gold medal on balance beam at the Challenger Cup of Anadia, Portugal.

The 16-year-old Larsson is in the final stage of preparation for Glasgow. She placed third all-around, and was the top Swedish all-arounder, at a tri-meet among Belgium, Austria and Sweden held earlier this month in Belgium. This past weekend Larsson competed on three apparatuses at a friendly meet between Sweden and the Netherlands that the Dutch hosted.

As Sweden plans to select its team for Glasgow this week, Larsson shared her plans and hopes in this IG Online interview.

IG: How did this your third-place finish prepare you for the upcoming world championships?

EL: This competition was my first all-around competition in a year, and it felt so good to compete. Right know I'm in really good shape, and it feels good to back with my double layout in a competition before worlds. But I also had some mistakes at the competition that I need to fix, so I have more to give!

IG: You were the top Swedish all-arounder in Nanning, and this year, more is expected of you since Jonna Adlerteg has been injured (recovering from torn ACL). How do you view your new role on your team?

EL: It feels really good and I'm willing to take on that role. We are a team so everybody's effort counts, and it's important to not only think on yourself. But I'm going to do my best to help the team in everything that I can do.

IG: Sweden placed 12th on beam and 15th on bars in Nanning, but far lower on vault and floor. What improvements do you think your team has made since Nanning, to help earn a better finish in Glasgow?

EL: Last year we didn't show our true potential at all on vault and floor. We competed with only four girls on these two apparatuses. Also, I and two of my teammates that competed these two events couldn't do the same skills as usual because of health issues and injuries. And we had to just make sure that we had the requirements at the competition. So for three of the four girls competing on these two events it was a struggle, and therefore there were really low scores. This year will be different.

IG: What do you think of your team's potential for Glasgow?

EL: We know that it's never easy for a small gymnastics nation like ours. We have few girls on the team to choose from. If one is not healthy we almost don't have five gymnasts per apparatus. For a team it's very, very hard, but also very challenging, and we are very close friends. Seven of the nine gymnasts on the national team train in Eskilstuna together daily, so we know each other very well. Since we were 21st at the last worlds, we want to beat that, so we said top 20 is the official goal but all of us will compete for more.

International Gymnast magazine's recent coverage of Swedish gymnastics includes:

"Scouting Scandinavia" - IG's visit to Stockholm gym club (March 2011)
"Swinging for Sweden" - Jonna Adlerteg update (May 2015)
"Swedish History-maker" - Adlerteg profile (November 2010)
"Swedish Upswing" – Swedish women's team feature (November 2010)
"Swedish Achiever" - Ida Gustafsson short profile (June 3013)

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

Written by John Crumlish    Saturday, 29 August 2015 13:51    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Brittany Rogers (Canada)
(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

As 2012 Olympian Brittany Rogers prepares to fight for a spot on the Canadian team at this fall's world championships in Glasgow, she is reveling in the latest challenge of her long career.

As 2012 Olympic vault finalist Brittany Rogers prepares to fight for a spot on the Canadian team at this fall's world championships in Glasgow, she is reveling in the latest challenge of her long career.

"I don't think I have ever trained this many hours in my gymnastics career, but it is definitely paying off," said the 22-year-old Rogers.

Rogers is taking a leave from the University of Georgia in the U.S. so she can train for Glasgow. Since representing Canada at the 2012 London Olympics, the British Columbian has been competing in the NCAA as a member of the university's team.

Rogers also has her sights set on next summer's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, for which Glasgow will be an important step. She is training at Calgary Gymnastics Center under coaches David Kenwright (vault and uneven bars) and Janna Ball (balance beam and floor exercise).

In this IG Online interview, Rogers outlines her return to international form, and the perspectives she has gained on her quest to return to Olympic competition.

Rogers performs on floor exercise for the University of Georgia.

IG: How have you managed to adapt your routines to the international level, and also adapt to training more hours, versus NCAA?

BR: Transitioning from NCAA to elite has definitely not been a piece a cake; however, I'm enjoying the challenge! I have added several new skills and connections on both bars and beam to obtain a higher D(ifficulty) score. The skills alone are ones that I have worked on before, or have thought about trying, so now I am "waking them up." The biggest challenge for me has been putting them into my routines, and obtaining consistency with them. NCAA routines are shorter than elite routines, so the challenge is not completing them like I do for my elite routines.

