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Written by Admin    Monday, 17 June 2019 08:55    PDF Print
Skye Blakely Making A Splash Early In Elite Career
(6 votes, average 4.33 out of 5)

By Ashlee Buhler

From the moment she stepped onto the podium at her first elite competition, it was clear Skye Blakely had something special. With a rare blend of power, grace and poise, Skye makes competing at the sports highest level look easy.

Her journey in the sport started at the age of 3. At the time her mother had already enrolled her in ballet and tap classes and was looking to add another activity; so gymnastics it was.

As a young girl progressing through the sport, she looked up to 2012 Olympic Champion Gabby Douglas. “When I started watching her I had recently joined the competitive team at my gym,” Skye said. “I was inspired because she looked like me and she was so talented.”

In 2018, Skye joined the coveted elite ranks, following in the footsteps of her older sister Sloane Blakely, who became an elite in 2016. Being able to train alongside her sister has been a great source of motivation, Skye said.

“I love having a sister who is also elite. We get to go on this journey side by side. One way we push each other is when one of us gets a new skill, the other will be motivated to get it too. We also encourage each other when one of us is having a bad day. Being side by side motivates us to be the best we can be.”

The Blakely sisters train together at WOGA in Frisco, Texas. Sloane was added to the senior national team in February 2019, while Skye became a member of the junior national team after a phenomenal performance at the 2018 U.S. Championships.

Skye left a lasting impression at her first-ever appearance at the U.S. Championships, finishing third on vault, second on bars, fifth on floor, and fourth all-around. After having to take time off the season prior to nurse an elbow injury, Skye couldn’t have asked for much more.

“After coming back from an injury, being able to have a strong first season of elite really helped my confidence,” she said. “Before my elite season I hadn’t competed in a while so I was still trying to gain confidence. By the end of season I had gained a lot of faith in Christ and in who I am as a gymnast and person.”

Skye started her 2019 season strong by making her international debut at the Gymnix International. She helped team USA to the gold medal as well as bringing home gold on vault, gold on bars and a bronze in the all-around.

In the gym she is currently working on a few upgrades to ensure she stays competitive with the talented field of up-and-coming gymnasts. “I am working on a tucked double double on floor, a half-on entry on vault, and a front handspring-front tuck on beam.”

To subscribe to the print and/or digital edition, or to order back issues of International Gymnast magazine, click here.
Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 07 June 2019 12:48    PDF Print
Vansteenkiste: ‘I Am A Real Team Player’
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Jade Vansteenkiste of Belgium told IG that, following her individual success at this spring’s European Championships in Szczecin, Poland, she has the skill and spirit to be valuable for her country’s team effort at the 2019 World Championships in Stuttgart in October.

“I can contribute by performing my best vault and best floor exercise, since these are my best and favorite apparatus where I have an acceptable difficulty level,” said Vansteenkiste, who finished 20th all-around and sixth on floor exercise in Szczecin. “I am a real team player who can fight for and work together with the other girls, my friends, towards our common goal.”

Vansteenkiste arrived in Szczecin with little advance billing, having competed on only two apparatus as a member of the sixth-place Belgian team at last year’s European Junior Championships in Glasgow. She also had little advance notice that she would be competing in Szczecin at all.

“Initially I didn’t make the team, so it was rather a surprise when I got selected the day before departure to Poland,” said Vansteenkiste, who will turn 16 on July 17. “Of course I was very happy and was determined to have a good and faultless competition. Somewhere I was hoping for the final on floor, since in Glasgow I was 10th and got so close to the final.”

Advancing to one, let alone two finals, caught Vansteenkiste pleasantly off-guard.

“After the qualifications I didn’t expect the all-around final at all, and knew that the floor final would still be within reach,” she said. “So when the confirmation came that I qualified for both the all-around final and the floor final, it was an enormous relief.”

A stronger performance on balance beam in the last rotation could have moved Vansteenkiste higher than 20th in the all-around final, but she is confident she will learn and progress from her mistakes.

“It was my first experience to compete in an all-around final and I could not really get rid of my stress,” said Vansteenkiste, who is coached by Yves Kieffer and Marjorie Heuls. “Balance beam is very often my weakest apparatus. I lack some confidence and it was the last apparatus that day. I still have to work a lot on balance beam to find a way to feel at ease. I really have to listen carefully to my coaches who help me find that confidence step by step.”

On a team known for its unusual choreography, Vansteenkiste said she is able to distinguish herself through her character and technique.

“My floor exercise is describing a jungle theme,” she said. “In the beginning I am a lion trying to catch some prey, and later on I am a horsewoman. The special choreography makes me, just like the other Belgian girls, unique on floor. Apart from the choreography, I am very good at making my twists.”

