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Written by John Crumlish    Thursday, 15 January 2015 02:14    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Vinzenz Höck (Austria)
(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Vinzenz Höck made Austrian gymnastics history at last spring's Junior European championships in Sofia, where his gold medal-winning performance on rings made him Austria's first European champion in artistic gymnastics. Pictured: 2012 Austrian Olympian Fabian Leimlehner with Hock at the Austria's 2014 "Youth Sport Gala Evening."

Vinzenz Höck made Austrian gymnastics history at last spring's Junior European championships in Sofia, where his gold medal-winning performance on rings made him Austria's first European champion in artistic gymnastics. That achievement was just the first of several milestones and honors that Höck achieved by year's end.

Following Europeans, Höck graduated high school, enrolled in the military and embarked on his senior international career.

Höck performed on five apparatuses at the world championships in Nanning in October, where he helped Austria place a credible 27th out of 48 in the team competition. At the Austrian championships in November, he finished second all-around, first on rings, and second on pommel horse and vault.

Höck's achievements throughout the year won him second place in voting for Austria's most successful youth athlete of 2014, behind a world junior champion canoeist. 2012 Austrian gymnastics Olympian Fabian Leimlehner gave the laudatory speech at the Youth Sport Gala Evening where Höck received his prize of €3,000.

Also, Höck placed third in Austrian sports' Newcomer of the Year voting, behind Olympic medal-winning ski jumper Thomas Diethart, a former gymnast, and European senior swimming championships medalist Lisa Zaiser. Höck received this honor at the 2014 Sport Gala Night that was broadcast live on Austria's main television channel.

On Jan. 1, Höck was named Austria's Male Gymnast of the Year for 2014 in a poll of experts, VIPs, media representatives and fans.

Höck, who will turn 19 on March 6, is eager to build on last year's successes. In this IG interview, he recalls his 2014 experiences and outlines his plans for 2015 and beyond.

IG: Where and how were you notified of your Gymnast of the Year award, and what was your reaction?

VH: First I followed the voting online and I was very pleased that I got 81.9 percent of the jury voting, and I think that is why I ended up in first place. In my opinion it is a great honor to win this title, especially because I am still quite young and just moved from junior to senior level, so I was very pleased to get named as the Austrian Male Gymnast of the Year.

Höck with his historic gold medal in Sofia

IG: Why do you think you won the award, and what does it mean to you?

VH: Of course I think I won the award because I achieved something special - the only European title for Austria ever - and probably also because I was one of the youngest team members of our world championships team.

IG: It's unusual that a gymnast would compete so well at the Junior European championships and then the world championships in the same year. What enabled you to make the jump from junior to senior competition so quickly?

VH: It was a really rough time for me, because straight after Europeans I finished school. Just one week after I finished school, I had to join the military, because every Austrian male citizen has to join the army for at least half a year. I managed to join the army as a sportsman, so I could start my preparation for worlds almost perfectly and with only a small break.

Benno Poduschka and Jörg Christandl are my home coaches (at Allgemeiner Turnverein Graz), but because I am a sportsman in the military now, I moved to Innsbruck to practice under the eyes of our national coach, Petr Koudela. Petr works with me on all six apparatuses.

IG: What did winning in Sofia show you about your potential to challenge for rings medals at the senior level?

Höck on rings at the 2014 Austrian Championships

VH: I think it was some kind of wake-up for me. Before I won the European title I knew that I was not too bad on rings, but did not even imagine to challenge for any medal at a major competition. Now things have changed a bit. Now I know that I am quite good on rings, and have some potential, and so I hope that maybe I can challenge for another medal at a major competition in the future.

IG: Based on your experiences in 2014, what will be the focus of your training in 2015?

VH: My main focus is the all-around. I want to improve my weaker apparatuses and get some upgrades on those. Above all I have to develop my routines to a better senior level, because all my routines are still on a junior level, but I hope I can develop them to senior routines in the near future.

