KIENS: Well, the code is for everyone really, because, um, in that way it’s a good code because you can get still high start values or like, quite a high start value, if you choose differently. You don’t have to choose the most difficult tumbling to get your start value up. You don’t have to choose double flic, layout on beam- B, B, E combination- in order to get your start value up there. There are other ways to do that.
[EXPRESS YOURSELF INTRO MUSIC]
JESSICA: This week, Miss Eythora Thorsdottir is here with her coach Patrick Kiens. They talk about strategy, performance, artistry, acting classes, musical theater- it’s very exciting, and we have a full-on debate about whether bars can be artistic. This is episode 178 for December 9, 2015, and this is the best gymnastics podcast in the galaxy, bringing you all the most fascinating people from around the gymternet. I’m Jessica, and I’m here with Emma Bailey, and I hope you guys enjoyed my chat with Stella Umeh last week. I really enjoyed talking to her and getting the perspective of someone who has been an active gymnast, acrobat, all that stuff for so long. It was really interesting to me. Thanks to everyone who’s joined Club Gym Nerd. If you’ve commissioned an episode, or a voicemail, or one of those things, look in your inbox because we sent an email earlier this week and there’s a form for you to fill out so that we can get working on your custom gymnerd-ery. So check your emails. We have a new ugly Christmas sweater out that’s an ode to Chris Brooks and his now famous speech that he gave to the U.S. team before they went to horse. And if you’re not familiar with this it’s all up on the website so you can check it out [LAUGHS] Gymcastic.com, and you can check out our t-shirts and stuff in the “Store” tab on Gymcastic.com. Our Gift Guide is out with lots of gymnerdy goodies like stuff that we would actually wear and buy, not just things for like the tween in your life that does gymnastics, stuff for grown-up gym nerds, like there’s a really cool gold script necklace. It reminds me of something that like Carrie from Sex in the City would wear. There’s a bunch of books coming out. Lauren Hopkins’ book is coming out. Nastia’s book just came out, and there’s stuff for adult gymnasts, like the Kegel exercise machine with real-time feedback on your phone so you never have to run to the bathroom after you do Tumbl Trak. Also, I want to let you guys know that our, our beloved, like our crush, our gymternet crush Cloud and Victory they have this…they have some gymnastics stuff in their store and they have a legends sweatshirt that they’ve had. Normally it’s $90, because all of their stuff is produced ethically, it’s like not made by child slaves in a toxic-waste pond, so normally it’s $90, but right now it’s on sale for $45, and it’s so beautiful. It has um, it’s like a cloud of roses with Khorkina, and Pavlova, and Nastia, and Comaneci, and um Olga Korbut, and Mo Huilan, and Daniela Silivas, they’re all in this like cloud of roses with Nadia in the middle. It’s like so incredibly beautiful and it’s on sale for forty-five bucks, and you should totally get one if you haven’t because I think there’s only a few of these left and if you’ve been eyeing it for years like I have do yourself a favor and take advantage of the sale because their stuff is absolutely beautiful and amazing and really high quality. So check it out at Cloud and Victory. Also, Tumbl Trak, our beloved sponsor, has free shipping on a bunch of stuff right now, and you can order custom mat colors- like if you’re obsessed with the color purple like I am then you can order a purple mat. And they have lots of good deals. So, I hope you guys enjoy our gift guide, and our swag, and the Cloud and Victory sweater, and that you treat yo’self, because you deserve it.
All right. Let’s talk to our guests, Eythora and Patrick. And if you haven’t yet, watch The Hard Way to Success documentary about Eythora, because it’s like getting a visual massage. You will love it.
Your gymnastics is beautiful, you’re super artistic, and you speak perfect English, and so have you ever thought about coming to the United States to do gymnastics in college?
EYTHORA THORSDOTTIR: Well thank you. Um, not…well I have had some arguments with my trainer about what to do because UCLA has sent me a message like, yeah, whether I want to go or not- not officially yet, so I’m yeah waiting. But we’re not really thinking about it yet because Rio is first in my head- like that’s main priority. So that comes first, and after that I’m just going to discuss with my trainer what’s best for me, what I want to yeah be in the future, um, what American can bring me more than, than Holland.
JESSICA: That makes sense. That’s very smart, just like your gymnastics, very smart.
THORSDOTTIR: [LAUGHS] Thank you.
JESSICA: Okay, Emma has some questions for you.
EMMA: Just before I ask my question, could you imagine Eythora at UCLA? Oh my goodness.
JESSICA: Oh my god I would die. I would die.
EMMA: With all those beautiful gymnasts.
JESSICA: I would cry every single meet.
EMMA: I would cry. I cry…I cry every single meet anyway when I watch you. So I first saw you compete…I first noticed you compete, in Euros in 2012, and I remember it really vividly, because I was sitting quite near the beam and I took a photograph of you with my phone. So it was a pretty rubbish photograph, you know because…
EMMA: Yeah, you know, phones don’t have the best…
EMMA: photos. So I took this photograph on my phone and after the competition I went and found some of my Dutch friends and I said, [GASPS] “Who is this girl? I absolutely love her!” Did you realize even a few years ago that you brought a different quality to gymnastics and that people noticed you, um, more?
THORSDOTTIR: Um, yeah well after that moment, um, at first not because yeah, I was young and I always had the picture of my beam final in my head because that was just… I fell twice so, yeah. It was a hard time for me after that, like, “Oh my god why did you do that?” but okay I was happy I was there. But yeah that was the first picture in my mind and then after a few months I went on the internet and I saw that people noticed me more, like yeah, like about my floor routine, I saw a few things and it was really nice to hear that, yeah, that I had some impact. Like on this little…it wasn’t a little stage…but for me it wasn’t like a really big beginning yet, so it was nice to have people notice me for…for what I do. I’m not like a big skill gymnast. I’m not like Simone Biles who does everything so amazing and with so many skills, but I do everything with my choreography and I make everything clean. So it’s nice that that is being noticed too, and yeah, I figured that a little…a few months after Euros.
EMMA: Yeah it was a beautiful thing to see you.
THORSDOTTIR: Thank you.
EMMA: When you competed in Glasgow, um and you did your beautiful floor routine, people actually cried. And does that surprise you? I came up to you after and was like, “Oh your floor routine made me cry!” Does that surprise you that it actually moves people that much?
THORSDOTTIR: Yeah it does surprise me. I mean this is the thing that you hope that you can achieve with your floor routine- that it makes people cry- but that it actually happens, I mean yeah, it means a lot to me to hear that from you and from a few other people that I actually made them cry. Yeah it’s really nice to hear that I made that happen, because it means that I’m not doing it for nothing, you know?
EMMA: Aww yeah absolutely. I think Jessica you cried as well didn’t you?
JESSICA: Oh yeah I cried every time you did your floor routine and I also cried when you did beam too.
JESSICA: Because I don’t know if people know that beam is super artistic and you can actually perform so beautifully that it makes people cry on beam, but yes I did. It was just…yeah.
THORSDOTTIR: Thank you.
JESSICA: There’s emotion and it’s great to see. You are going to incredibly successful in your future as a performer in acting, singing, whatever you choose to do. You have it. You have the gift.
THORSDOTTIR: Thank you.
EMMA: Well…well last night when I was preparing for this interview I went on YouTube and I looked-there’s a million videos of you on there- and I got as far back as 2008, so you were around ten years old. And even then the performance…you have the performance quality. You know not many people have that. Have you always loved to perform, cause it looks to me like you have.
THORSDOTTIR: Yeah. Yeah I think I’ve always loved it and I’ve always had these- like Patrick told you- that I improvise things, like when something goes wrong. I see a video from my beam routine in 2010 or 2011 and I made a cartwheel and then I almost fell off, and I made a move so I could stay on, and that was kind of like choreography improvise. So yeah I think I’ve always had it in me, and, yeah I really like that part of my gymnastics.
EMMA: Me too.
THORSDOTTIR: Thank you.
JESSICA: Did you ever do dancing first, before gymnastics, or acting, or some performance art before you found gymnastics?
THORSDOTTIR: Uh no, I didn’t. I just, uh, had some swimming class show. I did like elite swimming too, but then I had to make a choice if I go for gymnastics or swimming, and I knew that gymnastics was main priority because you can yeah…well you can do that at a big age, but swimming is easier to do when you’re older, and gymnastics gets harder. So that was kind of an easy question for me.
EMMA: So on your Hard Way to Success film you expressed a desire to go into performing arts when you retire from gymnastics. Is there any specific area that you enjoy more, or like the singing, acting, Cirque du Soleil, or do you just love everything?
