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Written by John Crumlish    Wednesday, 11 July 2018 07:57    PDF Print
Slovenia's Kysselef: 'I Never Underestimate Anyone, Not Even Myself'
(4 votes, average 4.75 out of 5)

Winner of five World or Challenge Cup medals thus far in 2018, veteran Slovenian gymnast Tjasa Kysselef told IG that pride and determination keep her vaulting toward new goals at age 25.

“I'm always motivated by representing myself and my country as best as I can,” said Kysselef, whose World or Challenge Cup medal tally this year includes one gold (vault in Melbourne), one silver (vault in Osijek) and three bronze (floor exercise in Melbourne, vault in Koper, vault in Baku). “I never underestimate anyone, not even myself. I always say to myself that you have to compete like it's your last chance, your last competition.”

Kysselef, who placed second on vault and sixth on floor exercise at last month’s Mediterranean Games in Tarragona, Spain, is in the process of upgrading her vaults. She is confident she has the potential to make the vault final at next month’s European Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, and this fall’s World Championships in Doha, Qatar.

“I planned [to] upgrade my first vault from D-score 4.8 to 5.4 but so far I couldn't manage successfully yet, and for sure I don't want to take any risks of falling,” said Kysselef, who trains at GD Zelena Jama in Ljubljana, where she has been coached by Andrej Mavric since age 7. “So I might show that in Doha.”

One spot shy of qualifying for the vault final at the 2016 Europeans in Bern, Switzerland, Kysselef said she hopes her current standard is enough to finish among the top eight in Glasgow.

“I'm sure that, with D-scores of 5.4 and 5.0, I would have a great chance to make it into the final at Europeans,” she said. “But so far I'll have to make it with 4.8 and 5.0, and I’m willing to do perfect vaults. I'm also stressed a little because last time, with the same vaults, I ended up in ninth place, and I assure you that I did those pretty much perfectly. I hope I do the same, and with a little luck, you never know. For Worlds I think you need to make both vaults with a D-score of 5.4 to have a chance for the final.”

While Kysselef is not a vault specialist, she credits her innate power for her success on this apparatus. “I would say it's because of my legs,” she said. “They are the strongest part of my body and I can make the most of it. Also, there might be a bit of natural vaulting talent, as well.”

Kysselef, who turned 25 on April 27, said ambition and grit guide her through this mature phase of her career.

“The key is motivation, to dream big and set up your goals,” she said. “Give all your dreams a chance to make it happen. Yes, we have to stay realistic about achieving goals, but for dreams there is no limit. If you're ready to work and give every single part of yourself for it, then you will make it. Maybe not on the first try, and here is when many quit.”

Above all, Kysselef said, tenacity is critical to persevering in tough situations.

“Being persistent is the main thing,” Kysselef told IG. “Don’t give up when the day is not perfect, or training, competition or even a season. Injuries are especially the toughest part to go through. Fight for it and keep your head up. That is my key.”

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

Written by dwight normile    Monday, 02 July 2018 14:12    PDF Print
Averie Mitchell Is Going Places
(8 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Averie Mitchell is special. When she was 2 years old she had to have her left leg amputated, and was fitted with a prosthetic limb. Said Kim Mitchell, Averie’s mother: “I was determined that she was not going to be labeled as disabled.”

Her parents enrolled 4-year-old Averie in a gymnastics class. Now she’s a Level 5 at Hugo Gymnastics in Hugo, Oklahoma.

Averie, 11, recently placed sixth in the state and will compete in the nationals with her team.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that she would be as great as she is,” Mitchell told NBC News.

Averie continues to push herself in a sport she loves.

“I’m not only helping myself, I’m helping other people (overcome) their fears,” said Averie, who’s an all-around gymnast. “I would just accomplish a skill, and the other girls are scared to do it. And my coach, Mandy, she’ll say, ‘A one-legged girl can do it, you can do it. You’ve got two legs.’”

Averie was able to perform an exhibition balance beam routine at the 2016 U.S. Women’s Olympic Trials in San Jose, California. She also has her sights set on attending the University of Oklahoma as well as the Olympics.

“This is how it’s gonna be, so I just have to deal with it,” she said.

Sounds like she’s dealing with it quite well.

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

Written by dwight normile    Thursday, 14 June 2018 14:09    PDF Print
Parkettes To Celebrate 50th Anniversary
(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

In 1964 Donna Strauss began teaching physical education in the Allentown, Pennsylvania, school district. On the side she formed a modest gymnastics club with some of her high school students.

The was one problem, however. Neither Donna nor her husband, Bill Strauss, knew anything about gymnastics. Donna’s principal at the time was Carroll Parks, who provided inspiration to the Strausses, so they named their gym after him.

The Parkettes are celebrating its 50th anniversary on June 23, 2018. They’ve come a long way from their first gym, which was on the second floor of a fire company. (Could you rewind my music? I couldn’t hear it because of the siren.)

"It was very tiny,” Donna recalls.

The Parkettes broke ground in March 2002, and they now have a 32,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art facility.

The Parkettes have produced five Olympians, 10 World Championship team members and 159 gymnasts who have received college scholarships. Donna said that Kristen Maloney, Hope Spivey, Jodi Yocum and Elizabeth Price are among the former gymnasts who plan to attend.

