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Canada's Gagnon Aims To 'Crack Into That Top Tier'
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Canadian gymnast Joel Gagnon is hoping that the momentum he established at last month’s Pacific Rim Championships in Medellin, Colombia, will carry him to new success at the Canadian Championships taking place this week in Waterloo, Ontario.

The 22-year-old Gagnon made four apparatus finals in Medellin, one week after he helped his University of Minnesota team place second at the NCAA Championships in Chicago. He is now focused on graduate studies in Montreal and future international competitions leading to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

In this IG Online interview, the diligent Gagnon comments on his Pacific Rim performance, his goals for the Canadian Championships and his chances for making the Canadian team at this fall’s World Championships in Doha, Qatar.

IG: What was your plan prior to the the Pacific Rim Championships, and how did your actual performances measure up to your expectations?

JG: The plan going into the competition was to qualify to the floor final and hit my other routines, to help reach our team objective of placing in the top three. I ended up qualifying to four finals: floor exercise, rings, parallel bars and high bar, which was a pleasant surprise! Floor was my best shot of taking home an individual medal, so I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t perform my best floor routine in the final. However, overall I was extremely happy with my performance, especially since this was my first time competing in event finals at an international competition. As a team we ended up coming in second place despite having to compete four-up, four-count on half of the events due to an injury to William Emard that occurred in the warm-up. I was really impressed with how our young team was able to stay calm, despite the added pressure of not having William in our lineup, to put together a great team performance.

IG: At last year's Canadian Championships you didn't compete on all six apparatuses. What are your goals for this year's competition?

JG: A few years ago, I decided to retire from pommel horse as my skill level on this apparatus was far lower than it needed to be for me to contribute to a team, and it was decided my time would be better spent improving the other five events. The goal is to hit clean routines on the other five events and reach a few event finals. After placing first on floor exercise at Elite Canada earlier this year, my goal is to repeat that and take home the floor title.

IG: The Canadian team has several veterans and some of the younger guys, such as you, pushing them. What do you think you will need to get into the top group in Canada and especially to make the team for Doha?

JG: I think we have a lot of talented up-and-coming gymnasts that will soon be in the top group in Canada. Personally, I think that if I can make some slight changes to my routines and improve my overall execution, I will be able to able to crack into that top tier. Specifically, I will need to put in some release moves on high bar that I have been training but haven’t gotten quite consistent enough yet. As well, I think if I can keep my shoulders relatively healthy I will be able to increase some strength parts in my rings routine. After that, I think the focus for me will be to polish up the other routines, as I tend to have a few built-in deductions that hurt my execution score.

IG: Who were your coaches at Minnesota, and who will be coaching you going forward?

JG: Our head coach, Mike Burns, was my personal coach for the last four years, and my vault coach was assistant coach Konstantin Kolesnikov. I also had the pleasure of working with our other fantastic assistant coaches Russ Fystrom, for my first three years there, and more recently, Jordan Valdez this past season. Once in Montreal I plan on training at Centre Pere Sablon gymnastics club with coach Patrick Beauchamp.

IG: We understand that you will be pursuing your master's in aerospace engineering in Montreal. This is a big adjustment after competing for Minnesota week in and week out for the past four years. When will you start studies at McGill, and how will you be adjusting your training schedule to maintain your studies?

JG: I will be starting my studies at McGill (University) in September. In many ways, living and training in Montreal will be quite different from what I was doing at the University of Minnesota. As of right now, I plan on taking classes part-time to accommodate my training schedule. I’m hoping this will allow me to succeed in school while still focusing on reaching my gymnastics goals.

IG: Many Canadian gymnasts head south in order to study at and compete for U.S. universities. What were the greatest benefits that you gained from your time at Minnesota, especially those you didn't anticipate?

JG: The greatest benefit I gained from my time at Minnesota was learning how to properly prepare for a competition. As a junior gymnast, I was always putting elements in my routines that weren’t consistent. My time in Minnesota made me realize how valuable it can be to become a reliable competitor. One other thing I did not anticipate was figuring out how to use the added stress and pressure of competing for a team to my advantage. I was able to use my nerves to give me the additional adrenaline and energy that I needed, to help me focus in and give my best performances during competitions when it counts the most.

International Gymnast magazine’s recent coverage of Canadian gymnasts includes:

“Canadian Grace” - Brooklyn Moors interview (December 2017)

2017 World Championships special issue, incl. Canadians (November 2017)

Ellie Black on cover collage, 2017 Worlds preview (September 2017)

“Canadian Candor” - Ellie Black and Zachary Clay interviews (July/August 2017)

“Canadian Pace-setter” - Ana Padurariu profile (December 2016)

“Canadian on a Roll” - Jade Chrobok profile (April 2016)

Chrobok, Meixi Semple on cover inset photo and featured in 2016 Nadia International coverage (March 2016)

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