THORSDOTTIR: I think I just love everything. I mean I think the combination makes it so great…that you get to dance, and sing, and acting, I mean that would be like a total package for me. But of course, like Patrick told me, I have to keep my options open for what I want because there are so many things to choose from that I don’t even know about yet. So I’m just going to yeah, wait and see what comes to me and Patrick is going to help me with my choice, because he comes from that world, so it’s really nice to have him there.
JESSICA: I have no idea I’m just guessing from what I’ve seen on social media and stuff, but have you guys been on TV shows and stuff since you got back from Worlds?
THORSDOTTIR: Um well that’s only the sisters, Wevers. They’ve been yeah, on many TV shows, because Sanne her silver medal on beam, and Lieke, she’s her sister so that comes in like uh, like the package. And yeah she did a great job at Euros in Baku- European Games- so there she…yeah it’s really nice to have twins do that for you. Of course we would of all liked to be on those shows, but, yeah, gymnastics is not that big yet in so…in Holland, so it’s good that these two gymnasts can present it for us.
EMMA: And do you train six days a week?
THORSDOTTIR: Uh yeah six days a week. My Sunday is my day off.
EMMA: What do you do on Sundays? Sleep?
THORSDOTTIR: Uh well yeah when I had school I always did my homework and everything on that day, but now I’m free and I just relax, and really relax to get my energy for the next week just to make it a good trainings week again. And sleeping, I don’t know, I’m always the person that thinks sleeping is kind of boring. I don’t know why.
EMMA: Me and you are so different because I love sleeping.
THORSDOTTIR: I like it when I’m asleep, but then I wake up I think okay it’s time to get up and do something with your life.
JESSICA: I’m going to tell you that all the time now Emma, “Get up and do something with your life!”
JESSICA: Stop sleeping it away.
EMMA: Somebody needs to Jess.
JESSICA: Let’s talk about your gymnastics a little bit, and we wondered- and also we were talking to Mez- do you know Mary Ann Monckton from Australia?
THORSDOTTIR: Uh yes.
JESSICA: So we asked her if she had any questions for you too, and um, she wondered if you had any upgrades you’re working on this year? Any new skills you’re working on?
THORSDOTTIR: Um yeah I think there are loads of new things I’m gonna work on, but of course we just have to see what works, what doesn’t, what fits in the routine. But yeah I think I’m going to try to upgrade like every apparatus, so I get more difficulty, because that’s what I’m going to need for the…to get uh…to get to the Olympics. So I think there is many stuff. I don’t know yet what, but um, yeah, I think there is much to come.
JESSICA: Is there anything specific you can tell us about? Specific skills?
THORSDOTTIR: Um…I’m thinking, because I’ve only worked on these things for like two week and not yet that much, but um, maybe a Mukhina on floor or something like that to have more difficulty, and of course just more pirouette combos, and um, yeah. I’m going to change my combos on beam a little bit to get them more stable, to get maybe more difficulty out of those. And yeah, I think the rest is just um, I’m going to have a talk with my trainer on Monday so I think then we’re just going to discuss what our plan really is, because these two weeks…yeah…yeah I can tell you about these little things, but yeah there is much more to come I think.
JESSICA: And how about vault? We’ve like…Patrick talked about you training a Yurchenko one and a half. And I think in the video The Hard Way to Success there was a double twisting Yurchenko? Is that a possibility? Is that something you’re still working on?
THORSDOTTIR: Yeah we’ve been trying many vaults to see what actually works for me, because I’m not a…a gymnast who has like much strength in her legs. I have…I have some, but not like Simone Biles or something. So I don’t know if like Emma has seen on Instagram like my vault with a trampoline? I don’t know if you’ve seen it? Have you seen it?
JESSICA: Mmhmm. Jessica here stepping in for a little note. The vault she’s talking about here is a Yurchenko half on laid out half off. And earlier when she was talking about floor, the Mukhina she was talking about, that’s a full in… or a full out. It doesn’t really specify in the code.
THORSDOTTIR: Yeah that vault I’m maybe gonna work on, because it’s like a 5.6 D value. So it’s better than a Yurchenko, just a full twist. So I think that’s what we’re going to try for now, and then maybe if I get more strength in my legs what we’re going to try to do. That’s what I’m gonna discuss with my trainer too, what to do to get me more, yeah, strength everywhere, to get me more powerful, and then maybe a Yurchenko double can be something, but we’ll have to see about that.
JESSICA: Tell us a little bit about your beam routine and the construction of it. It’s so unique and your dance flows right into your acrobatic skills. Why do you think that works for you?
THORSDOTTIR: I don’t know I think it’s always…it’s the way I work. It’s why I like gymnastics so much, it’s that you can put the performance into combination with your skills. And…I don’t want my beam routine to be like a routine about the skills. I want it to be um, like a complete picture, like you look at it, like on floor okay you can make a story with it. On beam it’s a little bit more difficult to have that but yeah, I want you to just look at it and then after have a feeling like, “Okay that went quickly. I want to see it again.” So it’s not about, okay, what did she do, and maybe that was kind of wrong, or not, or good, or whatever. I just want them to look at the full package and to see people enjoying it. Like…like you said Jessica that you, that I made you cry. That is just the thing I want to accomplish with everything I do, and floor and beam those are the apparatus that you can do that on. Floor is easier than beam but it’s nice that beam has it too.
JESSICA: Yes, yes, yes! I totally feel like that when you do your beam. I feel it’s a whole…like there’s some…I was talking about this when we do…we do like a recap of each of the um each meet at Worlds. And when I talked about your routine I said there’s some people’s routine that I look up when they flip and then when they do their dance I look away because I’m bored. And um…
JESSICA: And it’s just their style is not what I find enjoyable to watch or I think is really artistic and with your routine I never want to look away. I don’t want anyone to talk to me. I don’t want to be distracted. I put my pen down. I just… I don’t want to miss a second of it.
JESSICA: And so you do it. You succeed exactly what you’re trying to accomplish.
THORSDOTTIR: Thank you.
THORSDOTTIR: Thank you.
EMMA: I agree, and when I was looking on YouTube for videos, when they had commentary on I was really angry. I’m like shut up. I just want to watch! And I don’t need your opinion.
EMMA: It’s true. It’s true. Do you um- maybe you do know and I’m being ignorant- but do you know Catherine Lyons from Great Britain?
THORSDOTTIR: Um, yes.
EMMA: Because she has the same affect that you do. You know when I was at Junior Euros last year in Sofia when she won the gold on floor there were people in the audience crying.
EMMA: Yeah, exactly. And you know both of you have just a beautiful unique style, um, so yeah, I just wondered if you’d actually competed with her because…
THORSDOTTIR: No I have not competed with her yet, but now that you’ve told me that I want to look her up on YouTube, because I haven’t seen her style yet. I have heard from some people.
EMMA: Find some links on YouTube of this specific floor routine. I’ll send you that.
THORSDOTTIR: Okay, thank you.
THORSDOTTIR: Thank you.
JESSICA: Oh my gosh when you compete together people are just going to faint, dead away in the audience!
EMMA: We will!
JESSICA: The judges are just going to throw their pens, and like, run onto the floor and party and give hugs.
EMMA: We’re going to need a lot of tissues if you’re both in the same final let me tell you.
JESSICA: They’re going to have to put tissues on all the judge’s tables.
EMMA: It’s true.
JESSICA: That’ll be the new E score test- like if you need tissues or not. That’s all the E panel does.
THORSDOTTIR: That would be so funny.
JESSICA: So how was your overall experience in Glasgow? The crowd, the venue, the competition, how was it?
THORSDOTTIR: Um, yeah it was amazing I think. I was nervous though before every competition. Um yeah, I’m always…I don’t have a nervous breakdown or anything but it’s like I get so focused and you can’t talk to me because then I get like, “Oh my god. What am I going to do?” I can’t think about too many things otherwise I’m gonna…just going to freak like, “Oh my god I want this to be good, and this to be good.” And before the competition you’ve done everything you can and you just go there and see what comes. Of course you want it to be the best, but you can’t change anything anymore, because you’ve worked so hard on everything. So yeah, I’m…I’m a…that’s the thing I thought oh my god why are you so nervous? But the other girls were nervous. But besides that yeah it was just amazing to get that entrance with our Dutch team that made such an impact.
EMMA: That was brilliant. Loved it.
