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Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 16 September 2014 16:39    PDF Print
Canada's Payne On a Mission For Worlds
(3 votes, average 4.00 out of 5)

Veteran Canadian gymnast Jackson Payne recently completed one mission and began another.

Veteran Canadian gymnast Jackson Payne recently completed one mission and began another. Shortly after serving two years of missionary work in Korea for the Church of Latter Day Saints, Payne is making final preparations for next month's world championships in Nanning, where he aims for solid all-around, apparatus and team finishes.

Payne, a native of Edmonton, emerged as a Canadian standout in the previous Olympic cycle, during which he placed second all-around at the 2010 Canadian championships and first all-around at the 2011 Canadian championships. He competed at the 2009 Worlds in London, the 2010 Worlds in Rotterdam and the 2011 Worlds in Tokyo.

Nanning will be the 22-year-old Payne's second start following his Korean mission. He finished fourth on high bar at the Pan American championships in Mississauga on September 1.

In this IG Online interview, Payne details the purpose of his church mission and his new mission in Nanning.

Jackson Payne (Canada)

IG: What was the nature of your missionary work in Korea?

JP: I was in what was called the Korea Seoul South Mission, which included the southern part of the city and the surrounding areas. It was a two-year missionary service. As missionaries, we do a lot of things. We share and talk to people about out church and what we believe, we taught English and did other service opportunities. Also as missionaries you have very limited access to the internet. I was allowed to use the Internet for only one hour per week, and it was only to email my family and friends. We have no access to TV or other media. They keep us very focused on what we are supposed to be doing as missionaries.

IG: While on your mission, how much gymnastics/fitness did you do?

JP: For the first nine months I didn't do any gymnastics at all. I obviously tried to stay in fitness shape as much as possible, but it's difficult when they give you only 30 minutes per morning for your whole mission. Normally as a missionary you can't do the things I started to do toward the end of my mission.

Around March or April 2013 I was given permission to do a little bit of gymnastics, maybe like eight hours per week. It was very inconsistent through summer 2013 and winter 2013. Then, at the start of February 2014, I was able to go the gym a lot more - about 14 hours per week. Not lots, but a lot for me at the time. That is when I started feeling back into it. I arrived home in Canada in late June.

IG: How have you been able to get back into international form so quickly?

JP: It feels to me that it has taken forever to get back, probably because of some of the really hard days that I had to go through by myself in Korea. But I owe a lot to my coach (Liang Cheng) for keeping tabs on me while I was away and encouraging me with words, and also that he showed he cared for me and knew I could get back. I also owe my parents and family members for all the support they gave me along the way. Honestly speaking, I know that I have been blessed for my efforts.

IG: What are your realistic expectations for Nanning, in terms of your own performance and your team's performance?

JP: For me, because this is just my second competition since my mission, I want to show some good form, and hit my routines I have ready. I feel as though I can give a good placing in the all-around. I am also focusing on high bar and pommel horse, to hit a routine I know I can score pretty high with. As for our team, we don't look too bad. I have been a little sheltered over the past, so I'm not too sure how some countries are doing, but I think we are in a safe place to qualify a team to the next worlds (in 2015).

International Gymnast magazine's coverage of Canadian gymnasts nominated for the 2014 world championships includes:

"Canadian Promise" - Ellie Black chat, Isabela Onyshko profile, Robert Watson interview (July/August 2014)
"Canadian Diversity" - Ellie Black profile, Hugh Smith profile (July/August 2013)
"Black to Business" Ellie Black interview (November 2012)
"Aiming to Top the Charts" - Maegan Chant profile (October 2013)
Ken Ikeda profile (October 2002)
"Making Tracks" - Scott Morgan profile (December 2013)
Jackson Payne interview (September 2011)
Aleeza Yu two-page photo spread (May 2014)

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

Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 12 August 2014 05:59    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Simona Castro (Chile)
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

At 25, Chilean Olympian Simona Castro has found new drive and passion for gymnastics as she prepares for the upcoming Pan American championships and world championships.

At 25, Chilean Olympian Simona Castro has found new drive and passion for gymnastics as she prepares for the upcoming Pan American championships and world championships.

Castro and her older sister, Martina, are icons of Chile's gymnastics program. Simona became the first Chilean female gymnast to compete at the Olympic Games when she took part in the 2012 London Games. She also spent four years studying at and competing for the University of Denver in the United States. Martina, 28, competed at last year's world championships and in May made two finals at the World Challenge Cup of Anadia, Portugal. Simona also competed in Anadia, where she placed sixth on uneven bars.

