Saturday, April 5, 2008

Y'Know Something?

...I could've gone to the MLC comp today. The Good News Week taping started a 1/2 hour late. Still, it was worth it. Ross Noble is a magnificent man.

So the Junior division of the European Championships is underway; team and all-around competitions took place with Russia sweeping the top spot in both.

Now, I got a leeetle bit concerned because looking at the scores, the top three juniors (from Russia, Russia and France respectively) all scored above 60.

Thus far, two Australian senior girls have struck 60 and/or above (Dasha Joura, Shona Morgan but if you ask me, with all due respect to Ms Morgan, that one seemed a fluke).


That's it.

It was fantastic when we won bronze at Worlds in 2003. Fan-freaking-tastic. The minds of the gymnastics-going public were verifiably blown. Hit routines and 'that' deduction-of-which-we-shall-never-speak certainly helped the team scrape a historic podium finish. It was so great for us.

Could they do it again?

Well, perhaps not.

I honestly hate to lament my team, truly I do. I'm a bit of a bipolar supporter, when I think about it. Some days, after a great comp result, I go "Yeah! Good scores! Total chance for Beijing!" and then other times, like in Stuttgart last year or at PacRim, when it all goes slightly pear-shaped I go, "Crap. They don't have the difficulty. And they don't seem to have the self-confidence and control. There's no way they'd be a medal finish".

You look at Nationals and there are girls doing whip-double twists on floor. Twice. Not as a follow up to anything impressive a la Lauren Mitchell. They're just there.There were girls competing Yurchenko fulls in our World Championships vault lineup. Girls with wibbly-wobbly execution acting as representatives in overseas competitions. If I see another front aerial-side somi combination on beam, I'll put a fist through my computer screen. European JUNIORS can hit 60. Hardly any of our seniors can. I just... I feel like our team isn't doing itself any justice sometimes. Or being allowed to do itself justice. Liddick goes on and on about the importance of "The Team" and putting in a good performance for "The Team" being more significant than sticking it and scoring your own Personal Best. Which is not altogether a good thing, because then the gymnast feels awful if they've made a mistake because they've jeopardised "The Team"s chances. As Dasha revealed in the IG article below, it's all about doing stuck routines, not particularly difficult ones. Now this is almost word-for-word the mantra of the coach Jeff Bridges played in Stick It.

We're a two-woman team right now. We've got two strong all-around athletes (ok ok, so Lauren needs a vault upgrade) but that's about it. The team shouldn't be resting just on them. We've got a bunch of event specialists who seem to only get an invite to compete on their specialties, or we have middle-of-the-road performers (to borrow a phrase from Australian Idol) who most likely won't get near the Olympic Squad let alone The Team, who keep getting competition experience ahead of girls who could truly benefit from it. We've got girls constantly watering down to play it safe, but then they never get the chance to do the skill when it really counts. No wonder the USA wipes the floor with almost any competition they go up against. All their girls are at a similar level of difficulty, it's not the same two athletes being whipped out every time.

Somehow, I think, the qualification criteria for the National Squad needs to be tweaked. We need to have several girls with high enough difficulty levels and refined execution to be representing us. Make it so that less work is done at the AIS itself; that the girls are prepared when they get there and thus just need a little push to get flying, not a hand-crank start of the propellor.

Aaaaaaaaanyway. This was me getting worked up because of germs and it really is quite late (but hurrah, Daylight Savings in a little while!)
I'd just got a bit surprised by the Euro results.


mistysakura said...

On the 'bright' side, the seniors have only one gymnast scoring over 60 (Nistor). But that's with no AA (so some of the best gymnasts are only competing three apparatus) and some downgraded routines such as from Ferrari and Chusovitina. Seeing as the fourth-placing junior didn't crack 57, I think the first three are just prodigies :P Seriously though, our girls do need a lot more confidence and higher difficulty. Which is difficult because if you add more difficulty, on the one hand it might decrease their confidence if they don't feel they can perform the skills well enough, but on the other hand if they do end up competng them well and getting high scores, it will really boost morale.

I find our discontent at the Australian team (as said by Dasha) trying to do stuck but not particularly difficult routines such a sad reflection of what the Code has become. If the Aussie girls did perfect routines with less difficulty (I highly recommend checking out Pavlova's floor from Euro; best of the quad, in my opinion), I wouldn't mind them getting low scores. Unfortunately, they're not doing either. There's so much potential in our gymnasts -- what can we do to help them use it fully?

Anonymous said...

Took the words right out of my mouth regarding our lackluster Aussie team. We're definitely doing something WRONG with our training. USA, Russia, Romania, China even France have got junior girls (as young as 11 and 12) who are far supreme to our seniors! I agree that we have totally relied on Mitchell and Joura to represent us over the past 18 months - it's kind of embarrassing that we don't have the difficulty - what's stopping us? We have great facilities, great coaches... Why don't we have any real superstars? I think it's time we followed the USA and started a TOPS (Talent ID) program, or something like it - we really need to take this sport up a level before we're fighting with Iceland and Slovakia as to who will miss out on making the top 20 teams...
I LOVE Aussie gymnastics, but we might well be at the top of a pretty slippery slide here!