THORSDOTTIR: Thank you. Yeah it was really nice to hear that it made such an impact and just to show what Holland can be…um maybe graceful or that it’s all about artistry.
THORSDOTTIR: Um yeah…
EMMA: Who decided to do that entrance?
THORSDOTTIR: Um, yeah my trainer Patrick. He had heard about how…how we were going to be presented and then he thought yeah we have to make something out of it to make an impact for the public that’s watching, because we were in the subdivision with America. I mean they are so good we are just going to have to try to show the public something that they can watch like, “Okay that’s Holland! Okay we have to watch them too.” So he thought that this was fun to do. And we thought so too. It was really nice.
EMMA: It was absolutely brilliant and for one split second I thought you’d all gone the wrong way.
THORSDOTTIR: [LAUGHS] Yeah. (U/I)
EMMA: No! No they didn’t go the wrong way. They’re just frickin’ amazing.
EMMA: I mean people made GIFs of that and put it online. It’s been all over Tumblr everywhere, but it was just, I loved it. It was just so brilliant. When you were in Worlds did it motivate you even more for Rio, that whole atmosphere and just the performing on that huge stage? Did it, you know, did you come away thinking (GASPS) I’ve got to get to Rio!
THORSDOTTIR: Yeah totally. I mean this podium was so special because you couldn’t see the judges as much as you do normally, so it was really about giving a show, and also because the public was…um, yeah everyone could see you and it was just going up. So it was really nice to see all the crowd, you know, when you walked in, and yeah that afterwards…I mean I’m always a person who enjoys everything afterwards because at the time then I’m really nervous, but yeah I take it all in, but then after the competition I feel so amazing that I’ve experienced everything of it, and yeah definitely it makes me feel like yeah, tingly, like I really, really want to go to Rio, and um, yeah just to perform there. It would be just a dream come true, you know?
EMMA: Do you enjoy meeting all the gymnasts from all the other countries?
THORSDOTTIR: Yeah this Worlds was new for me that I would meet the American girls, and it was really nice to see how they are like for real, because like you say everyone has Instagram so you can see pictures. But yeah to meet them for real, and to see how their personalities are, and how they train, and everything, I think it’s really great. It’s always something to look forward to when you go to a competition like that- that you can just meet up with um…with some girls and make friendships too, like international friendships. It’s really great and it’s really nice.
EMMA: It’s the best. I love it. Is there anybody that you saw at Worlds maybe in training or that you thought was interesting maybe in the way they train or they were inspiring to you?
THORSDOTTIR: Um, well over all, yeah we trained a week with the American girls so that, yeah, it’s amazing to see how they train. They’re the best in the world so it’s something we can learn from definitely. And um, yeah it’s really interesting to see how Martha works with those girls, um what personality every girl has and everything so. And like Simone Biles, yeah, she kind of like hits everything in every training- of course not always because she’s not a robot- but to see how amazing she is too, yeah it’s just inspiring. Yeah, I want to be like that too, of course in a different way, because her gymnastics is so totally different than mine, but yeah it’s something to look up to.
JESSICA: This is kind of like a Hard Way to Success kind of question: Everyone has kind of positive and negative experiences in sport. Can you give us examples of like a positive and a negative experience in gymnastics and what you learned from both?
THORSDOTTIR: Um, yeah, well I think of course if you look at this Worlds like everything was so positive and my beam final was at first for me like um, negative, because I fell off and in like the other…in the warm-up hall I had this perfect routine for me before I went out there. So that was like okay I’m going to hit this. Just have confidence and just go there. And then I fell off and that was kind of like a negative thing for me, but afterwards the meet I talked to my coach and he told me like this is your first Worlds, and there are going to come times when you are going to stay on that beam and show the performance of your life, and this is just the road to it. This is something you can put in your baggage and yeah it’s all experience that makes you the person. Like at the Euros in 2012 I fell off twice and that was like a hard time for me too, but at the end it’s all just about experience and when I get older…and yeah maybe in Rio I can show the performance of my life, you never know. But yeah maybe those things are the bad things for me. Of course my injuries too, like my back. I had two months like no training. I went to the gym like do core and yeah sit on the bike and everything, but um yeah those were hard times too, but I think they made me the person who I am right now. I’m more focused and enjoying every moment of it, because like I can’t tell you like tomorrow I might be injured, you never know. It’s a weird thing to say, but you never know what the future might bring you so you have to just enjoy every moment of it. So that’s the thing I learned from that period. Yeah I had a year off, but yeah it made me the person who I am right now and it made maybe the things happen that we did in Glasgow with the team. That’s a positive thing, that we have worked so hard with the team on it, like every competition before Worlds was something to…like we watched the competition back and saw some things okay we have to do that, and that, and that a little bit better. This was good. That kind of stuff you know. Yeah, so it made us the team who we are…who we were in Glasgow, and that was great to hit it off and make that top eight. So I think that’s a really positive thing. And um, also at the EYOF when I won the silver medal on beam, then you see after the Euros in 2012 then I’m…yeah then I didn’t hit it off and at the EYOF I did. That was really nice for me to see like that I can do it and in front of my home crowd. It was…yeah I was honored to have that silver medal for my home crowd.
EMMA: I actually loved at the end of that beam routine that your coach is grabbing your hands and raising them up.
THORSDOTTIR: Yeah, me too.
EMMA: He’s celebrating so much and then he’s like, “No you need to celebrate. You just did really great.”
THORSDOTTIR: Yeah I like that too because he’s always kind of a serious person. He’s really nice, but always serious. So the moments when he’s, yeah, cheerful, I’m cheerful. I’m trying to be cheerful too, because those moments are so special for me to see how happy he is, because yeah that doesn’t happen like a lot- like that happy…happiness to see on his face. So that’s really amazing. Like every picture in my head of him being happy it’s yeah…it’s so nice to see that.
EMMA: I want to ask you, the first time I met you was back in Ljubljana back in April and you won the gold on floor. How was that? How was that experience for you, because for me it was…I was watching a star being born at that competition. And you know you had a different floor routine than you did at Worlds, and how was it winning a gold at the World Cup?
THORSDOTTIR: Yeah it was amazing to see that my floor routine did deserve a gold medal. It was…yeah for me it means a lot to win something like that in a World Cup. It means that um…that um, yeah I am really someone out there, you know? That I have international qualities for myself and that I do fit in there, because sometimes you have a feeling like oh my god everyone is so good. What am I doing here? You know? That’s what I think sometimes. And then when I’m just doing my things and I see where I end up I think, “Oh I do fit in here?” But at first it’s like whoa everyone is so good! Yeah the same was at that World Cup, everyone was so good, but then it’s like you look at the scoreboard and you see that your name was first and yeah, it’s just amazing to see where…yeah to see that your routine really deserves that gold medal. And for my trainer too, just, yeah, to see that artistry and pirouettes do count too and it’s not all about the skills- of course it is too, but yeah, it’s really nice to see that artistry and everything is yeah, is really important too.
EMMA: We all know that you’re great and that you’re deserving of getting to a World finals, but I wanted to know, did it surprise you that you were in the beam final in your first World Championships?
THORSDOTTIR: Yeah totally, because my coach and I got into that competition just to show a team results, like okay you just have to get through this Worlds, show that you belong at that World stage, and provide the team the scores you need to…we need to bring for that team to get to that top eight. Well we didn’t…at first we were going for top sixteen, but then it got like top eight. And, yeah, so it was more about the team result and experience, but then we saw that I stood reserve for the all around finals, so we thought ooh this can be exciting. Maybe I can get in there too. And I was like, “Okay, cool.” And then we saw for beam that I was still in those finals and it was like no, no, are you serious, you know? And we were just waiting till after the last gymnast to perform and he told me like, “Um, do you know that you are in the beam finals right now?” and I’m like, “Um, no. For real?” It was like…yeah it was really amazing. I didn’t like, expect it, you know? It was like, “Huh?” So it was really nice.
JESSICA: I can’t remember how the whole selection thing works for the American Cup, but I wish they had like a vote in- the fans could vote someone in.
JESSICA: We would totally vote for you. They need to create that- the wildcard fan voting spot.
EMMA: They do.
JESSICA: Well thank you so much for spending…I know this is one of your precious days off, so thank you so much for sharing a whole hour with us and hanging out with us.
EMMA: Thank you
JESSICA: And letting us shower you with praise. We can’t say enough good things about you!
EMMA: We can’t.
THORSDOTTIR: [LAUGHS] Thank you!
JESSICA: We love what you’re doing!
