Volunteering Adventures at FITC 2015

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I am thrilled to have a report on the Flanders International Team Challenge by Marijn who was at the event as a volunteer.


There’s a first for everything. I was a volunteer for the first time at the first Flanders International Team Challenge in Ghent (May 30-31). I worked for three days as a member of the catering service and witnessed firsthand the arrival of the delegations, qualification day and team final day.

On Thursday I arrived at 8am, got my t-shirt and accreditation and started working. The whole arena still needed a gymnastics event makeover. The one side would be taken up by the podium, the four apparatuses, the screens and the administrative desk; the other side would be transformed into the delegation’s restaurant with a buffet and tables for about 200 people. At twelve o’clock the Belgian gymnasts arrived to eat lunch and that was the start of some exciting gymfan adventures. The Flemish gymnastics federation rarely posts updates about our elites and now here they were, right before my own eyes, going about their daily lives. They looked like a real group of friends and were talking about how they have to keep track of their calorie intake with an app and how the seniors have to submit their whereabouts (for drug testing). It was surprising to see that five (!) of them are currently injured.

Then it was on to a security position at the entrance of the training hall, where I had to check the accreditation passes and ask the people to take off their shoes. From my corner, I could see one vaulting table and a piece of the floor, and immediately spotted the Brazilian team. My heart rate went up and down during the course of the afternoon, as one by one the other delegations arrived and came to train. The teams passed by so closely and I recognized a whole lot of gymnasts and smiled as sweetly as possible. Not that I’m a good security member, because who dares to tell Alexandrov to take off his sports shoes? Not me. Later on, this legendary man also came up to me asking where the “mitingk” was, so I didn’t hesitate and personally showed him the way to the orientation meeting. The following days, I saw him back in the stands, observing his Brazilian team very closely, while also keeping an eye on the other teams.

Alexander Alexandrov looking on as Flavia Saraiva warms up

Saturday was the first real competition day, with juniors competing in the morning and seniors in the afternoon. What astonished me was how close the spectators were to the gymnasts and how their leotards are so much more shiny and sparkly and beautiful in real life. The French girls looked great, especially Juliette Bossu with her long and slender lines, Marine Boyer with very powerful gymnastics and Melanie Dos Santos with the potential of becoming a top AAer for France. They were cheering each other on from the sidelines, yelling “Allez, Coco!” and “Allez, Lolo!” for Lorette Charpy and Coline Devillard. After unexpectedly meeting Tabea Alt, Maike Enderle and Florine Harder in the ladies’ room, I provided the press area with some more food and drinks. My impression in two words: dream job. Then I went back to the restaurant to serve lunch. It was interesting to see the difference in the eating habits of the gymnasts. Some only asked for vegetables and lean meat or fish, while other took meat and potatoes and white rice. They all enjoyed a piece of fruit as dessert, though. In the meanwhile, Nina Derwael absolutely smashed it with an AA score of 56.050 and a gold medal. She’s definitely the best gymnast Belgium has ever seen and she’s only a junior.

Next up were the Brazilian seniors. Daniele Hypolito competed on all four events and looked very strong at age 30. Leticia Costa is my new favorite, with a superb vault and floor exercise. Rebeca Andrade fell on a scary-looking vault, but kept on smiling and ended well with a new element on FX, a 1.5 twisting double back. Flavia Saraiva seemed very hard-working, focused and serious before her routines and smiled brightly when she greeted the judges afterwards. The Dutch seniors competed in the second subdivision. The ones that caught my eye were Lieke Wevers, with a lovely floor choreography that reminds me of Catherine Lyons; and Lisa Top, with a piked double arabian and a front handspring to double front. In the last subdivision the Belgians showed up without Laura Waem and Julie Croket. Laura had a stress fracture in her foot and underwent surgery two weeks ago, while Julie felt completely fine during podium training the previous day, but woke up with pain in her knee. The team made some mistakes, but Rune Hermans successfully competed her new back handspring LOSO LOSO on balance beam and Lisa Verschueren surprised me with a good block on vault and a captivating floor exercise. Other countries like Turkey and Norway are just not “there” yet, so I really hope that they can develop like the Belgian and the Dutch program did in the past years.

The team final took place on Sunday. In the morning girls born in 2002 and 2003 competed in the youth competition. At noon I helped serving lunch and afterwards the delegation’s restaurant had to be turned into a VIP-section and a “goodbye dinner for the delegations”-section. To my great disappointment, I didn’t see the team final competition. I would have loved seeing the juniors and seniors compete together, especially the mixed team of Italian juniors and Brazilian seniors. It sounded like a great competition, although there was not nearly enough press interest and audience for a field of competitors like this. At the goodbye dinner I noticed the Spanish and Italian team bonding around a table and taking pictures in the photo booth together. After being on a team together, Francesca Noemi Linari also wanted to take a picture with Flavia. How cute is that?

Although it was hard work, volunteering brought me so much closer to the gymnasts and leaves me with the feeling that I know them a little bit better than the people in the stands and that I was a little part of that wonderful world.

APF: Marine Boyer FRA BB (b. 2000) - check out that round off-layout!

Thank you for the excellent insight on the meet.
You can follow Marijn at spotlightgymnastics.
Specific FITC coverage here