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Written by John Crumlish    Thursday, 16 January 2020 09:49    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Courtney McGregor (New Zealand/Boise State Univ.)
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Although a torn left Achilles tendon has sidelined Olympian Courtney McGregor of New Zealand at the outset of her senior season at Boise State University in the U.S., her focus and enthusiasm remain intact as she prepares for surgery and her future.

McGregor, who suffered the injury on vault at a January 12 meet at UCLA, has been a competitive standard bearer for her native country as well as at Boise State. Her coaches include Mary Wright (all events internationally), Tina Bird and Patty Resnick (balance beam and floor exercise at Boise State), and Ivan Alexov (vault and uneven bars at Boise State).

Born November 17, 1998, in Christchurch, McGregor finished 41st all-around and 13th on vault in qualifications at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. She competed at the 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2019 World Championships, earning her best individual ranking, 17th place, on vault in both 2015 and 2017. Her other top international finishes include eighth on vault at the 2015 World Challenge Cup of Doha and eighth on balance beam at the 2015 World Challenge Cup of Anadia.

McGregor’s accolades at Boise State include honors in the gym and classroom, including the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference (MRGC) all-around title in 2019, and designation as a Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association (WCGA) Scholastic All-American in 2017, 2018 and 2019. In her freshman through junior years she helped Boise State earn three consecutive MRGC team victories.

In this IG Online interview, the resolute McGregor shares her insights on her lengthy career, the challenges of competing simultaneously at the international and collegiate levels, her recent injury and her post-gymnastics plans.

IG: You have had a long and prolific career competing for New Zealand and Boise State, so what do you feel has kept you motivated to continue training and competing at such a high level?

CMcG: I like to set big goals for myself and give everything I have to achieve them. I hold myself to a high standard and have always been someone who doesn’t struggle to push myself to the absolute maximum of my abilities. I enjoy the feeling of satisfaction that comes from knowing you have done everything in your power to make something happen!

IG: How have you been able to manage the physical demands of the sport, especially since you compete more or less on a weekly basis during the NCAA season and have also had your international season to prepare for while at Boise State?

CMcG: It has been a huge challenge! I have competed in the all-around at almost every single meet over the past three years here at BSU. Combining that with the elite season is definitely a challenge physically. After my freshman season I had knee surgery, after my sophomore season I had ankle surgery and now I am about to have my Achilles repaired. The physical demands of gymnastics definitely add up. I spend a lot of time in the training room!


Photos courtesy of Boise State University.

IG: As a captain of the Boise State team and a marquee performer for the New Zealand team, how do you view the extra responsibility your roles bring, and how do you manage the extra pressure that comes with them?

CMcG: As a team captain my role is to make sure the team environment is everything it needs to be for us to perform to the best of our abilities. It has been a particularly challenging pre-season for us with coaching changes. Issy — Isabella Amado, my co-captain — and I have done our best to help the team stay in a good head space and prepare for this season. Back home I was always part of a smaller team so my role was more to set a good example for the younger kids. It’s amazing knowing the little ones look up to me and it is a responsibility I have always taken seriously. I don’t feel any extra pressure being a team captain or performing for New Zealand. Like most athletes, all the pressure I feel comes from my own desire to succeed!

IG: How have you processed and reconciled your performance at last fall’s World Championships in Stuttgart as it relates to qualifying for Tokyo 2020?

CMcG: It was disappointing not to qualify to Tokyo in Stuttgart, but I was hoping to qualify at the continental championships which are being held at home in New Zealand (in April). Unfortunately, after tearing my Achilles that will no longer be an option for me.

IG: In addition to providing experience and high scores to the Boise State team, what do you feel have been your biggest, but perhaps less obvious, contributions to the team?

CMcG: I have a calm personality and always try to enjoy what I am doing. I think this rubs off on my teammates and helps them to stay calm under pressure, too.

IG: What inspired you to continue your international career after Rio?

CMcG: After Rio I felt a responsibility to keep competing for New Zealand and guide the next generation of girls that were coming through. I know that would have been invaluable for me growing up — to have someone who had been there and done it before help me through those big experiences.

IG: We understand you intend to go to medical school. What specialty or specialties are you considering, and do you plan to study somewhere in the U.S. or home in New Zealand?

CMcG: I’d like to go to medical school in New Zealand or Australia, because I plan on living in New Zealand. I have done some job-shadowing with orthopedic surgeons in the clinic and operating room, and I enjoyed that. But there are so many things that interest me, so I am not 100% sure which specialty I would like to go into yet.

