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Written by John Crumlish    Wednesday, 25 October 2017 20:22    PDF Print
Norway's Skregelid: 'For Me This Is Just The Beginning'
(3 votes, average 4.67 out of 5)

Recently crowned Northern European all-around champion Martine Skregelid of Norway tells IG about the dramatic improvements she made since the world championships earlier this month, and the even higher hopes she now has for herself and her country.

In this IG Online interview, recently crowned Northern European all-around champion Martine Skregelid of Norway details the dramatic improvements she made since the world championships earlier this month, and the even higher hopes she now has for herself and her country.

The 19-year-old Skregelid was the most successful female gymnast at the Northern European Championships in Torshavn, the Faroe Islands, held October 21-22. She won the all-around gold medal with 50.450 points, ahead of silver medalist Irina Sazonova of Iceland (49.666) and her bronze medal-winning Norwegian teammate Thea Mille Nygård (49.250). In the apparatus finals, Skregelid won gold on balance beam and bronze on vault. She also led Norway to gold in the team competition.

Skregelid's performance at Northern Europeans was noticeably more consistent and confident than at the 2017 World Championships in Montreal that took place October 2-8. In the Faroe Islands, she bettered her all-around total of Montreal by nearly five points and bettered her balance beam score alone by approximately three points.

Born July 6, 1999, Skregelid is a veteran of two world championships and two European senior championships. She placed 20th all-around at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, and competed at the 2015 European Games in Baku. Skregelid trains 25 hours per week at Asker Turnforening in Asker. Her coaches are 1988 Romanian Olympian Valentin Pintea on vault, uneven bars and floor exercise; and Polish-born Joanna Uracz on balance beam and floor exercise.

Skregelid shares her thoughts on the advancements she made from Montreal to the Faroe Islands, her new title as Northern European all-around champion and the promise she sees in the future of Norwegian gymnastics.

Skregelid with her all-around trophy at the 2017 Northern European Championships

IG: You had a very steady set of routines in the Faroe Islands, and a much better overall performance than earlier this month in Montreal. To what do you attribute your consistency at Northern Europeans, compared to Montreal?

MS: I am much more satisfied with my performance in the Faroe Islands than in Montreal. I think that what I did in Montreal had a big impact on my performances at Northern Europeans. Because worlds went that bad, I was inspired to work harder before Northern Europeans, which also was my last competition this season. After worlds, I had two weeks to work on my routines and improve my execution a little bit. I learned from my mistakes in Montreal, and worked on them in the training in between the two competitions. That included many repetitions of my routines and some adjustments.

IG: How much of a surprise was winning the all-around title at Northern Europeans, and how has it boosted your confidence even further?

MS: The all-around win came to me as a big surprise and it makes me very inspired and motivated. I had never imagined that a Norwegian girl would win the all-around at the Northern Europeans, but this proves that Norway is improving as a gymnastics nation. Of course, it is still a big gap between us and the better teams in Europe and the rest of the world, but for me, this is a beginning.

IG: You have been a mainstay for Norway at the big senior competitions of 2015, 2016 and 2017. With your new title as Northern European all-around champion, what improvements do you hope to make in 2018 so you can challenge all of Europe and the rest of the world?

MS: I am very lucky to have been able to represent Norway in many international competitions in the last few years, and it has been really fun and motivating. With this new title, I am inspired to continue my gymnastics career. I wish to continue representing my country, and hopefully compete at the big competitions next year, such as the European Championships in Glasgow or the World Championships in Doha. I have a wish to participate in one of these big competitions and really be able to show what I can do, by performing a set of steady routines, and then see if I have what it takes. As improvements for the next year, I hope to have stable and clean routines, and I want to improve both my Execution and Difficulty scores.

Skregelid at the 2015 Northern European Championships

IG: For a lot of the up-and-coming countries, the new rules make to difficult to create routines that have enough difficulty to compete against the best gymnasts in the world. What is your opinion of these rules? And what suggestions would you make to make the rules not only challenging to everyone, but encouraging to the lesser countries?