THORSDOTTIR: Thank you for being so nice.
[YAY SOUND BYTE]
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JESSICA: You obviously bring something incredibly unique to gymnastics coaching. We can tell that just by the way your gymnasts perform, and also the strategy that you employ with your gymnasts. So can you talk about your background?
KIENS: My background is well…I’ll do a very short story of my life. I was a gymnast- not such a very good gymnast. I wanted to be a gymnastics coach- I knew that already from a very young age. When I was about fifteen I knew this is what I want, so I did all these kinds of courses within the Federation. And then I started physical education, and one of the courses for physical education you had to do was dance, and then I discovered I was really good at it, that I had a talent for it. So when I finished physical education I did another two years performing arts, and then was on stage for eight years, and then went back to gymnastics, because when I studied physical education I already worked as a gymnastics coach in gym, but then I trained with boys. And yeah after eight years of being on stage I had had enough and I knew I had always wanted to go back to gymnastics so then it was the time. And I choose it in that way because you cannot be a dancer after your thirty-fifth year, but you can be a gymnastics coach.
JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Is that rule? No dancing after your thirty-fifth year?
KIENS: It’s my rule.
KIENS: No I had enough, because I did all long-run shows. I did like Cats, Chicago, Copacabana, Titanic, 42nd Street. I did all like long-runs for eight shows a week, and yeah, you get tired of it when you do back to back.
JESSICA: So were you on, is it called the West End, in London? Is that what they call it?
KIENS: Yeah West End I did there Cats and Chicago, and I did Gaudi in Germany, which was a flop, but it was a good contract.
KIENS: And I came back to Holland to do Titanic, 42nd Street, and Copacabana, and another flop Eternity, but nobody knows about that.
JESSICA: Do you have a favorite role that you played? A favorite character? A favorite dance?
KIENS: My favorite show was Chicago. I like the opening in it, and, yeah, that was just a gorgeous show. Compared to Cats which I did the year before, Cats is just like hard work. It’s just hard work. You’re always tired. You’re always injured. You’re always in pain. It’s hard work. And Chicago is a show where you can be pretty- sit on a chair, do pretty dance, be gorgeous, so yeah.
KIENS: Those were the days.
JESSICA: Love it.
KIENS: (U/I) gorgeous
KIENS: But those days are over.
JESSICA: So what do you think…let’s talk about your strategy for a little bit because…no, let’s go back to your unique background and all this stuff.
JESSICA: How do you bring this background into your coaching, and was there any…I just wonder when you started coaching did anyone have any resistance to this, or from the very beginning were people like yes artistry it’s so important?
KIENS: Um, well, I like beautiful things, and I like things to look beautiful, so that’s naturally that’s how I started coaching gymnastics…that’s really already with clean lines and all that kind of stuff. Already when I started physical education and I trained boys I think always, especially younger boys, they are more sloppy, and not so tight, and that kind of stuff. And we really worked…I then already worked on clean lines, nice handstands, nice body posture, and that kind of stuff. Um, so I think it was more in my nature to work in that way. Yeah it’s just I’d rather see a routine that’s less difficult but beautifully performed, than a beautiful routine with lots of…lots of form mistakes.
KIENS: Yeah that’s I think in my nature and that’s also the way I approach it. So I think that’s how I explain it to my gymnasts. If you wanna…if you wanna go from 13.6 to 13.9 for example, then the best thing to do that is to hit all your handstands for example, because then you’ll earn quicker three tenths than if you have to change your start value with three tenths of a point.
JESSICA: Eh very nice.
KIENS: Yeah so it’s just the way I am I think, and this is also the way we work in Holland. I think the Netherlands has a lot of technical coaches- that has to do that we’re a small country and that we have limited gymnasts. And we don’t have so many gymnasts, so in order to get good scores out of them we have to work with clean lines. We really have to work technical, and it takes times, and we have to be patient and yeah.
JESSICA: And talk about that a little more, just not having the numbers that a country like the United States has.
KIENS: Yeah we have about five or six clubs in the Netherlands which have elite gymnasts. Of course we have more gymnastics clubs but they don’t do elite. And yeah, that’s it really [LAUGHS]. So we have like five or six clubs and they have like eight elite gymnasts in the age of between ten and twenty, and that’s what we have, and that’s what we have to do it with.
JESSICA: So is it really important for you guys to also to focus on execution and not so much on difficulty because you have to keep people healthy because you don’t have the depth that other countries have?
KIENS: Yeah the injury thing is like a major thing in our country. So um…um and it’s not that we choose like to not have high start values, but we don’t have the talent, and we don’t have the numbers, and we don’t have the amount of girls to have those hard…to have those high start values. So if you have limited talent, then that’s what you do, because everyone can stretch their knees, if you’re talented or not. That’s what everyone can do, but not everybody has the…has the ability to do a double layout on floor.
KIENS: Strength wise and physical wise.
JESSICA: So it’s just not worth the risk basically? It’s better to focus on something everyone can do than risk someone getting hurt.
KIENS: Well I think they just don’t land on their feet.
KIENS: So, yeah, then you better not do it.
KIENS: Yeah it was to do with your abilities. If you have like a hundred gymnasts to choose from, of course there are like five gymnasts out of them who have natural strength, who have natural flexibility, who have great coordination, and yeah they are able to do it…and they are quick! But if you don’t have that, if you have to work with girls who are a bit taller, girls who are a bit heavier, girls who are less talented, less coordinated, yeah, then that’s what you do. You just use the code to your advantage. Well, the code is for everyone really, because, um, in that way it’s a good code because you can get still high start values or like, quite a high start value, if you choose differently. You don’t have to choose the most difficult tumbling to get your start value up. You don’t have to choose double flic, layout on beam- B, B, E combination- in order to get your start value up there. There are other ways to do that as well.
JESSICA: Yeah so talk about your strategy a little bit, because it’s…I mean we’ve been talking about it on the show like non-stop…about how genius it is and why don’t more countries do this, because you guys don’t waste time with a back handspring that gets you nothing, you just connect your two highest values together, like aerial, aerial.
KIENS: Yeah, um, yeah we do that.
KIENS: No, but for example, like flic, layout- like a B plus C combination- which gives you the acro series, and you get like a .5 for the element group requirement, if you want to get your start value up, then that element, you don’t want it to count in your eight highest elements, because it’s a B plus a C. So then you better do like a free cartwheel to flic to prone position, because then you have your E element, you can put a sissone in front of it, and you have your B element in order to connect it and you have your acro series. So…
JESSICA: And why do you think more countries don’t do this? I mean I just feel like this is so obvious, but it doesn’t like occur…
JESSICA: It’s genius!
KIENS: I don’t know really. You’ll have to ask them why they aren’t doing it. Yeah I don’t know. I think the less elements perform the less deductions you can get.
JESSICA: Right. And like do you think it’s a consistency thing? Do you think…I mean an aerial is not that hard. An aerial, aerial is extremely difficult to actually connect and get credit.
JESSICA: And I think you have to be so much more…even like, even an aerial, layout, same thing.
KIENS: Yeah it is a risk. I personally would maybe not choose the aerial, aerial, but when that is the talent of the gymnast, why not? You know? And when you try to out for a couple of competitions, which you have nothing to lose, which the smaller competitions of course are, then…and it works, and it counts, and the judges are positive about it, so why not do it? And, but I would then for example not choose like…how do you say this…aerial, flic flac, like uh front free walkover…how do you call this one?
JESSICA: Mmhmm. Front aerial.
KIENS: Yeah front aerial, and then a flic back, because that is a difficult one to connect, or easy to lose to count.
KIENS: I would never choose that one.
JESSICA: Yeah I think that one is always risky. I think Ponor’s the only one that always ever gets credit for it.
KIENS: Yep and then they still can be difficult about the arm swing. So, better to avoid that one.
JESSICA: Now do you think…we were just talking to Mez, um Mary Ann Monckton from Australia, who is also a beam ninja, and does an aerial, layout, and is very technical, and she was saying that she feels like the judges have gotten a little more lenient on the arm swing because it’s just such a ridiculous rule. Well okay she didn’t say it was a ridiculous rule. That’s me saying it’s a ridiculous rule about the arm swing. Did you feel that was a little more lax at Worlds than it has been in the past?
