At just 13-years-old, Shallon Olsen has captured the attention of the gymnastics world in her home country of Canada and around the globe. She has an impressive skill set that goes well beyond what one would expect to see out of someone her age, including a double twisting yurchenko (that she first performed at age 10!) and a full-in on floor. Her potential seems almost limitless and she happens to be just the right age for the 2016 Olympic Games.
Shallon has won the Canadian Junior National Championships the past two years in a row. She made her international debut at the Top Gym tournament in Belgium in 2011, then won the AA and vault at the same meet last November. With past winners including Shawn Johnson and Larisa Iordache it’s safe to say that expectations for the phenom are high, but we think she’s ready to rise to the challenge. Shallon took the time to answer our questions about her career so far, upgrades, and her favorite things to do outside the gym-
How did you first get involved with gymnastics?
I was always running around with so much energy. I frightened my mom cause anytime she took me out, I was gone in a flash and she would think I’d been kidnapped. My parents thought gymnastics would be a good fit for me, I could run around and be safe.
When did you first know it was something you wanted to take to a high level?
Photo by Grace Chiu
I don’t think I really knew that I wanted to take gymnastics to a high level. I just loved flipping and jumping, basically enjoying gymnastics and progressing through the levels.
Which gymnasts do you look up to or admire?
I admire different gymnasts at different times. For now I look up to Simone Biles. In the past I`ve liked Jordyn Wieber, Aliya Mustafina, Gabby Douglas, Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin amongst others.
You’ve competed at the Top Gym competition in Belgium for the past two years, last year winning the AA title. What did it mean to win the same meet that many gymnastics greats such as Jordyn Wieber, Shawn Johnson, and Larisa Iordache have won in the past?
It meant a lot to me because first of all, I`ve joined the long list of gymnasts who have already won this meet. I feel like I`m going in the right direction.
Your Omega teammate Brittany Rogers made the Canadian Olympic team in 2012. What was it like to watch her go through that process?
I was really excited for her because I knew she had overcome a severe injury to make it to the Olympics. She is such a fighter and an inspiration to young gymnasts around the world.
Can you tell us what your daily schedule is like?
Shallon at 2013 Nationals (credit to Grace Chiu)
I attend school in the morning and train in the afternoon through to the evening.
What are your short and long-term goals?
I really want to compete at the Pacific Rim Championship this April, right here in Richmond, BC - my home province! I also want to go to the 2016 Rio de JaneiroOlympics. Now that the World Championships are on, I have developed a desire to go to those in 2017, since I will be too young to attend WC prior to that time. Unfortunately, there are no WC in an Olympic year, otherwise I would want to go.
One of the first times we saw video of you was as a 10-year-old already performing high level skills like double twisting yurchenkos. With so much natural ability, how are your coaches able to pace you and keep you healthy long term?
I train all my hard skills into the foam pit where the landing is soft. My coaches have so much experience and knowledge that they know what I am capable of. They always have safety as a priority for all their gymnasts.
How do you keep yourself motivated to train at such a high level?
I keep a positive attitude and say good things to myself. I remind myself that I have worked hard and take time to appreciate what I have already accomplished. Most importantly, I tell myself to never give up.
What upgrades do you have in store for the future? Are there any skills you’d love to learn?
I`ve added an Arabian to my beam routine and am practicing a 3.5 twist on floor. I am also practising the Amanar vault, but only into the foam pit.
What are your favourite things to do outside of the gym?
Hang out with my friends and sleep. I don`t often get to sleep in so when I can, I really enjoy it. Sleeping is the best!
What 3 items would you take to a desert island besides food and water?
I would take my ipod, a beach towel and some sunglasses. I guess I would have to include some sunscreen too. I would also bring some good books and my word search.
Photo by Grace Chiu
Favorite Food- quesadillas and cake
Favorite TV Show- iCarly
Favorite Book- Hunger Games and the Twilight series
Favorite Musician/Band- One Direction
Dream Job- to become a famous pop singer
Super Power you wish you had- able to become invisible and to fly
Favorite skill to perform- Arabian
Skill you’d most like to learn- full twist from high to low bar (don`t name of it, but it`s like a pak with a full twist)
Dream travel destination- Venice, Italy
Favorite gymnast- Aliya Mustafina
How your teammates would describe you- funny, nice, kind and thoughtful
How your coaches would describe you- energetic and talented
By now, most of you will have watched the routines from Worlds, seen the scores, and dissected every single movement of each gymnast. So for this article I thought I would do something a bit different and write it in more of a blog format. I had the chance to attend World Championships this year. This was my first Worlds and I managed to watch the WAG AA final and event finals. I will recount my experience from Worlds; what I saw, what I heard, and most importantly what Marta got up to!
Day 1 – Friday 4th October
I had an early wakeup time – 3 am – to catch my flight to Amsterdam. From Amsterdam, I then took the train to Antwerp. By 12:30 I had arrived in Antwerp, just in time for some Belgian fries. I spent the next hour getting lost, apparently reading maps is not my strong suite. I finally found the hotel and got ready for the AA. I met up with friends from the gymternet and all together we got some more Belgian fries and discussed our hopes for the meet. We then got onto the tram and headed off to the arena for the women’s all-around final.
View from my seat Day 1
We got to the arena and it was already packed. There were various stalls selling a variety of things from: Adidas gear to champagne. At this point we ran into Bruno Grandi; he was busy chatting to a judge and briskly disappeared into the crowd. We then went into the arena and I was blinded by the white podium. I had seats in the corner behind uneven bars. As we waited for the start of the competition, they had zombies entertain us on parallel bars, yes it was as bizarre as it sounds! My attention turned to scanning the arena and my eye caught sight of Al Fong’s shiny bald head. With him came in Brenna and Alicia. I was surprised by the fact that their seats were not that great. I thought they would either sit with the delegations or in the VIP section, but no they were sat in the midst of the general public.
Anyways, the competition started and I was temporarily blinded by the American leos, they sparkled in all the wrong places!! (I have now seen videos and pictures from the AA and they were not as bad as they looked live). In any case the competition started and I pretty much only took pictures of gymnasts chalking bars, the prize definitely goes to Shang Chunsong!
Shang Chunsong chalking bars
How many Russians does it take to chalk Rodionova’s bars?
In what felt like no time, the meet was over. Simone was crowned the AA champion and my first day at Worlds was over… or so I thought. As we excited the arena we saw the shiny white USA jackets heading our way. Marta was leading Simone by the shoulders and holding her like she was her own personal trophy. Any fans who tried approaching were met by Marta’s glare and she told everyone that “we are late” [insert Marta accent]. Then out of nowhere Steve Penny comes running yelling Marta’s name. Steve Penny running after Marta was probably the most comical moment of the day.
Day 2 – Saturday 5th October
View from my seat Day 2
Saturday started out slowly with a nice sleep in. I then left the hotel around lunch time to meet up with friends. Lunch consisted of Belgian fries again and then we were off to the arena. The arena was just as packed as the other day, but we figured we would do a lap just in case we got to meet someone that wasn’t Bruno Grandi. This time we ran into Al Fong, who was sporting some neon green sunglasses! Apparently he has a few international fans (or maybe they just liked his sunglasses); either way he was stopped for photographs a few times. After our Fong encounter we headed in to watch some more creepy zombies on parallel bars. This time my seats were in front of vault.
