January 17, 2009

Ariella Kaeslin: "I Notice That the Other Girls Now Have Respect for Me"

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.

A: Why?

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 [2008], 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!)


  1. Along with Nastia, Ariella was the gymnast who impressed me the most in 2008. It's really quite remarkable how much success she achieved last year. I was always amazed how much progress she made on vault between Europeans, when she did a front tuck full, to Beijing by through a layout 1.5! She's amazing!

  2. You are trying to provoke me to a relapse.

  3. Ha! We were kind of wondering how you'd respond to that, TCO. Be strong. Behave. We know you can do it!

    Nico, we agree on Kaeslin. Even at age 21 she is improving all the time. Very impressive.

  4. Kaeslin will be 25 by 2012. She will be a washup by then. She will either not be at the London Olympics, or get in as a wild-card. Either way, she will not a serious medal contender.

  5. Did you even read the interview, Mike? It doesn't say anything about 2012. Kaeslin just says she wants to do well at the 2009 Europeans. That's not asking too much, we think.

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but a bit less negativity from you wouldn't hurt.

  6. This blog seems to be anti-american, pro-everyone-else. Whenever I offered an pessimistic assessment of non-american gymnasts, you guys accused me of being too negative. I don't know. I could be wrong .....
    But I love this blog though!!!!

  7. Considering she's at her best now at age 21 she could have a shot at 2012. I hope she does well this year.

  8. Mike, this blog is by no means anti-American (some of our contributors are American, and proudly so). If we pay less attention to American gymnasts than we do to other teams, it's because we simply don't have time to keep track of them because we're too busy translating stories from foreign languages. The stated aim of this blog is to make information from foreign sources accessible to English-speaking readers, and that's what we're doing, when we're not busy covering competitions. There are plenty of other sites and blogs out there which focus almost exclusively on American gymnasts. We're kind of trying to provide the other perspective here. That's what this blog is about. If that makes us sound anti-American, well, so be it. Sorry. :)

    As for the commenting business, when I accused you of being too negative just now, it was not because you were criticizing a non-American gymnast (we're not that petty), but because we feel you are often negative in general. Some of your comments seem harsh and uncalled for. We're trying to keep things positive here, which is why I just asked for a bit less negativity from you. Honestly, we don't care whom you criticize or what his or her background is; we would just like a bit less negativity in general. We hope you understand.

    For what it's worth, we're glad you appreciate the blog, despite its apparently anti-American slant! :)

  9. The blog is incredible in terms of the news being conveyed. I don't see it as anti-american. If anything you are helping us out with the translations. Someone could even accuse you of giving in to English language domination or whatever. Well, anyhow, USA won WW2 and the Cold War. Go Shawn!

  10. I think you should put the author of particular blog posts with each post. That is how other multi-author blogs do it (e.g. Volokh.com).

  11. TCO, identifying the author of each post is something we're considering. We haven't quite made up our minds about the subject yet. We'll see.

    We're glad you don't see the blog as anti-American. We don't either, so we were a bit baffled by the accusation...

  12. I was wondering how TCO would respond to the last photo of Kaeslin.

    Just considering how brutally cold it has been in New York City, she may not enjoy night time jogs.

    And I don't think you girls need to go on some type of affirmative action program to make sure you meet a quota of articles about Americans.

  13. There is some anti-american censorship going onhere. Some of my posts never see the daylight on this blog. Let's see if my next few posts get lucky.....

  14. And on an unrelated note, you said a while ago that you would talk about the Sao Paulo girls' injuries, but you never did. Will we ever get an update on them? I can't find anything talking about them.

  15. Hey Gym Gals:
    I never said this site must focus more american gymnasts. All i said was that a brutally honest assessment of a gymnast should not be taken as a unfair criticism.
    This site is about making news of foreign gymnasts available in english. That's great! But it is not possible to talk about foreign gymnasts in isolation without referring to american gymnasts too, since you can't win gold medal without someone else taking silver and bronze (and others taking 4th, 5th, ...).
    Given you tendency to selective publication, this post might not see laptop lamp light

  16. I really like it on VC. It lets some more character come out. I think it makes the blog richer, if we really see multiple authors (even comment on each others posts) rather than some sort of bork-like hive mind, preaching at us like an institution.

    It also (I think) will better incent each of you to contributeand give you a little more credit for the work done.

  17. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  18. TCO, I'll have to discuss it with the other members of the team. We'll see.

    Cidlover, we're still very much intending to post the articles on the Sao Paulo girls' injuries and the Daiane dos Santos interview we mentioned a while ago. We just don't have time to translate them at present (we have lives away from this blog, and at the moment things are kind of hectic for a lot of us). We'll probably post them in two weeks or so, when things will get a bit less hectic for a number of us. Patience!

    Mike, the reason why I rejected three of your comments yesterday was because one of them was nasty (you'll know the one I mean) and the other two were completely impertinent to the subject at hand. Yes, you made some good points. I dare say most of us actually agree with you. However, I fail to see how a rant on the Olympic qualifying process and wild cards handed out to gymnasts from third-tier countries has any bearing on Ariella Kaeslin, who qualified for the Olympics on her own merit and actually came close to the podium. If you want to rant, fine, but stay on topic or risk having your comments rejected. Also, bear in mind that "brutally honest assessments" do not always make for pleasant reading (especially if they sound bitter) and that we're trying to keep things positive here. If your brutal honesty sounds rude, unconstructive or uncalled for to us, we will reject your comments. It's as simple as that. And no, there's nothing anti-American about that. It's called running a blog and keeping it a pleasant place to hang out. There's a difference.

  19. Has Jess of the C score joined the Borg? I am just reading all her old posts now.

  20. Not yet, TCO. As far as we know she's still missing in action. But we hope she will at least consider it!

  21. I really like Kaeslin and she's a very pretty girl. Which makes me wonder why the photographer decided to give her no neck whatsoever in that picture.

    I know she has a neck! I've seen it!

    At any rate, I think if she goes for London 2009 she might be able to get a vault medal with Chuso and Sacramone out.

  22. When did Jade and Daniele go to Disney World? Globoesporte said that Jade was on vacation in Brazil.

  23. Roughly at the same time she consulted the doctor in Miami, I would assume, Cidlover.

    I haven't seen any pictures of the Disney World trip, but I know the trip was planned. There are several Brazilian newspaper articles in which Jade, Daniele and Diego talk about their upcoming trip to Disney World.

    Rawles, Chuso intends to compete at the 2009 Worlds, but even so we agree - Kaeslin should be a shoo-in for a medal.

  24. Just wanted to say that I have been reading your blog for a while now, and although I don't post much...I love it! Further, I actually like the I idea that u all work collective and post collectively. It shows comradeship and I think it helps in the idea of keeping everything positive on the site. :-D