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Yvonne Tousek

Yvonne's Competitive Results
1994 Elite Canada: 11th AA
1995 National Championships: 12th AA
1995 Puerto Rico Cup: 2nd BB, 5th UB
1995 Subway World Gymnastics Challenge: 6th AA
1995 World Championships: 15th T
1996 American Cup: 5th AA , 2nd FX
1996 Canadian Olympic Trials: 1st AA
1996 DTB Pokal: 8th BB
1996 Elite Canada: 3rd AA, 1st VT, 2nd UB, 4th FX
1996 Swiss Cup: 5th BB
1996 Arthur Gander Memorial: 5th VT, 5th UB, 8th BB, 8th FX
1996 Olympic Games, Atlanta: 39th Prelim, 26th AA
1996 World Championships: 18th VT qualification
1997 World Gymnastics Championships: 20th AA , 8th TM,
1997 World TM Trials: 1st AA
1998 Canadian Championships: 2nd UB, 3rd BB
1998 Sagit Cup: 4th UB
1998 Women's Elite Canada: 1st AA, 2nd FX, 3rd UB, 7th VT & BB

1999 Bluewater International: 9th AA, 4th TM
1999 Canada vs. USA Challenge: 1st TM, (1st AA), 2nd FX, 5th UB
1999 Canadian Championships: 3rd AA, 1st FX & VT, 2nd UB, 7th BB
1999 Pan American Games: 1st TM, UB, & FX, 1st AA (qual.), 4th AA, 5th BB
1999 World Championships: 10th TM, 5th UB TM, 23rd AA, 8th FX
2000 Bluewater International: 1st TM, 2nd FX, 4th AA, 6th VT and UB
2000 Pacific Alliance Championships: (injured)
2000 Canadian Championships: 1st AA, 1st UB and FX, 2nd VT and BB
2000 Olympic Trials: 3rd AA
2000 Olympic Games: 9th TM, 33rd AA

NCAA Competition (UCLA)
2001 NCAA Championships: 1st T, 3rd AA, 1st UB, 10th B
2002 NCAA Championships: 3rd T, 5th AA, 1st UB
2003 NCAA Championships: 1st T, 5th AA
2004 NCAA Championships: 1st T, 5th BB

Yvonne with teammate Gilmore at
1999 CAN v USA dual meet

The 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, marked the end of a long and illustrious international career for 2000 Canadian champion Yvonne Tousek, one of Canada's best-ever female gymnasts. Over the span of six seasons, Tousek acted as the undisputed leader of the Canadian women's team, which moved from struggling program to world leader under her example.

After winning the National Novice all-around championship in 1993 with the Kitchener-Waterloo Gymnastics Club, Tousek moved to the Cambridge Kips, where her potential was placed in the capable hands of 1972 and 1976 Olympic gold medallist, Elvire Saadi. At the Kips, Saadi and her coaching partner, Vladimir Kondratenko, brought their Soviet style of coaching to Canada, and soon had a rapt pupil in Tousek. By 1995, Tousek had earned the right to represent Canada at the world championships in Sabae, Japan. Unfortunately, the competition was one of the Canadian women's worst defeats at a major international event, placing 15th and missing the cut to send a full team to the 1996 Olympic Games. Despite this frustrating result, the Canadians had earned the right to send three individual athletes to Atlanta, so 1996 would not be a lost year.

Despite being new to the Canadian team in 1995, Tousek's strong performance in Japan had earned her a reputation as a rising star heading toward Atlanta. This advance billing was confirmed with an impressive 8th-place finish at the 1996 American Cup. Interestingly, Tousek is most often remembered for what she did not do at this competition: after debuting a captivating floor exercise earlier in the season, her routine was not shown by NBC during their live broadcast, despite a rousing audience reaction and a 2nd place finish on that event. Heated fan reaction to Tousek's overlooked routine confirmed that her popularity was on the rise.

Yvonne demonstrating her
remarkable flexibility

By the time the Olympic Games arrived, Tousek was firmly entrenched as Canada's top gymnast, and she won the Olympic Trials to confirm this status. A world-class floor exercise performer, she was also known for her daring on the other apparatus: her repertoire included a front handspring-front tuck on balance beam and a Hindorff (free-hip to reverse hecht) release move on the uneven bars. Chronic ankles injuries made vaulting a relative weakness, but Tousek's open piked Cuervo vaults were still quite dynamic and scored well. Unfortunately, the risky composition of her exercises, combined with the inexperience of youth, resulted in inconsistencies in the level of Tousek's performances in the first half of her international career.

Tousek's Olympic results were certainly an improvement for Canada. After failing to place a single athlete in the all-around competition in Sabae, the Canadians were able to erase this memory when the 16 year-old qualified among the top 36 and ultimately finished an impressive 26th all-around. While an error on the uneven bars likely cost her a top-20 ranking, Tousek's performance placed her among the world elite, and gave Canada a bona fide leader heading into the next quadrennium.

After the indignity of Sabae, the Canadian team regrouped, making the 1997 world championships in Lausanne, Switzerland, one of their most successful in history. After an 8th-place finish in the team competition, the Canadians were thrilled to send the maximum three athletes to the all-around finals. There, Tousek nearly scored the most stunning upset ever in Canadian women's gymnastics when she stood in 7th place after three apparatus. Beginning her meet on the floor exercise, Tousek's participation in the all-around had been in jeopardy when she aggravated an ankle injury during the warm-up. Fortunately, the judges were sympathetic to the Canadian's situation, allowing her the unusual benefit of performing out of competition order, moving to last in the rotation. With pain rifling up her leg, Tousek managed to successfully execute her ultra-difficult whip immediate Arabian double front mount, but had to water down her final pass, using a safer double twist instead of the double pike she executed in team optionals. Her gutsy routine was a success, and she continued through the competition with well-executed exercises on vault and uneven bars.

