The Big (but not fat!) Israeli Team Controversy

Team Israel has won gold at the European Championship, but the practices of the head coach Ira Vigdorchik have been under fire. Allegedly, she verbally abused and even physically hit some of the girls, made them train outside where there were holes in the grass, restricted their food intake and even prevented them from using the bathroom. None of these accusations have been proven but it has become known that the team has refused to work with her and even gotten a lawyer involved in resolving the conflict.

First, I'd like to say that I feel pain every time I read horrible stories about our favorite sport. We have listened to false rumors for many years and there is no doubt these rumors have scared away many prospective gymnasts and their parents who have to decide to trust coaches when children are still very young and impressionable. For this reason, I would like to urge everyone to treat this with utmost delicacy and respect for all parties involved.

Second, fans on an online discussion forum have now explained that, following a press conference, the following decisions have been announced:

1. Ira Vigdorchik will fly to Rio with the team.
2. Ira will direct the training of the team by providing oral instructions to other coaches such as Ela Samofalov, Raya Irgo and Aelet Zussman, who will then transmit these instructions to the team. Ira is allowed to decide whether she would like to be present during to training.
3. An administrative commission will, at a later stage, provide formal recommendations about the training conditions and procedures in Israel.

Pictured above is Ela Samofalov, Neta Rivkin's coach who will assist with this process. It remains to be seen whether coaches can be responsible for both the individual gymnasts and the group exericese and how that affects the overall state of preparedness and confidence in the Israeli team.

In the meantime, Neta Rivkin hopes to battle for an Olympic medal at Rio after years of very successful competitions and strong routines. She deserves this but it is not entirely clear who will represent Israel at the Olympic Games. Before we speculate further about the power struggle going on in  the Israeli team, I would like to point out that we are discussing very experienced and talented athletes and coaches and we should give everyone the benefit of the doubt before jumping to any conclusions about what is happening or about what should happen next.  With regard to individual gymnasts, there is no doubt that Victoria Filanovsky is also very prepared and has built a strong reputation for herself with very solid routines all season. "Tori" is holding on to her Olympic chances as hard as she can. I will not hide that my strong personal preference is for Neta but that I see great potential in the future for Tori, who is a young and very energetic athlete.

However, the group is really the team that has a chance to medal and this chance is much greater than what the individual gymnasts can accomplish so I hope the Israeli group stays in good health and with as much peace of mind as possible in what appears to be an emotionally draining conflict.

This team has done nothing but stellar work this year. Their hoop and clubs routine is one of the most original ones in the world and they dazzled their home audience in Holon with strong performances. I would think they should be ready to captivate Rio as well if they have the opportunity to work in a nurturing environment.


Tsvetelina Stoyanova Expected to Leave the Hospital in One Month

The father of the gymnast Tsvetelina Stoyanova, Jordan Stoyanov, has shared with "Bulgaria Today" that Tsveti will be spending approximately a month in hospital recovering. She has been improving with every day that goes by and the prognosis for her future life is highly positive. Tsveti still receives a lot of pain medication so she is sedated for a large part of the day but when is awake she is able to have conversations with visitors. Her grandma Tsetva, brother Nayden, and her boyfriend Alexander are next to her at all times.

Her teammates from the Bulgarian rhythmic group are currently at a training camp outside Sofia and have not visited her in the last couple of days. As the team is preparing for the Olympic Games in Rio, I am sure they will continue to also support their teammate in her recovery.

Below is a picture of Tsveti from a test event when she was still an individual gymnast. I hope deeply that Tsveti will maintain great memories from her illustrious and exciting gymnastics career. From representing Bulgaria at prestigious events as an individual competitor to becoming a world champion with the group, she has shown her love and dedication to this sport and her strong spirit.

"The doctors gave me courage and hope after last week's surgery. All went well and now the most important thing is to pray with open hearts for the health of my child, " said Jordan Stoyanov. He has also expressed a concern over false statements flooding the media and has shared that this is the reason he is trying to keep his statements very brief.

Her teammates will no doubt also keep her in their thoughts and prayers. The picture above is one of the last ones of Tsveti with the team at her last event with the rhythmic group during the World Cup in Guadalajara, Spain. Best of luck to Tsveti and the team!


Tsvetelina Stoyanova's Surgery Proceeded Successfully

As we feverishly check the news for more updates, here is a brief summary of the latest information regarding Tsvetelina Stoyanova's treatment and recovery as well as a bit about the reactions of her teammates and coaches to the incident and the widespread support and sympathy they all have received. Please note that Tsveti is still in the hospital and it is early to make conclusive statements. I am thankful for the fans from around the world who have been looking for updates in English and keeping us all in their thoughts and prayers.

The Bulgarian newspaper "Monitor" wrote yesterday that Tsvetelina Stoyanova underwent a four-hour surgery to remove broken pieces from her thoracic vertebrae and insert metal plates. When her condition improves further, she will need to undergo a less serious procedure to repair a cervical vertebra as well.

Currently, the main concern of the medical team remains the condition of Tsveti's lungs. Recovery is slow  and Tsveti will continue to use a machine for assisted breathing.      The doctors considered performing a procedure on Tsveti's trachea to asset with breathing but this option was rejected. The spinal surgery had been planned and all of Tsveti's family and friends were warned not to visit her on the day of the surgery. However, her teammates from the Bulgarian rhythmic group already visited Tsveti upon their return from the European Championship in Holon. They went to the hospital immediately. There is no shred of doubt that they thought about Tsveti during the entire competition and that they dedicated their efforts to her.

The team brought Tsveti the additional medal that the organizers in Israel provided especially for her as well as stuffed animals that fans in Israel gave the gymnasts during the competition for the European title. The team has expressed high hopes for Tsveti's recovery and has assured the fans that everyone in the Bulgarian federation has always been extremely supportive of Tsveti. The group believes they made the right decision by competing in Holon and that Tsveti herself would have wanted them to follow their dreams. 

Hristiana Todorova stated that the Bulgarian group received a lot of sympathy and support from all of its competitors and specifically pointed out to the teams of Russia, Belarus, Israel, Spain and Italy. It has been amazing to watch how this team stood strong and united and how they have deserved everyone's admiration even more. 

Meanwhile, legendary coach Neshka Robeva, who coached both the current Bulgarian Federation president Iliana Raeva and the group coach Ina Ananieva has stated that she was a lot more demanding to the gymnasts in the past than coaches are now and that the media should stop placing blame for Tsveti's accident on coaches and athletes.  Most Bulgarian fans are in agreement with Mrs. Robeva on this issue and also agree that the Bulgarian media has done a very poor job reporting recent gymnastics events in general. In fact, some analysts point out that various TV channels have violated media laws that govern the ethical conducts of journalists and that those channels will have to pay damages.

We certainly hope that no further false rumors will surface during the upcoming months of extensive preparation for the Olympic Games and that the Bulgarian team will once again rise and deliver memorable performances to be cherished and revered by generations of young gymnasts and admirers of this beautiful sport.