Full Twist contributor Anna Rose Johnson recently caught up with some elite, Level 10, and NCAA gymnasts to discuss their training, future goals, and more.
Vanessa Ferrari, Claudia Fragapane, Maddie Karr, Kylie Koeppen, Lizzy LeDuc, Debora Reis, Veronica Wagner, and Toni-Ann Williams provided us with thoughtful insights into their training.
VANESSA FERRARI: “I PLAN TO INTRODUCE NEW THINGS”
Vanessa Ferrari of Italy is a two-time Olympian and the 2006 World All-Around Champion. She has won many World medals over her long career; she recently competed at the 2015 World Championships but unfortunately had to withdraw from the floor final. “My workouts have remained constant even after the World [Championships] although with a slightly lower rate, because I have to take care of a problem with the Achilles tendon,” Vanessa told Full Twist. “For now I think [of recovering] physically and, if I can get fit, [my coach and] I set two objectives: the Europeans of Bern and the Olympic Games in Rio.”
On the subject of new skills, Vanessa told us, “I plan to introduce new things [next year], but because of the tendon problem [I] have not yet managed to put them into practice; [later on] I will understand if they are feasible.
We asked Vanessa a few questions pertaining to her longevity in the sport. “I never aspired to any [particular] gymnast,” she remarked. “I just thought to train and increase my capacity.” She told us that when she was younger, gymnastics was easier. “Now [we] are much more cautious in doing things, but now if I can reach an important goal [I] can better enjoy the result.” When asked when she might retire, Vanessa replied, “Good question! I still have not decided anything…the time will decide.”
CLAUDIA FRAGAPANE: “DELIGHTED WITH OUR PERFORMANCES”
Claudia Fragapane is one of the stars of the British women’s senior elite artistic team. She has competed in two World Championships, securing a bronze with her team in 2015. “Training has been going well,” Claudia told Full Twist. “I had a nice break after Worlds and then built back up from there.”
The 18-year-old explained that she is going to upgrade her floor routine for 2016. “I couldn’t include my new elements at Worlds as I had an ankle injury in the lead up to the competition,” she noted.
Claudia, who trains at Bristol Hawks Gym Club, stated that she will start competing again by the second weekend in March. She also doesn’t intend to retire after 2016. “I’ve got one eye on the Gold Coast [2018 Commonwealth Games] and I’m not planning on finishing competing anytime soon,” she declared.
“Our GB Team were delighted with our performances and historic result at the Glasgow Worlds and would like to build on this for Rio 2016,” added Claudia. “I’d like to wish all the Full Twist readers a very happy new year—keep following your dreams!”
MADDIE KARR: “STAYING HEALTHY IS MY MAIN FOCUS”
Maddie Karr is a U.S. Level 10 artistic gymnast from Twin City Twisters in Minnesota. She was the winner of the senior division at the 2015 Nastia Liukin Cup. “[Training] has been going very well!” Maddie told Full Twist. “I’m very excited for senior season and hopefully I’ll be able to have a few new upgrades.”
On the subject of new skills, Maddie told us that she’s training an Onodi, which will be her second acro on beam. “I have competed it many times but my goal is to have it in my routine the whole year,” she explained. “I am also training an extra punch front out of my back 1 ½ front full on floor which will also hopefully be in my routine.”
Maddie described her gymnastics goals: “Staying healthy is my main focus for the next five years and also cleaning any problem parts in any of my routines. I have many goals set for this season including a trip back to Nastia Cup. You’ll just have to wait and see.”
KYLIE KOEPPEN: “KEEP STRIVING TO BE BETTER”
Kylie Koeppen is a U.S. Level 8 artistic gymnast from Dance Moves and Gymnastics in Indiana. She is a two-time state floor exercise champion. “Lately, training has been running pretty smooth,” Kylie told Full Twist. “I have a few rough patches on some events, but from what I know that’s how gymnastics is.”
On the subject of goals, Kylie explained, “Like any gymnast, my short-term goals are to compete in my current level and learn and successfully compete new and exciting skills. As for my long-term goals, I am hoping to go to college on either a gymnastics or track scholarship.”
The 16-year-old told us, “In 2016, I am hoping to compete my higher start value skills. I’ve been working really hard and I think this will be a good season. My next competition is the weekend of January 16-17. It is the Coaches Spectacular, hosted by Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy.”
When asked what she’d like to tell the Full Twist readers, Kylie responded, “For the gymnasts who feel like you are in a slump of fear, pain, struggles, or failure; it will end. Just because things seem hard now does NOT mean they always will be. You have to have the courage and motivational drive to succeed in this sport. Trust me, I know it’s difficult, I know it’s time-consuming, I know it’s painful, and I know sometimes you doubt why you are doing it. Don’t let setbacks like these keep you from achieving your own greatness. Keep striving to be better. It is all worth it. I promise.”
LIZZY LEDUC: “WE ARE GOING TO MAKE THIS YEAR THE BEST ONE YET”
Lizzy LeDuc has had an interesting history in gymnastics. She formerly competed as a junior elite in the United States, before competing internationally for the Philippines. Now, she’s a freshman competing in NCAA gymnastics at the University of Illinois. “Season is getting close and the team is working hard every day in practice giving it our all,” Lizzy told Full Twist. “Personally, practice has been going very well. I’ve been putting in the numbers to get my routines ready for season. I have been focusing on the details and trying to stick all of my landings, knowing that every tenth counts. I’m so excited to experience my first season as a college gymnast.”