Looks like Marta finally found a seat (credit USAG/John Cheng)
Before the start of vault finals I glimpsed Marta’s hair out of the corner of my eye. She was descending the stairs towards the seats right in front of vault, but before she managed to get into her seat she was stopped by a volunteer. She showed the volunteer what appeared to look like a ticket, but it must not have been as she was directed away and towards the delegation seats on the second level. Marta doesn’t give up easily as she stood her ground for a good minute before she left.
McKayla and Simone having a chat during the medal ceremony
Vault finals went pretty much as expected, with Maroney claiming the title, and right after the event they had the medal ceremony. McKayla and Simone spent most of the time having a chat. Once that was finished the gymnasts were directed straight to the media/interview zone, which was right next to where I was sitting. Kohei Uchimura, probably bored of always getting the same flowers, ran towards vault, jumped onto the podium, and threw his flowers into the crowd. The rest of the male gymnasts joined him and once Simone realized what they were doing, she also jumped on and threw her flowers. McKayla looked less keen to depart from her flowers, but she still threw them. It’s a shame that none of them were former baseball players, as the flowers didn’t make it past the first few rows. Simone and her coach made their way back to the training gym to prepare for UB fianls, but were caught by the influx of pommel horse finalists. They had to shuffle their way out, backs to the wall. Meanwhile, McKayla did the most interviews I’ve seen any gymnasts do, by the time she was done with interviews pommel horse finals were about half way through!
Simone and Aimee trying to get out of the pommel horse crowd
The others finals went on and certain cheering could easily be distinguished. I could hear Beth cheering during the entirety of Max Whitlock’s pommel horse routine. I hope BBC turned her microphone off, because it was loud! Then during UB finals I could hear Aly cheering on Kyla and Simone.
Yao Jinnan signing autographs
The finals came to an end and we headed out of the arena. As it was light outside, the gymnasts were easier to spot. Right outside the arena were the Chinese gymnasts signing autographs. I got Shang Chunsong’s autograph and honestly from up close she didn’t seem as young as she does on screen. I thanked her in my rusty Chinese and she replied and then ran off to catch up with the rest of the team. We remained a bit longer outside to see if we could meet anyone else. Yao Jinnan came out and I was surprised by how willing she was to sign autographs and take pictures, considering that 30 minutes earlier she was crying. Honestly, all the Chinese girls were extremely nice and even though they understood no English they nodded and smiled all the time. The Americans then came out and seemed in a rush to leave again. I have to say that McKayla has a lot of fans even in Europe and they all went crazy when she came out. The coaches promptly moved her along, and surprisingly she seemed a little scared of all the attention. She grabbed onto Simone’s arm and they were all moved away. Al Fong seemed as chilled as ever, strolling out in his green sunglasses. Lastly, Aliya
USA delegation leaving arena, plus Al Fong’s neon green sunglasses (credit @whiptotriple)
Mustafina came out. Anna Rodionova ran to her and hugged her, but Aliya seemed more preoccupied with getting as far away as possible from all fans. Aliya could give Marta a run for her money in the evil glare department. Once she reached her coaches she dropped her bag and literally ran away before any fans got a chance to approach her. Aliya’s departure heralded our own as we got on the tram to return to the city centre.
Day 3 – Sunday 6th October
When I had originally booked my trip I thought I was flying out of Antwerp and therefore didn’t have enough time to watch Sunday’s event finals. A week before my departure I discovered that I was actually booked on a train not a plane. Then, on Saturday I did the math (Mustafina style) and realized that I had time to go watch event finals. So Sunday morning I packed my bags, did some touristy things, ate some Belgian waffles and then headed to the arena super early on a hunt for tickets. Online it had said they were sold out, but when I got there they had standing place tickets left. I bought one and soon realized why all the seats were sold out: pretty much all of Holland had come to support Epke Zonderland! I watched some of the warm-ups and the crowd went crazy when Epke came out. Pretty much every breath he took was followed by screams. To waste some time before the start of the competition, I walked around the different stalls and found one for International Gymnastics Camp with Oksana Chusovitina and Svetlana Boginskaya. It was amazing to get to meet these gymnastics legends!
View from my seat Day 3
In the end I sat next to my friend, as there was a free place. We sat on the second level next to the delegations. The Chinese girls were sitting near us and wearing normal clothes, it made them look so much older! I spent most the time watching each delegation’s reaction to their compatriots’ routines. The Korean gymnasts had two large flags and they went crazy when Seon Hak Yang went up on vault. Tatiana Nabieva (who I didn’t recognize straight away because her hair looked like it hadn’t been brushed since 1994) and the Russian MAG team sat down right next to the Chinese girls after beam finals. They had the most neutral reaction to Aliya being crowned BB World Champion, honestly I don’t think I saw them even smile.
Whoever picked the music to play during BB fianls needs a new day job. The music was depressing, though I guess it fit well with the strangest BB final I have ever seen. To fill in enquiries the coach would walk towards our side of the arena paper in hand. First came Aliya’s coach, then Simone’s, then Kyla’s. After Larisa’s routine, I saw Octavian Bellu walk towards that part of the arena and for a second I thought he would also fill an enquiry but instead he just stormed out.
Right before the start of parallel bars, I saw Marta running down the same set of stairs as Saturday. This time she made it to the front and sat in the first row. Guess she had actually booked tickets to sit there, even though as a delegation member she gets free access to all events. Parallel bars seemed to go on forever and coupled with beam finals being a mess, floor finals started with more than a 30 minute delay. I managed to watch Vanessa’s floor routine before having to leave to catch the train.
I am so glad that I decided to go to Worlds! It was so worth it, getting to meet gymnasts, watching the competition unfurl right in front of my eyes, and seeing what goes on behind the scenes. I also had never been to Belgium so it was nice to get to see a new country. I think a special mention needs to go out to the commentator who not only made us laugh with his mispronunciations of gymnast’s names, but also kept us entertained! During the MAG floor medal ceremony he told the men “smile you know you are on camera right” and then during parallel bars finals when Epke prepared to compete he told the girls to “get in line”. Honestly, I would get in any line that led to Epke! I hope you have enjoyed my recount of my experience from Worlds, I tried to remember all the little moments so that you could all get a feel of what its like to be at Worlds.
Hailing from powerhouse Elite gym WOGA, Briley Casanova had an impressive club career prior to joining Michigan as an NCAA gymnast last season. After becoming the level 10 regional all-around, vault, bars, and floor chamion, Briley successfully qualified to Junior International Elite in 2008. At U.S. Nationals that year, she placed 5th on beam and 12 in the all-around, earning a spot on the Junior National Team. In 2009, Briley finished 8th in the AA at VISA Championships and went on her first international assignment to the Junior Japan International competition, where she placed 3rd all-around. Casanova competed as a Senior International Elite in 2010 and 2011. She then returned to level 10 in 2012 in preparation for NCAA gymnastics, finishing 10th AA at the Nastia Liukin Cup and winning the vault title at J.O. Nationals.
Briley made the decision to graduate High School early and join the Michigan gymnastics team last spring for their 2013 season. She made an immediate impact, competing on vault throughout the season and working her way into the beam and floor lineups. She hopes to compete as an all-arounder this year and we can’t wait to watch her grow as an NCAA gymnast. Briley took the time to talk with us about her transition to Michigan, her Elite career, and her eclectic taste in music-
What has been the biggest adjustment for you from the Elite world to NCAA gymnastics? From Texas to Michigan?