In this IG Online interview, Simona details the unspoken challenges she faced in her Olympic debut, the inspiration she gains from her sister, and the forces that continue to drive her.

IG: We have not seen you compete much since the South American Games in March. What are your plans in terms of your next competition, for example, the upcoming Pan American championships/Pan American Games test event in Mississauga (Canada) and the world championships in Nanning?

SC: I had the chance to compete in Portugal this past May but we were not quite ready to start our season yet. I will in fact be at Pan Ams test this August, so hopefully we get to fight for a team spot for our country. And if everything goes well, worlds in China this October.

IG: Where and with whom are you training?

SC: I am training with my all-time coach, Isabel Lazo. She's my mother and has coached me since I was little. I train at a facility here in Santiago, and plan on staying. I believe that she can provide me the knowledge and hours of dedication that I need to get where I want to go. Add to that the fact and all the experience that I gained with my college coaches in Denver, which I can also share with her and the little ones in the gym.

2012 Olympian Simona Castro (Chile)

IG: What has kept you motivated to continue your career, after competing at the Olympics and graduating university?

SC: One of my biggest motivations was the Olympics in 2012. I thought that transitioning after college gymnastics was a bit hard because your body is really tired and all you want to do is take a break. So, I decided to take it easy that year, after graduating, and decided to spend some extra time on my professional career. I spent a couple of months doing my practical training in Colorado and Miami. I had lots of fun and learned lots of new things about the world and about myself, but I was a bit unsatisfied with how many hours I got to spend in the gym. After South American Games in March, which was hosted by my country, I came back to Chile and decided to pursue gymnastics entirely and put a couple of things aside, prioritizing my goals for the next couple of years.

IG: We understand that you were not competing at 100% strength in London; what injuries were bothering you, and how is your injury condition these days?

SC: I must say it was a bit of a rough process going into the Olympics. We definitely tried to ignore all the unfortunate injuries that I encountered, but considering how strong the college season is we were pretty happy with how it turned out. I had some chronic pain in my Achilles' [tendon], an inflamed supraspinatus (muscle in shoulder) and had barely come out from a torn abdominal muscle. After that, injuries were just part of the mental game. Fortunately, I had various doctors and people working with alternative therapies to help me deal with them, and I'm really thankful for it. It just shows me how determined I can be, so that nothing can stop me from doing what I love.

IG: You and your sister Martina have been holding up the Chilean team for many years. In what ways do you and Martina keep each other motivated?

SC: I think we really like to challenge each other. We are competitive in a very positive way, and try to push each other whenever we can. She's always been there for me, and I try to reciprocate. I believe the best memory I've gotten from her is when she was cheering for me on floor at the Olympics, and you could actually hear to her from all the way at the top of the stadium. It meant the world to me.

IG: Looking ahead, what do you think Chile needs to boost its international ranking?

SC: I think we really need to provide good training for the upcoming coaches. There is a lot of interest in gymnastics but I believe there's a lack of quality in coaching. There's been a lot done, but I believe it could be done better. The actual coaches that provide gymnasts for the national team are very few, and I believe we are not taking advantage of their work. We would need to, hopefully, educate people more about gymnastics, its rules and its requirements so they could at least have a basic understanding of how it works. Hopefully we turn into the pioneers who can make that change.

Read "Role Model for Chile," a profile on Simona Castro, in the March 2012 issue of International Gymnast magazine. To order back issues, or subscribe to the print and/or digital versions of IG magazine, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 05 August 2014 13:45    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Jana Sikulova (Czech Republic)
(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

2014 has been an especially challenging but successful year for veteran Czech gymnast Jana Sikulova, who won international medals in March and April, competed at the European championships in May, earned her Master's degree in June, and turned 26 in July.

2014 has been an especially challenging but successful year for veteran Czech gymnast Jana Sikulova, who won international medals in March and April, competed at the European championships in May, earned her Master's degree in June, and turned 26 in July.

A mainstay for the Czech team for over a decade, Sikulova competed at her first world championships in 2003, and won four World Cup medals by the end of 2009.

Sikulova has remained competitive in her 20s, placing sixth all-around at the 2011 University Games in Shenzhen, and 14th all-around at the 2013 University Games in Kazan.

