BREAKING: Ariana Agrapides to retire from Elite, down to Level 10 for the 2016 season

MG Elite gymnast, Ariana Agrapides, is to retire from elite gymnastics. At the age of 14, she has qualified to two U.S. Nationals (2013-14) and was touted to become one of the U.S.’s best vaulters after she developed a strong DTY from a young age.

The Bayville, NJ resident turns senior in 2017, missing age eligibility to Rio 2016 by just 31 days. MG Elite coach, Maggie Haney, confirmed her retirement to an Instagram user in a comment that read; “Ari is not competing elite this year. She will be competing Level 10 with me next year”.

Perhaps, Agrapides is having a break from elite because she is still very young and will return to elite competition nearer the 2020 Olympics. We hope so! However, by the time Tokyo 2020 comes, Ari will be a Freshman in college so she may pursue a college gymnastics career, instead.

For now, we wish Ariana the best of luck with the rest of her gymnastics career; whatever route she takes!


An article by James Greaves / editor-in-chief

A little chat with Armenia’s Houry Gebeshian

Back in 2011, at the World Championships in Tokyo, Japan, Massachusetts resident and Iowa Hawkeye senior, Houry Gebeshian, made her senior international debut. Since then, she has graduated from the University of Iowa, became the third reserve for the London 2012 Olympics and has completed postgraduate study at Wake Forest School of Medicine; becoming a physician. After all this, you’d have thought she’d very content with her gymnastics career. But no! After getting back in shape for the 2015 elite season, she returned to prime at the 2015 Europeans where she finished 19th in the all-around final. Gebeshian has her heart set on a birth to Rio next year for the Olympics. Find out more about this amazing Armenian-American here as she answers nine questions we asked her;

  1. In 2011, you had your international debut at Worlds. What was that event like?

Competing on that stage was an incredible experience.  I spent every moment soaking it all in.  It took me a while to realize that I was competing in the same arena as the best gymnasts in the world.  Having been my first international competition, I did not know what to expect.  I had never competed on Gymnova equipment, never competed in an arena so big, and had only competed on a podium one time before at the NCAA Division I National Championships.  Stepping on that floor was overwhelming but I had to remind myself that all of those external factors did not matter.  I came to perform the 4 routines I had been training for months, and that was what I did. Unfortunately, I had to water down my routines due to a stress fracture in my heel that I developed a few weeks prior, so the actual competition didn’t go as well as I planned.

  1. You received a third reserve spot to the London 2012 Olympics. Was that disappointing? Or were you just thrilled to have made a reserve spot?

Receiving a third reserve spot to the London 2012 Olympic Games was both exciting and disappointing at the same time.  It was an honor to be given the opportunity to compete at the international level representing the Republic of Armenia. Due to injury, I did not compete up to the level that I was capable of, and that is what was most disappointing.  I was thrilled that I made a reserve spot, but I was upset with myself because I knew I could have performed better.  I believe that everything happens for a reason.  Being so close to qualifying motivates me to push myself beyond my perceived limits.  I am much more focused, determined, and confident that I will earn a qualification birth to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

  1. You had an amazing college career at the University of Iowa! How have your experiences as a Hawkeye, both in gymnastics and as a student, helped shape the person you are today? 

Thank you.  Being an Iowa Hawkeye was an honor and I am always proud to say that I am a University of Iowa Alumnus. My experiences as a Hawkeye helped me mature both as an athlete and as a woman. Joining the collegiate team immediately introduced me to a family of lifetime friends. They taught me how to work as a team member and also how to inspire others as a team leader.  As a gymnast, I learned mental toughness.  Competing in the all-around every weekend for 13 weeks is tough on the body and the mind but all worth it when you are able to share the individual and team successes with your GymHawk family. Being a student at the University of Iowa was challenging, especially choosing Athletic Training as my major, but it encouraged me to put 110% into everything I did in order to just keep up.  It taught me time management, resilience, and perseverance which has translated into my everyday life.  The four years I was at the University of Iowa were the best years of my life so far, and I owe a lot of thanks to everyone who helped shape me into the woman I am today.

  1. You had a four year hiatus from international gymnastics until 2015 Europeans. How long had you been training prior to this event?

After having not done gymnastics, or really anything athletic, for three years I decided to make my come back to gymnastics in July, 2014.  My ultimate goal was to be ready for the 2015 World Championships, but after talking with my coaches in Armenia, we decided that a competition before that qualifier might be good practice for me.  I trained hard for ten months and was competition ready for the European Championships.