Wow, that’s a very difficult question for me to answer! I guess out of everything so far that I’ve experienced, having the team atmosphere around me every day has been an adjustment. I had that with club too, but it’s a very different vibe in the gym everyday. With the number of girls in the gym being so small we’re definitely closer to each other. The whole team aspect and team environment has been a great adjustment and I’ve loved being part of it.
Obviously the weather is very different, but it honestly wasn’t that big of a difference because I expected so much worse-snow, wind, hail. We get that but it hasn’t been as bad as I was expecting. I think I brought some of the Texas heat with me! We’ve had a few warmer seasons than average so it hasn’t been too bad and not too big of an adjustment.
Why did you choose the University of Michigan?
Briley competing on beam for Michigan last year (via gymnastike.org)
Oh man there were a whole bunch of reasons that contributed. The coaches for sure. I loved Bev (Plocki) and the whole staff. At the time Shannon Welker was recruiting me and now we have Dave (Kuzara) too, which is a bonus to have another assistant coach. I actually liked the distance from Texas to Michigan, I’ve lived in Texas in the same house my whole life and wanted a new environment. I wanted a change and having a new place outside of the south. I love the south but wanted to expand my horizons. Also, the athletic environment is very prestigious here and I saw the investment that the school put into the program. The facilities and resources we have here are amazing.
What made you decide to graduate early and start with the team last year?
That wasn’t the original plan, actually. I was asked by the school, by Bev, to do that. I had a whole bunch of High School credits out of the way because I like to stay ahead of things so I was able to graduate early. I guess what really made me commit and go through with it was to experience college ahead of my 2013 peers and I felt ready to move on. The one thing that made me sad was one less season of gymnastics overall, but another season means more pounding and wear and tear. So for my health that’s one less year of doing that. Using the next 4 years in college, I want to use my time to have a successful career.
What are your individual and team goals for the upcoming year?
Team goals: #1 we want to win the NCAA National Championship! We unfortunately didn’t make the super 6 last year-we were one place behind-but we really, really want to make it to super 6. And having another solid performance overall, we were Big 10 season champions and that was a big improvement from previous years from what I’ve been told.
Individually, I want to compete in AA this year. I really want to get in the bar lineup. It’s a challenging event for me but I’m working hard to make the lineup. I’d like to hopefully get a few titles here and there and improve each meet.
How do you manage to balance training with being a student at the University of Michigan?
It’s difficult, but honestly I have so much academic support here. That’s another reason I picked this school-tutors, advisors, mentors for everyone. They help you so much, give you a schedule, plan what you want to accomplish each day. They help you organize yourself so when you have free time you can dedicate yourself to that free time and you can dedicate yourself to your studies. They keep you motivated. I could not do it on my own, I get a lot of help. As a team, we keep each other on top of things and do homework. My friends help me and we help each other because you can’t do it on your own.
Are there any changes to your routine or upgrades we can expect to see from you this year?
On floor, I’m working on a double layout. That’s my big goal to get on floor-I’ve done it in the past but in level 10 I didn’t compete it much. Also cleaning up my leaps-I changed my leap to switch-side wolf full so just cleaning that up is what I’ve been working on.
On bars, I don’t have any upgrades planned. We changed my dismount. Right now I’m doing giant-360-double back.
On beam, I changed my dismount to gainer pike off the end and it’s more clean and consistent (than the gainer full off the side). I added a side aerial as well.
On vault, for right now I’m still doing the yurchenko full, but I’m working on a yurchenko 1.5.
What was the highlight of your Elite career? Favorite place you traveled to?
Briley and Nastia at the 2012 Nastia Liukin Cup (via usagymnast.com)
I loved doing Elite so much so it’s really hard for me to pick! I think the Nastia Liukin Cup was one of my favorite experiences because it was at Madison Square Garden. It’s such a rare thing for people to get to do that . Having Nastia there and supporting everyone, I think that was just the coolest thing to have a fellow teammate with a meet named after her and be able to compete in it. And the U.S. National Championships in Dallas in 2009, hometown crowd. I think that’s when I felt my best so that was one of my favorite meets ever.
We went to Italy for a camp when I was younger and that was awesome. Oh and my coaches were French and her old gym had a meet, so me and Sophia Lee competed at the Massilla Gym Cup in France. That was really cool too. When I was younger, we also went to switzerland for a camp and that was really fun as well. Oh, and I’m also forgetting Japan in 2009. That was one of my best Elite meets ever.
Can you tell us a bit about Spring Creek Academy? What advantages did going to a specialized school like that give you in terms of your training and for life in general?
Well the classes are significantly smaller. The limit is 8 so you get to do a lot more hands on things like labs and outdoor activities compared to regular high school…well, actually I don’t really know what regular high school is like! You got a lot of individual attention, you could shout of answers whenever you wanted to and had a lot of involvement with the teachers. There was less room for distraction and we all had an activity we did more than 15 hours a week so we were serious in class.
With all the great gymnasts that come out of WOGA, is there anyone at your gym that you particularly admired or were inspired by?
Oh my gosh that’s hard! I honestly just can’t think of just one. I was just so lucky, beyond what many other people get to experience. Obviously, I think the people I got to know the best were Nastia Liukin and Rebecca Bross. Katelyn Ohashi inspired me, I don’t care how old she is she inspired me every day. Carly Patterson, Hollie Vise…I feel bad I know I’m forgetting some! WOGA was a team even though we had individuals that shined. There are so many people to choose from.
Are there any skills that you have always wanted to learn and/or put into your routines?
A harder dismount on bars-double double or double layout. Or a ginger full, not a lot of people can do it. I used to try it when I was little playing around and I’d really love to do that one day in another life.
If I could do a double double on floor that would make my life. Anything super cool or difficult would be super awesome.
What’s your major/what do you want to be when you grow up?
I’m an undecided major currently. I’ve had so many things run through my head so I’m not sure yet. One thing I didn’t know about myself is I took an anthropology class this summer and really loved it. I would maybe, eventually focus in anthropology. There are lots of different specialties within anthropology too. Also, I had this crazy dream since I was 8 years old that I wanted to be a forensic pathologist or something in that area. Or something in pharmaceutical sales if I wanted to go the business route.
If you could be in any TV show or movie, what would it be and why?
Oh man, cool. I’d have to pick Dallas-the new one. I haven’t seen any of the old ones but if I could just guest star on that show that would be epic. I’m not sure which character I would be.
What’s an interesting fact about you or something fans would be surprised to learn?
Well, I feel really boring because I can’t think of anything off the top of my head! Maybe the type of music I listen to. Pretty much anything-dubstep and I love crazy, loud rock and pop music, country, clubby funky dance music. Indie bands too, Lady Gaga. I have such a wierd range of music and love Hawaiian music too. My mom grew up in Hawaii and went to school there when she was a kid, so she would play Hawaiian tapes in the car on the way to practice. I think it’s really cool to listen to.
Also, I’m really into social media-facebook, twitter. I love that stuff.
2010 U.S. Nationals (via gymnastike.org)
Favorite Food- Anything sweet! With sugar or chocolate or any dessert item.
Favorite Book- The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. That book changed my life-it helped me open my eyes and mind, it’s a whole self-awareness thing and helps you become more positive and open to life. It improved my life and changed my views on how to get through hard times and enjoy good times. I recommend that everyone reads it, it’s basically the secret to life.