IG: What are your thoughts on competing on all six apparatuses, as opposed to focusing on rings?

VH: My plans are, as I said before, to focus on all six apparatuses. I do not want to focus only on rings, because I think I am too young to become a specialist, and my goal is to participate at the Olympic Games one day. So my only possibility to qualify for the Olympics is through the all-around.

IG: What are your key goals for 2015?

VH: My main goals are to finish my step up from junior to senior, and get into the top three Austrian all-arounders and qualify myself for the Austrian team for the first European Games (in Baku in June). If I could manage this, I would be very pleased.

IG: What do you think you will need to break through at the world level in 2015?

VH: The most important thing is to stay healthy and continue to practice without any bad injuries, but I also need a lot of luck, I guess.

International Gymnast magazine's coverage of Austrian gymnasts includes:
“Rocking to the Top” - Marco Baldauf profile (July/August 2006)
“From Torn to Reborn” - Lisa Ecker profile (July/August 2013)
“Fueled and Focused” - Barbara Gasser profile (April 2012)
“Central European Sojourn” – includes IG's visit with Carina Hasenoehrl in
Graz, Austria (January/February 2010)
“The Courage of Carina” – Hasenoehrl memoire (July/August 2007)

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

Written by John Crumlish    Monday, 29 December 2014 15:34    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Emily Little (Australia)
(6 votes, average 4.50 out of 5)

International Gymnast Online's annual series of holiday-themed features continues with this interview with Australian gymnast Emily Little, who, in her first international competition since the 2012 Olympic Games, placed second all-around at the Mexican Open in Acapulco earlier this month.

The 20-year-old Little, who trains under coaches Nikolai Lapchine and Martine George at Western Australian Institute of Sport in Mount Claremont, shares her thoughts on her comeback, new goals and the holidays.

IG: Between London and mid-2014, what kept you busy, and how much gymnastics if any did you do during that time?

EL: For the first sixth months of my break from training, I was able to do some of the things I couldn't do while I was training. I would hang out with my friends more often, and sleep in, and I got a job at a coffee shop. Then after a while I missed being in the gym and I wanted to be more active, so I started sports acrobatics at my local club, Jednorog. I was in a trio with two other girls and I was the base/middle. I found it quite difficult to be in a team sport because artistic gymnastics is [individual], but I really enjoyed it. I also started Olympic lifting and power lifting with my coach, Jim Miller. Training weights has helped me improve my strength a lot and I can really feel it when I'm at training in the gym on all my apparatuses. I will continue to train weightlifting throughout my gymnastics career because there are so many benefits from it.

IG: What motivated you to return to gymnastics after a long break, after which many gymnasts would probably not be able to come back?

Emily Little (Australia) at the 2012 Olympic Games

EL: I missed having what felt like an important purpose; I wanted to compete for my county again. I missed my friends and coaches in the gym and, after I realized I had the ability to come back, I feel quite motivated to do better than I did last time around. I would like to prove that Australia has some great, hardworking gymnasts, and even though we are so far away, we can compete against the rest of the world.

I think the hardest part about making a comeback is forcing your body to get into shape quickly enough so you can put your skills together. I believe any gymnast can make a comeback. You just have to prepare yourself mentally and physically and you have to really want it.

IG: How were you enable to get your routines in competitive shape quickly enough to be named an alternate for Nanning and, more impressively, to finish second in Mexico?

EL: Because I felt quite fit from sports acrobatics and Olympic lifting, I think I found it easier to come back and get my routines together. I train with younger girls in my gym at home at the moment, and they really do motivate me everyday. Seeing them working hard motivates me to keep going.

IG: What are your training and competitive goals for 2015?