KIENS: Well I have a feeling that is always a discussion. It’s just about what is mentioned in the judge’s meeting. Uh we had in, I think it was, and I know my history well, two or three that once in a (U/I) and they were being difficult about side somis on beam, that it was like turned in too quickly, and then nothing counted anymore. And then we had the time when your flic, full…flic, full turn on beam was not counted because it had to do with the hand placement (U/I) and it didn’t count. And it had to be like 360 degrees turn or otherwise you wouldn’t get it. And now…and then it’s about pirouettes and if the heel is down too early, or if the leg is up too late, and well…there’s always something. But just look at your own strengths and as long as you keep moving then I think it should count. That’s my opinion, because you can have like different arm swings, and why should one arm swing count and the other not as long as you keep moving? Because if you keep moving you connect.
KIENS: The same is, by the way, with the sheep jumps.
JESSICA: Ugh the sheep jumps.
KIENS: If you have not a tiny, teeny-weeny toe stretched against your head, or whatever, then it doesn’t count. Well I think, my personal opinion is, you count it, and the E judges should do the work and if the legs are too far from the head then you deduct.
JESSICA: Yeah I agree.
KIENS: Or when your feet are not together you deduct, like you do on bars. If your feet are not together you deduct.
JESSICA: Which they do…I feel like that’s one of those skills that’s inconsistent, like in some places they always deduct for that and in others, like the sheep jump, it’s way too hardcore with whether or not you’re even going to get credit or they say, get paid. Do you guys say “you get credit for this skill” or “you get paid for this skill,” in Holland?
KIENS: I would…we don’t…
JESSICA: Or neither one of those?
KIENS: No we don’t, we don’t talk about that. We have the discussion of whether it counts or not. Whether…
JESSICA: Ah, okay.
KIENS: The element counted or as a D. That’s what we talk about and that’s what we try to teach the girls, to really hit their feet against their head, because then it will count. Both feet, not one feet. If one foot is to the head then they don’t count it. They’re very strict.
KIENS: So yeah.
JESSICA: Hit yourself in the head with your feet!
JESSICA: That’s what the judges…
KIENS: If you don’t give yourself a concussion then you don’t get it. That’s basically the rule.
JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Um, we constantly try to enforce on this show, because it’s a fact not an opinion, that artistry and execution are two different things, because so many…so much of the gymnastics fans, they’re so confused about what artistry is and what execution is, and it’s even more…it’s even more confusing because the E panel actually take the artistry deductions even though they’re different things. Can you define…can you explain to people what the difference is between execution and artistry?
KIENS: Uh, I actually…well if you want to explain it…if you want to explain what artistry is…um…then we need to talk about things like why is painting like the Mona Lisa more artistic than a Rembrandt van Rijn’s The Night Watch, which you can’t say because that is up to the opinion of the ones who look at it, but I think I don’t agree with you actually. I think that good execution is also artistry. For example, then we have to talk about bars. What is artistic on bars?
KIENS: You tell me. What do you find artistic on bars? When is it artistic- when everything bent arms, bent knees, and no rhythm, and no tempo? Or is perfect execution artistry?
JESSICA: See I feel like bars, there is no artistry on bars.
KIENS: No I don’t agree with that.
KIENS: I don’t agree with that.
JESSICA: Ooh okay.
KIENS: I don’t agree with that. When something is performed technically really well, and um, then I find it also artistic. I find the vault of Simone Biles- her Amanar- really artistic, because it’s fantastic to watch. Because it’s so perfect.
JESSICA: So I feel like that is amplitude…that’s amplitude. What you’re talking about is virtu…what you’re describing is virtuosity and originality in a way, because like her and Maroney are the only ones that do the vault like that.
KIENS: Mmhmm. I can…of course you’re right when you say, “That’s amplitude.” But for me, that’s beautiful to watch, and something that’s beautiful to watch can also be art.
JESSICA: But ugliness can also be art as well.
KIENS: Yeah, but I don’t like that.
KIENS: Yeah. It’s true. It’s true.
JESSICA: But you can do…
KIENS: I don’t understand why there are people who pay two million for an ugly painting. But then it’s ugly in my opinion. Something can be so ugly it starts to be beautiful. It’s very philosophic…
EMMA: Can I just…
KIENS: It’s like ugh. What is art? That discussion will never end. What is art?
JESSICA: Emma go ahead. Yes.
EMMA: Can I just, because we’re talking about ugly, and I needed to ask you a question, because it makes me so mad, but what is your opinion on these girls doing the double front vault and sitting it down and making finals?
KIENS: Um…yeah I… I think it’s ridiculous that if you make a mistake that you can win a medal. Or if you make a mistake you can still get into the final.
EMMA: Thank you.
KIENS: This is just…and I find it dangerous, but you know that is up to the coach that works with the girls, because we don’t see the process of how they get there. And this was also a major discussion in the roundtable conversation we had with the FIG at Worlds at a meeting with all the coaches and delegations and representatives of the federation, to talk about how it’s going to look in the new code, and also one of the questions was should the Produnova vault be banned from the code. Well this might…people might want this because it’s dangerous, but on the other hand you cannot say that to a girl who performs it maybe really well, who we don’t have yet at the moment maybe in the international field. But if there is a girl who can do it like Produnova can then why not? Why should it then be banned, because then it’s really well executed?
EMMA: I don’t think it should be banned, in my opinion I don’t think it should be banned. But I don’t think it should be rewarded when you sit down and then you make the final.
KIENS: No I can…I can agree with you on that, but maybe you should think that for example, when there are some more rules, which you can apply of course, if you land any vault with your hips under your knees it’s like a two-point deduction. Would that be a good rule?
JESSICA: Oh yes.
KIENS: So that you’re like so heavily deducted that you can’t do it? Because all the other vaults, when you do a Tsukahara pike or when you do whatever easier vault, you don’t land so quickly with your hips under your knees. We also have that rule on beam- when you do a front salto and you land with your hips under your knees, you have like this deep squat, then you get .5 deduction.
JESSICA: Yep, I like that.
JESSICA: That’s a good solution.
KIENS: So why not apply something like that to vault that if you have such a heavy landing then you get like a really high deduction for it, more than one point?
EMMA: Yeah, I agree. I just don’t think something that is so obviously flawed should be rewarded.
KIENS: No I agree with that, because it’s ugly to look…to watch.
EMMA: It is ugly.
KIENS: It’s not nice to watch.
EMMA: I’d much rather see a much easier vault done really well and get rewarded…
KIENS: Yeah, yeah, yeah!
EMMA: With a medal.
KIENS: Yeah, I think artistic gymnastics is made to look beautiful and that’s what you want to see. And if it doesn’t look beautiful you don’t want to see it. Or when you have to turn your head away like oh my god what’s going on. That’s scary.
JESSICA: That’s true. That’s true.
KIENS: That’s not artistic. It’s not what you want to see. It’s like it should be beautiful for the eye to watch.
JESSICA: Yeah. I agree with that. So but how would you…okay so if you were teaching, you’re now in charge of teaching all the judges- all the Brevet level judges…
JESSICA: The difference between how to…how to judge artistry, what would you tell them?
KIENS: Well, okay. There is personal taste, and there is…and that is subjective and that is difficult to judge, and there are some objective points, which you can judge. So if you first focus on what you can judge it makes everything easier. So what you can judge, for example on floor routine, is body posture. If you can judge beam…judge bars, which is mathematics, and you can see what a straight line is one your hands, then you should also be able to see what a straight line is on your feet. Then you should also be able to see if releve is pushed out or on flat feet. You should be able to see if you have your shoulders low, so you have better body posture becomes taller because you make a longer neck, or if you have your head squeezed within your…in between your shoulders. Those things you can judge. You can judge if the arm line, if the fingers are nicely stretched, or if they’re not. That is what you can see. That’s just basically, what you can see is a straight line on bars. So that is what you can judge, what you can deduct on- body posture, presentation of your body- that’s what you can judge. What is more difficult to judge is what you like or not. If you see a floor routine for you it can be fantastic, and beautiful, and so oh my god that’s fantastic, and for me it can be like oh I’m not so interested in it. It didn’t…It didn’t yeah, catch my eye so much. But then still, on the other hand, what you should be able to judge is whether the choreography is made on the music, whether the style of the choreography fits the style of the music, um so at the end day you can say, “I didn’t like it. My personal taste is different, but it’s well done.”
JESSICA: Do judges have enough cultural…I don’t know how to put it except cultural knowledge…
KIENS: No, they don’t.
JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Okay, right? I feel like…
KIENS: No, they don’t.