Favorite Musician/Band- Black Keys, Maroon 5, The Beatles, Beach Boys
Super Power you wish you had- Gymnastics gets you close enough to flying so I’d like to try something else. I’d love to have the superpower to be a professional choreographer and I’d like to know what it feels like to be a super awesome dancer.
Favorite skill to perform- Since I got the new gainer pike off beam that’s my favorite right now.
Dream travel destination- I’ve had the fortune to go to many cool places, but maybe Iceland. It looks really cool with all the natural springs and stuff.
Favorite gymnast- I think Mary Lou Retton, she was the first American to win the Olympics and set the bar for everyone.
How your teammates would describe you- I’m actually quiet most of the time, I’m not the most outgoing person at first. They would describe me as really serious, normally I don’t talk during practice much and am very serious and passionate about what I do. I’m very dedicated, I would hope that they’d think I’m dedicated. Serious, quiet, but very happy. I smile and laugh a lot.
How your coaches would describe you- I definitely get down on myself easily. I’m very self-critical and critical of how I perform. I don’t think I’m negative, but I get wound up in my own thoughts. I think too much maybe! I guess I get in my own way sometimes.
World Championships Medal Podium Preview: Part 1 – The All-Around
Article: Elisa Emanuelli
Edited by Jackie Congress
The best time of the year is upon us (no, not Christmas)- it’s World Championship time!! Podium training has started and we are close to the start of the biggest gymnastics competition of the year. Gymnasts have travelled all over the world to try and claim medals in the all-around, vault, uneven bars, beam and floor exercise. As this is the year after the Olympics, there is no team competition and each country can bring a maximum of four gymnasts with only three competing per event in qualifications. This is a great time to see new faces make a name for themselves on the world stage and to see the return of veterans.
At the end of Friday, October 4th there will be a new all-around champion crowned, as reigning world champion Jordyn Wieber is not competing this year. Who is going to win the most coveted of prices, the all-around gold? Here is a brief look at the gymnasts with the greatest probability of reaching the all-around podium:
There is no doubt that Mustafina is one of the front-runners for reaching the top spot on the podium. She has had a highly successful year, beating Larisa Iordache at the European Championships and also winning the AA at the World University Games, Russian Cup, and Stella Zakharova Cup. The latest news from the Russian Camp is that she is feeling unwell, but I don’t think that this should hold her back much. She also has some upgrades on uneven bars and a new floor routine.
Uneven Bars Upgrade:
Newly crowned US National Champion Simone Biles will be a certain challenger for gold; if she doesn’t let the international stage and nerves affect her, that is. We saw this happen at Classics where she fell on all events and ended up not competing vault, but she definitely proved she could hit when it counts at National Championships. She finished with a 60.500, the current highest AA score this year along with Kyla Ross’ 60.500 on day 2 of US Nationals. In terms of difficulty, she currently has the highest scoring potential and it might be even higher if she adds in upgrades.
Iordache was Mustafina’s biggest rival at this year’s European Championships, but her low scores on uneven bars held her back from winning gold. It might be the same problem that holds her back at Worlds if everyone else hits. Also, she was taken out of a friendly meet in the Netherlands a few weeks ago because of an undisclosed injury. However, this injury didn’t seem to hold her back at Romanian nationals where she won the all-around. With a great meet, she could be a surprise contender for the AA gold.
Video of Iordache at Romanian Nationals:
Larisa training on BB at Worlds:
While Biles has the difficulty, Ross has the execution. At the US Nationals, difficultly prevailed with Ross coming in second, but Kyla did win day 2 over Biles by over half a point so anything could happen. She has no planed upgrades for Worlds so for her to win she has to be flawless or others have to make mistakes. She has plenty of international experience and is a consistent competitor, which will definitely be an asset in Antwerp.
Kyla training UB at Worlds:
Jinnan is the only gymnasts from the 2011 Worlds AA podium to be competing at these Worlds. In 2011 she finished in third, but this year she will definitely be looking to improve on that result after a disappointing 2012. Jinnan won the all-around at Chinese Nationals this year and then tied for 1st at the Chinese National Games with a 57.801. She has some unique moves, especially the mo salto on uneven bars!! She unveiled the skill at a recent competition, but fell, it will be interesting to see if she decides to keep it in for the all-around.
Another strong competitor from China is Shang Chunsong. She finished behind Yao Jinnan at the Chinese National Championships and then tied with Jinnan at the Chinese National Games, finishing with a 57.801. She has competed consistently throughout 2013, also participating in the Tokyo and Anadia World Cups. Her strong performances on beam and uneven bars could propel her to a great all-around score at this year’s World Championships.
The only competitor making my list outside of the “Big Four” is Swiss gymnast Giulia Steingruber. She proved her all-around potential at European Championships, finishing in fourth, but since then has made various upgrades. She dominated Swiss Nationals, winning the all-around with a massive 59.400! Sure her score is probably inflated (as are all scores from national meets), but she has a high scoring potential and I think she has a good chance of finishing in the top eight.
As is the case with all gymnastics competitions, anything can happen. While it is unlikely that a gymnast from outside the big four will win this year’s all-around, the year after the Olympics is probably the one with the highest chance. Lets hope for an exciting, injury free competition next Friday!
Hollie Vise accomplished a great deal throughout her elite and collegiate gymnastics careers. Many fans remember her for her impressive flexibility and long lines that allowed her to perform unique and exciting skills, especially on bars and beam. In 2003, she was part of the World Championship team that brought home the gold medal during the team final. After narrowly missing out on being named to the 2004 Olympic team, Vise took a break from the sport before beginning her gymnastics career at the University of Oklahoma. There, she helped the team qualify to its first Super Six final, ultimately finishing in second place in 2010. Vise was recently named as an assistant coach for Arizona State University and will be helping the team with beam and floor this upcoming season. She took the time to answer some of our questions about her career as a Sooner, her days as an elite, and her thoughts on the televised 2004 Olympic team selection-
What was your favorite moment during your gymnastics career?
There are two moments that really stick out in my mind. The first one was becoming a World Champion in 2003. The other one was during my senior year of college when Oklahoma qualified for the Super Six for the first time in history and we finished second place. There is something special about achieving something that had never been done with a team that you feel like is your family. It was the most unbelievable feeling.
What would you most like to be remembered for as a gymnast?
Well, I know what I am most remembered for and that is my flexibility. I am naturally very flexible so that allowed me to do some unique poses and choreography but I really just hope that people enjoyed watching my gymnastics. I liked performing for the crowd and I hope I was able to leave a lasting impression on the people that watched me in the past and inspire young gymnasts to continue in the sport.
In 2000, the Olympic team selection process and announcement became televised. What are your thoughts on that process having been in that position in 2004?
In 2000 if I remember correctly, they announced the team on television but they only had the people out there that had made the team so the girls already knew. 2004 was the first and only year that they had everyone on the floor while television was taping live. So, we found out at the exact moment that everyone in the world found out. I think it was probably exciting for the viewers to see the reactions of all of the gymnasts but it was really hard on the people that did not make the team, including myself. The television crews did not only focus on the girls that made the team, which in this case probably would have been better. I remember the camera being right in my face after they finished announcing the team. I was walking away trying to get away and they kept following me. Just another example of how the media likes to focus on negativity. I think a lot of people realized after that announcement that it was not in the athletes best interest to do it that way and it hasn’t been done again. I guess our generation was the Ginny Pig. Haha, that’s okay though. I’m glad it was me instead of someone else. I wouldn’t want anyone else to have that experience.