EL: I really want to improve on the difficulty of my routines. So I am working on learning and perfecting new skills - on all apparatuses, then adding them into my routines. I would love to get an Amanar on vault and compete it this year. I know that would make (national team head coach) Peggy Liddick really happy. I'm not too sure what competitions I will be competing in next year, but my goal is to definitely make the next world championships team. Other than worlds I would like to get some experience competing some new skills in my routines.

IG: How and where will you spend Christmas and New Year's Eve?

EL: I will be spending Christmas "Down South" with my brother, his family and my boyfriend. The rest of my family is traveling to Bali and Queensland for Christmas. I like watching my two little nieces and my nephew open their Christmas presents. They get so excited over little things and it makes Christmas more special. I'm not sure what I'm doing for New Year's yet, but I want to spend it with my boyfriend and my close friends.

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

Alysha Djuric profile (July/August 2014)
"The Lowdown from Liddick" – comments from Peggy Liddick (June 2014)
"Catching up with Allana Slater" – profile (April 2014)
Georgia Godwin cover photo (March 2014)
"10 Questions with Naoya Tsukahara" - interview (September 2013)
"Aussie Long Shot" - Daria Joura profile (July/August 2012)
"10 Questions with Olivia Vivian" - interview (March 2011)
"Golden Surprise" - Lauren Mitchell cover story (January/February 2011)
Peggy Liddick interview (January/February 2011)
"Late Bloomer" - Amelia McGrath profile (October 2010)
Lisa Skinner chat (September 2010)

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

Written by John Crumlish    Monday, 22 December 2014 13:54    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Yordan Aleksandrov (Bulgaria)
(5 votes, average 4.20 out of 5)

International Gymnast Online’s annual series of holiday-themed features continues with this interview with Bulgarian gymnast and University of California-Berkeley freshman Yordan Aleksandrov. Pictured: Aleksandrov, second from left, with the Bulgarian team at the 2014 European Championships in Sofia.

International Gymnast Online’s annual series of holiday-themed features continues with this interview with Bulgarian gymnast and University of California-Berkeley freshman Yordan Aleksandrov, who reflects on his international achievements of the past year, and reveals his goals for success at both the international and U.S. collegiate level in 2015.

Born August 20, 1995, in Bulgaria, Aleksandrov has been living in the U.S. since age 7 and holds dual citizenship. He enrolled at UC-Berkeley this fall, prior to which he trained under his coach and father, Dimitar Aleksandrov, at Novato Gymnastics in Northern California.

In 2013 Aleksandrov placed eighth all-around, first on high bar and second on parallel bars in the 17-18 age group at the U.S. Junior Olympic championships; and finished a credible 68th place all-around at the world championships in Antwerp, where he scored 72.864 points.

This spring Aleksandrov returned to his homeland to compete at the European championships in Sofia, where he score an impressive 79.031 point to finish 17th among the gymnasts who competed on all six apparatuses in qualifications. (No separate all-around competition took place in Sofia.) Shortly after beginning his freshman year at UC-B, where the competition season does not start until winter, Aleksandrov scored 75.630 points in all-around qualifications at the worlds in Nanning in October.

IG: Yordan, looking back on 2014, what was the most important or satisfying moment of your competitive year, and why?

YA: Looking back at my 2014 competitive year, I would say that the most satisfying thing that happened was qualifying to the 2015 European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan as a whole team. We were able to qualify to this first-ever prestigious event after we placed 16th at the European championships in Sofia.

Yordan Aleksandrov (Bulgaria)

I would sum up my performance at these particular European championships as one of my best international competitions so far in my career. This was only my second senior competition after making my senior debut at the 2013 world championships; however, I felt like I showed significant improvements in several apparatuses as well as the all-around. Although these European championships were a team event and not individual (all-around), I was able to place 17th in the all-around (in qualifications), which was a big step for me as an individual all-around gymnast.

I am extremely glad that I got the chance to compete in such a big international event in my home country because not every gymnast gets such an incredible opportunity. Competing in front of the home crowd in Sofia was something unbelievable that cannot be described in words. The atmosphere in the arena was so amazing, and I am extremely glad that my friends and family were able to watch and support me as well as the Bulgarian team.

