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Archive: November 2005

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O'Neill wins silver on FX
Courtesy of Grace Chiu

Edmonton's Brandon O'Neill equalled Canada's best ever result at a world championship with a silver medal winning effort on the floor exercise finals in Melbourne, Australia yesterday. O'Neill scored a 9.625, only 0.05 shy of the winning 9.675 score posted by Brazilian Diego Hypolito. A small step on his final pass - a difficult double twisting double back - was the only noticeable flaw in his jam packed routine that has already earned him several floor titles this year. Robert Gal of Hungary and Fuliang Liang tied for bronze with a 9.587.

Reflecting on his performance, O'Neill said "It feels great to get the medal I’m really happy with myself," adding "If someone [had] told me I would have performed as I did today at the worlds I would have taken it gladly." O'Neill's coach Liang Cheng was obviously proud of his student's effort, and praised O'Neill's work ethic: "He’s a guy that never gives up and is dedicated in his training and that makes the difference."

Two Canadians had previously won silver medals at the world championships, with Curtis Hibbert in 1987 and Alexander Jeltkov in 1999, both on the high bar.


Sport Seneca’s Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs will be the first reserve for Saturday’s apparatus finals on the uneven bars after scoring a 9.362 on the apparatus at the qualifying round at the World Gymnastics Championships in Melbourne, Australia, earlier today. Hopfner-Hibbs competed in the first qualifying session, after which her uneven bars score ranked her in third place, and she had to wait through three more sessions to see if she would qualify. Her score left her as first reserve, just 0.038 out of the final. She said that she “focused a lot on the little details,” and that she “was trying to control my nerves because often in the past I let them get the best of me. I worked hard at staying concentrated on the task and hand, and staying calm and it worked.’’ The American women qualified first in second on the uneven bars, led by Nastia Liukin and Chellsie Memmel, who also qualified for the all-around final with the top two rankings. Hopfner-Hibbs also competed in the balance beam, scoring 8.787.

Full results continue to be posted at the official 2005 World Championships Website, as well as the International Gymnast site.


Courtesy of Grace Chiu

Edmonton’s Brandon O’Neill has qualified for his first world championship final with a fourth palce finish on floor exericise in preliminaries at the World Gymnastics Championships in Melbourne, Australia, today. O’Neill scored a 9.512 on his best event, despite suffering an out of bounds deduction on his last line, to finish the qualifying round in equal fourth place with Hungary’s Robert Gal. Olympic floor silver medallist Marian Dragulescu qualified in first place with a 9.637, followed by Jefferey Wammes of the Netherlands (9.587) and China’s Fuliang Liang (9.55). O’Neill also competed on vault, averging 9.324, and parallel bars, scoring 8.737. O’Neill, who has multiple victories internationally this year on floor exercise, will compete for a medal when the apparatus finals begin Saturday.

Wednesday morning in Melbourne (later today in Canadian time zones), Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs will compete in women’s qualifications on the uneven bars and balance beam. Hopfner-Hibbs had a successful podium training, and has been motivated by various “inspirational words of wisdom” from letters received from her Sport Seneca teammates back home as she prepares to compete at her first world championships. Hopfner-Hibbs competes in the first women’s subdivision and results should be available sometime this evening.

For complete results from this year’s World Championships, check in with the official 2005 World Gymnastics Championships website.


The 38th World Gymnastics Championships begin early next week in Melbourne, Australia, and while Canada will enter only one woman and one man in the event, hopes are high for some of the best ever individual results for the team in world championship history.

The most decorated gymnast for Canada this year will be Edmonton’s Brandon O’Neill who enters these world championships as a gold medal favourite on his best event, the floor exercise. O’Neill has already struck gold this year on this apparatus at the World University Games, the Pan American Championships, as well as three victories on the world circuit. O’Neill is confident entering his first worlds, telling Gymnastics Canada Gymnastique “I feel that if I hit my routine I can be right in there.” If he wins a medal, he will become only the fourth Canadian ever to win a world championship medal. The Canadian men have twice struck silver on the horizontal bar (Curtis Hibbert in 1987, and Alexander Jeltkov in 1999), and have won bronze three times (Hibbert on vault in 1992, and Olympic floor champion Kyle Shewfelt on vault and floor in 2003), and a win for O’Neill would make him Canada’s first ever world champion in artistic gymnastics. The significance of a victory here is not lost on O’Neill. “I’m aware that no Canadian has ever won gold at the worlds and it would be great to be the first and take that next step in my career.” O’Neill will also compete in the vault and parallel bar events.

For the women, strict qualifying standards as well as untimely injuries have left Canada with one entrant in the women’s competition - first year senior Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs of Sport Seneca in Toronto. Hopfner-Hibbs will compete in Melbourne on her two strongest events, uneven bars and balance beam, where she has had a lot of success this year and is a definite candidate to qualify for an apparatus final. Only three Canadian women have reached the apparatus finals at the world championships, with the best ever result being a fifth place on the balance beam fromStella Umeh in 1992, Larissa Lowing reaching finals on the vault in 1989, and Yvonne Tousek on floor exercise in 1999. Hopfner-Hibbs has scored well internationally on her best events this season, making several finals on the world cup circuit as well as taking gold on the beam at the recent Massilia Cup in France. Hopfner-Hibbs has high hopes for this competition, telling Gymnastics Canada “both events have been going really well for me lately, so I’d like to make finals in both.”

