It's been a busy year for Canadian men's gymnastics team, and Calgary's Adam Wong has played a pivotal role in the country's accomplishments this year. Competing in his first Commonwealth Games in March, Wong helped his team recapture gold and capped off the Games with a gold on floor exercise. One month later he traveled to Honolulu for the Pacific Alliance Championships, where team Canada surprised to take silver over the Chinese.
On the heals of the 2006 Canadian Championships, where Wong placed third all-around and medaled on rings (silver) and p-bars (tied for gold), he and his teammates begin a long series of training camps and mock meets for the ultimate event in 2006, the World Championships in Aarhus, Denmark. These Worlds were historic for Canada's men's program in several ways, including a first ever berth to men's team finals and highest all-around placement by Wong, himself.
Back home in Calgary for a little over one month, Wong recently took time to chat with Gymn.ca. In this interview he reflects on his career to date and shares how he keeps busy outside the gym.
Wong competes Team Finals
at the 2006 World Championships
Photo by Ruth Judson
Personal Facts:Club: Calgary Gymnastics Center
Coach: Bin Fan, Mark Van Wyk
Date of birth: March 29, 1985
1999 Canadian Championships - 1st AA (Under 15)
2000 Canadian Championships - 1st AA (Under 16)
2001 Canadian Championships - 1st AA (Novice HP)
2002 Canadian Championships - 1st AA (Junior)
2004 Olympic Games - 11th Team
2005 Canadian Championships - 1st AA
2006 Commonwealth Games - 1st T, 1st FX
2006 World Championships: 6th T, 10th AA
Gymn.ca: Tell us a little bit about your family. Who do you get your personality traits from? What role has your family played in your gymnastics success?
My parents are Alex and Judy, and I have a younger sister Hali who is involved in track and field and dancing. I don’t think I could pin-point exactly who I get my personality traits from, but both of my parents have definitely had an impact on the person I am today.
My family has had a huge effect on my gymnastics career. Ever since I started, they have supported me through every step. They are often even willing to travel and watch my competitions, to support me. They attended the Olympics in 2004, and were just recently in Denmark for Worlds. It’s always a nice feeling to know that they’re right there behind me, supporting the decisions I make.
Gymn.ca: The Olympic Test Event in Athens was one of your first major international competitions. What was this experience like for you, and why did you bow out from competing in the AA final?
The Test Event in Athens was the first competition where I felt I really experienced an ‘international’ setting. I was mind-blown throughout the entire trip! Being in the gym with gymnastics legends that I had previously only ever seen on TV, was incredibly intimidating; I felt way out of place!
The men’s competition only allowed for two competitors from each country, while the women were able to send their full teams. I was very fortunate that they sent me along with a young man who had a lot more experience than me; Mr. David Kikuchi. Prior to this, Dave had already been to several World Championships, and was definitely no stranger to international competition. It helped me a lot knowing that he was there looking out for me. Just knowing that he knew how the whole process would lay out was comforting, and helped me concentrate more on my gymnastics, and worry less about who just took their turn before me.
From what I can remember, I had a great first day of competition, and was able to qualify [in 13th position] for all around finals the next day. I landed a bit short on my Vault during finals (which was my second rotation), and jammed my ankle, and subsequently wasn’t able to finish the competition or compete in Floor or P-Bars finals, which I had also qualified for.
Gymn.ca: At the 2004 Olympic trials you edged out longtime Canadian team member Richard Ikeda, to grab a spot on the team. What was it like, being the new guy on the team?
It was a very difficult decision to name our 2004 Olympic team. We had 10 solid athletes, and only 6 positions to fill. Even though Richard didn’t qualify for the team, he played a lead role in the 2003 World Championships, where the team achieved a historic 9th place finish, granting Canada the opportunity to represent a full team at the Olympics in Athens.
By the time all the training camps and model competitions were through, I didn’t feel as much like the ‘new guy’ on the team, maybe more just like the ‘young guy’. When I was a junior in 2002, I was given the chance to start working with the senior guys, and attending some of their training camps. By 2004 I had been working with them for a couple years, which made it less of a shock to suddenly be competing side-by-side them.
