We have a stack of interviews we'd like to share with you, all waiting to be translated. Many of these interviews will probably have to wait until February, when things will quieten down considerably at the Gym Girl headquarters, but we hope to post a few before that time. Here's a nice chat with Ariella Kaeslin to kick things off. Meet the 21-year-old who is currently one of the top-ranked female vaulters in the world, not to mention Swiss Sportswoman of the Year 2008...
Ariella Kaeslin, Swiss Sportswoman of the Year 2008 (photo: Reuters)
The interview below was published by Neue Zürcher Zeitung (a Zürich-based newspaper) just before Christmas. Enjoy!
"Perhaps We'll Find a Fitness Center"
Gymnast Ariella Kaeslin Has Earned Her Vacation
Q: Ariella Kaeslin, we are happy for you.
Q: At last you can go on vacation.
A: Thanks. I haven't gone on vacation in a whole year. Even after the Olympic Games I only took 3 or 4 days off training. But school was still going, so there was always something to be done. So on the one hand I'm happy to be able to take a rest.
Ariella at the Olympics (photo: Keystone)
Q: And on the other hand?
A: I'm traveling with mixed feelings. Actually I'm happy, I really need to allow myself these 10 days. But I know that afterward it will be really difficult. So I'm doing some training while on vacation.
Q: You are training while on vacation?
A: I'm on vacation with Linda Stämpfli and Danielle Englert, two gymnastics friends [both Swiss national team members]. First we will spend a couple of days in New York. After Christmas we are flying to Florida. There we are going to Disney World and bargain shopping in the factory outlets. Perhaps we'll find a fitness center, but we can also work on our strength and flexibility in the hotel.
Q: But in New York you will restrain yourselves and enjoy the city?
A: Not only. Late at night when the city is asleep... well, it never does sleep, but when it is quieter, we want to go jogging. Nighttime jogging.
Q: How can you relax like that?
A: I don't know any different. Since I was a small child, I have always been on the move when I was on vacation. I couldn't lie around on the beach doing nothing. I need the excitement of New York and I need sport. If I do nothing, I get fidgety and nervous. I wouldn't like that.
Q: Then we have to feel sorry for you?
A: No, perish the thought! I would lose everything really quickly [if I didn't work out]. Two weeks without exercise would really throw me back. Once back in training, it would take a lot of effort to manage even the easiest exercises. I would suffer like a dog. But you know, that's gymnastics for you.
Q: Do you have to bring yourself to go on vacation?
A: Yes, in the past I have needed to. But nowadays I find it a bit easier. I have earned it.
Ariella (left) in Madrid, with Cheng Fei and Aagje Vanwalleghem
(photo: Volker Minkus/FIG)
Q: You were placed fifth on vault at the Olympics, and one week ago you were second in the World Cup Final, winning the first Swiss medal ever in this competition. What is 2009 going to bring?
A: I finally want to make it onto the pedestal at the European Championships.
Q: You are starting training again already on January 3rd. The European Championships are at the end of March. What are you focusing on?
A: In the all-around I want to be in the top 6, which means I have to improve on all 4 apparatus. But the Chusovitina, my first vault, can't be improved upon. It's a very difficult vault. Only two gymnasts perform it.
Q: Can you describe it?
A: It's funny that you should ask that. Since the Olympics I have had to explain my vaults again and again.
Q: And you don't like doing that?
A: That's not the problem. I find it difficult to explain, because most people can't really visualize it. I usually tell them to look the vault up on YouTube. But I can give it a try: I do a handspring and a layout somersault with one and a half twists.
Q: When we phoned earlier during your training and wanted to leave a message, your mailbox was full. Have you had a lot of appointments since Beijing?
A: Everybody wanted something from me - media, colleagues, fans. But I love it.
Q: At the beginning of , you were barely known outside of the gymnastics world. Now you are [Swiss] Sportswoman of the Year. Crazy, isn't it?
A: It's nice that so many people know me now. When young gymnasts write to me that I'm their role model, I'm flattered. Strangers talk to me on the street. I'm happy that people recognize my achievement.
Q: What is admirable about it?
A: You will have to ask someone else that, not me!
Q: While we are on the subject...
A: Well, OK. We have 10 female gymnasts on our national team. The Chinese girls have thousands at the same level. I am proud that I could prevail.
(photo: Jasmin Schneebeli-Wochner/Gymbox)
Q: Does the gymnastics world recognize that?
A: I notice that the other girls now have respect for me. As a new girl you are barely visible, but now everybody greets me. That is important to me.
Q: You are 21. That is relatively old for gymnastics. What is more difficult for you now?
A: Taking a break, and then getting back into form. I notice that I have demanded a lot from my body. It is all still working but the little aches and pains are becoming more frequent.
Q: What are you going to do for Christmas, in the middle of New York, far away from your family?
A: I hope that Linda, Danielle and I will not be sitting under the huge Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center all on our own. But actually, I think that something good will occur to us.
We hope Ariella enjoyed that vacation. We wonder if she bumped into Jade Barbosa and the Hypolito siblings at Disney World...
And since Ariella obviously loves posing, we felt it our duty to include a non-gymnastics photo... (photo: Fabienne Buehler/AP)
External link: Ariella's homepage (some good portraits there... mostly fully clad ones!)