Competition begins with the men’s qualifications on Tuesday, November 22, with O’Neill slated for the second of three men’s subdivisions, while Hopfner-Hibbs will compete in the first women’s subdivision on Wednesday, November 23. The official 2005 World Gymnastics Championships website is being updated regularly, including training notes, quotes, and press conference highlights.


Chong at the 2003 Jurassic Classic Photo by Grace Chiu

Laura-Ann Chong of Phoenix Gym Club has signed with Oregon State. 

The excited Coquitlam resident spoke to Gymn.ca about her decision to attend OSU. "When I started looking for a college to attend, I narrowed it down to a few things that I wanted - good coaches, West Coast location, good college academically, and the right fit for teammates." 

"I wanted to stay on the West Coast because it would be easier to visit home or for my family to visit me," the family-minded Chong told Gymn.ca. "My other coach, Kyna, is also glad I am close to home because she is hoping to come down lots to visit (and shop tax free!)," she joked. 

The Northwestern United States climate also appeals to Chong. "I also wanted to go to a place with a similar climate as B.C. - with no tornados or hurricanes!  My family often vacationed in Oregon when I was younger and I loved it. OSU is so close to the sand dunes and beaches that I loved as a child.  It brought back a lot of childhood memories when I visited the campus and I felt like I belonged there right away. The town of Corvallis is smaller than Coquitlam and the campus isn't so huge that it is overwhelming.  I loved it."

Chong is also confident that the school will prepare her for her career aspirations. "OSU offers a full range of programs and their advisors were really helpful in identifying the courses I would need to take to meet my career goals. I liked the support the university gives to their student athletes and I feel like I can be successful academically and athletically there."

The right team "fit" is crucial, and Chong feels that OSU is right for her. "The girls on the team really welcomed me on my visits and I connected with them right away.  They are fun and hard working and I can't wait to join them."

Chong may have recently signed to compete NCAA, but she is still focused on her High Performance career. "I wanted to be sure that the coaches were going to be able to help me continue to grow as a gymnast as I'd like to keep myself primed for international competition," Chong told Gymn.ca. "I'm hoping to still compete for Canada while at college." The coaching staff at OSU proved a big pull for both Chong and coach David Kenwright, in this respect. "David highly recommended Tanya and Michael and their program. They were both National Team members for the USA and had been to Worlds themselves so I knew they would understand the needs of the Elite gymnast."

To date, Chong's career highlights include competing at the 2002 Pacific Alliance Championships as an exhibition gymnast (4th AA, 5th V, 4th UB, 2nd BB, 3rd FX), 2003 Pan Am/World Team trials (8th AA), 2004 Massilia Cup (10th T), 2004 Olympic trials (7th AA), 2005 Stella Zakharova Cup (2nd T, 5th BB), and numerous Canadian National and Elite Canada competitions. 


Gymnastics Mississauga's Melanie Tham has signed with Iowa State, and has her sights set on next year's 2006-2007 season. A 2003-04 Canadian National Team member, Tham competed abroad in a number of competitions including the 2002 Siska Gym (17th AA), 2003 Australian Youth Olympic Festival (3rd team), and 2004 Olympic Test Event (6th team) in Athens. Tham won the 2005 Canadian Open national championship earlier this year, in May in Victoria.

Tham spoke with Gymn.ca about the choice to attend Iowa over four other schools. "It was not an easy decision for me," she admitted. "I had the opportunity to accept a scholarship from the same school as my best friend, [but] after getting to know the [Iowa] coaches, seeing the school, and meeting the girls, I knew I would be able to excel and grow at Iowa State."

Tham further described her recruiting trip, "Everyone was very welcoming, the campus was beautiful, and I think the team is headed in an exciting direction. I got a really great, excited feeling, and that was that extra push I needed to know that Iowa State was where I wanted to go."

Tham will move to Iowa in August 2006. "I'm looking forward to being part of the team and having that great team dynamic in workouts and working with KJ, Lou and Krissy (the Iowa State coaches)." Tham jokingly added that she also looks forward to the "brand new loft-style dorms" before returning to the more serious issues at hand, "huge lectures (I've never been to one), getting to know the girls, being a freshman with [Calgary Gymnastics Center's] Jody McKellar, traveling all over the states for meets, and getting really good at competing!!"


Marci Bernholtz, coached by Paula Johnson and Brenda Nader at ASF gymnastics will have to miss this month’s world championships due to a knee injury sustained while competing in Europe recently. Bernholtz, whose competitive successes this fall included a fourth place all-around at the Massilia Cup and an event finals berth at the Glasgow Grand Prix, suffered multiple tears to the lateral meniscus in her knee, requiring surgery and a two week rehab. Bernholtz and her coach made the difficult decision to withdraw from the world championships, feeling that “in the long run getting the knee 100% was the best decision and not risking further damage.” Bernholtz had been selected to the world championship team as an all-around gymnast.

Bernholtz’s injury makes it likely that Canada will be represented at the world championships in Melbourne by Omega’s Gael Mackie and Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs of Sport Seneca. Both gymnasts also had successful competitions in Europe, making multiple event finals at the Massilia, DTB, and Glasgow Grand Prix events.

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