This year Sikulova won the silver medal on uneven bars at the Challenge Cup of Doha, Qatar, in March; and the silver medal on uneven bars at the Korea Cup in Incheon in April. She placed 18th all-around in qualifications among gymnasts who competed on all four apparatuses at Europeans in Sofia in May, where no formal all-around contest took place.

In this IG Online interview, Sikulova shares her perspectives on her longevity, the struggles she has faced in balancing her academic and gymnastics schedules, and her plans for the future.

IG: What led to your Master's degree, and what did your thesis involve?

JS: I studied in the faculty of Sports Studies at Masaryk University for five years. Two years ago I finished my Bachelor's degree and this year I finished my Master's degree. My diploma thesis was "3D kinematic analysis of gymnastics disciplines of vault." I looked for the optimal performance of the basic Yurchenko vault by comparing different biomechanical analyses of vault phases, and I was looking for technical difference among gymnasts.

Czech veteran Jana Sikulova and classmate celebrate their Master's degrees

IG: You have had much success in gymnastics this year. How did you manage your studies and train for top competitions at the same time?

JS: The first half of the year was one of the hardest for me. When I go back in time and realize what was in the beginning of the year, I realized that it was quite surreal for me to see what was coming. I started to write my diploma thesis, and the time for training was becoming shorter and shorter. This feeling made me a bit stressed. The first two competitions were the Challenge Cups in Cottbus and Doha. I did well and succeeded on uneven bars, and got the silver medal in Doha. The third competition was the Korea Cup, and I got the silver medal on bars, as well. I was always thinking about working on the diploma thesis at these competitions.

IG: How much did your studies impact your preparation for Europeans, and vice versa?

JS: In May came the culminating preparation for the European championships, and I ran out of power. This part of the season was very hard for me. Befor leaving for Europeans I did not felt as prepared as I needed to be. Although my performance at Europeans was influenced by dificult times, I was glad with the final result. After Europeans I successfully defended my diploma thesis. I have to say that my diploma project supervisor helped me a lot, and my family was also very helpful and supported me during the whole process. I knew that it was necessary for me to feel all the support because I would not have made it in time. I greatly appreciate it. The last competition for me was Czech championships. I had 14 days left for the final exam (degree examinations) on June 23. I passed the final exam, and it was one of the best days for me.

IG: Having recently turned 26, how do you feel about your gymnastics, physically, compared to when you were younger?

JS: For the last two years I have felt the biggest change physically. I feel a big difference from before. The great advantage is my experience. On the other hand, the disadvantages are often fatigue and chronic pain. I had to modify my training. Very important is the perfect cooperation with my coaches. I have had to strictly follow the exact mode; for example, regular regeneration, nutrition and other things. I have a fitness trainer and a physiotherapist, who are also very important for my training.

IG: What about your psychological condition?

JS: All of us have some bad times, like I've had many times, too. But I have to say that I feel great psychologically now. The university where I studied was great. I liked it, although it was hard to do everything together. Besides that, I had a lot a great friends and people around me. They were supporting me all the time. This was really outstanding, and will stay in my mind forever. The next reason why I feel good is that I work well with my coaches. These are the people that I really respect and appreciate. That is why I stayed in gymnastics and why my career is successful for a long time.

IG: What's next for you in the sport?

JS: After the final exam came a big decision. I felt tired after the first half of the year, and I knew that almost immediately I would have to prepare for the world championships. I felt responsible for helping our Czech team. In fact, I knew that I would have a very short time for a rest. After a really long time of thinking and wondering, I decided that I'm not going to participate in the championships. Due to this decision I will not be competing in other competitions, either. My decision was also influenced by thinking about my future, particularly looking for a job and living with my partner. We have been six years far away from each other, in a long-distance relationship. Due to the university where I have studied, I have been thinking many times about being a coach abroad. I'm lucky that my boyfriend works in Schafhausen, Switzerland, as a head coach of gymnastics. This is my new road and a big chance. But it's sure that callouses on my hands are going to stay for a long time!

International Gymnast magazine's features on Czech gymnasts include:
Vera Caslavska/Hall of Fame induction feature (June 2012)
"Rebuilding Phase" - Kristyna Palesova profile (June 2011)
"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 Sikulova profile (July/August 2006)
"Reality Czech" – Jana Komrskova feature (November 2003)
"Catching up with Hana Ricna Jessen" – profile (May 2001)
Jana Komrskova 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    Monday, 21 July 2014 08:07    PDF Print
Singapore's Jufrie Hopes to 'Raise the Level' at Commonwealth Games
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Although 18-year-old Aizat Jufrie is the youngest member of the Singaporean men’s squad, which is preparing for the Commonwealth Games that begin this week in Glasgow, he is confident that he and his teammates can produce positive results in their Games debut as a full team.