IG: Over the years you have acquired a global fan following. What about your gymnastics and personality do you feel appeals to people around the world?

CMcG: I’m not sure what I have done to deserve all the support that I receive, but I am grateful for everyone who continues to encourage me. I’m someone who loves gymnastics and interacting with gym fans on social media. I think that has helped me build relationships with people in the gymnastics community.

IG: What plans do you have for continuing your international career beyond 2020?

CMcG: Right now, I do not have any plans to continue my international gymnastics career.

IG: What legacy do you hope to leave for both New Zealand gymnastics and Boise State gymnastics?

CMcG: I hope I have inspired some Kiwi kids to try gymnastics! My time at BSU has been life-changing. I’m happy to be part of a program that has such high academic standards, gymnastics abilities and cares about creating good people.

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

 
Written by John Crumlish    Sunday, 12 January 2020 15:47    PDF Print
‘All-Around Is Always The Main Focus,’ Says World Champion Fraser
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

2019 world parallel bars champion Joe Fraser of Great Britain told IG that his and others’ view of his gymnastics has been altered since his gold medal-winning performance at last fall’s World Championships in Stuttgart.

“I think people maybe look at me differently, being world champion,” said the 19-year-old Fraser, who is only the third British gymnast to win a world title. “I don’t think people can not give you respect for what you’ve done. I also think people now see me as a parallel bars worker when I would always say I’m an all-arounder that’s good on p-bars. Maybe it’s now more a p-bars specialist who’s a good all-arounder, so maybe that perception has changed.”

Fraser’s credentials in the past few years confirm that he is also a contender for international all-around medals. He finished fifth all-around at the 2017 European Championships, fourth all-around at the 2019 Europeans and eighth all-around in Stuttgart.

Considering the robust assortment of strong all-arounders and apparatus specialists on the British team preparing for this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, the confident Fraser said he hopes his versatility will earn him his spot on the British team at the Games.

“All-around is always the main focus, and I feel success on individual apparatus comes on the back of all-around development,” said Fraser, who trains under coach Lee Woolls at City of Birmingham Gymnastics Club. “I’m still looking to increase difficulty on all six pieces to get the best scores, but parallel bars is clearly one area I’m looking to make the hardest and cleanest possible.”

Victory on that apparatus in Stuttgart has greatly inspired Fraser as he enters 2020.

“Overall the Worlds has just been a huge motivation and a positive experience to progress in the best way I can this year,” he said.

Fraser said he is adapting well to the potentially disruptive media attention he has received since Stuttgart.

“It’s been very different,” he told IG. “I’d say the first month after the Worlds I was just on the road nonstop. I didn’t really know where home was but after that it's calmed down. I’ve learnt to balance and be more organized in my life and my training. You get used to the busyness and ‘adapt and overcome’ as my coach Lee always says.”

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

Brinn Bevan interview (May 2018)

Ellie Downie on cover (May 2017)

Claudia Fragapane profile (December 2017)

Joe Fraser short profile (June 2017)

James Hall short profile (June 2017)

Coach Scott Hann interview (September 2017)

Daniel Keatings interview (March 2017)

Alice Kinsella interview (December 2016 and July/August 2019)

Catherine Lyons interview (June 2015)

Lisa Mason interview (May 2015)

Maisie Methuen interview (December 2016)

Amelie Morgan interview (June 2018)

Kelly Simm interview (May 2018)

Louis Smith interview (March 2016)

Amy Tinkler interview (June 2015)

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

 
Written by John Crumlish    Sunday, 05 January 2020 18:29    PDF Print
Slovakia’s Mokosova Aims For ‘Personal Maximum’ At Tokyo 2020
(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Slovakian Olympian Barbora Mokosova told IG that, although competing at the 2016 Rio Games was a career highlight, she aspires to give an even better performance at this summer’s Tokyo Games.

“We want to add new elements and connections to my routines to have higher difficulty,” said Mokosova, who qualified for her second Olympic Games through her results at last fall’s World Championships in Stuttgart. “I will have to be 100 percent ready to show everything I know, and I believe we will succeed and improve my personal maximum.”

Mokosova said she shifted her focus to Tokyo right after Rio, where she placed 45th all-around in qualifications.

“The Olympics in Rio has always been my biggest dream to come true, and when I came home I knew this was not the end of my career,” said Mokosova, who was born March 10, 1997, in Bratislava. “I wanted to experience that feeling again and get to the Olympics even though I knew it would be very difficult.”