  1. You placed 19th in the AA final; how pleased are you with this result?

I am incredibly pleased with my 19th finish in the All-Around final!  I have been working so hard the past few months and I feel that I finally was able to prove to myself, my team, and the rest of the world that I am a competitor and that I deserve to be on that floor.  Doing so well helped boost my confidence that the dedication and commitment I have put into training inside and outside the gym has been worth it and that I am on the right track to accomplishing my goals.  Hitting all of my routines during podium training and competition day at the European Championships was my goal going into the competition and competing in the finals was icing on the cake. It was an honor to make it into the final and compete with the best athletes in Europe.  To top it all off, I made history by becoming the first Armenian Woman to compete in a European Championship Final.  This is especially significant as this year marks the 100th year anniversary of the 1915 Armenian Genocide.  Competing at the elite level is my small contribution to our enduring culture that continues to defy the odds; I am proud to be a female Armenian gymnast.

  1. What other competitions will you be attending this year?

The next competition I will be competing at will be the 2015 World Championships. (in Glasgow, Scotland)

  1. If you were to earn a qualification birth to Rio 2016, what would it mean to you?

Earning a qualification birth to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games is the ultimate goal.  Looking back, I do not think I was ready or deserving of the Olympics in 2012. Since then, my perspective on life and gymnastics has changed drastically.  Over the last four years, I have reflected on my career as a gymnast and can now fully appreciate what it takes to become an Olympian.  I am much more mindful of the struggle and beauty of the sport.  Since 2012, I have overcome the depression of not qualifying and made the decision to return to the sport after a 3 years hiatus.  At first this was an extremely intimidating idea considering my age and the fact that I had to start my professional career as a physician assistant during my comeback.  I have had no formal coaching throughout this process which requires innovative methods in self-motivation and critique in order to coach myself to success. Creating my own strength and practice schedules, progressions, routines, nutrition plan, all while balancing my work life to fund my endeavors has been a fulfilling challenge.  I have always believed that nothing worthwhile comes easy.  This process has been one of the most difficult times in my life, but I am truly blessed to have this experience.  Competing at the upcoming Olympics will be the highlight of my gymnastics career.

  1. You recently graduated from graduate school in North Carolina. What are you future career plans following gymnastics?

I have actually not put my career on hold. I graduated with a Master of Medical Science in Physician Assistant Studies from Wake Forest University and have found a full time job working as a physician assistant. I work for the Cleveland Clinic in the Department of Surgery on the Labor and Delivery floor.  I simultaneously am a full time PA and a full time elite gymnast.  I also coach at the gym I am training at so following my gymnastics career, I hope to pick up more hours coaching alongside working at the Cleveland Clinic.

  1. What would your advice be to any young gymnasts who aspire to compete at the level you do?

The advice I have to young gymnasts aspiring to compete at the level I do is to not lose focus in their love of the sport.  My passion for gymnastics is what has kept me going and as long as you keep enjoying what you do every day, it will take you as far as you want to go.  I also encourage young gymnasts who share a similar desire for the sport to seek out a gym that embraces the same emotion for gymnastics. I started my career at Massachusetts Gymnastics Center in Waltham, Mass., matured my talents at the University of Iowa, and am now perfecting this art at Gymnastics World in Broadview Heights, Oh. All of these gyms were an excellent fit for me. Try and find a gym that fits your needs.  There will always be hard days, but disciplining yourself to get through the hard days will help you accomplish the goals you want to achieve. Always have confidence in yourself and have fun doing what you love.

It is clear that Houry has a love for the sport that she has never fallen out of! I am so excited to see her at Worlds this year and too see if she can punch her ticket to Rio next year, an event I will also be cheering her on for too!


An article by James Greaves / editor-in-chief

An Exclusive with Ariana Berlin

Chatty Gymnast caught up with former UCLA team member and recently turned stunt double, Ariana Berlin, as she prepares for the release of her biopic film, Full Out: The Ariana Berlin Movie. If you’re not aware with Ariana’s story, here it is; Berlin was an elite-level gymnast until 2001, when she and her mother, Susan, were involved in a car accident. Berlin was severly injured and was told that she would never do gymnastics again. After dabbling in street dance, becoming a member of Culture Shock, she then started to perform at SeaWorld San Diego where she met resident summer choreographer and UCLA Head coach, Valorie Kondos Field. Kondos Field admired her determination and philosophy on life and soon offered Berlin a walk-on spot for the UCLA Bruins gymnastics team. After a standout freshman year, in 2006, she was offered a full-ride scholarship and soon became one of the most successful UCLA Bruins gymnasts in history!

She answers some questions we had for her on the release of her film and how her accident has changed her perspective on life, in general.
CG: How do you feel doing gymnastics as a UCLA Bruin helped shape you as a person?

AB: Being a gymnast at UCLA has molded me into the person I am today in many ways.  It taught me that if you really want something, it will require blood, sweat and tears, but it is always worth it.  I’ve learned so much about myself, what makes me tick, how to overcome adversity, how to deal with others in a variety of situations, and how to be a part of something greater than myself.  Being a student-athlete is not easy, but it provides tools that you will use for the rest of your life.