Jufrie said he is eager to continue the Singaporean success achieved at the 2010 Games in Delhi, where David Jonathan Chan and Gabriel Gan finished third and fourth, respectively, on pommel horse. Prior to 2014, Singapore has not fielded a full men’s artistic gymnastics team at the Games.

“I hope I will be able to contribute to the team score and raise the level even more in Glasgow,” said Jufrie, who was born Aizat Bin Muhammad Jufrie on Jan. 24, 1996.

Jufrie will be joined on the Singaporean team in Glasgow by Gan, Terry Tay (Wei-An), Timothy Tay (Kai Cheng) and Wah Toon Hoe.

Singapore’s women’s team for the Games includes 2012 Olympian Lim Heem Wei, Michelle Teo (Yin Zhi), Ashly Lau (Wei-Ning), Janessa Dai (Min Yi) and Joey Tam (Jing Ying).

Coached on all six apparatuses by Lin Zhenqiu, Jufrie has represented Singapore at an impressive range of competitions over the past few years. He placed 21st all-around in the junior division at the 2010 Pacific Rim championships in Melbourne, 11th all-around at the 2011 Commonwealth Youth Games on the Isle of Man, and sixth all-around at the 2012 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) School Games in Surabaya, Indonesia.

At the 2013 Hong Kong Invitational, Jufrie won vault, placed third on four other apparatuses and was fourth all-around.

This spring Jufrie competed on two apparatuses at the 2014 FIG Challenge Cup of Doha, Qatar, in March, where he finished 17th on vault; and placed third on vault, eighth on rings and 16th all-around at the 2014 Commonwealth Invitational/Celtic Cup in Perth, Scotland.

In this IG Online interview, Jufrie details his agenda for Glasgow, and places the Games in perspective to his overall career strategy.

IG: In this final lead-up to the Games, what specifically are you focusing on in your training? Are you fine-tuning your routines, working on mental confidence, or something else?

AJ: I am currently working with my coach to tweak my routines for the Games, to limit the deductions to a minimum. I am focusing on my execution for each event and to make sure I’ll be able to complete my routines in Glasgow to the best of my abilities. Mental training is very important to me. Visualizing my routines and skills for each apparatus will ensure my mind is ready for any unfortunate mishaps during the competition. Hey, gymnastics is a very gratifying sport and anything can happen, so I have to make sure that my mind is as ready as my physical body for this competition.

IG: Glasgow will be the biggest competition of your career, so what are your personal expectations, and how do you plan to balance them against the expectations that Singapore has for you?

AJ: Yes, the coming Commonwealth Games is the biggest competition I'll be representing Singapore in thus far, and I plan on bringing back as much experience as I can from such a major competition with a wide variety of challenging opponents from around the world. I've done my best to prepare myself for this competition and I just have to hope for the best. I intend on doing my best and completing my routines with minimal deductions, and I’ll be satisfied with my performance. Singapore’s expectations on me will be on another note, and I'm sure I've already met some expectations of my country by representing Singapore in the first full men’s artistic gymnastics team being sent to this major competition.

IG: On which apparatuses do you feel you have the best chances for success in Glasgow, and why?

AJ: I feel I have the best chance on vault, as I've been faring rather well in the past few competitions, especially being very fortunate to make the finals at the Commonwealth Invitational (in Perth, Scotland, in April) and even bag a bronze medal for the Singapore team of four. But at the end of the day I can only perform my best and control what I do. What the other countries do and what team they send to the Games are out of my control. … For now all I can do is continue training hard on my six events and hope for the best!

IG: At the 2010 Games your teammate David Jonathan Chan won a bronze medal and Gabriel Gan was fourth on pommel horse, raising the international presence of Singapore. How do you think you can maintain and raise the level even more in Glasgow?

AJ: David Jonathan Chan and Gabriel Gan have indeed raised the bar of the international presence of Singapore, and did Singapore proud in the previous Commonwealth Games. At the same time, they both specialize on pommel horse, which is different from me. This is the first time Singapore will be sending a team for men’s artistic gymnastics to the Games, and my aim will be to contribute as much as I can for the team score. Being the youngest of the team at 18 years old, I hope I will be able to contribute to the team score and raise the level even more in Glasgow.