Lizzy described her gymnastics goals: “My goals for this upcoming season [are] to be an All-American in the all-around and to do all that I can to help our team achieve our goals of winning Big Ten’s and making it to NCAAs.” She added, “Personally right now I am not thinking much about returning to elite, but anything can happen.”
While Lizzy is not currently working on any new skills, she explained, “I am mostly working on the details and trying to make everything as perfect as I can.”
Lizzy concluded, “I would like to tell the Full Twist readers to keep their eyes open for the Fighting Illini because we are going to make this year the best one yet, and not stopping until we achieve our goals.”
DEBORA REIS: “TO KEEP FIGHTING FOR THIS DREAM”
Debora Reis is a senior elite artistic gymnast from Uruguay. At the 2015 World Championships, she placed 188th in qualifications. “My training has gone very well, it was a year of hard training,” Debora told Full Twist. “I was training in Uruguay but also in Houston and Virginia Beach. And now I’m training in Uruguay [again] to prepare for the upcoming competitions. This year was a good year for me; I had the Pan American Games in Toronto, and the Worlds in Glasgow. Two new experiences. The World Championships in Glasgow [were] my first Worlds. It was a dream for me, something I always wanted. I felt very nervous, but a lot of excitement to be there and be with [gymnasts all over the world]. To live that competition is priceless, it makes it [everything] worthwhile. Seeing so many gymnasts…was incredible. I hope to continue representing my country in this type of competition and getting better.”
The 19-year-old is working on some new skills for 2016, but at the moment, she’s refining and improving her routines. “After a short break for the holidays, I’m going to start the 2016 [season]…My next competition is the opening competition in Uruguay in May. And then I have the qualifiers in August and September.”
When asked about her gymnastics goals, Debora told us, “What I want it is to keep improving, advancing, to see if I can get to 2020, to keep fighting for this dream.”
Debora added, “Gymnastics is a sport that has given me so much that I would not change anything. It has taught me a lot, and I have formed and grown. It is a sport that teaches a sporting level, and personally, a lot of dedication and discipline is needed. But all the effort is always worthwhile.”
VERONICA WAGNER: “IN MY HEART I COULD DO GYMNASTICS ALL MY LIFE”
Veronica Wagner is a veteran in our sport. In 2004, she was the first Swedish gymnast to compete in the Olympics in 20 years. She qualified to Beijing 2008, but the Swedish Olympic Committee did not choose to send her. Veronica took a gymnastics break for two years in order to study, and then she made a remarkable comeback in the summer of 2014 and made the World Championships team. “I was very happy that just four months after I started to train I made the 2014 Worlds team,” she told Full Twist.
“I had a rough  season,” Veronica explained. “I ripped two muscles in my calf, and had a very bruised heel so before Worlds I could not do anything; I’m just very happy I could be there to compete for Sweden and my team. After Worlds I took a week’s break. And then we have started to build me up step by step during Nov-Dec. So now, I’m doing a lot of strength and basics. So far it’s going just as planned. During Jan-Feb it’s all about getting single elements done and then building towards routines again. So far, so good.”
Veronica is working on several new elements she is hoping to debut next year. “I’m hoping to do some extra connections on beam,” she noted. “I started now on low beam to train switch-switch 1/2-back tuck. And wolf-jump on the side on the beam. (I did that at nationals once 2011, but I need to bring it back.) I also hope I can do layout 1/2 on vault instead of pike 1/2.” She is training to hopefully compete in the 2016 Rio Olympic Test Event, and training on the uneven bars after a five-year break from the apparatus!
When asked about her short-term and long-term gymnastics goals, Veronica said, “Haha, now it’s all about short-term! My goal this year is to be very ready for Europeans! I want to excel on beam and be in beam finals because I have a few times been training [well] and then I end up 11th or something so this time I want to make the beam finals!”
Veronica explained that she would like to compete in the 2016 Baku and Doha World Cups, but it depends on how everything goes. “This will be my last season, which is kind of sad,” she admitted. “But also it’s time, and it’s not a walk in the park to train this much and hard at the age of 28. It’s hard on the body in a totally different way than when I was 16-20. In my heart I could do gymnastics all my life. But I also need to go back to my physio-program at the Uni in September and I just can’t combine gymnastics with school. Let’s hope for a very, very good season for me and that I can put a star on the ‘ending’ of a long journey.”
TONI-ANN WILLIAMS: “I WANT TO HAVE FUN AND KEEP CHASING OUR POTENTIAL”
Toni-Ann Williams is a sophomore at the University of California, Berkeley. She also competes for Jamaica in elite gymnastics. “Training has been going well,” Toni-Ann told Full Twist. “The team and I have been working hard to get prepared for this season.”
She explained her gymnastics goals: “One of my biggest goals for 2016 is to focus on the team and continuing to help the Cal gymnastics program progress. I want to have fun and keep chasing our potential by getting One Day Better.”
Toni-Ann is working on several new skills for 2016. “This season I will be hoping to debut my double front dismount on beam and my 1 ½-twisting vault,” she explained. “I have had my double front for quite some time so I am really excited to be able to compete for Cal this season. The 1 ½ is new for me but I am pumped about challenging myself and being able to bring the difficulty and depth to our lineup.”
When asked what she’d like to tell the Full Twist readers, Toni-Ann replied, “I am really excited to get back out there this season and be able to compete for Cal and alongside these amazing girls.”
Many thanks to all of the gymnasts for taking the time to answer our questions. Stay tuned for Part 26, which will include updates with Asuka Teramoto, Polina Shchennikova, and others!