Vansteenkiste said she plans to polish her routines for a better chance of making the Belgian team for Stuttgart, especially given that several of Belgian’s best gymnasts, including Nina Derwael and Axelle Klinckaert, did not compete in Szczecin. At last fall’s Worlds in Doha, Derwael placed first on uneven bars and fourth all-around, and Klinckaert placed 18th all-around.

Nine teams from Stuttgart, plus the top three teams from Doha, will advance to next summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.

“There is an international competition (this month) to test what we still have to work on,” Vansteenkiste told IG. “It will not really be on many new skills — maybe some, but especially it will be working on any detail to find confidence and perform very neatly.”

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

Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 04 June 2019 06:48    PDF Print
Thorsdottir: ‘It’s Up To Me To Make It Work’
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

The June 2019 issue of International Gymnast magazine includes an insightful interview with ’19 European floor exercise silver medalist Eythora Thorsdottir of the Netherlands, who enjoys playing a collaborative role in the creation and character of her unique performances.

Thorsdottir said the process of designing her current floor exercise routine began after her coach and choreographer, Patrick Kiens, had her listen to Portuguese singer Dulce Pontes’ “Porto,” the music he selected for it, three times.

“He gave me the starting position and after that he just asked me, ‘Try this movement,’” said Thorsdottir, who placed ninth all-around at the 2016 Olympics Games, third on floor exercise and second on balance beam at the ’17 European Championships, and 11th all-around at the ’19 Europeans.

The evolution of this routine, like her other ones, involved mutual input.

“I make it my own, he tells me whether it works or not and so on until he thinks, ‘Yes, that works,’” Thorsdottir said. “He makes the choreo but it's up to me to make it work. This routine took us only one training to create.”

The June 2019 issue of International Gymnast magazine includes the complete interview with Eythora Thorsdottir, revealing her suggestions on how to judge artistry, how she prepares just before performing her floor routine, how she strives to balance aesthetics and acrobatics, what her new floor routine conveys and other comments.

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

Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 31 May 2019 08:15    PDF Print
‘It Has Not Been An Easy Journey,’ Says Garcia of Comeback
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

At age 29, Mexican Olympian Elsa Garcia is just getting started — again.

Garcia, who underwent back surgery in February, has resumed training with the intention of qualifying for next summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.

In a profile in the June issue of International Gymnast magazine, Garcia said she is busy regaining her strength and reformatting her routines to accommodate her new level of fitness.

“Getting my body to be prepared for competitive gymnastics has been hard because my body had already been done with gymnastics, but I had to convince it we weren’t,” she said. “It has not been an easy journey getting my gymnastics back from zero, but every day I feel more confident in the apparatus, regaining my elements, switching ones that do me and my back no good, and training new ones instead.”

Read the Elsa Garcia profile in the June 2019 issue of International Gymnast magazine. To subscribe to the print and/or digital editions, click here.

Written by dwight normile    Sunday, 19 May 2019 06:57    PDF Print
'Four Honored At IGHOF Hall of Fame Dinner'
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

“It’s the athletes and their stories that make this a great event,” said emcee Bart Conner at the 23rd annual International Gymnastics Hall of Fame Dinner on May 18, at the Petroleom Club in Oklahoma City. The four inductees where Shawn Johnson, Ivan Ivankov, Maria Filatova and Li Xiaopeng, who could not attend.

Including those four honorees, the Hall of Fame has inducted 102 individuals from 22 nations.

Hardy Fink earned the International order of Merit, for his work with the FIG Academies where he goes literally all around the world teaching struggling nations how to improve their gymnastics.

“I am so delighted,” he said. “I am already a winner by being here; it is the highest award possible. Remembering will inspire our future!”

Fink was the youngest ever to become an international brevet judge.

Next was Maria Filatova and she wanted to speak in Russian and her daughter translated, and both teared up during her speech.

“Thank you very much for inviting me to this special occasion,” she said. “I want to thank everyone who helped me succeed. I am very happy that gymnastics was part of my life.”

Ivan Ivankov was next. Both Bart Conner and Paul Ziert sort of rescued him when he had multiple surgeries on his Achilles’ tendon. They offered him a job at Bart Conner Gymnastics Academy in Norman, Oklahoma. That put him on a path to win his second world all-around title at the 1997 in Lausanne, Switzerland. (The previous one was in Brisbane, Australia, in ’94.)

“Paul Ziert is the godfather of gymnastics,” said Ivankov, fighting back tears. “I am taking this to my heart. These guys helped me out when I needed it most.”

Last to speak was Shawn Johnson, whose husband, Andrew East, is a long-snapper for the Washington Redskins football team.

“When Nastia Liukin called she urged me to take this call from Bart Conner,” Johnson said. “Was I in trouble? I was in shock when he told me I was being inducted into the Hall of Fame. I never thought of myself as a legend. I did gymnastic because it was fun, and Chow always had a smile on his face. And sometimes when we finished what we were working on, he would take us out to Dairy Queen!”

Read the complete stories in the 2019 June issue of International Gymnastics Magazine.

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


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