"We just feel so fortunate that we’ve had such a wonderful group of gymnasts throughout the entire 50 years," Donna told IG. "We still both enjoy working with the gymnasts.

And what about retirement?

"We’re taking it month by month,” Donna said. “When we feel like we’re ready to move on, that’s when we’re going to do it.”

Read the complete story in the July/August 2018 issue of International Gymnast.

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


Written by John Crumlish    Monday, 11 June 2018 06:51    PDF Print
Israel's Netzer: 'Every Step Of Progress Gives Me More Motivation'
(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Veteran Israeli gymnast Ofir Netzer told IG that her fourth-place vault finish and near-finals status on two other events at last weekend’s Challenge Cup of Koper indicates her potential for even better results ahead.

“I think if my landing was more accurate, I would have placed in the top three and I would have won a medal,” said Netzer, who placed fourth on vault, and 10th on uneven bars and floor exercise, in the Slovenian city. “I competed in three apparatus without falling. I got to the final in vault, and almost two more finals, so I can say the competition was good for me at this time of the season.”

Netzer, who also placed fourth on vault at the 2013 European Championships in Moscow and the 2017 Challenge Cup in Varna, Bulgaria, said Koper served as part of her preparation for this summer’s European Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, and this fall’s World Championships in Doha, Qatar.

“I will compete all-around at the World Championships,” said Netzer, whose best Worlds finish thus far is 13th on vault at the 2013 Worlds in Antwerp. “Now I'm practicing to raise the level of difficulty of my vault, and improve the execution score.”

Netzer, who turned 22 on May 13, said she is optimistic for future success after managing physical and emotional difficulties she has faced over the past several years.

“After the 2013 European Championships finals, I've had a lot of serious injuries,” she told IG. “I was able to return to a competitive situation and for that I am happy. Every step of progress gives me more motivation to continue. In addition, this year my coach, Boris Kinev, got sick. I have a lot of motivation to train hard and I hope that in the near future we will be able to get back together.”

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

Written by dwight normile    Thursday, 07 June 2018 07:10    PDF Print
Stretching Out: Changing The Culture
(7 votes, average 4.86 out of 5)

Now that changes are on their way to end abuse — sexual, physical, verbal, emotional — it is also high time to realign priorities. A good start would be to ditch the medals-first mentality.

A good friend of mine recently said that kids should be polished, not ground. He’s right. No medal is worth a gymnast’s happiness.

By the very nature of gymnastics, a sport that strives for perfection, coaches constantly tell a gymnast what he/she is doing wrong. Whether it’s warming up at a meet or working out at the gym, the inevitable string of corrections can be discouraging for any gymnast.

Coaches have a tough job, for sure. They need to treat every gymnast differently based on personality, skill level, home life and other circumstances.

There is little time for “The Sandwich Method,” where a coach starts and ends with a positive comment and inserts the critique in the middle. Especially if you’re in a hurry and coaching several gymnasts.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. Experienced coaches have learned the value of praise. But young coaches might not understand the psychology of training young gymnasts.

Elites are generally over-trained. Spending more than 30 hours in the gym each week leads to chronic injuries or worse. It would be wise if all elites took a month off from mid-December to mid-January, the only off-season for gymnastics globally. Elites should stay out of the gym completely. This would enable them to heal both physically and emotionally. The break would also help those who are experiencing burnout, and help them to regenerate their passion for the sport.

Following is a list of rules for parents and coaches. It’s about respecting the sport — any sport — and adapted from All of us in the gymnastics community could use a strong dose of positivity right now.


Before the Meet

• Tell your child you are proud of him or her, regardless of how well he or she performs.

• Tell your child to compete hard and have fun. Remind him or her that it’s OK to be nervous (“nervous is normal”).

• Make a commitment to yourself to Honor the Sport no matter what others may do.

During the Meet

• Let the coaches coach. Avoid giving your child (or other gymnasts) advice during the meet.

• Fill your child’s (and teammates’) Emotional Tank.

• Cheer good performances and good efforts by all gymnasts.

• Remember to have fun! Enjoy the day.

After the Meet

• Thank the coaches for their effort.

• Let your child tell you about the meet (avoid giving your post-meet analysis unless asked). Ask open-ended questions: “What was the most/least enjoyable part of the meet?” “What did you learn from the meet?”

• Tell your child again that you are proud of him or her, especially if the meet didn’t go well!


Honoring the Game gets to the ROOTS of positive play.


We refuse to bend the rules to win.


A worthy opponent is a gift that brings out our best.


Show respect even when we disagree.


Never do anything to embarrass our team.


We live up to our own standards even when others don’t.

The Three Themes of Positive Coaching

• Redefining “Winner”: A Positive Coach helps gymnasts redefine what it means to be a “winner” by emphasizing the ELM Tree of Mastery. ELM stands for Effort, Learning and bouncing back from Mistakes.

• Filling Emotional Tanks: A Positive Coach fills gymnasts’ “Emotional Tanks” with encouragement and praise, recognizing that gymnasts need full tanks to compete at their best. A Positive Coach strives to achieve the 5:1 “Magic Ratio”: 5 praises for every 1 criticism.

• Honoring the Game: This gets to the ROOTS of positive play.

This column was in the April 2018 issue of International Gymnast.

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