JESSICA: I feel like…
KIENS: But that’s difficult. It’s difficult because…yeah that’s difficult. I know a lot about dance because I studied it, because I had dance history at school. I had all these kinds of things and that is what makes me look at it today. When I’m twenty years older I’ll probably look at it totally different, because I know twenty years more stuff, you know? What I’ve seen and what I’ve done, and you’ll probably have a different opinion. You’ll also probably look differently at it, because of…because of…because it’s interesting. Because I’ve made routines like ten year ago, like in my memory they look…they were fantastic. When I look back at it now I’m like oh no it was not so good.
KIENS: You know? And that is because gymnastics evolved, I evolved, my vision changed, and I would do it now totally different. So yeah, that’s how it goes, and no there is not enough background for judges based on which they can judge what is artistically well done or not so well done, but…when it goes to taste. When it comes to taste. But all the other things like straight lines, pointed feet, feet work, body line, tummy in, shoulders down, all those kinds of things- long neck- you can judge.
KIENS: You can judge.
JESSICA: One of the things we’ve talked about too is how, well, in the U.S. we have NCAA gymnastics, and there’s so much…we feel like…I think in general a lot of fans feel like, NCAA is much more artistic. One thing is they still have the ten so it’s how well you can do the routine, not necessarily how difficult it is, but also there’s a lot…there’s an idea that NCAA gymnastics is in a way, less racist, then, in a way, then gymnastics in general has been, because it’s come from like a European background, a ballet background, and there’s so much…like people can still be in releve and have good form and have their ribs pressed in, but also do a routine that has like an African base, or has a hip-hop base, and is very artistic, but is playing to a totally different cultural point of reference than traditional elite gymnastics.
KIENS: Yeah, yeah, yeah, but you still can judge in an African routine, or a hip-hop routine, whether it’s well done, yes or no.
KIENS: Whether the body posture is right, whether the feet position is done well. I don’t think you have to do hip-hop on high releves, because that’s not the style of hip-hop, you know? But you can see if it’s made on the music. You can see if the music connects to the movements. That’s all what you can see. You can see the emotional involvement of the gymnast, but I think everything has to do with culture. Because for example when we started in the Netherlands with choreography and with being more artistic it was then the judges would say, “Like oh well I really don’t like the way they present themselves into the floor and walking out of the floor. That is too exaggerated,” you know? People just didn’t know. And now also the lower level gymnasts still are doing it, you know? So it’s based on culture, and I think it’s more cultured to be good at choreography in NCAA gymnastics than in elite gymnastics, because…
KIENS: Probably the tumbling is less difficult so they have more time to work on the choreography. You can do three lines, which gives you more time for anything else. And I think in elite gymnastics everything is based on getting your start value up with difficult tumbling.
JESSICA: Do you think based on your success in Glasgow, and your strategy, and the emphasis on execution and artistry that you have changed the culture of elite gymnastics where it is now, or another way to look at it is, reminded people of the amazing history the sport had before the code devolved?
KIENS: Ooh, um…
KIENS: Let me think. What a question. Well we definitely changed culture in the Netherlands over the last five years. That we definitely did. And that was not my…not only my work. That is because we have great choreographers here working in the Netherlands. We have…who understand choreography. We understand artistry. And it has to do with that we work together much more than we did before. That’s also why choreographers talk with each other, and uh, talk about their visions, and talk about what their ideas are, and when we go to training camp I can call a coach and say, “I want her to work more on this, and this, and this,” and they’ll say, “Oh yeah. Good idea. I’m going to work on it.” So we work more together and that’s why we all become more artistic. Internationally I don’t know. I hope that people see that gymnastics is more than only power gymnastics, which it’s became nowadays, but that it also can be beautiful if you still use the code and use it in a different way. There are more roads who lead to Rome. Not only the power gymnastics leads to Rome. There are more ways to get there.
JESSICA: Mmhmm. I totally agree. I applaud you!
KIENS: Is that an answer to your question?
JESSICA: Yes! Yes! I’m very pleased!
KIENS: [LAUGHS] Okay.
JESSICA: Very pleased with that. Um, so you know, when you talked about changing the culture in the Netherlands, you know the Netherlands has had a difficult history like many gymnastics you know, prominent gymnastics countries have had- the U.S. You know we’ve had gymnasts come out and talk about how they’ve had a really bad experience with a coach and that coach was removed, and the Netherlands had a similar thing happen several years ago where gymnasts came out and talked about their experience. And the culture really changed. So you can you talk about how things have changed and do you think that your success now is a reflection of how Netherlands gymnastics has changed?
KIENS: Well the Dutch gymnastics definitely changed because the coaches are more working together. We have national training camps, which we attend. We um…that is definitely based…the working togetherness is much more than it was before. So that is fantastic and I think that is one of the keys to the success we have at the moment. I think we have a new group of coaches who were not involved in that period when it…about the period that the gymnasts complained about that went public with their stories. So yeah, so I think that is the key to where we are now, working together basically. And we have different coaches. Those coaches aren’t here anymore.
JESSICA: Emma has a couple questions to you about Eythora (Ey-thor-uh)…Eytora (Ee-tor-uh). Did I say it right? Ee-tor-uh?
JESSICA: AY-tor-uh. Ugh I’m writing myself a note. Ugh so embarrassed. AY-tor-uh.
JESSICA: Okay go ahead Emma.
EMMA: Okay, so I’d like to know, um what age did you start to coach Eythora and how did she stand out to you?
KIENS: Okay. I think she was ten when she came to our gym, and she wasn’t training in my group because I worked with the older girls. And, but what I could see she was always looking at you like are you watching me? And, um, what I saw on beam, that was really interesting. She already then, if she had a wobble, she could look like it belonged to the choreography, you know? Like, yeah, that really stood out for me. So, and I saw that she really liked gymnastics. She really liked it. That was my first impression of her. What I can remember.
EMMA: I think that really comes across in watching her, even going back watching her really old videos from when she’s a really little girl.
EMMA: You can tell that she loves it.
KIENS: Yeah. Yeah.
EMMA: And there’s other people that we’ve seen over the years where you know it’s their life you know: Larisa Iordache, Mary Ann, and you know various other girls- even Shannon Miller if you watch her at age eleven, and Aly Raisman age eleven, things like that and videos on YouTube and things like that. It’s evident that they love it so much.
KIENS: Yeah. Yeah. I think the sport is too hard to be able to become really good at it when you don’t have a passion for it.
EMMA: Yeah exactly.
KIENS: Maybe that’s with everything in life? If you want to be a good…good singer you have to have a passion for it. If you want to be a dancer it has to be your passion. You have to live it. And I think that’s the same with gymnastics.
EMMA: I think you’re right. I mean I couldn’t imagine doing the level of training and putting all those hours in if you don’t love it, because…
KIENS: I think so. I agree. I agree with you.
EMMA: Yeah. Now that the Netherlands has qualified a team to Rio for the first time in years how does this alter the preparation, now that you won’t have to compete at the test event, um, and how significant is this qualification for the Netherlands now for the future? I’m assuming since Glasgow the morale in the Netherlands must be like at the absolute top. [LAUGHS]
KIENS: Yeah, well first the girls who…everybody starts at zero again. So everybody needs to qualify again…
EMMA: Of course.
KIENS: To make the team. Um, obviously we have to peak differently, because we would have peaked at the test event. So we have now a different preparation. At the moment we are have meetings about this preparation- how we make the plan towards that. The girls are on holiday now, most of the girls, this week, and they come back next week and we have probably the plan ready, have a few more meetings about that to make that completely right and now we take it from there. We had already from the Federation, we had the goal already that from 2020 onwards we would stay in the top twelve every time, consistently. So we did not really plan to be in the top twelve now. It was the ambition, but we got there already now. But we really focused, we all the time focused, on making it to the test event. And then fighting- because are realistic- we were thinking of fighting over place eleven and twelve, with countries like Belgium, France, those kind of countries. That was what we always thought it would be.
KIENS: And we hoped that triple two, 222, would be enough points to get there, and that’s how we’ve always been calculating, with start values and stuff.
EMMA: Yeah. Wow.
KIENS: So yeah that’s how we did it, and…
EMMA: So, sorry continue.
KIENS: No, no, no I was finished. I was finished.
EMMA: [LAUGHS] Um, when I go…I go to a lot of gymnastics competitions, and I’ve loved the sport since I was very young even though I’ve never done it.
EMMA: And I cry a lot. I’m quite an emotional person. I cry… I cry a lot when I see gymnastics. And obviously I’m British…
JESSICA: [LAUGHS] A huge accomplishment for a Brit!
