A weekly chat with Tony Bleill

This week''s guest: gymnast Adamm Pummer.

A junior from Allentown, Pa., Pummer is one of the top performers on the NCAA''s second-ranked gymnastics team. He finished second on vault and sixth in floor exercise at last season''s NCAA event finals. As a freshman, he finished 11th in the all-around at the NCAA meet. He also has extensive experience in international competition. He began the season by scoring a career-high 9.7 on the high bar at last week''s Windy City Invitational in Chicago.

Q: Is this the best Illinois team you''ve been on?

A: By far. Since my freshman year, it''s been getting better and better. These freshmen have made it the best that I''ve been on.

Q: In your gymnastics career, what countries have you visited?

A: I''ve traveled to Ukraine and Brazil and now Taiwan.

Q: What''s the coolest thing you''ve seen?

A: Ukraine was kind of Third World, so there weren''t too many neat things there. Taiwan was my favorite trip by far. I think the biggest thing was being there and experiencing their culture and their lifestyle. We went downtown into their market. The shops there, it''s like a Times Square.

Q: Was the Ukraine as depressing as Americans think of it as being?

A: From my experience, yes, it was very, very depressing. It was so dark, and people there were very poor. To an American, you would be very depressed in the Third World. Maybe to them it''s normal.

Q: Do you look at this experience as being a nice perk of being a gymnast?

A: Oh, yeah. It''s a great experience. My family envies me because I''ve been so many places in the world. I would never see these countries if I wasn''t part of the sport. I would never visit the Ukraine unless I was sent there, but it''s an experience that I''m glad I had. It''s a very big perk to the sport.

Q: What is the third-most populous city in Pennsylvania (behind Philadelphia and Pittsburgh)?

A: I think it''s Allentown. I think.

Q: That''s right. If I went to Allentown today, would there be any indication that there''s a famous song written about it?

A: Probably not. A lot of people who live in Allentown don''t even know that (Billy Joel''s) song is about it. It was written about the downtown part of it that used to be really, really beautiful and populated. Now it''s kind of rundown.

Q: That song came out about a year before you were born. When you were young, do you remember the town on a downward slope?

A: I remember very vaguely the downtown. There was a big department store there that my parents used to take me to. (The downtown''s) not that bad these days, but it''s not what it used to be. It used to be high class, almost like a smaller version of New York City.

Q: Pro-Chief or anti-Chief?

A: Very pro-Chief.

Q: Your favorite fast-food restaurant?

A: I''d say Taco Bell.

Q: Reality TV: Can''t live with it or can''t live without it?

A: I can''t live without it.

Q: What do you watch?

A: A lot of "The Real World." Actually, I pretty much watch all of them except for the girl ones. I''m pretty broad with it.

Q: What''s in your CD player/on your iPod these days?

A: I listen to everything, actually. I''m not really picky with what I listen to. I probably have everything from rap to country to (classic) rock. If I had to pick something, I''d have to say rap.

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