What was the hardest thing for you in the few months after learning you weren’t named to the Olympic team?
The hardest thing was finding the motivation to get back in the gym. I had been invited to go compete internationally but at that point I felt I had done that a million times and that the one thing I had been working towards was out of the picture now so I felt a little lost. I didn’t know why I would spend seven hours in the gym everyday anymore. It was also difficult watching my teammate and coach on television at the Olympics. I was so happy for them, especially after the success they had at the Olympics but it had always been the three of us at almost every competition together so it was difficult watching them from a watching party where camera crews were in my face watching my every move and emotion.
After the 2004 season, you took a lot of time away from the sport. Can you tell us about that time and about what made you want to return to the gym?
I did, I took close to 2 years off. I don’t think I even wanted to return to the sport if I remember correctly but I felt that I had to. My parents had invested a lot of time and money into my gymnastics and I felt that I owed them to get a college scholarship. If I would have told them I did not want to go that route, they would have supported me but I just felt like I needed to try. I didn’t know too much about college gymnastics growing up so I didn’t understand how exciting and fun it would be. I ended up signing with the University of Oklahoma and the rest is history. I am so happy that I decided to return to gymnastics. College gymnastics made me love the sport again and has lead me down a path that I am so thankful for.
After your break, how were you able to find the motivation to build yourself back up to be able to compete at the high level required for NCAA gymnastics?
It was probably the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I spent a lot of time on the treadmill!!! I think to come back to a sport when you have been out for that long and you’re out of shape and everything is different, you have to be mentally strong and prepared to be patient. It was a long process getting back in shape to the level I needed to be at.
How did you decide on OU for college? What was it like to watch the team grow into NCAA contenders during your time there?
When I was choosing a school, I knew I wanted to go somewhere that was not one of the top 5 schools. I wanted to go somewhere that had potential to grow and achieve things that they had never done. I had it in my mind that I wanted to be a part of making history and making a difference in a program. That sounds silly, that I would think that way when I hadn’t done gymnastics in a couple years when arriving at Oklahoma but I guess maybe I thought getting back in shape would be easier and faster than it was in reality. By my senior year, I was in the best shape I had been in since 2004. I felt great and I was competing 3 events consistently and training vault as well. That is the year that OU made a huge leap to finishing 2nd place at NCAA’s and the first time they had ever qualified to Super Six. I don’t give myself credit for that. It was a team effort between our coaches, staff, and the girls on the team. I am just happy I was able to be a part of the journey. It was the most rewarding moment in my career.
In what ways did your experience as an elite differ from competing for the University of Oklahoma? Did competing in college change your perspective on the sport at all?
Competing as an elite gymnast was a way of life for me. I altered every aspect of how I lived to be the best gymnast possible. I home schooled starting in 4th grade, I ate different meals than the rest of my family, I gave up the late nights with my friends, etc. As an elite competitor, you learn to be very serious and just do what you are told. College gymnastics is a lot more laid back, fun, and team related. You can joke around more, have more of a personality when you perform and really come into your own. When I went to college I felt like I finally had a normal life. I was back at school where I could interact with other students and I was able to have a normal social life so I really enjoyed that. I loved my elite career and my collegiate career. I have so many amazing memories in both. I wouldn’t trade either experience for the World.
What was the Pro Gymnastics Challenge like for you? Do you see yourself doing any more professional gymnastics in the future?
The year I did it was the first year it had been done and it was actually called Evolution but it was the same concept. It was amazing, such a great experience. It was a little hard on me because I had been done with gymnastics for a year leading into the competition but I think it is a great opportunity for gymnasts to continue doing the sport they love and make a career out of it. I think it will continue to grow and be successful in the future.
Congratulations on your new position as assistant coach at ASU! Did you always want to get into coaching?
Thank you! I am so excited to be a Sun Devil! When I was in high school I remember thinking I would never be a coach. I wanted to get into a completely different field and have new experiences. Then after being a part of a collegiate team, my mindset completely changed. I decided my ultimate goal was to coach college gymnastics. I had such a great experience and I want to help other student athletes have that as well.
Can you tell us a bit about your coaching role for the year and what your specific coaching interests are?
Maggie Ethier and I will mostly have control over beam and floor. We will work together coaching those events and doing choreography. However, our staff is very open minded and we will all have inputs and suggestions on all events.
What are your goals for the future?
My goals for the team this year is an average team GPA of 3.25, place in the top 3 at Pac 12′s and to qualify for the NCAA Championships. I think all of these things are very possible! Thinking ahead, I hope I have the opportunity to be at ASU for a long time. I am really loving it here. Once I get some experience under my belt, my goal is to be a division 1 head coach.
Where would you like to go in a time machine?
I would like to take a time machine to 1999 to the back gym of WOGA and listen to Smokey with Evgeny and my teammates and have a 4 hour bar workout… Sounds crazy but those were the good days! Lots of good memories made there!
Super Power you wish you had- I wish I could fly!
Favorite skill to perform- Everything on bars
How your coaches would have described you- Laid back and passionate
How the gymnasts you coach would describe you- Tough and picky!
13-year-old Jazmyn Foberg is definitely one to watch out for. She got her start at her hometown gym, Precision Gymnastics, and is currently competing for MG Elite, home to fellow junior elites Ari Agrapides and Laurie Hernandez. Though she barely missed out on this year’s U.S. Championships, she still accomplished quite a bit during the 2013 season. Jazmyn qualified as a junior international elite at the Parkette Qualifier, then competed at the Secret U.S. Classic, where she finished in 11th place on bars and earned a solid 51.0 All-Around total. As a 2000 baby, she is eligable for Rio, but for now Jazmyn is focusing on her goal of making the National Team. With an abundance of talent, personality, and drive, we think she has what it takes to make her dreams come true. Jazmyn took the time to talk with us (our first ever interview via text ) about her gymnastics, future plans, and which movie she knows by heart-
How did you first get started in gymnastics?
Well I first started in mommy and me classes, then I got put onto preteam at a gym by me. I started level four and I just went up the levels from there! I used to hang on stuff and jump around all of the time, so they (my parents) thought I should try out gymnastics!
When did you first know you wanted to compete at a high level?
I always really wanted to when I was really little because I would watch Shawn Johnson!
What are your goals in the sport?
I want to be on the National Team and go on assignments.
What’s it been like training at MG Elite so far? Do you like having other junior elites to train with (Laurie Hernandez and Ari Agrapides)?
It’s been a lot of hard work but I love it there!!!!!!! And it’s awesome to train with them! They are my bestfriends and are so nice
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced, either in or outside of gymnastics?
Probably flexibility!!! I’ve been stretching a lot and making sure I’m stretching the right way and the right spots!
You just missed out on this year’s Nationals. Has that experience motivated you at all going forward?
Yes! It’s motivated me a lot, I want to be in the gym and working hard so that I can make it to Nationals and achieve my goals!
Do you have any pre-meet/meet-day rituals?
I have this little toy that Laurie gave me and Ari, so I carry that in my bag and a couple little good luck stuffed animals!
What’s a typical day like for you? What do you like to do outside of the gym?
Ari, Jazmyn, and Laurie (via gymnasticscoaching.com)
Ok so I wake up at 7 in the morning, get ready for gym, and then I go to our meeting spot where we carpool with Ariana and Gabi! We drive to gym then workout and do school. Then, we drive home, I eat dinner, shower, spend some time with my family, and finally go to sleep!
