|Rising star Nikolai Kuksenkov (Ukraine) is enjoying his holiday break after an exhausting fall schedule that saw him compete in six competitions in as many weeks.
IG Online continues its yearly holiday series, bringing you the scoop on what the world's best gymnasts will be up to at the end of 2010!
Fourth at October's world championships, rising Ukrainian star Nikolai Kuksenkov is enjoying his holiday break after an exhausting fall schedule that saw him compete in six competitions in as many weeks.
"I'm really tired after the world championships," Kuksenkov told IG. "Every weekend I had a competition — I don't even remember all of them. Swiss Cup, Gander, Champions Trophy, Stuttgart World Cup, Glasgow...."
The 21-year-old Kuksenkov had a year of highs and lows. Ukraine, along with neighbors Russia and Belarus, missed the men's European championships in Birmingham after the Icelandic volcano grounded air travel in late April. While other European teams arranged last-minute transportation by bus, train and ferry, the Ukrainian gymnasts lacked the necessary entry visas for ground travel.
Kuksenkov, the 2006 Junior European champion, said the disappointment was "painful."
"It was one day before that we [officially] heard we couldn't fly," he said, "and we didn't have Schengen visas to go by bus."
In October, Kuksenkov had a breakout competition at the world championships in Rotterdam, where he missed out on the all-around bronze medal by a mere .033.
In November, Kuksenkov grabbed silver medals in the all-around at the Champions Trophy in Stuttgart and on high bar at the Glasgow Grand Prix. In early December, he won high bar at the Valeri Liukin Invitational in Texas to wrap up his competitive season.
But Kuksenkov was back in action a week later, performing on parallel bars and high bar in gymnastics exhibitions in Ghent and Liège, Belgium. Kuksenkov lived in Belgium from 2002-2006 while his father, Yuly Kuksenkov, coached the national team.
Kuksenkov said he may celebrate New Year's Eve in either his native Kiev or in Moscow, where his older sister, Irina Kuksenkova, is a journalist for newspaper "Moskovsky Komsomolets."
"Last year I was in Moscow, and we had a party at my friend's house with a 1980s theme," he recalled. "There was '80s music and like Coca-Cola and everything '80s. We had to wear '80s clothes like jeans and neon T-shirts, and the girls had red lipstick and big hair. It was really funny and interesting!"
After a short break, Kuksenkov plans to head back to the gym to prepare for the first World Cup of the year, the American Cup in Jacksonville, Fla. (Under the new World Cup format, the top eight all-around gymnasts from the 2010 Worlds are eligible to compete in four designated all-around competitions, to be held in Jacksonville, Glasgow, Stuttgart and Tokyo. Other apparatus-only World Cup events will take place throughout the year as well.)
After April's disappointment, Kuksenkov has set his sights on the 2011 European Championships, April 5-10 in Berlin. The 2010 Europeans featured team and apparatus competitions, but the 2011 event will crown the continent's best all-around gymnast.
Though he's nursing a knee injury, Kuksenkov said he will try his hardest to continue upgrading his routines for 2011.
"I'll do my best," he said. "I have to put more difficulty in my exercises. I'll just work."
Read more about Nikolai Kuksenkov in the March issue of International Gymnast Magazine. Click here to subscribe today to the print or digital magazine!