IG: You had a big improvement between Antwerp and Sofia, improving by almost six points, and you made a similarly big scoring improvement between Antwerp and Nanning. What do you think helped you improve so much in just one year?

YA: Making my senior debut at the 2013 World Championships in Antwerp was an amazing experience. Having just come from the junior division where I competed at the 2011 European Youth Olympic Festival in Trabzon, Turkey, and the 2012 junior European championships in Montpellier, France, I felt like I lacked some experience. I really believe that my performance at the 2013 world championships gave me the necessary experience to perform even better at the 2014 European championships and the 2014 World Championships. Coming back from Antwerp, I was extremely motivated and determined to work harder, upgrade my routines and get stronger. After my good performance at the 2014 European championships, I came back home with the goal set in mind to make the 2014 worlds team.

Unfortunately, during my preparation for this event, I injured my back and was not able to do much gymnastics for a couple of weeks. Even though this injury slowed down my preparation, I never lost hope and always believed that I could get back in shape and continue training hard for Nanning. I was really happy to have come back from this injury and be amongst the best gymnasts in the world once again.

Although I did not have the best performance in Nanning, I was definitely able to show great progress. I had a rough start on the first two events, floor and pommel horse, but I was able to get back in the competition and perform four really good routines. In Nanning, I was able to get personal-best scores on vault, parallel bars and horizontal bar.

IG: This coming year you will have both international and Cal meets on your agenda. What is your plan for balancing your NCAA training and commitments with your international commitments, and the amount of training needed to best help Bulgaria?

Aleksandrov and his parents

YA: As of this year, I am really excited to have become a part of the Cal men's gymnastics team which has an incredible coaching staff, including head coach Brett McClure and assistant coach J.T. Okada, as well as a dynamic and supportive team. Going to UC Berkeley is a huge change for me both academically and athletically. For the past 10 years my father had been my coach and helped me get to the level at which I am today. Fortunately enough, none of the competitions on my NCAA calendar coincides with any international competitions.

My primary goal for this upcoming 2015 season is to help out my Cal team as much as possible and end the year as one of the top NCAA teams. With the well-organized and intense training plan here at Cal I believe that great successes are awaiting this team. As far as the preparation for international competitions in 2015, I hope to be in top shape, as the European championships are the week after NCAA championships.

IG: What are your goals for 2015, outside of the gym as well as in it?

YA: My goals out of the gym for the upcoming year include maintaining good grades in school as well as successfully finishing up my first year of college. In the gym my primary goal is to help out Cal get to the top six at the NCAA championships. After the collegiate season, I plan to go to the 2015 European championships as well as the first-ever European Games. In both of these competitions my main goal is to get the highest all-around score for my potential. My ultimate goal for 2015 is definitely the world championships (in Glasgow) where I will fight to earn a spot to the 2016 Olympic Games.

IG: What kind of Bulgarian traditions do you include in your holiday celebrations?

YA: Although I have been living in the U.S. since the age of 7, my family and I have not forgotten where we came from and have always kept the Bulgarian ways. In the house we speak only Bulgarian, my mom cooks only Bulgarian food, and we follow all Bulgarian traditions. As an Orthodox Christian family, we celebrate Christmas as well as Easter and other Bulgarian holidays. For Christmas and New Year's Eve my family and I will get together with some Bulgarian friends and make it feel like we are back in Bulgaria. It is a Bulgarian tradition to have lots of food, music and dance.

IG: What are your New Year’s resolutions?

YA: My New Year's resolutions for next year include staying healthy, having a successful NCAA season as well as international season, and finishing off my first year of college in the best way possible.

Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 09 December 2014 13:38    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Elsa Garcia (Mexico)
(5 votes, average 4.80 out of 5)

Mexican Olympian Elsa Garcia refers to her 21st-place all-around finish at the world championships in Nanning in October as "an actual comeback," and she is eager to continue her rejuvenation in the coming year.

Mexican Olympian Elsa Garcia refers to her 21st-place all-around finish at the world championships in Nanning in October as "an actual comeback," and she is eager to continue her rejuvenation in the coming next year.

Despite refraining from major competitions after she competed at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Garcia performed credibly in Nanning, where she also helped Mexico to place 14th in team standings and thereby qualify for the 2015 worlds in Glasgow. The top eight teams in Glasgow will qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro; an additional four teams will qualify for Rio at an Olympic test event to be held in early 2016.

The 24-year-old Garcia competed even more assertively at last month’s Central American and Caribbean Games in Veracruz, Mexico, where she placed second all-around, sixth on vault, fourth (tie) on uneven bars, seventh on balance beam and fifth on floor exercise. Garcia also led Mexico to the team title in Veracruz.

In this IG Online interview, Garcia evaluates her performances in Nanning and outlines her plans for the year ahead.

IG: Your all-around finish was a surprise for many people, because we have not seen you much in competition recently. How much of a surprise was it to you to make the all-around final?

EG: I went to Nanning with two goals in mind: qualifying the team to next year’s worlds and the all-around final. I refused to not be in that final. Of course it was kind of nerve-racking because I competed on the first day and there were many countries with excellent gymnasts left to compete the next day, and I wanted to know if I had made the final.

Elsa Garcia (Mexico) at the 2011 Worlds

IG: You had an excellent competition except for some problems on the bars in the all-around final. What do you think caused the mistakes on the bars?

EG: My mistakes on bars were part of me trying to be perfect-thinking about the whole routine instead of element by element. I wanted to do so perfectly the 1-1/2 pirouette-Jaeger that I didn't do it well at all. Then I was so concerned of losing points by the requirements that I got into an even bigger mess. I actually forgot to do a toe on-Tkatchev, and the deductions go on and on. At the end of the competition I was not particularly happy with my competition but reminded myself that these year's worlds have been my first international competition in a long time. I had been away from international competitions because, after London 2012, I started going to college and had to find time to do gymnastics at an elite level and go to school, and that kept me really busy in my hometown. So I take Nanning as an actual comeback, and it motivated me a lot for next year.

IG: Overall how close to totally healthy were you in Nanning?

EG: Actually I was pretty healthy at Nanning - only the normal training pain, but not injury pain.

IG: The Mexican team did very well, with you in the all-around final, Alexa Moreno in the vault final, and the team advancing to Glasgow. Now you will have an important year ahead, for yourself and your team. What will your strategy be for 2015, so you can be at your personal best and help your team even more?

EG: I think we reassured that Mexican gymnastics is still growing and that we want more, with those two finals and the team result. So for next year the first thing is that I will take a break from school, so that I can concentrate just on gymnastics and work on many upgrades in all the events. I want to give myself time to be ready and compete new skills totally ready. As a team we have to have more training camps because this team is a relatively new team, and if we want to be in the top 16 at worlds and fight for our team's place at the (2016 Olympic) test event we have to train as a team. We all have to be stronger physically and mentally and we have to make every training count, believe that we can, not leave it to fate and work, work, work.

International Gymnast Magazine features on Mexican gymnasts and coaches include:

Elsa García update (December 2013)
"On the Mend" – injury updates including Elsa García (April 2008)
Elsa García cover photo and interview (May 2007)
Elsa García profile (May 2006)
"A Life that Makes Sense to Me" – Daniel Corral profile (December 2013)
"Mexican Maestro" - Daniel Corral profile (November 2010)
Karla Salazar on cover photo collage (July/August 2010)
"10 Questions with Coach Antonio Barraza" – interview (April 2010)
"10 Questions with FIG Technical Committee Member Naomi Valenzo" – interview (September 2009)
"Catching up with... Tony Piñeda" (May 2009)
"Catching up with... Denisse Lopez" (April 2007)
"Mexican Revolution" – Denisse Lopez profile (February 2000)
"Mexican Evolution" - Brenda Magaña profile (November 2002)