I like to hangout with my friends, play with my dog and family! Go swimming, ride my bike, and relax!!!!
Have you gotten starstruck by any gymnasts you’ve had a chance to meet so far? What did they say to you?
Well when Laurie was at camp she put McKayla and Kyla on FaceTime with me so that was like crazy!!! They were like “Hi how are you” “nice talking to you” “good luck” and stuff like that!
Have you been to camp yet? If so, what surprised you about the experience?
No I’ve only been there for the American Classic!
Well just seeing the animals and it wasn’t really what I expected! I thought it was gonna be this big fancy place!!! It’s big and really nice but like it’s a farm and you see the woods and animals!
Any thoughts on if you’d like to do NCAA gymnastics? If so, do you have a dream school?
Well I always liked UCLA since I was little but I also like Florida and some others! I don’t really have an exact one I want to go to yet!
In just 5 years, you went from being a level 5 gymnast to an international elite. What’s that journey been like for you?
It was tough but a bunch of fun! It took a lot of hard work and dedication and it was a great experience!
What’s an interesting fact about you or something fans would be surprised to learn?
Umm haha I can cross my eyes then look straight out of one eye!
What 3 items would you take to a desert island besides food and water?
My phone, my family, and my friends
If you could guest star on any TV show or movie, what would it be and why?
Probably stick it, because I love that movie so much and basically know every line to it!!
Favorite Food- Strawberries
Favorite Book- The Shawn Johnson book!
Favorite Musician/Band- Bon jovi!!
Dream Job- Marine biologist!! Or gymnastics coach!!
Super Power you wish you had- To fly
Favorite skill to perform- Pak or geinger!
Skill you’d most like to learn- Double double!
Dream travel destination- Bora Bora, Tahiti
Favorite gymnast- Shawn Johnson and Jordyn Wieber
How your teammates would describe you- Funny, crazy, good friend!
How your coaches would describe you- I think fun, smart, and nice.
The largest international meet of the year is nearly upon us and in just a few days (September 3rd) every country will officially announce which gymnasts it will be sending to World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium. Before that fateful date is upon us I figured I would have a look at who each country might be brining; last week I began by having a look at European countries (link) http://www.gymnewstics.com/2013/08/25/worlds-speculation-european-edition/
Now I will turn my attention to the rest of the world.
The Brazil World team will be Jade Barbosa, Daniele Hypolito, and Leticia Costa. Despite reportedly tearing a ligament in her ankle earlier this summer, World vault bronze medalist Jade Barbosa is headed to Antwerp. Four-time Olympian Daniele Hypolito and Leticia Costa both participated in the Pan American Apparatus Championships. Hypolito finished first on floor and Costa second on vault. Hypolito’s extensive world experience, plus continued success, are some reasons why we will see her at Worlds. Costa also came third in the all-around at Brazilian nationals and will likely be doing the AA. Also to note is Alexander Alexandrov’s move to coach the Brazilian national team. While we probably won’t see the effect of his coaching at these Worlds, it’s still something to keep an eye on as we look to the future of Brazilian gymnastics.
Here is a recent video of Alexandrov training the Brazilian national team in their ‘gym’ (a senior fitness center):
The World team from Canada is: Kaitlyn Hofland, Victoria Moors, Ellie Black, and Maegan Chant. Both Hofland and Moors recently medaled at the Pan American Apparatus Championships, Hofland winning gold on uneven bars and Moors silver on floor with her double twisting double layout which could be named after her if she performs it at worlds. Meanwhile, Ellie Black attended the World University Games where she tied for silver on floor and won a bronze medal on balance beam. She is also the reigning Canadian all-around champion. Meagan Chant could also be a valuable player in the all-around, as she finished third at Canadian nationals for AA and on vault. Unfortunately, amazing Canadian gymnast Gabriella Douglas was forced to withdraw from world selection due to an injury.
Here’s Ellie on floor at the 2013 World University Games-
China – CONFIRMED
China has already named the gymnasts it will take to Worlds: Yao Jinnan, Shang Chunsong, Zeng Siqi, and Huang Huidan. Jinnan won the all-around at Chinese nationals followed by Chunsong. Chunson came first on balance beam and on floor. While Huidan beat retiring superstar He Kexin for the uneven bars title.
Japan – CONFIRMED
After winning the all-around at the NHK Cup Asuka Teramoto had already won her spot on the Worlds team. Teammates Natsumi Sasada, Yu Minobe and Mai Murakami gained their spots at Japanese Gymnastics Championships. Murakami won vault, Sasada won uneven bars, and Minobe won balance beam.
Korea – CONFIRMED
Korean world trials were won by Sung Ji Hye, winning herself a spot onto the team. Kim Juran and Park Jisoo also qualified for Worlds.
My top picks for who might be sent to Worlds to represent Mexico are: Elsa Garcia, Ana Lago, Alexa Moreno, and Karla Torres. Elsa Garcia has extensive international experience and tied for second on floor at the World University Games. In June, Ana Lago won the AA at Mexican nationals, finishing first on vault, beam, and floor. Alexa Moreno is a World vault finalist and at Mexican Nationals she won the vault title and came second on the AA, uneven bars, and beam. Karla Torres came third in the all-around and in event finals won the uneven bars and beam titles and finished second on floor.
Here’s Ana Lago on Floor at Mexican Nationals-
The conclusion of the P&G Championships has made three gymnasts pretty much locks for the World team: AA winner Simone Biles, Kyla Ross, who was 2nd AA and won BB and UB, and finally McKayla Maroney, vault and floor champion. In September the following gymnasts are invited to the World selection camp: Biles, Maroney, Price, Nichols, Millet, Skinner, Ross, Desch, Dowell, Ernst and Baker. I could see Marta taking only 3 gymnasts if Maroney proves herself to be ready on bars and beam, but otherwise the final spot is still up for grabs. Priessman and Kocian were likely candidates prior to their untimely injuries. Personally, I’d like to see Price, Dowell, or Nichols earn the final spot, but we’ll find out soon what plans Marta has for team USA at Worlds.
Here’s McKayla on VT and Kyla on UB at the P&G Championships-
That brings to a conclusion my Worlds speculation. On Septmber 3rd we will find out from the final countries who we might be seeing. Keep in mind that countries are allowed to change the gymnasts they bring up until the last minute. So while this will be an official list, some initially selected gymnasts might not actually compete in Antwerp. As we get closer to Worlds, and the list of gymnasts becomes more definitive, we will begin speculation on who could medal in the all around and event finals.
The P&G Championship have come to an end and many gym fans have been busy trying to predict who Marta will be selecting for Worlds. While speculation continues, I figured we might as well have a look at the rest of the world and who they will be sending to Worlds, starting with Europe. This years World’s Championships will be held in Antwerp, Belgium. As it is the year after the Olympics there will not be a team competition and each country can send a maximum of four gymnasts. There is a three gymnast per event rule this year, which means that in qualifications only three gymnasts per country can compete on a give apparatus. If a country choses to have three gymnasts do the AA in qualifications then they would take only three gymnasts, the fourth would have to be an alternate. Some countries have already chosen a team for World’s, while others are currently holding trials. For those few countries that have already picked their World’s team I will right confirmed next to it, while the rest will be pure speculation based on news coming out of training camps and/or past competitions.