CG:  How has your outlook on life differed since your accident?

AB: I live each day to the absolute fullest; there are no promises for tomorrow.  It helps me put things into perspective when I’m having a bad day and things just aren’t going my way.  I refer back to the accident and know, if I got through that, I can get through anything.

CG: Talking about the film, what can we expect from it?

AB: You can expect an extremely fun, energetic and uplifting inspirational comeback story that is relatable to anyone who has gone through adversity.

CG: Was it emotional for you to watch the filming and to see it all come together?

AB: It was extremely emotional.  I was onset during the entire month of filming and watching the story come to life was surreal.  The most emotional part was when my family visited set.  They were the ones that lived through the accident with my Mom and I and now, almost 14 years later we were reliving that moment in time through the filming process.  Also, at the screening in San Diego, all of my closest friends and family who supported me throughout the accident and recovery were there supporting the film.  That was very emotional.

CG: You did all your own stunts, right. How hard was it to get back into shape and get your skills back?

AB: It was very difficult getting back into shape.  Thankfully I had our assistant UCLA Gymnastics coach, Randy Lane help me with the process.  I trained with him about 3 days a week for a little over month before we began filming.  I was sore for weeks!!!  After the soreness dissipated, the skills came back fairly easily.  It’s all muscle memory.

CG: Was it hard to find the cast? How did you go about the process?

AB: Our Executive Producer, Jeff Deverett worked with a casting director in Toronto to find all of the talent.  I wasn’t able to attend the auditions, but Jeff sent me videos of the acting and dance auditions.  I wasn’t involved too much in the process, but I think they did an excellent job at casting each role.

CG: The majority of filming was shot in Canada, if I am correct. How come you didn’t stay local and film in LA?

AB: The main reason we shot in Canada was because our Executive Producer and Director are Canadian and we received great tax benefits.

CG:  Will the film ever be theatrically released? Have you been to any film festivals?

AB: We are in the distribution process right now.  We do have hopes for a theatrical release, but I do not know the specifics just yet.

CG: Describe, in three words, Full Out: The Ariana Berlin Movie!

AB: Never Give Up (that sounds so corny, but it is the essence of Full Out)

CG: What would your message be to anyone in a similar position to what you were in?

AB: My message is; ‘Life is not always a fairytale story with a fairytale ending.  There are bound to be challenges, but it’s how you choose to handle life’s challenges that defines who you are’.

Ariana’s story is the epitome of determination and hardwork and the film is going to be beautiful! It will capture the essence of what it means to be a gymnast and what it means to overcome anything and follow your dreams. And as is depicted in the movie, ‘sometimes you have to fall before you can fly’.

You can watch the trailer below;


An article by James Greaves, editor-in-chief

College: Ramler to Minnesota for the 2017-18 season

U.S. elite, Lexy Ramler, who lives in St. Michael, Minn., has recently committed to the Minnesota Golden Gophers gymnastics team for the 2017-18 season. She trains at KidSport Gymnastics in Winona, Minn. which has recently been rebuilt due to a fire that struck in the September of 2014. Ramler is likely to compete during the U.S. elite season this year and will vy for a spot on the U.S. National team.

Go Gophers!


An article by James Greaves, editor-in-chief

Photo credits to Brian Freed

Jenny Rowland to serve as Florida’s New Head Coach

Auburn assistant coach and former elite gymnast, Jenny Rowland, will serve as Florida Gators’ new Head coach. The Arizona State alumni, who has been with Auburn since 2010, has a huge task ahead of her as the Gators are the reigning NCAA Champions, and have been since 2013.

Former head coach, Rhonda Faehn, has recently taken a role as Senior Vice President at USA Gymnastics, as previously publicised.


An article by James Greaves, editor-in-chief

 

2015 Flanders International Team Challenge: Info & Preview

On May 30-31, 2015, the 1st ever Flanders International Team Challenge will be held. Following the success of the 2013 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships, held in Antwerp, the Belgian Gymnastics Federation have decided that it’s time for a brand new Belgian event!

Thus, the Flanders International Team Challenge was born! This inaugural event will be held at the Flanders Sports Arena, in Ghent, which played host to the 2001 World Artistic Championships and has also held the Ghent FIG World Challenger Cup events.

Competition Schedule

Timings are only of the start times, Session lengths TBA

Saturday, May 30, 2015

09:00 CEST (08:00 GMT, 03:00 EST) – Juniors Qualification 

15:30 CEST (14:30 GMT, 09:30 EST) – Seniors Qualification

Sunday, May 31, 2015

10:00 CEST (09:00 GMT, 04:00 EST) – Youth Competition

15:00 CEST (14:00 GMT, 09:00 EST) – Finals Juniors/Seniors


Participants

There has been no official release of a nominative roster yet but we do know the countries that are participating and it’s very exciting! This star-studded line-up will feature countries from EuropeAsia and Oceania!