MS: I agree that the rules can make it difficult to compete against the best gymnasts in the world. Anyway, I like that the rules changes, because it creates variation in the sport. Sometimes the rules can give you advantages, and sometimes they make it more difficult. I don't think I have any suggestions that I would make about the new rules.


IG: After leading Norway to the team title at Northern Europeans, what do you think Norway can and should do, to not only stay on top not only in Northern Europe, but challenge the rest of Europe, too?


MS: I am so proud of the team for taking the gold in the team competition. I hope that Norway will continue to stay on the top in Northern Europe, and maybe even in Europe one day. If we are going to able to do that, I think it is important to work together as a country and collaborate even more — for example, by having national training camps. There are a lot of gymnasts in Norway, on many different levels, and I think that the country has a lot of potential. I personally do not see any reasons why we can't be as good as other countries. We will just have to work harder and smarter.

Written by dwight normile    Thursday, 25 May 2017 11:54    PDF Print
Jacki Exclusive in June Issue of International Gymnast
(3 votes, average 3.67 out of 5)

The June issue of International Gymnast includes a fascinating interview with Mike Jacki, who was President of USA Gymnastics from 1983-94. IG recently caught up with Jacki in Oklahoma City, where received the Frank Bare Award at the 21st annual induction dinner for the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame.

Following are excerpts from that interview.

On the root problem with USA Gymnastics right now…

There is currently a lack of leadership, vision and strategy. Where many Olympic sports have made great strides in growth, development and visibility in the last twenty years, gymnastics has gone backwards, both domestically and internationally. You cannot rely on an Olympic Games every four years as your marketing platform. Gymnastics has become stagnant, and the reduction of artistic gymnastics team size and television has damaged the sport and will continue to do so.

On the challenges he faced when he became Executive Director of the U.S. Gymnastics Federation in 1983…

We had not had an Olympics in seven years, and in our last Olympics (1976) we won one medal, Peter Kormann's bronze on floor. We were in significant debt and our membership had little confidence in our ability to provide the necessary services for them. …

And while few people knew this, we could not get insurance. … We had a staff of three people when we moved to Indianapolis and had no money as we were almost $800,000 in debt. The hiring and restructuring the office and staff began almost immediately, but with the financial limitations we had, this was complicated. I hired a CPA to begin trying to unscramble our financial dilemma. She quit after one week because she said we would be facing bankruptcy and there was no way I would be able to pay her! (Jacki eventually got the federation in the black.)

On the FIG abolishing the 10.0 scoring system…

Terrible mistake. Bruno Grandi again, telling everyone the new system would create world records. No one would ever remember the balance beam record, but they would remember a perfect score on the balance beam. I argued against him through my 12 years on the FIG. The open system has done irreparable damage. We went from a deductive system, based on artistry and elegance, to an additive system, based on difficulty.

Read the full interview with Mike Jacki in the June 2017 issue of International Gymnast. To subscribe or to order back issues, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 28 March 2017 07:10    PDF Print
'It Will Get Better From Here,' Says Jamaican Olympian Williams
(5 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Although a recent injury has sidelined 2016 Jamaican Olympian Toni-Ann Williams from competing for the University of California-Berkeley this season, she is determined to remain an icon for her country's national program and a valuable member of her collegiate team.

Williams, who was born in Maryland to Jamaican parents, became Jamaica's first gymnastics Olympian when she competed last summer in Rio following a long and successful season for Cal. A veteran of the 2011, 2013 and 2015 World Championships, Williams suffered a season-ending Achilles' tendon injury in early February. She is in the process of recovery and looks forward to future international and collegiate competitions.

In this IG Online interview, Williams discusses the impact that her recent injury, Rio and her role-model status have had on her ever-evolving gymnastics career.

Williams with track star Usain Bolt in Rio

IG: How and when did you injure yourself?

TAW: It was a couple of days before we left for the (Feb. 4) Utah meet, in workout. I had been feeling kind of tight in my (left) Achilles and calf that day. My trainer said, "Just roll it out and make sure it's super loose." Right before a tumbling pass, I thought, "OK, this is going to be my last tumbling pass, and then I'm going to be done for the day." Then, on the takeoff for my double pike, I felt it snap. In my mind I was like, "How am I going to land this without hurting myself any further?" So I kind of landed on all fours. I cried for about five minutes and then the pain went away, because that's what happens when you snap an Achilles. It's not really painful. I knew exactly what happened as soon as I did it.

