Pegan How did you handle the realization that you would not be going to the Beijing Ol ympics? After the (2007) world championships in Stuttgart,
where I was second (on high bar), I said, ‘OK,
Olympics for me, no way.’ But then when our federation and government started this campaign, I
said, ‘Maybe I can go.’ This thing became so big,
and so many people signed the petition, that I
started to believe I could go to the Olympics. But
some people connected to the FIG told me it’s not
easy, even if so many people signed it and our
government was pushing. It would be really hard
for me to get the wild card, so I was prepared for
(the decision). It was not a shock for me. I knew I
didn’t qualify and it was something they could give
me. I wasn’t surprised when they said, ‘You’re not
allowed to go.’ I know also (Hungarian pommel
horse star Krisztian) Berki and (Dutch rings star)
Yuri van Gelder had the same problem, and I
thought it must be really something to invite me
and not them, because Yuri had better results and
won almost every World Cup competition in three
years, and I didn’t. But, I would have been much
happier if they said yes!
How many photos of you are in the bar?
[Laughs] I didn’t want to have any, but the director
wanted to have my posters up. I said, ‘I just want
to put small pictures.’ And he said, ‘No, no.’
times are not really good for building new facili-
ties. Ten or 15 years ago the results were also
good, and they should have done it. In Slovenia
we have a lot of good athletes in a lot of sports,
and it’s impossible for a small country to build
facilities for every one.
They must be good for business… This is not
America! There aren’t enough people to live off
Who sponsors you, and what are the terms of
their sponsorship? BTC (a Slovenian developer
of shopping, entertainment and recreational centers) is my sponsor, and we have a contract. They
pay me monthly, and for each result I get additional money. Now it’s not easy to get a sponsor.
Ten years ago it would have been no problem. I’ve
been very happy that Mitja and I have this sponsor. They’re not giving us just what they need to
out of the contract; they give us more. After the
world championships in 2007, they gave us each
a Mercedes. The boss, (BTC president and CEO)
JoÏe Mermal, loves sports. The whole BTC team
is very good. BTC is developing a lot of centers,
so I think this financial crisis isn’t so big for them.
People are spending money. It’s no problem.
How much did not qualifying for Beijing motivate you to continue? Would you have retired
had you been able to compete in Beijing?
I don’t know. Maybe if I won a medal. When you
have good results, you get something out of that,
so you have to do it more and compete more.
That’s why I’m doing it so long. When you can
make a living out of it, that’s the point for me. If I
quit gymnastics I would have to do something else,
and I don’t know what that is right now.
As the standard bearers for Slovenian gymnastics, how are you and Mitja staying ahead
of the younger guys? We’re lucky because we
don’t have so many good guys that we can have a
team. When you have a team, you’re not supposed to do just one event, like Mitja and I are
doing. For a team you need three all-around
scores, so if you have a gymnast with just one
event and one score, that’s no good for the team.
We have no ambitions for the team. Mitja and I
can compete as long as we want. Nobody is pushing us out. [Team officials] said, ‘OK, you are the
priority for us. You can go wherever you want.
Just compete and do your best.’ But it’s good that
we have some younger guys coming up, because
they are pushing us a little bit. If (pommel horse
standout Saso) Bertoncelj were (good) on high bar,
it would be a little different. Everyone is on different apparatus, so it’s no problem.
Besides the financial incentive, what new
gymnastics goals do you have? How much
are you thinking about the London 2012
Olympics? London is too far off. Every competition is something special, and I try to be the best.
It’s not easy but that’s the goal I want to achieve,
just from competition to competition. I have a
one-year plan, but I don’t have a two-year plan,
because I don’t know how long I can do this.
What are the conditions of your training gym?
Trnovo is a very, very small gym, and very old. It’s
nine meters by 13 meters, so we have only four
apparatus. It’s only I who is really training and
competing. There are maybe five other guys, but
they come just once a week. They are former
gymnasts who come to stretch. We have about 20
young guys who come twice a week, but not for
competitive gymnastics—just for fun. We expect
to remodel the building next year, so we’re not
supposed to be there anymore. There will be no
place for gymnastics, so I don’t know where we
will go, but we have time.
Do you feel 35? When I’m in good form, I don’t
feel it. But preparing for a new season, it’s not
easy. I have to do more than before, but I can’t do
more, and sometimes it’s painful. The coach
wants you to do things you can’t do. You can feel
the age, but when you’re in good form and you
can do your routine with no problem, it’s very
good. But I have this problem with my back. I
never know when it will (makes cracking sound)
catch me again. That’s the only big worry. I think,
What if (it cracks) today? But I always say, ‘If I
could do it a year ago, I can do it now, too.’
With sponsors outside of gymnastics, why is
there no financial support for the team within
sports? I don’t know why, because gymnastics in
Slovenia is popular and we have tradition. These
Running a bar (Café Noir in a Ljub ljana shopping center) is an unusual side gig for a gymnast. How did that happen? I opened it seven
years ago when Harvey Norman, an Australian
(retailer), came to Slovenia. This is their first shop.
My brother, Martin, is an architect, and had been
doing something for them. We had a chance to
rent this bar (on the premises), and we decided to
do it. He still has a regular job as an architect. I go
there four or five times a day to drink coffee or
check in, but not to serve. It’s good but it’s a lot of
work. Every evening my brother or I has to be
there, to close the bar and check the money and
everything. We rent the bar and have a five-year
contract. I think they are happy with us. We’ve
already signed for five more years. It’s unusual,
but I have enough of gymnastics. I have been
doing gymnastics for 28 years. I like to be in
the gym, but you must have something else.
Sometimes it’s good to forget.
Do you train less than you used to? If I did
three hours of training twice a day, I think I’d be
injured soon. The body can’t do so much. I train
11⁄2 hours in the morning and 11⁄2 hours in the
evening. On Saturday and
Sunday I only train once a day,
and Tuesday and Thursday only
once a day.
To escape the gym,
Pegan loves to dive
and fish (underwater)
at Island Unije in
THOMAS SCHREYER (2); PEGAN WITH FISH (SUPPLIED)
Based on what you saw at
the world championships in
October, what do you need
to add or fix in your routine
to still compete with the
best? My routine is good
enough for a medal, but I was a
little surprised. I didn’t expect
the start scores would go so
high. I was surprised when I
saw the Chinese guy, Zou Kai,
with his 7. 5. I didn’t expect it.
His routine was good, but not
so clean, and then 7. 5—wow.
The routines over 7 are usually
so unclean and so risky that I
think you can do it maybe once