Sunday
October 26, 2014

Federico Molinari, artistic gymnast

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

‘Stravaganza helped me overcome the pressure of competition’

Federico Molinari
By Gabriela Padín Losada
Herald Staff

CV

Rosario, January 11, 1984 (he moved to San Jorge when he was 4 due to his parents’ work as gymnastics trainers)
Work:
Gymnast, trainer and performer in Stravaganza.
Main sports achievement: Olympic finalist in Artistic Gymnastics (Rings) in London 2012
Studies: Physical Education degree from Dr. Enrique Romero Brest Institute and High Performance degree at La Matanza University. Previously studied engineering for three years.
Favourite newspaper: He keeps informed by Twitter. He follows all newspapers, especially the sports sections, on his cellphone.

Federico Molinari became well-known when he qualified for the rings event final at the London 2012 Olympic Games, a first in the history of Argentine gymnastics. But finishing in 8th place, he saw the challenges ahead. He decided to fight to become an icon in the sport he loves and with the aim of making gymnastics more popular, last summer joined the team of Stravaganza, a stage show by Flavio Mendoza. Molinari sat down with the Herald during a break in his training at the Cenard National High Performance Centre gym to talk about his success.

Are you proud of your achievements?

I don’t know if the word is “proud” but I am happy with everything I have done. I have reached my goals and have made my dreams come true.

Do you mean your participation in an Olympic final?

My dream was to qualify for the Olympic Games. So, part of the dream was already achieved before I competed, but by reaching the final I surpassed my own expectations. Now, I fight for another dream: to make gymnastics a popular sport. I think that the TV broadcast of the Olympic Games and my participation in Stravaganza has helped to promote gymnastics and I intend to keep it that way.

What does gymnastics need in order to see better results in Argentina?

On one hand, we lack a bit of history. Gymnastics is one of the most complex sports around. You have to start practicing it when you are four or five if you want to reach high performance level. On the other hand, we need infrastructure. It is not enough with a gym like the Cenard’s. It is a tough struggle because there are many more popular sports in Argentina than gymnastics but we’re headed in the right direction.

Have you been asked to contribute to sports policy-making?

I am doing things related to it, such as coordinating the artistic gymnastics school in Parque Sarmiento where I work with the Buenos Aires City government and also in the Competition Gymnastics School in San Isidro. I think that as a well-known gymnast I have the responsibility to make the sport more popular.

Do you see yourself as a role model?

Yes. I feel rather obliged to act as a role model but I also have my own career as sportsman and trainer (he is currently training Julián Jato) and that is why I don’t have enough time to do it all.

When do you plan to retire?

I want two more years. I will try to qualify for Rio 2016 and to retire after I do my best in that tournament. After that, I plan to work as teacher, trainer and to help in political management.

What’s the drawcard for kids with gymnastics?

Many children decided to start practicing when they saw me on television at the Olympic Games but before that, most of the little ones were familiar with the sport by hearing about it at home If we want to achieve better results, though, gymnastics must have a mass following. I am sure that it will be possible with more free schools. Things are already changing.

And in the provinces?

It’s mainly practiced at private clubs. It depends on the interest of politicians, too. It also helps to have role models. After (Sebastián) Crismanich won the gold medal in London 2012, many free taekwondo schools were created in Corrientes.

Many videos circulated during Beijing 2008 showing how little children practiced gymnastics using methods that may seem cruel from our cultural point of view. Is this necessary to get good results?

China works this way but it is different in the rest of the world. It is true that this is a demanding sport, with many hours spent training from a young age, but you can achieve good results with other methods. The US, Japan, Germany and England are top countries in gymnastics and work differently than China. They have a wide base in the pyramid. There are more than 1,000 high-performance private gyms in the US. However, in China, there is only one training centre which is run by the government. Only the 10 percent of children become excellent high-performance gymnastics. The issue is what happens with the rest.

Does it affect child recruitments? Are parents afraid of that intensity in training?

Parents usually have many anxieties but change their minds when they see the training methods. Sometimes, you have to deal with perspectives like mistrust of the sports, of teachers because of some well-known cases of questionable behaviour.

How do you sum up your experience with Stravaganza?

Very positive. I will end this season in April to focus on qualifying for the Olympic Games and restart next summer in Carlos Paz. Stravaganza helped me overcome the pressure of competition. When you are in front of 1,000 people for more than 300 shows, you get used to performing. An athlete usually competes only three or four times a year. It also made me more popular and opened other doors work-wise.

What differences did you find between sports and theatre?

The group in Stravaganza is very similar to a training group. Most of them are gymnasts or dancers, people who look after their health and watch what they eat. It’s a risky show where you have to be fresh and relaxed. These are conditions related to sports. It’s a very professional show.

What’s it like sharing the stage with celebrities and being featured in gossip programmes?

Stravaganza showered me with popularity beyond sports. People who watch sport channels are not the same as those who watch gossip programmes, which have larger audiences. I notice that every night. After the show, many people congratulate me and do not even know what sport I practice but they do know who I am.

Was it Flavio Mendoza who called you?

Yes, when I returned from the Olympics. He said he wanted to meet me and I liked his proposal.

Did you turn to anyone for advice?

Basically, I talked with my family. I told them that I though it was a chance for improvement. We agreed immediately. The only condition I had for Flavio was that he allow me to leave the show each time I had to compete.

What about the Enard National High Performance Board?

People from sports, especially officials, did not like the idea from the beginning. They thought it could be counter-productive to undertake both activities. But I proved them wrong when I got the bronze medal in rings in France last year (World Cup in March in La Roche). After that, they backed me.

Are you interested or aware of national sports policies?

Yes, but I don’t feel capable of participating in policy-making. I do want to be clued up and always give my opinion in any dialogue about policy. But I also prefer to listen to different opinions.

@gpadinlosada

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