Larisa Iordache (via inthegym.wikia.com)
Romania is sending only three athletes to World’s this year. Those three gymnasts would have been Larisa Iordache, Diana Bulimar and Sandra Izbasa. Later this month the three of them were set to compete in a friendly meet in Holland. However, recent news from Romania has it that Iordache is “undergoing treatment” and will not be at the Holland meet. Thus far, we do not know what Iordache is undergoing treatment for and whether this will take her out of Worlds. If she is unable to attend Worlds then Romania would send only Bulimar and Izbasa.
Russia is probably the only county that can rival the USA in speculation of its World’s team. Based on the results from European Championships and the World University games, Aliya Mustafina and Ksenia Afanasyeva have already won their places to Worlds. This leaves two spots up for grabs. A week ago one of those spots would have definitely gone to Viktoria Komova, but she became ill right before the Russian Cup and was only dismissed from the hospital yesterday. According to news sources, she wont resume training until the 26th. Will she be in shape for Worlds? I guess only time will tell, or Russia’s favourite gossiper Valentina Rodionenko will!
In either case at least one spot is still open and the Russian Cup was the decisive meet. At the Russian Cup Tatiana Nabieva won the AA and also finished first on vault, uneven bars and beam. According to an interview with Rodionenko, Nabieva has officially won a spot on the worlds team. Anastasia Grishina who was also supposed to be competing at the Russian Cup dropped out last minute because of a back injury and will not be taken to Antwerp. In the same interview Rodionenko said that one spot is still open and it will be decided last minute who will take it. My guess is that they are waiting to see if Komova will be ready, if not they will take Maria Paseka.
To see Nabieva and Paseka in action at the Russian Cup:
A couple of weeks ago, the first set of World trials occurred. Rebecca Tunney won the AA both days, followed by Ruby Harrold and Raer Theaker. Hannah Whelan won floor on both days and Becky Downie scored a 14.6 on beam. A second set of World trials occurred a couple of days ago, but results have yet to be released. Based on results from the first set of World trials and the results from European Championships I would wager that Ruby Harrold and Rebecca Tunney will be sent to Worlds as all-arounders. With experience in her favor, Hannah Whelan has a good chance of being selected to try and make a floor final. Mid-September, many countries are sending gymnasts to the Osijek World Challenge Cup and GB will be sending Downie and Tunney. I think that if Downie performs well on UB and BB then she will be selected for Worlds and the team will consist of Harrold, Tunney, Downie and Whelan; but both Charlie Fellows and Raer Theaker still have time to make a case for themselves.
From the 12-17 of August fifteen gymnasts were invited to Brescia for a Worlds training camp.
Then, mid-September most of these gymnasts will take part in a friendly meet with Germany in Vigevano. So who can we expect to see in Antwerp? Olympians Erika Fasana and Giorgia Campana are both injured and will not be ready for Worlds. Vanessa Ferrari has had a hard year with an injury during the Jesolo meet, but she will very probably be in Antwerp looking to make the AA final and maybe beam and floor finals as well. The other AA’er will probably be Elisa Meneghini. While she had good results at the European Championships, Italian nationals were a mess, but I still think we will be seeing her in Antwerp. Fan favourites and Olympians Carlotta Ferlito and Elisabetta Preziosa are also in the mix. Ferlito had to take some time off early this summer to study for exams, while Preziosa has had some knee problems and wasn’t chosen for European Championships. Both gymnasts are beam specialists and Meneghini and Ferrari are also great on beam, so it wouldn’t be in Italy’s best interest to send four beam specialists. The problem is that Italy doesn’t have many world caliber gymnasts, so will it opt to take four beam specialists with World and Olympic experience in the hope that at least one makes beam finals or do they take someone else?
This summer, six senior members of the German national team travelled to Boston for a training camp at Brestyan’s. While there Lisa Hill injured her ankle and will not be recovered in time for Worlds. Other gymnasts also at the camp were: Cagla Akyol, Janine Berger, Elisabeth Seitz, Pauline Shepherd, and Sophie Scheder. Though not at the training camp another gymnast with potential to be at Worlds is Olympian Kim Bui. She has been busy this summer winning bronze in the AA at the World University Games and making every final at the Anadia World Challenge Cup. Seitz took a break from competition earlier this year to focus on studying, but I think she also has an excellent shot of making World’s. I would say the contenders right now for the four Worlds spots are: Akyol, Scheder, Bui, Berger, and Seitz.
Trials are currently being held to decide which four gymnasts will represent France at Worlds. European and World medalist Youna Dufournet will not be at worlds, nor will Olympian Anne Kuhm. Gymnasts who are definitely in the running are Mira Boumejmajen, Valentine Sebatou, and Maelys Plessis. France is sending those three gymnasts plus Johanna Cano to the Osijek World Challenge Cup.
Sweden is taking two gymnasts to World’s and my money is on Jonna Adlerteg and Ida Gustafsson. Both gymnasts made UB finals at European Championships and Adlerteg won the silver medal, while Gustafsson finished 6th. Also, both these gymnasts have been selected to represent Sweden at the Osijek World Challenge Cup.
Noel Van Klaveren (via www.gymfan.de)
The Netherlands is taking four gymnasts to Worlds. European vault silver medalist Noel van Klaveren will definitely be one of those gymnasts. The Netherlands is also sending gymnasts to the Osijek World Challenge Cup: Klaveren, Wyomi Masela, Chantysha Netteb, and Vera van Pol. Could these four gymnasts also be sent to Worlds? Last week, the MAG dutch gymnasts were chosen, so we will probably have an answer to this question very soon.
Ireland – CONFIRMED
As of last week the Irish WAG team for World’s has been announced and will consist of: Emma Lunn, Nicole Mawhinney and India McPeak.
In the next installment I will speculate who will be going to World Championships from the rest of the World. Many Asian countries have already announced their team. Once all the gymnasts are announced for each country speculation can begin on who will win which medal! Meanwhile here is the official list of how many gymnasts each country will be taking to worlds and also the list of gymnasts partaking in the Osijek World Challenge Cup from 13-15 September.
Annia Hatch is best known as a 2004 Olympian for the U.S.A., but she had quite the circuitous route to get to that point. Born in Cuba, she began her gymnastics career there and won the Cuban National Championships seven times. In 1996, Hatch became the first Cuban gymnast to win a medal at the World Championships, earning a bronze on vault (a performance that many felt actually should have received gold). She qualified as an individual to the 1996 Olympics, but sadly was unable to attend due to lack of funding from the Cuban government. It was at that point she retired, moved the United States, and began coaching in Connecticut.
She resumed training again in 2001 and quickly moved up in the U.S. ranks, earning a berth to the National Championships in 2002 where she placed first on vault. Annia was unable to attend Worlds that year, as Cuba would not give permission for her to compete for the United States. This prompted petitions from the Connecticut Congresswoman and former president Jimmy Carter, eventually working to get her released from Cuba. In 2003, Hatch was named to the U.S. World Championships team, but tore her ACL the day before competition and had to withdraw. With under a year to go before the Olympics, she came back in impressive fashion and was named to the 2004 USA Olympic team. She won two silvers in Athens-one for the team and one for vault. Currently, Annia coaches for G Force Gymnastics. She took the time to tell us about her competing in Cuba vs the US, coaching, and which gymnast she is most excited to watch currently-
You’re known for your power. Did the power events always come easily to you?
Yes, power events came easier for me. And I thank God for it!!!
Can you describe the 1996 World Championships to us? How did you feel about your 3rd place finish on vault at the time and do you feel any differently looking back on the experience?