EMMA: Yeah, but as much you know, as I had admiration and love for GB and what they achieved in Glasgow, because, you know, they did better than they ever have done and that was joyful for me.
EMMA: But the moment that made me cry the most in Glasgow, and still if…when last night I was watching videos to prepare for the interview, was Eythora and Lieke on floor…
EMMA: And the fact that you guys qualified.
KIENS: Yeah. Yeah.
EMMA: Because honestly, even now I’ve got tears in my eyes just thinking about it, because it was just the best moment in Glasgow for me.
KIENS: Aww thank you. That’s really nice.
EMMA: It’s true. It’s true.
KIENS: Well to be honest with you, Great Britain was a great inspiration for us. We had Amanda over, two years ago I think, after the Olympics, and she talked with us and worked with us, and worked how the English system works, because we were thinking if England can do it, although their country’s bigger, but they are a Western country with Western girls, with Western bodies, then maybe we should see if that might work for us. And Great Britain is still a great inspiration for us, because if you look at them, I don’t know, when did they make the first Olympics with the team, was it 2008?
EMMA: Yes. For the women.
KIENS: Oh, no, no, no. Did they not already in 2000? Or 2004?
EMMA: Yeah the women…
EMMA: Yeah in 2000 the women, and it was 2012 for the men.
KIENS: Yeah. Wow. So, so when you look at the women, that’s fifteen years ago, they also were not in the top twelve.
KIENS: And that since then they are consistently in the top twelve…
KIENS: Based on their system, and they’re working together, and all that kind of stuff. So that is for us a great inspiration. So let’s hope now we made it in the top twelve we can keep that place for the next twenty years. That will be a great challenge.
EMMA: I think…I just feel like that with the Netherlands…I mean I’ve been going to competitions for a long time, and always people I’ve watched have stood out over the years, and you’ve just been so unfortunate with injuries…
EMMA: So the team never quite ever came together all at once, and then suddenly this year it came together like oh my god! [LAUGHS]
KIENS: Yeah when everybody does…
EMMA: (U/I) worked!
KIENS: Yeah. It has to do with working together. When everybody does his own timing, and his own peak moment, yeah then this is what happens. Then not everybody is ready at the same time. But when you do the same program all together, then you can also peak at the same time all together. And if you…if we keep each other on the…on the…- how do you say this- on the tip of our chair with like why, why, why can she not do five beam routines every training yet? Why doesn’t she do her dismount yet from beam? Or when you come to training camp you see oh, oh shit, everybody does his D dismount from bars already from behind the routine, so I’ve got to step it up with my gymnast, you know? And when you do your own preparation you don’t see that, so then it might also happen that you’re not ready.
EMMA: I just want everyone in the Netherlands to know that all the things that you do are truly appreciated…
KIENS: Thank you.
EMMA: And I’ve managed to speak to a few of the team in Glasgow and just say, “Thank you! Thank you!”
EMMA: “We love what you do!”
EMMA: But let’s just put it right out there to everyone that we really appreciate what you do, and it’s a beautiful thing to see.
KIENS: Thank you. Thank you. We are very happy. We are very happy that we got this good result, and now of course we have to stay in this top twelve. That’s the net big thing for us.
KIENS: That it’s not a one lucky stop.
JESSICA: Is it surprising to you to hear that…I mean I cried during Eythora’s…Eythora’s- I’m gonna get it right- Eythora’s beam and her floor, and especially her floor. I mean every time I saw it I cried, and is it, is it surprising to you to hear this or is it normal that when she competes there’s tears in everyone’s eyes?
KIENS: No that’s not normal! That’s not normal!
KIENS: And yeah. Yeah. Well we made that floor routine. We made it basically in an hour. And, um, yeah I also think that it’s uh- how do I say this- it’s, yeah, it went well…
KIENS: That floor routine. It was a good one this time. Because the way I make floor routines, well, let me tell you how I make floor routines. Well, I choose the music. The gymnast doesn’t have a voice in that. So it’s basically my party. I decide what you do. I decide how it looks, and if it doesn’t look well, we start over. So sometimes I start over, or wait too long to make a new routine, because I’m not happy with the music, or not happy, but all of a sudden I feel it’s right, and it’s right, then we can work very fast. And then also it’s fantastic to work with Eythora because she can pick up really quickly. She has a feel of artistry. So the way I do it is that I show movements only once, and then I say, “Okay, now you do it.” And of course it starts to look different because you cannot pick up that quickly when you just see it once and copy exactly what I did. And that is also exactly the point, because I wanted…I want her to do it in her way, which kind of looks what I do. And then I can say, “Okay, yes a bit more this, a bit more that, a bit more like what you do there.” And then, yeah, it comes altogether. So yeah, that’s how it works. And also you have a routine which really fits the gymnast.
JESSICA: Yes, and I totally…
KIENS: So you really style it on the gymnast instead of you want her to copy exactly the steps what you do as a choreographer. That’s different to theater, because there the dancer is cast on “do exactly what I do,” and with gymnastics it is done by I style the choreography on the gymnast. That’s a different approach.
JESSICA: And did you choose the story? The story is like she’s a princess and she’s trapped because she has to do this job, but she doesn’t want to do this job. She’s kind of hates being the princess, but it’s awesome.
KIENS: Yeah. Yeah.
JESSICA: Because she’s a princess. Ooh that story is so complicated and it totally comes across! Where did that come from?
KIENS: Ha, ha. This comes from the acting classes we do with the National Team members.
JESSICA: Can we just make a point of that? Acting classes everyone! Acting classes! Okay!
KIENS: (U/I) but don’t ask the local acting teacher, because that never works. It’s the same way you do choreography. It never ever works. You never ever do that again. Or send her away. When you think, “Oh I need to do more choreography in my gym so now I ask the local ballet teacher,” don’t do that. Don’t do that. It will never work. It’s a waste of your money. They will put you in a 180 degree turnout on the barre, and you have these ballet arms like round elbows, round wrists, which you will never, ever use again in gymnastics. So, don’t do that. It doesn’t work. So, hire someone that knows what gymnastics choreography is. Gymnastics choreography is not dance. It’s different. It’s gymnastics. So, having said that…what was your question?
JESSICA: [LAUGHS] So the question was…and I think Texas Dreams actually, where Kim Zmeskal is, is doing an acting class too, so I wonder if she’s hired someone who knows has a gymnastics background. We’ll have to find out. So the question was…
JESSICA: Where did you come up with this very, complicated, rich story?
KIENS: Ah! The story! Yeah, the story. So, first of all when we do acting class, very important is that we teach the girls to be able to show their emotions. So there are only four emotions you can play in acting, which are happy, angry, fear, and sad, and every other thing you have to go back to an emotion. For example, if you have to play a person who is lonely, you have to think what emotion fits lonely? And then you go to oh that might be sad, and then you play sad. So we teach them the emotions. We make them free so they dare to show their feelings and their emotions and they’re not afraid to like crawling around the floor and scream and blah, blah, blah. So they’re able to show what we want them to show. Then, if you for example you walk, you walk along the street, and you are emotion happy, you walk differently than when you walk emotion angry. You start…if you’re angry you start maybe walk a bit harder, or maybe you stamp your feet a bit more. So you totally, your body language totally changes. That’s the same with choreography. Choreography is never based on what you do, but it’s based on how you do it. So if I have like a kick-ball-change, step layout- I don’t know, whatever- and I’m happy, it totally looks different than when I play it angry, and that is basically why we make stories. So we do storytelling. So we see the routine and we think, “Okay, what could this step mean? What emotion could it be involved with? And, okay, how does it change the choreography then?” So that’s basically how we come up with the story.
JESSICA: So the story just evolved…
JESSICA: As you…
KIENS: It can be both ways. You can make up the story from the beginning, or you can make the story later on just to be able to make the choreography more interesting, within the same movements. You understand a bit what I’m saying?
JESSICA: Yeah. Yeah.
JESSICA: And on beam do you use the same refrain, kind of?
KIENS: No. (U/I) ballet with gymnastics the way we do it, at least the way I do it in the gym. We do ballet on the beam. We don’t do ballet on the barre. We do ballet on the beam. So, um, instead of 180 degrees turn-out in first position on the barre, which you never use in gymnastics, we do fifth position on beam, with a slight turn-out, so the toes are over the beam, at least the toes which need to be over the beam are over the beam and the toes which need to be on the beam are on the beam. So you have a slight turnout, and in that position we do everything. In that position you do your tumbles. In that position you do your leg swings. In that position you train your releves, and also it’s much more asked for…you ask for more from the core of the gymnast- the core stability- because if you do leg swings and you have one hand on the barre, you can hang on the barre, and on the beam you fall off. So if you don’t do the exercise right you fall off the beam. That’s how simply it then works. So I think it’s like, the fastest way to get results, you know? We don’t have thirty-six hours like American gymnasts do. We train thirty hours, so we need to be more clever, and we do it in a, maybe in a different way, and try to find a quick way up, a quick way to results.