IG: How are you doing in terms of recovery at this point?

TAW: I got my stitches out a few weeks ago and I'm allowed to walk without crutches, so it's been good. It's a slow recovery but it's definitely different for me to be in this position — not competing — but I definitely enjoy being in the cheerleader role for the team, and bring the spirit and attitude. It's going to be a long recovery but I'm excited to get back in there.

IG: Being used to competing week in and week out, not to mention for Jamaica, how are you psychologically coping with being sidelined?

TAW: It was definitely hard for me. A few weeks ago I had a breakdown. I just cried. I don't know if it was mourning or grieving over something you have taken away from you, but once I went through that, I realized that it will get better from here. I started walking, and I know my recovery is going to go in great places and I'm going to come back stronger than I was before. It's been challenging to be in that mental space, but having the team behind me and helping me has helped me get through it.

IG: When do you think you'll be back doing actual gymnastics?

TAW: By mid- to end of summer, I can hopefully start to do everything again and be my normal self, but I will definitely, definitely be back for next season.

IG: What was your main take-away, or revelation, from competing at the Rio Olympics?

TAW: During Rio I actually had a knee injury that resulted in knee surgery a couple of weeks later when I got back. But going through that and dealing with my knee and competing for Jamaica after competing for Cal made me realize how strong I am and that I can get through things like my Achilles injury. I can take that experience and bring it to this (Cal) team. It's a team that's growing and going in great places. I can use my experience and grit, going through all of that, to bring it to the team.

Williams on vault for Cal

IG: What was your personal experience in Rio like?

TAW: It was so much fun. I was starstruck the entire time. Usain Bolt was in the room below me. Every little girl dreams of going to the Olympics, and for me to reach that goal — there are no words I can use to describe it. I even got a Rio tattoo, on my left biceps — nowhere scandalous! But having these rings reminds me of where I've been and where I want to go. Continuing to compete for Jamaica and Cal keeps me focused and staying on the right path.

IG: What plans do you have in terms of resuming your international career?

TAW: Coming back from my injury is what I'm focused on right now, and finishing out my last season at Cal. I plan on training internationally once I graduate, continuing to compete for Jamaica. There's still a lot I have to do for the program in Jamaica. Kids need role models and gyms need to be built, and my competing helps that progress. I have more to do and I'm not going to stop after I graduate.

IG: How do you manage the extra responsibility you carry as the "face" of Jamaican gymnastics?

TAW: Making that milestone for Jamaica is something I had been preparing myself for. Being the only gymnast to compete for Jamaica since I was 15 has been a lot on me, and I've been able to handle the pressure. Coming to Cal and being part of this team has also helped me become a leader in my own sense of the word. It was a lot of fun and pressure in Rio, and no matter how I performed, I knew Jamaica was proud and a lot of people saw gymnastics as a sport that can now be in Jamaica, which was the goal the entire time.

IG: What's been happening with the team since Rio?

TAW: My sister, Maya Williams, is also on the national team. She competed at the (2015) World Championships in Glasgow. They've been having training camps in my home gym while I've been out here competing. It's still going. My sister is holding it down for me till I'm back!

To subscribe or to purchase back issues to International Gymnast magazine, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Wednesday, 15 February 2017 09:46    PDF Print
Interview: David Jessen (Czech Republic)
(3 votes, average 4.67 out of 5)

Czech gymnast David Jessen intends to use the valuable experience he gained at last summer's Olympic Games in Rio to motivate him for future competitions for Czech Republic and Stanford University in California, where he is in the midst of his first NCAA season.

Jessen at the 2015 European Games

Czech gymnast David Jessen intends to use the valuable experience he gained at last summer's Olympic Games in Rio to motivate him for future competitions for Czech Republic and Stanford University in California, where he is in the midst of his first NCAA season.