To optimize her chances to qualify for Tokyo, Mokosova and her coach, Martin Zvalo, upgraded her program between Rio and Stuttgart. She gained psychological calmness in the process.

“In my gymnastics we added new elements and changed the routines,” Mokosova said. “I was much quieter in my head and I knew what I wanted. I fulfilled my dream and everything else was just a bonus for me.”

Mokosova, who won a total seven Challenge Cup medals in 2017 and 2018, said she has also become more mature and conscientious since Rio.

“I think I have not changed but I have grown up and understood the things I have to do to qualify for Tokyo,” she said.

While Tokyo was Mokosova’s target, her path leading there was nearly blocked by consecutive injuries. She injured her right ankle in September 2018 and had surgery on it in December 2018. She injured her left heel just prior to the 2019 Worlds.

“The goal was clear for me,” she said. “It is always difficult to keep motivated especially when it is not possible and I have a hard time. Last year was for me very mentally and physically demanding. I got injured (right ankle) and I had to have surgery. This moment was very difficult for me but I knew I could not give up and I fought. A week before Stuttgart, I tore ligaments in my (left) heel and it looked like I wouldn't even start, but I said, ‘This is your one and only chance, and you have to risk it,’ and I succeeded.”

Mokosova’s pre-Tokyo agenda includes a possible training camp in Russia and “above all to keep healthy.”

Beyond Mokosova’s competitive career, she would like to own her own gymnastics academy, and work with the Slovak Olympic and Sports Committee. Tokyo may not be her competitive finale, however.

“I love gymnastics, I love competing, I love training and everything about gymnastics,” Mokosova told IG. “If my health is all right I will continue to do what I love.”

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

 
Written by John Crumlish    Saturday, 28 December 2019 09:59    PDF Print
Czech Republic’s Sandra Jessen Vows To ‘Make Every Day Count’
(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

2019 was a momentous year for Czech gymnast Sandra Jessen (listed internationally as Sandra Jessenova), who vows to make 2020 fulfilling in and out of the gym.

The 17-year-old Jessen, who trains at Parkettes National Training Center in Allentown, Pa., made her debut for the Czech Republic this year. She is coached by her mother, Hana Ricna Jessen, who, representing then-united Czechoslovakia, won the silver medal on balance beam at the 1983 World Championships and the bronze medal on uneven bars at the 1985 Worlds, and competed at the 1988 Olympic Games. Her brother and fellow gymnast, David Jessen, represented the Czech Republic at the 2016 Olympics. Sandra will follow David as a student-athlete at Stanford University next fall.

Jessen’s gymnastics year included a flurry of international competitions in the fall. She competed on all four apparatuses at the World Challenge Cup of Paris in September, with a high of 10th place on vault. She competed on three apparatuses at the World Championships in Stuttgart in October, and teamed with David to finish third at the Sokol Grand Prix, a mixed-pairs meet in Brno, Czech Republic, at the end of November.

Even with her impressive gymnastics pedigree, the ambitious Jessen is determined to forge her own path to success and enjoy the rewards of her own dedication and hard work. She reflects on her year and expresses her aspirations for 2020 in this IG Online interview.

IG: Looking back on your year, what are the most memorable and meaningful moments for you, and why?

SJ: One of the most meaningful experiences for me was competing at the World Challenge Cup in Paris, then at the World Championships in Stuttgart. The World Challenge Cup in Paris was my first international competition, so that will always be a lasting memory for me. To be able to compete at Worlds was such an eye-opening and overall amazing experience, and I am so thankful I got to compete alongside my brother and with my mom as my coach. One of the most exciting moments for me this year was when I found out I got into Stanford. I knew that all of my hard work finally had a purpose. My parents were so excited to find out they will have another child at Stanford, and David was so happy for me as well. I can’t wait to continue my gymnastics career and education at such a prestigious school.


Sandra Jessen with brother David Jessen.

IG: When do you plan to enroll at Stanford, and how will this impact your plans to continue competing internationally?

SJ: I plan to enroll at Stanford next year, in the fall. At the moment I’m not quite sure how this will impact my international competitions, but I am looking forward to competing at the European Championships in May.

IG: With two Olympians in your family, how do you manage to set your own goals and create your own identity in the sport, so you are not always comparing yourself to your mom and David?