However, I feel as though NCAA routines require more precision and perfection. Combining the two qualities into one routine is definitely something that I know will help me in the long run. I don't think I have ever trained this many hours in my gymnastics career, but it is definitely paying off! My days are packed in both college and club gymnastics, but in different ways.

Finding the balance between gymnastics and academics was a challenge for me coming into college, but I believe it has set me up nicely for coming back to elite gymnastics and the real world by preparing me for long days.

Rogers as a first-year senior representing Canada at the 2009 Worlds in London

IG: What has been your biggest challenge in this comeback?

BR: The biggest challenge has probably been accepting the fact that this process is not going to be easy. Some days I forget that I am no longer 13 years old and can flip for endless amounts of hours, but that my body takes a bit more of catering to. I've definitely had to pay more attention to making sure my body gets the recovery it needs in order to be at its best every day. I enjoying challenging myself to new skills and new connections, and I am learning to enjoy how the not-so-good days can in fact help me get to and enjoy the great days.

IG: Of the progress you've made since deciding to go for worlds, what do you feel is your most significant breakthrough?

BR: Bars has definitely been something I am excited about. The new Code (of Points) is all about connections, so pushing myself to connect release moves, and low to high bar skills, has been fun and rewarding. Bars has always been my favorite event, and now that there is an extra challenge to it, it makes me love bars even more. I have also been working hard on cleaning up my vault, and working on upgrading both of my vaults, which is always exciting. Beam has never been a strong event for me. However, I feel my confidence growing every turn I take on beam, and to me that is a huge accomplishment.

IG: What are the next steps in making it to Glasgow?

BR: There is a (Canadian) worlds team selection camp from September 16-21 in Montreal. I am unsure of the actual process that is taking place in making the final decision of the team; however, I am ready to do whatever Canada needs me to do.

IG: From what we saw in the last NCAA season, and the glimpses of your training since you temporarily left Georgia, you seem to be stronger and fitter than ever. To what do you attribute your newfound fitness and confidence level?

BR: Thank you! Everybody progresses at his or her own pace. I feel as though, since coming to college, I have learned all about that, which has helped me develop into who I am today. I have had tremendous support and opportunities to learn about my health and fitness through the nutritionist and strength coach at Georgia, and my own personal interest in health has helped me along the way, as well. I went through some strange transitions and crazy growth spurts growing up, and I believe my body has finally settled into itself.

Georgia has been life-changing in a sense of my confidence. Not only am I competing every weekend to help stabilize my confidence in front of judges and large crowds in the gymnastics world, but I am also gaining independence due to moving away from home into a different country, and that has helped me become more confident in realizing who I am as a person, and not just a gymnast.

I am extremely grateful for the support from UGA and my team, as well as my coaches and teammates in Calgary. Without either of them, this comeback would not have been possible, and for them I will always be appreciative for this amazing opportunity. Also, my family is without a doubt the major reason why I am who I am today, and I could not be happier for them joining me in this stressful but exciting journey again. They'll always be my biggest fans.

International Gymnast magazine first profiled Brittany Rogers in the July/August 2007 issue, and featured an in-depth interview with her in May 2012. To order back issues, or subscribe to the print and/or digital edition of International Gymnast magazine, click here.

Written by Amanda Turner    Friday, 14 August 2015 05:15    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Eddie Penev (USA)
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Almost a year after suffering a torn ACL, former U.S. national vault champion Eddie Penev told IG his forced hiatus has given him a renewed passion and appreciation for the sport of gymnastics. Pictured: Penev at the 2014 Anadia World Challenge Cup in Portugal, where he won two gold medals.

Almost a year after suffering a torn ACL, former U.S. national vault champion Eddie Penev told IG his forced hiatus has given him a renewed passion and appreciation for the sport of gymnastics.

Penev competes Friday on the first of two days of men's competition at the P&G (U.S.) Gymnastics Championships in Indianapolis. He plans to compete all-around for the second time since knee injury — his first major injury in the sport — suffered on vault last August at the 2014 Pan American Championships in Mississauga, Ont., Canada. After surgery and rehab, he made his comeback at the U.S. men's national qualifier last month in Colorado Springs, where he won vault and finished seventh all-around. Additionally, he placed fifth on pommel horse with a solid 14.400 (a significant improvement over his results at the previous two P&G championships, where he averaged 12.75 over the four routines).

Penev was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, where both his parents had been national team members in artistic gymnastics. He moved to New York at a young age and grew up at his parent's gym, training under fellow Bulgarian Ivo Grahovski. Penev represented his native country several times at the world championships, making floor exercise finals at the 2010 Worlds. The next year he switched representation to the United States.