Gymn.ca: After coaching you to the Olympics, in late 2004 your long time coach, Mark Van Wyk, left gymnastics. How do you compare/contrast him to your new coach, Fan Bin?
It was very sad to hear that Mark had decided to cut back his coaching time after the Olympics. However, after over 10 years of post-secondary education (in which he was able to achieve a master’s degree in environmental design), a second son on the way, and starting a brand new career, he had my full support once that decision was made. Although he isn’t my primary coach anymore, he is still in the gym 3 days of the week.
In order to fill his place, Bin Fan (or Fan Bin… his family name is Fan, and this comes first in China) flew to Canada to help out the Calgary Gymnastics Centre. Bin was a Chinese national team member gymnast, a double medalist at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta (bronze on High Bar, and silver for team), and won a team gold medal at the 1995 World Championships. Right from the beginning he was a great fit with all the other athletes and coaches in the gym. Bin is very knowledgeable in the sport of gymnastics, and has either done, or seen people training, virtually every move in the code of points. He’s very relaxed and learns quickly how to most efficiently work with each of his athletes, much the same as Mark. As well, both Bin and Mark are great friends to me, as well as coaches; I think that’s very important, as it creates a great base for communication (which is always a must) and makes training much more enjoyable.
Wong at the Great Wall of China at Badaling
Photo courtesy of Adam Wong
Gymn.ca: Has the way you approached your gymnastics changed pre-Athens vs. post-Athens? How so?
I believe that it has. My first competition as a senior was only one year before the Olympics. It was hard to set a definitive goal of competing in Athens before this, as I was a junior or younger. It wasn’t until the year I competed senior that the gears really starting turning in terms of Olympic preparation. My goals before the Games were to make the team and be able to participate in the competition. After competing in Athens, I was able to sit down and think about what I wanted to do for the future. This time I have had an entire cycle to focus and plan. Participation in the Beijing Games would be an amazing accomplishment, however, now with a little more experience under my belt, I hope to help achieve some good results for the team and individually. However, with the 2006 Worlds now over, my main focus right now is for next Worlds in Stuttgart; from there I can re-evaluate my situation and start planning for Beijing more specifically.
Gymn.ca: The 2006 Worlds featured many “firsts” for team Canada, including a first ever spot in men’s team finals and your all-around finish, highest ever for a Canadian (top 10 finish). Can you comment on the experience? (value of mock meets, pre-Worlds training, experience at Worlds, support of your parents there, etc.).
The whole competition experience was great. The team had been preparing for the competition since mid-July, after our training camp in Beijing. The pre-Worlds training camps were held every two or three weeks from then on, which helped bring the team together and push ourselves and each other, while constantly being able to evaluate our situation and see the whole picture. As usual, our primary goal for Worlds was to have a solid team showing. During training before the competition in Aarhus, we were able to watch most of the other teams train, and it seemed that we were able to stack up against most of the teams that often placed ahead of us. It was an amazing feeling finishing so strong as a team in the qualification competition (5th place). Team finals was something no one had experienced before, so we were all able to go out and let the fact that we were part of the top-8 countries competing soak in. AA finals were also a new experience for me; it was quite intimidating being placed in a group with some of the World’s best gymnasts, however was a great learning and competitive situation for me.
Gymn.ca: Tell us a bit about your life outside of gymnastics. Are you still studying engineering?
Other than gymnastics, I help fill my day with school. I am studying mechanical engineering at the University of Calgary. Due to the competitions and training camps that I travel for, I take a reduced course load each semester. I have been at the school for 4 years now, and am just over half way through the engineering program… so only 4 more years left!! It’s going to be a long haul, but I am able to still train and compete as much as necessary.
Gymn.ca: What's next for you, gymnastically speaking?
Right now I'm working on some new skills in hopes of increasing my start values on most of the events. Due to the short amount of time we'll have before Stuttgart, I'm going to be sitting out Elite Canada to focus on new skills. By the time Jurassic rolls around, I hope to have at least a few routines with some new difficulty. As well, on the schedule, is the American Cup in February, which will provide another setting to try out some new routines and gain some experience; which will be imperative during preparation for upcoming competitions.
Gymn.ca profile: Adam Wong