With only beam to go, Tousek was among the royalty in women's gymnastics, her name appearing on the scoreboard with the likes Khorkina, Gogean, Amanar, and Produnova. Sadly, the balance beam is unbiased in its cruelty, and on that day it chose Tousek as its prey. A disappointing exercise, marred by a fall and another major break, forced Tousek to swallow a frustrating, though still impressive, 20th-place finish, just slightly below the Canadian record standing of 15th-place previously accomplished by Lori Strong and Stella Umeh.

At the
2000 Olympic Trials

From the end of 1997 to early 1999, Tousek was almost invisible on the Canadian scene. Chronic injuries and years of intense training were taking their toll, forcing competition to take a back seat to rest and health. Those who were willing to write Tousek off grossly underestimated her determined nature and desire to see Canada qualify as a team to the 2000 Olympics, however, and Yvonne proved her nay-sayers wrong by coming back with a vengeance to qualify for the 1999 Pan American Games team. With new, more consistent exercises that included the international debut of an unusual sideways back handspring step-out on the beam, a move that now bears her name, Tousek emerged with a new found confidence and maturity that only comes with years of experience. After supporting the Canadian team through some their most trying times, it seemed only appropriate that this revitalized Tousek would drive her countrywomen into one of their greatest eras.

The 1999 Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Manitoba, could certainly stand as Canada's most brilliant moment in women's gymnastics, and Tousek was the one of the brightest stars of the show. After their stunning upset of the United States in the team competition, the Canadians went on to win six medals in the individual phase of the meet, including three gold, two of which belonged to Tousek for her uneven bars and floor exercise performances.

At the 1999 world championships in Tianjin, China, a nervous Canadian squad went into the competition knowing a lifetime of work and four years of rebuilding were on the line as they attempted to finish in the top 12 in the world to place a full team on the plane to Sydney. Finishing on the dreaded balance beam (the same event they had finished on in Winnipeg the previous year), the women faltered slightly and feared that their opportunity was slipping away. When the final standings revealed a 10th-place finish, the team erupted in a jubilant celebration for their achievement.

After a mediocre performance resulted in a 23rd-place all-around standing, Tousek was likely ready to pack up her leotard and prepare to watch the apparatus finals from the stands, but two last-minute withdrawals by Americans Kristin Maloney and Vanessa Atler resulted in an invitation for Yvonne to compete amongst the best eight in the world for the floor exercise final. Finally, after four world championships (including Puerto Rico, 1996) and an Olympic Games, Tousek would have the chance to showcase her renowned floor performance to the entire world. If you have never seen Yvonne perform on the floor exercise, you are missing one of the few women in the world who has the courage to give her soul to the audience while she is performing. Her choreography is unusual; for some, it is unappealing. But none can deny that there is no other floor performer in the world like Tousek, and her style is refreshing in a sport that emphasizes content over charisma. In an interview conducted by CBC, Tousek told reporters that she "wanted to give the audience something to think about" when she performs. For the record, she finished 8th, and last, in the floor exercise finals, but for many Canadians she was a champion who symbolized her country's willingness to take chances with their artistry and choreography that few other teams can rival.

Showing her unique style at the
2000 Olympic Trials

The 2000 Olympic Games were essentially a victory lap for Tousek; she had accomplished all she could in the sport, and had even earned her first national title earlier in the year. After suffering the devastating loss of teammate Emilie Fournier to a broken ankle just days before the competition, the Canadian women rallied to 9th place as a team behind the 4-for-4 performance of Tousek. The significance of this result should not be underestimated, as the Canadian women were not only competing without one of their top performers, but they also were contending with serious injuries to Tousek (bone spurs in her ankle) and teammate Michelle Conway (torn meniscus in her knee). While many, including themselves, might have expected the women to succumb to these difficult conditions, they responded with a spirited and inspired effort that was led by Tousek's outstanding effort that ranked 15th-best in the team competition. Sadly, severe ankle pain and emotional fatigue likely contributed to a rather forgettable all-around performance that left Tousek 33rd (officially) out of 35 athletes, but her performance on that day was hardly necessary to pad an already outstanding competitive resume.

With Kate Richardson
at the 2000 Olympic Trials

With all of these years of pain, success, frustration, and joy, it is quite amazing that Yvonne Tousek can find the strength to continue, yet those are her plans. From now on, however, she will trade in the familiar red and white warm-up she wore for Canada in favour of the blue, white, and gold of UCLA, the defending NCAA champions on the United States collegiate scene. Joining Tousek is arguably the greatest freshmen class of female gymnasts ever assembled, so the pressure of the last four years is somewhat relieved. This distribution of leadership will allow Yvonne the time for surgery on the bone spurs in her ankles and to heal some of the injuries accumulated over an entire career. So, as she reaches the crossroads between her time as an international and collegiate athlete, we at wish Yvonne the greatest success in the future, and remind her that her accomplishments and sportsmanship will live on in our pages, as well as in the minds and hearts of her many fans around the world, for years to come.

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