A lot of sh*t is being kicked about now on the message boards in the wake of Sims' retirement and in the tense build-up to Nationals (next week... IT'S NEXT WEEK, PEOPLE! Quick, somebody fetch my maid lest I have to squeeze my womanly bodice into fashionable attire unaided).
So, basically, some people are saying that Sims is the latest casualty of a poorly-maintained system. They're saying that she's the first of what could be many departures, and that the remaining girls will make up a shabby Olympic team. Just two years ago we had shining prospects like Chloe, Hollie Dykes, Monette Russo, Monique Blount and Melody Hernandez looking to push through for Beijing and head an impressive(not to mention quite populated) women's squad. But they've all up and left for their various reasons and the women's program is a sad sight for it. Not a total write-off, of course. It's just frustrating that we've got just two world-class performers and a bunch of potential also-rans.
Anyway. I don't want to feed into the "we're going to suck - no we're not" argument. I don't want to re-hash the ways in which Gymnastics Australia could shake up the program and make the athletes feel worthwhile. See my earlier entries for all that stuff. I just found myself thinking of solutions - some high-falootin', some just plain smart and simple - to the laments about Team Australia in this nervous Olympic wait.
1. Gymnastics Australia will cite that they don't have funding to get Nationals or trials or any other event shown on tv. Advertising for the sport overall suffers a similar fate. Fine. I might just hold a cake stall and raise the necessary money. Personally. Come one, come all to purchase baked goods to raise funds for gymnastics promotions in Australia. For heaven's sake, it's got to be more entertaining to watch than Big Brother/My Kid's a Star/any midday telemovie on every day of the week about domestic violence. Sure, a lot of funds at the moment could go towards Burma or China but no doubt a gym-related cake and refreshment stall could get happening after the Olympics. Think about it. Pink and purple iced cupcakes (free poofy white scrunchie for the first 100 customers). You could have Monette Meringue. Trudy Truffles. Peggy's Peanut Butter Cups. Hollie Hedgehog. Or Allana Banana Muffins! The list is endless! My specialty? Lemon slice. Way more zesty than a petition, wouldn'tcha think?
2. The gymnasts don't feel validated by anyone outside of their immediate training circle/family. Cue me tavelling across Victoria and interstate leaving wicker baskets on the doorsteps of gymnasts' homes with a tray of lemon slice, a smiley face badge and a note saying "Hi. Your fans acknowledge that you work very hard, even if the media doesn't. You're a healthy, well-adjusted, inspirational individual who deserves every bit of attention in the months prior to and after the Olympics. All the best, Gymnastics Fans of Australia". I'm like Santa, only without the animal cruelty and Coca-Cola sponsorship.
3. Peggy Liddick appears to have a stranglehold on the girls; nerves, melancholy and injuries start to seep in. Well, that's my signal to tackle the national head coach rugby-style (my frumpy figure belies years of skilled sibling warfare) and lock her in the equipment cupboard, allowing for a seamless takeover of the program by Martine George/Liz Chetkovich/John Hart.
4. Gym doesn't get featured enough in the newspapers. I'm considering submitting articles about competitions under sensationalist headlines. That'll get us printed. Something along the lines of, "Olympic hopeful saves family from burning building; wins national championship".
5. We're kept in the dark about the goings on at camp, athlete progress in general and planned events on a national scale. The GA webpage usually has more information for technical members or affiliates than for enthusiasts. Here's an idea. I can forward them the names of half a dozen or more people who are consistently on the ball in the gym scene (not including myself of course) and who I'm sure would do a better job whipping up an accredited for-fans-by-fans website (with athlete contribution as well, perhaps) than anything GA is faffing about with. I could see it now - squad members contribute diary entries from training camps or competitions. A "Happy Birthday to (elite gymnast)" link with fun facts about them. A photo board. Coach profiles, tips and/or blogs. I mean, the USA have got a media and technology company monitoring their squad's national training camp and getting word out, it's such a shame we can't say the same thing.