JESSICA: Yes. I was watching…someone put up videos of their…the Dutch girls doing their drills on beam and I was just fascinated by like the plies- whatever the plié where you go all the way down- watching them do that on the beam was just so beautiful.
KIENS: Ah, but yes, I think, was that Eythora doing that?
JESSICA: I think it was the Wevers. The sisters.
KIENS: Ah okay. I think it’s more strength training to be honest.
JESSICA: It was still beautiful. It was very beautiful.
KIENS: Yeah but because you do it on the beam you also train your core so it’s and and.
JESSICA: It’s smart. Yeah like you said, clever…
JESSICA: Because you’re in a place where you had to come up with faster…
JESSICA: It totally makes sense! Uh this is why the Dutch are going to save us from climate change, because um…
JESSICA: Because nobody wants Amsterdam to be under water. So…
KIENS: No we don’t. We won’t. We have a good system here. We think ahead.
JESSICA: Yeah exactly.
KIENS: There’s still a ways to come. We think ahead.
KIENS: Be prepared.
JESSICA: Will you tell us, so we have about ten minutes left, and I know that you have a rich history, unless there’s any other…well two things and you can pick from these: one is do you have any stories about Eythora when she was a kid? Like anything that shows her character. Like something where you were just like, “Oh this kid is going to be a champion,” or, “This kid is a true performer,” um, or, you could do both, a story from when you were in the theater- like something the craziest thing that happened behind the scenes…
JESSICA: And like the show had to go on.
KIENS: All right. Well basically being on stage in musicals, as soon as the premiere is done, the big party starts. It is hi-la-ri-ous to be in a show. So especially in the Netherlands we always do dress-up parties, so like everybody wears each other’s costume from the show. So you understand all the boys wants to be in the dress of the female lead.
KIENS: And then we do of course Holland’s Next Top Model fashion show with these costumes on stage before the show starts.
JESSICA: Of course.
KIENS: With lighting, and music, and everything. So everyone is involved. And we do hide-and-seek in the theater with the whole cast, which is hilarious.
KIENS: Yeah it’s like hideous basically. Yeah, in Cats, when people lose their wig and have to crawl to you to dance, that is hideous.
JESSICA: They don’t have to crawl like a cat over to the wig and try to like put it back on?
KIENS: Well there is no wing because it’s a round stage so there is nowhere to go but to just continue. Um, things like that. Eythora, yeah I would like to tell a story. Eythora would always have like two buns on the side of her head when she was a little kid, which was interesting and funny, and I was always thinking, “When are those two children’s buns going to change into one?”
KIENS: And thank god it happened at one point. And yeah that is what I remember about Eythora. Funny stories about her? I don’t know. I don’t have any, actually. Not that I can get my mind into it right now. I don’t remember.
JESSICA: She never had a moment as a kid where she like freaked out at a meet or she had a…what was her best improvisation maybe?
KIENS: Oh! [LAUGHS] Well, she does it all the time. Sometimes I get a bit angry about it, because I’m like stop improvising! Keep doing the choreography the way we set it because you can do it still. Well, for example, from her first pirouette to her first series, that bit of choreography, nine out of ten that was different.
KIENS: Because you have…Yeah. Really.
KIENS: It really has to do with how the pirouette ends, and then she starts just making things up. And I’m like don’t do that because you’ll get a deduction because you’re running into the corner now. And although she does it better than anyone else who would improvise, it still gets carried away too much a bit sometimes. Yeah. Yeah. [LAUGHS]
JESSICA: I would have never guessed she improvises that much. I mean…
KIENS: Yeah, she improvises, but then of course I’ve seen more floor routines than you guys in competition, because I’ve seen every other day two routines in training, you know, so, yeah.
JESSICA: Is she a gamer? Is she like…
KIENS: She’s better under pressure, yeah. She’s better under pressure, and she gets more energy under pressure.
JESSICA: Can you…
KIENS: Which is also dangerous
KIENS: Which can also be dangerous. For example with vault, because we have the one and a half Yurchenko, and then when, as soon as the green light goes on, and you have to do it and you get higher up then the chance for overstretched knee is higher up, because you don’t recognize it because she didn’t do in training so much, those really high, sky high ones. So that’s a tricky thing. So it can be an advantage, with a lot of things, like making your dismount on beam, or making your last series on floor, or whatever, but it can also be dangerous so we have to be careful with that.
JESSICA: And as we leave, a parting thought: what is the best…the best advice you were ever given as a coach? Something you go back to over and over again on how you coach or what makes a good coach?
KIENS: [SIGHS] Vincent, the Wevers’, the father and the trainer of the Wevers, he comes to our gym because we work together. He has also like works for the Federation and he travels around the gym, so he said to me once, which was really good advice, “Patrick you are such a great beam coach. Why don’t you use exactly that same system of perfection on bars?” So that was like an eye-opener, which I still use everyday. So that has to do with you’re so strict on body posture on beam, so why you’re not as strict on body posture on bars. So that was a great one. And not so much advice, but we had last year Mary Lee Tracy over in the Netherlands and she’s coming this year again. Yeah I’m so excited about that. And she is just a great inspiration about intensity, about physical programs, so I learned a lot from that, and I hope to keep learning from her again this year so, yeah, looking forward to that. But I cannot really say she pointed out to me one thing, like this you need to do more, more, more or whatever, then you’ll be fine. No, but just to be around such a person that gives you so much inspiration, that gives you like…yeah it’s like great. It’s like great to learn from those people. Yeah so I still have lots to learn. I think…I like that also. I like…I always say like I want to be gymnastics coach till I’m sixty-five, and of course I’m not only a choreographer, I’m also a coach, and I want to become better and better at it. And that’s that’s also so challenging about being a gymnastics coach- you can learn every single day. There is so much to learn, and when you think like…yeah there was an interesting thing, when I just…when I was young and I had this course from the Federation, which was then the highest course in the Netherlands, and I was eighteen and I could do the exam. Wow. Wow. Wow. So then the teacher asked, “How much do you think you know about gymnastics right now?” And then I said, which is a stupid answer, I said, “I think I know 50% about everything there is to know about gymnastics.”
KIENS: Knowing now- now I’m twenty years older- that I maybe now I know 10% of what there is to know, and there is so much more to learn, and that is such a challenge being a gymnastics coach, that you can learn every day.
JESSICA: Thank you so much to Eythora and Patrick! Loved talking to you guys, and thank you for spending so much time with us. We will be back next week to talk about some scandalous things in the news. We have Mykayla Skinner getting herself into some trouble in Twitter. Margzetta Frazier, who we talked about left Parkettes and went to another gym, she stood up for herself and gave the details on Instagram. She left an allegedly abusive coach so we’ll talk about that next week. Bela and Bitang are back in Romania to try to get the Romanians to the Olympics. There’s so much to talk about. So we’ll meet you here this time next week. Remember our gift guide is out, plus we have our new ugly Christmas sweater with the cheeseburgers on horse, and our yearly survey is coming out next week so take a look out for that, because we’d like to know about you, and what we can do for you, and what you want, and if there’s anything you want us to talk about before the end of the year send us your feedback at Gymcastic@gmail.com or at Gymcastic Podcast, you can leave a voicemail on Skype. Gymcastic is produced and edited by me, our Content and Social Media Director is Dr. Uncle Tim, our audio engineer is Ivan Alexander and also Becca Emek, our theme song is produced by Chris Zuccolo as performed by N.W.A., transcription services are provided by Katie, Katy, Alex, Amanda, Haley, Ceci, Danica, and Emma. The President of Contests is Charlie. Our Mistress of Outreach is Emma Bailey, and of course our Czar of Fashion, our Fashion President, the man making all of these t-shirts and sweaters happen is Casey Magnesium. Until next week I’m Jessica. Thank you so much for listening.
JESSICA: Okay, and will you teach us how to say your name with a perfect Icelandic accent? Not a Dutch one, but Icelandic accent since it’s, you know, OG.
JESSICA: Okay. Teach us.
THORSDOTTIR: AY-thor-uh Thors-dott-ir.