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

Written by Amanda Turner    Sunday, 30 November 2014 12:43    PDF Print
Vernyayev Victorious At Stuttgart World Cup
(5 votes, average 4.20 out of 5)

Ukrainian star Oleg Vernyayev won the men's all-around title at the 2014 DTB World Cup, held Sunday in Stuttgart. Pictured: All-around medalists Sergio Sasaki (Brazil), Vernyayev and Donnell Whittenburg (USA)

Ukrainian star Oleg Vernyayev won the men's all-around title at the 2014 DTB World Cup, held Sunday in Stuttgart.

Vernyayev scored a convincing victory, winning the title with 91.731 over Brazil's Sergio Sasaki (90.565) and American Donnell Whittenburg (90.398).

Vernyayev took his low score (14.366) on floor exercise after bouncing out of a few passes (layout Thomas; double double step back; front double full, barani; Randi; 2 1/2, Rudi; triple twist). He had the top score on pommel horse (15.566) and earned 15.366 on still rings.

After taking one step on his excellent Dragulescu vault, he nailed a precise parallel bars routine with a stuck double front-half dismount for the highest score of the day, 16.233. He clinched the title with 15.000 on high bar.

Sasaki had the high score of the day on vault, 15.500, for his Dragulescu vault. Whittenburg was the top scorer on floor exercise (15.466) and still rings (15.366).

German star Fabian Hambüchen finished fourth all-around, with the best score on high bar (16.133).

World all-around bronze medalist Yusuke Tanaka finished fifth ahead of Russians Nikolai Kuksenkov and David Belyavsky. Another Japanese gymnast, Yusuke Saito, finished eighth.

In the women's DTB Team Challenge final, host Germany won the title over Russia and Switzerland. A club team from Stuttgart finished fourth.

World Cup competition continues Dec. 6 in Glasgow.

External Link: Official Website

2014 DTB World Cup
Nov. 30, Stuttgart

Men's All-AroundFXPHSRVTPBHBTotal
1.Oleg Vernyayev14.36615.56615.20015.36616.23315.00091.731
2.Sergio Sasaki15.30015.16614.80015.50014.96614.83390.565
3.Donnell Whittenburg15.46614.43315.36615.00015.53314.60090.398
4.Fabian Hambüchen15.23313.03314.63315.03314.96616.13389.031
5.Yusuke Tanaka15.16614.46614.83314.40015.63314.13388.631
6.Nikolai Kuksenkov15.10013.86614.83314.46615.03315.06688.364
7.David Belyavsky14.10014.93314.20014.86614.76614.43387.298
8.Yusuke Saito12.40013.60014.30014.56612.46614.03381.365

Women's Team FinalVTUBBBFXTotal
1. Germany28.96628.46628.56626.700112.698
Nadja Schulze13.33311.200
Michelle Timm14.2339.90012.00012.700
Pauline Schäfer14.73313.33314.60014.000
Sophie Scheder15.13313.966
2. Russia29.16628.13325.96627.566110.831
Polina Fyodorova13.60013.53313.13313.533
Yekaterina Kramarenko14.16614.60012.83313.433
Ksenia Afanasyeva15.00014.033
3. witzerland29.16628.13325.96627.566105.097
Jessica Diacci13.13312.10012.60012.833
Ilaria Käslin14.16612.00013.76613.600
Nicole Hitz13.266
Stefanie Siegenthaler12.56612.80012.533
4. Stuttgart26.56620.63221.40024.80093.398
Nicole Fritz10.366
Dorothee Henzler13.33310.06610.60012.600
Sarina Maier13.23310.26610.80012.200

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