He now trains under coach Vitaly Marinitch at the U.S. Olympic Team Training Center in Colorado Springs, where he moved earlier this year after five years training at Stanford University in California. During his four seasons competing for Stanford, Penev won three national titles and became a nine-time All-American. In 2013, he won the the prestigious Nissen-Emery Award, presented annually to the nation's top senior male gymnast for integrity and excellence in both athletics and academics.

Prior to his injury, Penev had one of his most successful seasons in 2014, winning both floor exercise and vault at the Anadia World Challenge Cup in Portugal and the floor silver and vault bronze at the P&G Championships.

Penev, who celebrates his 25th birthday on Sunday, spoke with IG about his injury and comeback, and how being sidelined has shaped his attitude on the sport.

IG: You gave an interview this week and mentioned the new appreciation you feel for gymnastics, now that you're back after time off. Can you expand on this? Growing up in the gym, with both of your parents gymnasts, do you think you just felt like gymnastics was a fact of life for you?

Penev on parallel bars for Stanford University, where he competed from 2010-2013

EP: In many ways I do consider gymnastics as a "fact of my life" but now I have a new appreciation for it. I think that prior to my injury, I kind of took it for granted a little bit.... in the sense that I always assumed I would be able to train with minimal setbacks and only a few bumps and bruises. This time it was not like that, and I had to work harder than I ever have to get back to what I loved to do and back to what defines a huge part of me.

IG: Your recovery has to be one of the quickest comebacks from a torn ACL the sport of gymnastics has ever seen. Do you think sports medicine has improved, or is there something special that helped you come back so soon?

EP: Well, that's a two-part answer. Part of it was my drive, which had never been tested to that extent before. I've never wanted something as bad as this comeback simply because of my love for the sport and I refused to let this stop me. To add even more fuel to the fire I was taken off the National Team at Winter Cup (in February), and that's when I feel like I took it to the next level. The other huge part of this comeback was the medical staff at the Olympic Training Center. They have supported me 100 percent from day one, because they could see how much I wanted to be in physical therapy, and not only be there, but be the best at it. They have done countless extra hours with me and a lot of one-on-one time. I've truly built a relationship with sports medicine and I cannot thank them enough for all they've done for me.

IG: You've not only made a full comeback, you've managed to add upgrades...?

EP: Yes! I have been able to upgrade! In fact, I've upgraded on every event (minus vault). In the first few months of my injury when I couldn't do floor or vault I really pushed my weaker events and perhaps more importantly my overall strength/fitness. I would say that my biggest strides forward have come on pommel horse. I went back to the basics and really hammered them down and the results have been really noticeable. I truly believe that I have a lot to offer team USA on this event in particular as we move forward. I've also also cleaned up and added several tenths of difficulty to rings, p-bars and high bar.

IG: What is it like living at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, and training with Vitaly Marinitch?

EP: I love living at the OTC. I truly believe it offers the optimal training environment for elite-level athletics. I mean you have anything you could ever need at your disposal, and that helps to eliminate unnecessary distractions/worries that take away from your training. On top of that we have an outstanding group of guys training at the OTC right now so that really pushes me to be the best gymnast that I can be. As for Vitaly, he is a world-class coach and I feel incredibly fortunate to work with him. He is a master planner who knows how to get his athletes to peak when they need to. He is also great at tailoring our gymnastics and training to fit us as individuals, which is critical for gymnastics at this level.

IG: When you first got injured, did you expect to be back competing in less than a year, much less doing all-around?

EP: Initially I did not know how soon I'd be back, but I knew how badly I wanted it, so when the doctors said nine to 12 months, I said seven to eight months. I sat down with the trainers and basically asked them what I needed to do to have the best and most effective recovery. I took every little thing they said to me to heart and I tried to perfect it like I do in gymnastics. I started to do serious tumbling right around six months and I couldn't believe it. It was the greatest feeling, and I had never felt a greater sense of accomplishment. Now, I can look back on this comeback and honestly say I did absolutely everything I could to get back to doing what I love.

IG: Your birthday is Sunday, the final day of competition in Indianapolis. What would made a great birthday present for you?

EP: The best birthday gift would simply be to finish out the competition happy and healthy. I just want to hit my routines and capitalize on my newfound appreciation for the sport. The rest is irrelevant – this is for me.

Follow IG Online on Facebook or Twitter for our live commentary from Indianapolis!


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