SJ: This is definitely something I’ve struggled with throughout my career. I’m frequently asked questions and compared to David and my mom, but I try to focus on myself and do the best I can at whatever I am trying to achieve. I can’t change anything that they have done, only what I can do myself. So I try my best to make every day count whether in the gym or school, even when it gets difficult at times. I am extremely happy for everything they have both accomplished, and I can’t wait to see what else David has in store for him throughout his gymnastics career and more.

IG: How do you and your family celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Eve? If you have any Czech or other family traditions, please share them.

SJ: We celebrate a Czech Christmas on the 24th, and a more American style Christmas on the 25th. Typically on Christmas Eve we will have some sort of fish — the traditional Czech option is carp — along with a special potato salad my mom makes. Later that night we open half of the presents. Then on Christmas Day we open the rest of the presents in the morning, and spend quality family time we don’t normally get to have. We don’t really have any special plans or traditions for New Year’s Eve, just watching the ball drop (in Times Square in New York) on TV.

IG: What is your New Year's resolution, and what will you do to fulfill it?

SJ: My New Year’s resolution is to have more confidence in myself and stress less overall. When I first arrived in Stuttgart, I wasn’t sure how I fit in. There were so many different gymnasts from all over, many that have competed at multiple Olympics. But after talking to some other girls and making some new friends, I realized everyone was in it to have an amazing shared experience. This helped me be less stressed and more confident, and I hope to build on this in the upcoming year.

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

 
Written by John Crumlish    Wednesday, 18 December 2019 10:06    PDF Print
Norway’s Erichsen Eyes New Skills For Tokyo 2020
(7 votes, average 4.71 out of 5)

As the first Norwegian female gymnast to qualify for the Olympic Games since 1992, Julie Erichsen told IG she intends to polish and upgrade her program by the time she competes at next summer’s Games in Tokyo.

“The main focus is to clean up my routines,” said Erichsen, who earned her berth to Tokyo through her performance at this fall’s World Championships in Stuttgart. “I will add a few new skills which were not stable enough for Stuttgart. We also plan new choreography for floor.”

Erichsen notched her most impressive 2019 international results on vault, on which she placed fifth at the Challenge Cup of Paris and eighth at the Challenge Cup of Osijek. She plans to become even more competitive on that apparatus in 2020.

“The number-one goal is to increase the difficulty of my second vault,” said Erichsen, who was born August 15, 2001, in Bergen. “I’m also working to increase the difficulty of my first vault.”

Erichsen will be the first Norwegian female gymnast to compete at the Olympic Games since compatriot Anita Tomulevski finished 79th all-around in qualifications at the 1992 Games in Barcelona. Sofus Heggemsnes has qualified to represent the Norwegian men in Tokyo, following male teammate Stian Skjerahaug who competed at the 2016 Games in Rio.

“I wasn’t really thinking much of it during the preparations for the World Championships,” said Erichsen of her potential to qualify for Tokyo. “I knew there was a chance, but I was more focused on my routines.”

Although Erichsen and her coaches believed her performance in Stuttgart was enough to advance her to Tokyo, the official word came once she returned home to Bergen.

“When the qualifications in Stuttgart were finished, the coaches told me that according to their calculations I had a spot for Tokyo,” she said. “I was at the hotel with my teammates, Julie Soderstrom and Maria Tronrud. Since it was not yet official we tried not to get too excited. We had to wait for a week before the official list from the FIG (International Gymnastics Federation) was published. When it was finally official, my initial reaction was to tell my mom. We were super happy. To reach the Olympic Games has been my main goal.”

Erichsen said she does not feel burdened by her status as Norway’s lone female gymnastics Olympian in Tokyo.

“After the qualification there has been quite a lot of attention from media, which is new for me,” she said. “Right now I don’t really feel a huge amount of pressure. When we are getting closer to summer I will try to keep focused on my routines and not think so much about the things that I can’t control.”

Erichsen’s supporters are helping her manage her nerves and maintain her concentration.

“I get help from people in Olympiatoppen (national sports organization) to cope with the mental part of it,” said Erichsen, who trains under coaches Anatol Ashurkov (vault, uneven bars and floor exercise) and Galyna Gerasymenko (balance beam). “My main coach, Anatol, is also important to me by keeping the focus on gymnastics.”

Erichsen recognizes the recent strides her team has made and its potential to move even higher.

"We have improved tremendously during the last few years, and it looks like we are heading in the right direction," she told IG. "I think we need to continue with what we have been doing lately - work together as a team, clean up our routines, increase the difficulty and have fun. Also important, we need to believe that it is possible for Norwegian gymnasts to perform well internationally.”

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

 


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