1996 World Championship was a great experience and a great meet. At the time, I was very happy to medal a worlds medal. It was the first time for Cuba to medal at a World Championship. And I was also very happy with my performance. It would have been even better if they judges gave me the first place on Vault that everybody thought I deserved but overall it was a great experience.
You took a significant break in training from 1997-2001. What made you decide to resume gymnastics again?
What made me come back was my dream and a belief that I could have another chance to make my Olympic dream again.
You suffered a major disappointment in 1996 when Cuba didn’t have the funds to send you to the Olympics. What was that experience like for you and how did you find the strength to move past it?
At the time it was very difficult for me to understand but I just focused on my last performance and my bronze on Vault at Worlds and that kept me going.
Can you tell us about the process of trying to get released from Cuba to be able to compete for the United States? How did Jimmy Carter get involved with trying to help you?
The process was long and very scary. I didn’t know if the USOC was going to pass it or not. They asked me to show all my proof. I showed that Cuba retired me 5 years before on national TV and also showed an award they gave me and the video tape of the event. After I showed all that USOC gave me the right to compete. I can’t remember exactly what Jimmy Carter did. I just remember he was going to Cuba and the Congress lady from CT asked him to help.
How did you find the drive to come back from your ACL tear suffered at the 2003 World Championships? Was it hard to be ready in time for the Olympics?
It was very hard to come back with just having 10 months before the Olympics but I was so focused on my knee and I knew I needed to recuperate well to be able to do gymnastics again that the Olympics became second thoughts. I did a plan to get back by the National championship and the Olympics stayed as a dream. After I made the goal to make it to Nationals then I looked to my dream as a possible goal.
Do you currently follow gymnastics? If so, what elite gymnasts stand out to you today?
Yes I still fallow gymnastics very closely. I was very excited to hear that Mckayla is back. I will see them all at Nationals.
What were the differences between competing for Cuba and competing in the US?
It was very different. For Cuba it was just a job and for the US I was able to dream and have a future. And my dream came through!!!. It was a awesome experience to be able to compete for the US.
Did you always know you wanted to coach once you were done competing?
I didn’t know I wanted to coach after I retired. But I found out that the satisfaction of giving back was priceless and that I had a lot to give back in the sport I love. Now I can’t live without coaching.
What are you like as a coach? Is there any coach that you had in the past who you try to emulate?
My coach from Cuba always told me that basics was the foundation of the sport and what keeps you safe. I always remember that and now I focus on basics a lot with my gymnasts.
You studied fashion once you were finished competing. Are you still involved in fashion at all?
I still have goals for fashion but at the moment I have them on pause. I am focusing on a new gym I’m part of call G Force gymnastics with a great team and great coworkers.
Do you have any advice for current gymnasts?
The advice I have for gymnasts is to follow their dreams and believe in second chances.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I love to spend time with my family, go shopping for accessories and go to the movies.
Favorite Food- Sweet plantain
Favorite Musician/Band- Marc Anthony
Favorite Movie- Superman
Super Power you wish you had- Fly
Favorite Skill- Double layout on floor
Dream Travel Destination- Venice, Italy
Word your teammates would have used to describe you- Very focused
Word your coach would have used to describe you- Determined
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, Annia! Best of luck in coaching and in all your future endeavors.
From comebacks to up-and-comers to an AA showdown, I thoroughly enjoyed watching this year’s U.S. Championships. With the current senior talent and loads of juniors waiting in the reigns, I think we can expect an exciting quad leading up to Rio. Here, I’ve selected my favorite routines from each of the 13 seniors who competed this weekend (plus a few more). What were your top routines from this year’s Championships?
13. Ariana Guerra‘s day 2 BB: Ariana was one of 6 talented Texas Dreams gymnasts competing at this year’s Nationals. She had to scratch her last two events (FX and VT) on day 2 due to an injury during warm-ups, but earned a career-best 14.4 on this beam routine. I especially like the front pike-
12. Madison Desch‘s day 2 FX: Just missing out on the National Team after some trouble on UB and BB, Madison still made her mark on the Championships. This floor routine has a great combination of powerful tumbling with nice leaps and jumps-
11. Erin Macadaeg‘s day 2 BB: I enjoyed this routine from Erin a lot. She looked confident and composed, with nice form that makes even a simple side arial pleasant to watch-
10. Abigail Milliet‘s day 1 BB: One of the most interesting beam routines of the competition, Abigail showed off her unique combinations and beautiful lines. That switch side-back layout combo is exquisite! I’m bummed she didn’t make the National Team, but with a bit more practice and confidence I can see Milliet as a top gymnast for the U.S. over the next few years-
9. Kennedy Baker‘s day 2 FX: Kennedy didn’t have her best meet, but this routine was dynamite. Such a wide variety of tumbling done with ease. Baker earned herself a spot on the National Team with a 7th place AA finish and had the 4th highest night 2 FX score with this routine-
8. Elizabeth Price‘s day 2 UB: For someone who only had a few weeks of training before championships after suffering from injuries, Price showed that she’s not one to be forgotten. Give her a few more weeks and I think she’d be right back in the thick of things. This UB routine was the second highest score of the night on the event behind Kyla-
7. Brenna Dowell‘s day 1 FX: So many double flips in this routine! My understanding is that there needs to be a twisting pass or there should be a 0.5 deduction, but nonetheless I was impressed at Brenna’s power and control over her landings. Finishing in a solid 3rd place AA, Dowell made a strong case for herself as the 4th member of the upcoming Worlds team-
6. Mykayla Skinner‘s day 2 FX: Mykayla gets ragged on a lot for being a bit sloppy in her gymnastics, but this routine was quite impressive. By far the best double DLO I’ve seen from her. Loved seeing her smile throughout the whole routine-
5. Peyton Ernst‘s day 1 UB: Peyton has improved so much since last year and I predict she’ll continue to rise in the ranks in the lead up to Rio. Her bars work was one of my favorites of the competition-how cool is that pak to stalder full combo?!
4. Maggie Nichols‘ day 2 BB: What a calm, cool competitor. I was so impressed with Maggie the whole weekend. She always looks like she’s having a blast out there and combines pretty form with a solid amount of difficulty-
3. Simone Biles‘ day 1 FX: What a meet for Simone! From a disappointing US Classic competition that had many wondering if she was even a contender for Worlds, Biles proved here that she is a lock for that team and a serious contender for the Worlds AA title. Here’s her day 1 FX, where she once again proves she has springs for feet-
2. McKayla Maroney‘s day 2 BB and FX: I couldn’t decide which of these routines to choose, I love them both. I’ve been so impressed with McKayla, proving that it’s possible to make a complete comeback after an Olympics and major injuries. Her floor has only improved since London-I could watch that DLO all day long-and the Amanar of course needs no introduction, but is incredible to watch every single time.
1. Everything from Kyla Ross: Ok, I cheated a lot here. I couldn’t bring myself to pick just one of Kyla’s gorgeous routines! Not only did she maintain her skills during the post-Olympic year with a giant growth spurt, she made huge improvements to almost all four events-
Bonus Videos: Madison Kocian‘s day 1 UB and BB. I was gutted for Madison when she injured herself on FX and was unable to finish the meet. Her beautiful bars and beam routines had put her in an unexpected position to challenge Biles and Ross for the National Title. Kocian’s talent earned her a spot on the National Team despite her inability to complete the competition. Hopefully she’ll have a speedy recovery and be able to vie for a spot at Worlds-