Senior Competition

  1. Australia
  2. Azerbaijan
  3. Belgium
  4. Germany
  5. France
  6. Great-Britain
  7. Ireland
  8. Jordan
  9. Netherlands
  10. New Zealand
  11. Norway
  12. Austria
  13. Spain
  14. Sweden

Junior Competition

  1. Australia
  2. Belgium
  3. Germany
  4. France
  5. Great-Britain
  6. Ireland
  7. Italy
  8. Jordan
  9. Netherlands
  10. Norway
  11. Spain
  12. Sweden

Announced teams

Belgium’s senior delegation has already been announced. It consists of; Laura Waem, Julie Croket, Gaelle Mys, Cindy Vandenhole, Lisa Verschueren, Dorien Motten and Rune Hermans

Ireland’s delegations have also been released. It’s comprised of: Ellis O’Reilly, Nicole Mawhinney, Tara Donnelly, Denise Moloney and Taylor Coyle.


What should we expect?

Well, this is a relatively small scale competition so I doubt we’ll see HUGE gymnastics but it will certain be a tough competition and will feature some great gymnasts. This competition clashes with a quad meet against Italy-Russia-Romania-Colombia, held in Turin, as well as the Russian Youth Nationals and Canadian Nationals. Italy are sending a junior team because they have a lot of talented juniors that will want this experience but obviously decided against a senior team! Russia are absent because they will be at the quad meet and they’re hosting the Youth Nationals. I’m not sure if Canada would’ve sent a delegation to this event had they not had their Nationals at this time but either way, they will not be attending.

For the countries that are actually attending, Great Britain will most likely headline. They have a lot of depth in both age divisions and will be likely to medal. The Netherlands will be close to home and they have a growing squad of talented gymnasts, don’t count them out! Belgium will have a home advantage and have veterans such as Gaelle Mys and Lisa Verschueren to give them the edge on others. France have a very dynamic program and did so well at their home Europeans a few weeks back. They will certainly be hungry! I anticipate a very strong performance from the German team also. They had no medals from Euros and will have the drive to get a medal here. The Germans have a very deep junior team so we could see anyone on the starting roster for them. Sweden’s roster has a huge gap after the injury to Jonna Adlerteg at Euros but they have Marcela Torres, who really had a breakthrough at Euros! Their junior side will no doubt feature the Haavisto twinsEmmy and Ellen, who are certainly being groomed for Rio 2016 next year. Spain doesn’t have the depth that they’ve had in years gone by but individually, they have Ana Perez Campos in the senior division. Australia have looked limited also. Their program isn’t massive and they don’t have the luxury of being selective with their lineups. New Zealand are looking poised and sharp, especially on vault and floor. One of their seasoned seniors, Courtney McGregor, will certainly challenge.


How to follow the event

There has been no announcement of a live stream feed, as of yet. Should a feed link be publicised, we shall update you!


An article by James Greaves, editor-in-chief

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College: Shchennikova to Michigan for the 2016-17 season

Senior elite gymnast, Polina Shchennikova, has committed to the Michigan Wolverines gymnastics team for the 2016-17 season.

The Russian-American gymnast, who lives in Arvada, Colorado and trains under the tutelage of her parents; Katya and Alex, has vast elite experience under her belt as a Junior but was unable to make her Senior debut last year because she was nursing various injuries. Shchennikova will return for the 2015 elite season as a Senior and is aiming for Rio.

Congratulations Polina!

Tabitha Yim to serve as Arizona Wildcats’ New Head Coach

Stanford team member and former elite gymnast, Tabitha Yim, has been named as the Arizona Wildcats women’s gymnastics Head Coach, following the retirement of former head coach and successor, Bill Ryden.

The news was announced earlier today through the Arizona Wildcats official website. The 29 year old has said “I’m excited to join the Arizona family and am looking forward to building off of the tradition of success that Coach Gault and Coach Ryden started here. I am passionate about creating a legacy that the program, university, and community can be proud of – not only because of the student-athletes’ success in the gym, but also because of their integrity and heart in all aspects of their life. I will forever remain thankful for the support of Kristen Smyth, Chris Swircek, and the Stanford staff, and I’m grateful to Greg Byrne and the Arizona staff for entrusting me with taking the program to the next level.”

Personally, I cannot wait to see Yim take over the Wildcats team!


Read the full article here

PHOTO: Aly Raisman, Simone Biles embrace being short!

2012 Olympic Champion, Aly Raisman and 2014 World Champion, Simone Biles, embrace the shortness in a cute pic Aly posted on her twitter feed. The picture is of them at Jesolo this year and the caption reads “. looks like a little baby here. I should’ve just picked her up and held her 

So cute.

Happy Cinco de Mayo, readers!