Born in Brno, Jessen holds dual citizenship with the U.S. He was a member of the U.S. junior national team earlier in his career, and won the Czech national all-around title in 2014 and 2015. Jessen, who finished 47th all-around at the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow, is the son of 1988 Olympian Hana Říčná Jessen. Říčná Jessen, who competed for then-united Czechoslovakia, won the silver medal on balance beam at the 1983 World Championships and the bronze medal on uneven bars at the 1985 Worlds.

Jessen, who placed 47th all-around in Rio, shared his thoughts on Rio and his plans for the future in this IG Online interview.

IG: After Rio you posted a Facebook message implying that you weren't satisfied with your results. Looking back, what went right and not-so-right?

DJ: Looking back at the Games, my performance was not as bad as it might have seemed at first. Disappointment is the first thing that hits when something doesn't go as well as you hoped, especially when an opportunity such as the Olympic Games comes only once every four years. I think I may have set my ambitions a little too high instead of letting the competition take its course and enjoying it. The experience is what it was really about. Pommel horse was definitely a rough event to start on, but once I got that out of the way, I felt more relaxed for the rest of the meet. If there was one thing I could relive from the Games, it was the feeling of hitting a really clean high bar set. I was most happy about that.

IG: How did your experience in Rio prepare you for the upcoming major international competitions?

Jessen and Australia's Emily Little, with whom he paired to win the 2016 Grno Brand Prix

DJ: The Olympic Games in Rio was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. After being a part of that experience, I've felt what it's like to be among the top athletes in the world, and I am extremely grateful. Therefore, going into the upcoming international meets, I do not think I will be as nervous, yet I will always pressure myself into performing to the best of my ability.

IG: So far this NCAA season you have not competed all-around. What is your plan for building back into the all-around, in the NCAA season as well as for international meets?

DJ: Stanford has always been a very competitive team, and making the lineup on an event is not an easy task. As of right now, I help to contribute on my better three events – pommel horse, parallel bars, and high bar – in competitions while still getting to train all six during the week. So I will always be fighting to earn an all-around spot, but at the end of the day, the lineup is determined by what is best for the team. As for representing Czech Republic in international competitions, I would like to pursue competing all-around.

IG: What big meets are on your agenda for Czech Republic this year?

DJ: Sadly, this year's NCAA Championships fall on the same weekend as the European Championships, so I will not be able to go (to Europeans) this time. However, I do plan on competing at Czech Nationals in June if school permits. I also look forward to hopefully competing in this year's University Games in Taipei and World Championships in Montreal.

IG: Although you have not declared a major, towards which if any major are you leaning at this point?

DJ: I am leaning towards a biology degree or a similar degree that may help me get into med school. I have always enjoyed learning about the sciences, particularly biology and chemistry, so I figured that medicine was the way to go.

International Gymnast magazine's coverage of Czech gymnasts includes:
Vera Caslavska tribute (October 2016)
Vera Caslavska/Hall of Fame induction feature (June 2012)
"Rebuilding Phase" - Kristýna Pálešová profile (June 2011)
Říčná/Jessen family update (June 2010)
"Central European Sojourn" - includes IG's visit to Sokol Brno (January/February 2010)
"Shooting Star" - Petra Fialova profile (January/February 2010)
"Central European Sojourn" - includes IG's visit to Sokol Brno club (January/February 2010)
"On the Upswing" - Jana Šikulová profile (July/August 2006)
"Reality Czech" - Jana Komrsková feature (November 2003)
"Catching up with Hana Říčná Jessen" - profile (May 2001)
Komrsková profile (August/September 2000)

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

Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 10 February 2017 11:19    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Scott Morgan (Canada)
(3 votes, average 4.67 out of 5)

Although 2016 Canadian Olympian Scott Morgan skipped the recent Elite Canada meet, he is readying himself for challenges to come, including this falls's World Championships that his country will host in Montreal.

Although 2016 Canadian Olympian Scott Morgan skipped the recent Elite Canada meet, he is readying himself for challenges to come, including this falls's World Championships that his country will host in Montreal.

