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Olympic Gymnastic champion Gervasio Deferr teaches children in Barcelona’s La Mina suburb

Gervasio Deferr is a two-time pommel horse Olympic champion. The former Catalan gymnast won gold in Sydney (2000) and Athens (2004) and one silver medal in Beijing (2008) in the Floor category. He retired in 2011 after more than twenty years in the world of gymnastics. He currently trains gymnasts at the High Performance Centre (Centre d'alt Rendiment, CAR) in Sant Cugat del Vallès and instructs children and teenagers at the Gervasio Deferr La Mina Club in the La Mina suburb of Barcelona. CNA interviewed him.

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16 July 2013 05:52 PM

by

Carla Giné Vázquez

Barcelona (CNA).- Gervasio Deferr retired in 2011 but he confesses that he thought about retiring for more than two years previously. He was born in Premià de Mar (in Greater Barcelona) in 1980 but grew up in La Mina, a poor neighbourhood in Sant Adrià de Besós in Greater Barcelona. He started practicing gymnastics at the age of five and has loved the sport ever since. Deferr won gold in Sydney (2000) and Athens (2004) in the men´s Pommel Horse category and silver in Beijing (2008) in the men´s Floor Exercise. He also won silver in two world Championships (in 1999 and 2007) in the Floor category. After years of travelling and competing in events he now wants to spend his free time with his family, relaxing at home. However, he is still busy because he trains gymnasts at the High Performance Centre in Sant Cugat (Centre d’Alt Rendiment, CAR) and teaches children and teenagers at the Gervasio Deferr La Mina Gymnastic Club, an institution created in 2011 in his neighborhood. During  the last few months he has been participating in the TV program Splash; famosos al agua, an adaptation of the international program Splash! Deferr was declared the winner of the program’s first series. CNA interviewed him.


Deferr considers himself to be an ordinary person and enjoys going to the beach, fishing and surfing, among other things. Regarding the countries he has visited, he cannot choose a favourite among them. There are a lot of beautiful places to visit and Deferr does not like borders, “they are something that humans invented in order to separate us and I do not like that”, he says.

You have competed since you were a child, have you ever thought having a career in any other sport?

It has been a fast progression since I was five. I had never thought about doing anything else until I was ten, when I had some problems with a coach and I considered quitting. But then he was replaced and I decided to come back. I have always had it pretty clear that I wanted to be a gymnast.

What did you feel when competing as a child?

I felt like I could do things that others could not. I could control my body and I knew that I wouldn’t get hurt because, for example, I could do a double somersault. It also gave me confidence; jumping gave me a lot of confidence.

Did you have any kind of ritual before doing a programme?

I have always slept, even in competitions. When I used to wake up, I would have a cold shower for twenty minutes and then I started to feel the energy. I have always done this in the important moments of my life, even this year when I participated in the TV programme Splash. It has always helped me to concentrate and to prepare myself for the competition.

What made you participate in Splash?

Firstly, jumping from a diving board was a new experience, and then there was the money: it was perfect. There also were the people I met. They are incredible and it was a surprise to keep in touch with them after finishing the program.

How has your life changed since you have retired?

Initially, it was difficult. It was strange because I had many hours of free time and I did not know what to do with myself, but then I found my place. Before announcing my retirement, I spent two years sitting on my sofa thinking of what to do. Finally I retired, and now I believe I chose the right option. Even though I think that I could have fought for the medal in the London Olympic Games, I had already done so three times and it was not worth the effort; the motivation was different too.

Was it worthwhile?

Absolutely. If you achieve what I did, it is completely worthwhile. I don’t know what it’s like to go to the Olympics and not win a medal, my aim was always to win. Furthermore, I suppose that even without this purpose in mind it is worthwhile because just the fact of competing in an Olympic Games is great. To me being an Olympian is the best experience of my life. I was in three Olympic Games -Sydney, Athens and Beijing- and sharing this experience with the best athletes in the world is incredible.

What does training give you that competition does not?

Less pain, my body doesn’t hurt now. Basically, it provides me with the same as when I competed but without pain. If I injure myself I don’t need time to recover because I don’t have to compete.

Do you now intend not to be strict like your previous coaches?

I hadn’t thought about that but I have always believed that it’s not necessary to be very strict or dictatorial. This is not a dictatorship. Children and adolescents are training for many hours every day and they do it because they want to. We must do our job as well we possibly can.

How do you feel after these two years?

It’s great. I have learnt a lot and I continue learning today. At the moment I am learning to teach and I see that children make progress because the teaching techniques I use are the right ones.

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  • Gervasio Deferr at La Mina training centre (by M. Ferragut)

  • Gervasio Deferr at his training centre (by M. Ferragut)

  • Gervasio Deferr at La Mina training centre (by M. Ferragut)
  • Gervasio Deferr at his training centre (by M. Ferragut)