IG: Besides Glasgow, you have the Asian Games and possibly the world championships in Nanning to prepare for later this year. How does Glasgow fit into your overall scheme for international competitions this year?

AJ: It's the stepping stone of major competitions for me: one leading to another, gaining experiences and learning from each competition, hopefully being even more prepared for each competition, mastering skills as I go along for each competition, and learning new techniques and training style from different gymnasts competing in the major events. In the long run, it’s about harvesting enough experience to work alongside my goals, and achieving to be a better Singaporean gymnast.

Read a profile on Lim Heem Wei in the June 2012 issue of International Gymnast magazine.

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

Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 18 July 2014 11:57    PDF Print
Pollard Hopes to Channel Inspiration in Commonwealth Debut
(5 votes, average 4.60 out of 5)

When Charlotte Pollard makes history as the first gymnast from the island of Jersey, Channel Islands, to compete at the Commonwealth Games later this month in Glasgow, she hopes her experience in Glasgow will inspire Jersey youngsters to follow her.

“I try to use the pressure and expectation to promote this low-key sport within the island and encourage others to join in and have a go,” she told IG.

Pollard, who began training at age 5, was born Dec. 2, 1998, in Whangarei, New Zealand. “My parents were sailing around the world and I was born half way around,” she said. “I spent the first two years of my life living on the yacht and sailing back to Jersey.” The family now resides in St. John, Jersey.

Pollard’s identical-twin sister, Olivia, is a former gymnast who is training to qualify in swimming for the 2015 Youth Commonwealth Games.

Although Pollard’s international credentials are limited, she has represented Jersey in competitions outside the U.K. She placed 11th all-around at the 2011 Island Games in Sicily; and fourth all-around, third on balance beam, fourth on uneven bars and fourth (tie) on floor exercise at the 2013 Island Games in Bermuda.

In this IG Online interview, Pollard describes her physical and mental preparation she is making for the Commonwealth Games, as well as other key aspects of her gymnastics journey.

IG: How are you managing your personal expectations for the Games, along with the expectations that Jersey sports in general have placed on you?

CP: Managing expectations is easy because my personal expectations of myself are often higher than anyone's, even my coach's. I personally don't feel that there is any added pressure of being Jersey's first gymnast but do realize that others may see the expectation of being the first gymnast as daunting. I try to use this pressure and expectation to promote this low-key sport within the island and encourage other to join in and have a go. There are some fantastic younger gymnasts at our club, and I hope this encourages them to keep aiming high.

IG: You've competed well at the past two Island Games, but Glasgow will put you on a much larger stage. What specific goals do you have for the Games, in terms of your all-around and individual apparatuses?

CP: My goal when competing at the Games is just to go clean and not to fall on any of the apparatuses, though that is easier said than done.

IG: In the lead-up to Glasgow, how are you preparing yourself mentally so you can perform without nerves in such a major competition?

CP: I've never performed in such a large arena before. In preparation I have been trying to compete in front of as many people as possible, though this is hard in our tiny gym. A lot of my preparation is mental as I don't have access to a full floor, hard-matted bars area or a complete-length vault run.

IG: Who coaches you, and on which apparatuses?

CP: Tory De Mond is my coach. I first met Tory when I was six, and she has coached me on all apparatuses every since and continues to. More recently Shinarah Le Blancq has taken charge of our many hours of conditioning, and she choreographs floor routines. Our club also has a visiting coach, John Pirrie, who comes over from England once every two or three months, and has done so for the last four years.

IG: How many hours per week do you train, and how do you balance your school work with your training schedule?

CP: I train around 20 hours a week, often more, rarely less. I am fortunate that my school, Jersey College for Girls, allow me to miss my P.E. (physical education) lessons for extra training. Others than that, it is hard work to balance both school work and gym. I always work hard at school to ensure I leave myself with only the minimum amount of work to do at home. In the case of homework, I'll do most of it in lunchtime; otherwise it might be a late night. I'm lucky that both Olivia and I take the same GCSEs (two-year course to earn General Certificate of Secondary Education), so if I ever miss anything, I can always catch up using her notes.

IG: How do you hope the Commonwealth Games will help you prepare for future big internationals, and allow you to compare your progress with other Commonwealth gymnasts?

CP: The main thing I aim to take away from the games is experience. I try not to compare myself to other gymnasts, but to my previous scores, as that gives a better indication to my progress. I've never been to Scotland and am looking forward to meeting lots of new people.


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