Catching up with Maxi Gnauck, a 1980 Olympic champion

This interview’s translation is again brought to you by Johanna Stoeger.

Maxi Gnauck was interviewed during the 2016 Euros in Bern. Gnauck is one of the most successful (if not the most successful one) German gymnasts, she is a multiple European, Worlds and Olympic medalist and she won all-around silver and uneven bars gold at the Moscow Olympics in 1980. Gnauck represented East Germany.

Q: Maxi Gnauck, Olympic Champion 1980 in Moscow, multiple European and World Champion, how do you like it here in Bern, at the Artistic Gymnastics EC 2016?

A: Of course, it is nice to be live at such a big competition, I’m not doing that often. I really enjoy watching the competitions this week and I already managed to get an impression of it last week at the finals of the men’s competition on Sunday.

Q: You have a personal link to Bern, don’t you? As you are basically at home right now?

A: Well, I’ve lived in Switzerland for almost 11 years now. At first, I lived and worked near Basel, and now, for the last four years, I’ve been living near Bern.

Q: What do you recommend for the gymnasts to see in Bern, sightseeing-wise? What should they visit here?

A: Oh, well, Bern has a beautiful historic downtown, I’ve always liked it and I like bringing my guests there, also the big conventions are a good attraction.

Q: You’ve been involved with Gymnastics for a long time right now. Your greatest achievements were in the 80s. What has changed in the sport since your active time?

A: Well, I think a lot has changed. To begin with the apparatuses: during my time, the space between the bars was very narrow, we still did the hip beats at
that time. Then, there had been the first change. The bars got set wider apart, but it was already too late for me to change to the style of the new bars at that time, I couldn’t manage to do it. Now, the bars are even higher and wider apart. The floor changed as well, got way bouncier. Sadly, the size of it didn’t change. I’ve speculated about that back in the days because I stepped out of bounds quite a few times. Vault has also changed – at my time, we still had the vaulting horse and now, already for ten years, there is the new vaulting table, which also has a really different bounciness. These are the things.

Q: Is it possible to summarize all these changes to one outcome? For example, would you say it [gymnastics] became faster, became more demanding for the body?

A: Well, the changes didn’t happen all at once. First was the vault, then the floor… it happens little by little. It mainly happens, of course, to prevent injuries and/or to make some things easier. Of course, these changes also mean that gymnasts are able to do more difficult things now. For example, here (in Bern) we see a lot of double saltos with double twists on the men’s side on the floor, or directly connected tumbling skills [on floor] and that’s very spectacular to watch.

Q: What was your main motivation to do gymnastics, to get the maximum out of it?

A: I think, firstly the love for the sport. Because somehow you started doing it as a little child, and you had fun while doing it, enjoyed the movements, enjoyed the success when you tried something new and succeeded. This motivated me to continue. And also the little goals you set for yourself, like, to get into a sports school, then later, the competitions getting from
smaller ones to bigger ones to the biggest events out there, and you say to yourself “yes, I want to do this!” Such things are always there to motivate you and to bring you forward.

Q: Now, at this moment, the qualifications for the junior girls are taking place. There are a lot of girls who are still in school, a lot of young girls and boys sitting and watching at the stadium, what kind of advice would you give to their parents, why should their children do artistic gymnastics?

A: First of all, I would suggest everybody to start doing gymnastics to improve the strength and flexibility in a playful way. But you also have to admit, not everyone’s body is built for doing artistic gymnastics.

Q: What features does a gymnast need to become a real pro?

A: Well, most importantly, they should enjoy doing gymnastics, but they should also enjoy always trying their best. And commit themselves to more difficult tasks and to overcome themselves – and then, time will tell if you’re able to keep it up or not. Because it will be getting difficult, for sure. And the demand will be getting higher and higher over the time.

Q: If you look back at your gymnastics life, did it teach you useful habits for your later life?

A: One can interpret it this way, I don’t really know how my life would have been if I’ve had a different childhood, but I think because of the determination and the busy training schedules you have at a sports school, of course, you learned something, that you could use in your later life.

Q: You know the international gymnastics scene as well as the Swiss gymnastics scene, so let’s try to look forward into the next days, what will be possible to archive for the red and white gymnasts?

A: Well, I’m having a hard time with speculations because I don’t want to predict something and then it will go down the river. We know, that our outstanding gymnast Giulia Steingruber has a lot of potential on the vault, and of course, we wish her a lot of strength on this apparatus. She’s also a strong all-arounder and at the last Euros, she could even manage to win a gold medal in all-around. I wish her a strong start into the competition and that she can perform her elements with satisfaction and that she will be able to do the new elements she is planning to do very well.

Q: And who are the favorites, regarding countries?

A: Well, always Russia of course. Normally I would also say Romania, but sadly they didn’t manage to qualify a full team for the Olympic games. Maybe we will still find some (Romanian) girls who will manage to defend their nation there [at the Olympics games]. And of course, you can’t count out Germany. I will cross my fingers for them especially, as well as for Switzerland. But every great performance is important to me, I will appreciate it and I don’t care from which country the performance comes from. Because I know the hard work that lies behind it.

 

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