The 27-year-old Morgan was the lone Canadian male artistic gymnast at last summer's Olympic Games in Rio, where he was the first competitor on floor exercise in the first subdivision. He competed on three apparatuses, ranking 14th on vault, 18th on floor exercise and 27th on rings. Morgan, who placed eighth on floor exercise at the 2013 World Championships in Antwerp, came closest to a Rio final on that event, where his score of 14.966 points was 0.234 points shy of the cut-off for the eight-gymnast final.

Morgan refers to his gymnastics in terms of "we," a consciously chosen pronoun by which he means himself and Valentin Stan, his coach at Flicka Gymnastics Club in North Vancouver. "It certainly wouldn't have been possible to get to where I've gotten without his support, so I look at us as a team," Morgan says.

In this IG Online interview, Morgan details his strategy for skipping Elite Canada, his performances in Rio and how they impacted him, his plans to revise his routines and his goals for Montreal.

IG: Why didn't you compete at Elite Canada?

SM: Following a very busy cycle and a demanding Olympic Games, we (Morgan and Stan) decided to rehab a few injuries this fall and winter that needed attention. Progress has been great so far, and our goal this year is to learn and progress as much as possible. We've decided that more time towards skills was best for our long-term plans of obtaining finals and reaching the podium, so opting out of this year's early competitions just made sense.

IG: You were reasonably close to making the floor final in Rio. Looking back, what do you think cost you a higher score and a better chance at the final?

SM: After qualifying as Canada's representative we knew we had an uphill battle starting off the competition first on floor. Perfection was our only objective and although we hit one of our best great routines, it wasn't enough to keep us in the mix as the competition progressed. It wasn't easy watching the rest of qualifications unfold but, at the end of the day, we were extremely happy with my routine and had a great experience.

IG: What did your experience in Rio teach or show you in terms of the changes or improvements you need to make in your gymnastics?

SM: Our experience certainly taught me that, regardless of competition order, it has zero reflection on how you as an athlete perform. We knew that, come competition day, the pressure to perform first up was going to be huge, and our preparation paid off. Rio was just one of many examples of how deep the the talent pool is in men's gymnastics, which is why we're planning on taking a step back and learn as much as possible. It's difficult to make it with just Start Value or form, so our goal is to maximize both in order to reach our full potential heading into this (2020 Olympic) cycle.

IG: What specific skills or combinations are you training for this season, not only on floor but your other apparatuses?

SM: We're going to try and change up a few things on floor. We want to keep it clean while opening up the door for higher Start Values, and maximizing connections while keeping some big skills in the mix. The same goes for rings and vault. It seems like everyone's pushing the envelope, so we're testing out a few new 5.6 vaults, as well as a couple new rings routine compositions, in hopes of improving our chances on multiple events.

IG: This year's worlds in Montreal present a new challenge for you competitively, compounded by the chance to compete in front of your home audience. How are you preparing for this opportunity, in terms of the extra expectations that may be placed on you there?

SM: We're planning the same as we did for Rio. Although the situation is different, we know the expectation will be just as high, and we're looking forward to showing something new and competitive at home. We expect Montreal's World Championships to be a similar experience to Toronto's 2015 Pan American Games, with loads of energy with immense pressure to do your country proud. Competing on home soil is always a pleasure, and we couldn't be more excited for this event and opportunity.

International Gymnast magazine's coverage of Canadian gymnasts includes:
"Making Tracks" - Scott Morgan profile (December 2013)
"Canadian Pace-setter" - Ana Padurariu profile (December 2016)
Jade Chrobok profile (April 2016)
Jade Chrobok and Meixi Semple cover photo inset (March 2016)
"Canadian Beacon" – Ellie Black interview (September 2015)
Chat with Christine Peng-Peng Lee (April 2015)
Megan Roberts profile (April 2015)
Isabela Onyshko profile (July/August 2014)
"Canadian Promise" - Ellie Black chat and Robert Watson profile (July/August 2014)
"Aiming to Top the Charts" - Maegan Chant interview (October 2013)
"Canadian Diversity" - Ellie Black and Hugh Smith profiles (July/August 2013)
"Sudden Impact" - Victoria Moors interview (January/February 2013)
Aleeza Yu two-page photo spread (May 2014)

Subscribe today and read this entire issue digitally, on your computer!


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