Jeltkov, Shewfelt primed to win medals
SYDNEY (CP) -- The elbow Alexander Jeltkov injured a few weeks ago is still a bit sore, but he's considered among the favourites to win the gold medal in the men's gymnastics horizontal bar event at the 2000 Summer Games.
Jeltkov, 22, from Montreal, who finished second in the event at the 1999 world championships, put in one of his last intensive workouts Wednesday in preparation for the biggest competition of his life. The qualifying round is Saturday, and with the 15-hour time difference Canadians can watch him fly high on the bar in prime TV time back home Friday night.
"These last days are hard," he said after leaving the Superdome floor. "It's not easy this close to a competition.
"There is so much pressure and tension."
The withdrawal due to injury of world horizontal bar champion Jesus Carballo of Spain has imrpoved Jeltkov's status. But he understands the enormity of the challenge. There are more than 80 entrants in some of the individual events.
"Caballa is not here but there are other guys just as good," he said. "It's going to be a tough competition."
Only eight advance to the final in each event.
Jeltkov will compete in high bar and floor exercises. Teammate Kyle Shewfelt, 18, from Calgary, is set for the vault and the floor exercises. Both are in morning qualifying sessions. The last group will finish 11 hours after they start, so they'll have a nervous day waiting to see if the marks they get from the judges hold up for berths in finals.
Shewfelt's third-place showing in the vault on the World Cup circuit bodes well for a spot in the final here. The contortionist teen has virtually arrived on the world gymnastics stage from nowhere to zoom up the world rankings.
Jeltkov has spent the three years since getting Canadian citizenship working his way up the world gymnastics ladder.
He was born in Tbilissi, Georgia. His mother insisted the family get out in 1992 because she feared strife in her homeland created the possibility of her children not returning home alive from school. They went to Israel. In 1993, the family moved to Canada.
Jeltkov had been involved in gymnastics from age five. When he walked into a Montreal gym at age 14 and started spinning on the high bar, coaches' eyebrows shot up. Serge Castonguay and Michel Venne have brought him this far.
His parents arrived Wednesday. His dad is an apartment building superintendent and his mother is a hotel housekeeper. They had to scrimp to pay for it all, but they were determined to be in the Superdome to see their son win an Olympic medal.
"I bought tickets for them for the qualifying," he said.
Jeltkov returned after his practice to catch the workouts of his chief rivals.
"I'm going to watch them carefully," he said.
As in figure skating, an early draw time can be disadvantageous as the judges leave scoring room for those to follow.
"If me and Sasha hit our routines, they're going to give us the scores we deserve," said Shewfelt. "We've established reputations with the judges, and that will help.
"A score of at least 9.7 should get both of us in finals."
Both have shots at Canadian-bests in the sport. The best Olympic showing by a Canadian male has been a sixth by Curtis Hibbert on parallel bars in 1988 in Seoul.