Saturday, May 31, 2008
1. Former AIS gymnast and elegant floor champ Monique Blount had signed on to compete at George Washington University but little was known about her prospects. Read the coach's take on her here.
2. Ash Brennan is photographed in today's (Sunday 01/06) Herald Sun doing a gorgeous leap. Why Sun photographers insist on capturing gymnasts on film in near darkness, I'll never know. It happened with G-Bo and it happened here. I don't much care for it. I like to see lovely faces! "Oooh... excessive shadow and no background... that'll look good!"
(ETA the image from the Sun website)
3. Queenslander Karina Brooks, a national junior medallist, scored a mention in her local paper.
4. Now down to the business of what I originally posted last night, now that the above additional bits have been tacked on:
I'm grateful for any and all readers I get at this little corner of the interweb, but of course I'm just as grateful for any and all contributors.
Secret agent, freelance writer and friendly AGB reader Brindabella [not her real name] sent me the following piece she wrote on WA squad member Tain Molendijk who trains the shadows of decorated senior national team members at the WAIS. It's an interesting read, a great effort for a first-timer, and Agent B asks that you be kind in reading. B is a fellow gym fan who is lucky to live near enough to catch WAIS athletes in action (but not in a creepy-Rear-Window kind of way of course...)
Pursuing perfection: Perth gymnast on the rise
An Olympic year is always crazy for those who have been labelled ‘hopefuls’ by the media and the general public. But in gymnastics, while the hopefuls are doing little but eating, sleeping, training and giving media interviews, the next crop of young stars are patiently waiting in the wings, waiting for their time to shine to come along at the next world championships, Commonwealth Games or Olympics. They are content to stand in the shadows of their more famous team mates for the time being, because they know that only determination and dedication will earn them equal attention.
While the world readies for Beijing and gets consumed by Olympic fever, one Perth gymnast is training for her big moment – a moment that, at the earliest, will not happen until next year. Fourteen year old Tain Molendijk is part of a bevy of gymnastics beauties the West Australian Institute of Sport has produced over the years and is one young athlete who is not at all deterred by the expectation placed upon her, nor by the attention her Beijing bound team mates Daria ‘Dasha’ Joura and Lauren Mitchell are getting in the lead up to the games.
No, this WAIS gymnast is driven, but not in an impossible dream kind of way. Demanding nothing less of herself than perfection, Molendijk still has the sense to set herself realistic, safe goals – not always easy in the race against time sport that gymnastics is - which can surely only help her to succeed. WAIS has a proud history of success in all of its programs. Founded in 1984, the institute began a fulltime program for promising gymnasts in 1988, with UWA graduate Liz Chetkovich, now head of gymnastics, at the helm. The program has produced some of Australia’s greatest gymnasts, and continues to do so to this day.
Eagerly waiting to follow in the footsteps of this country’s most decorated female gymnast, two time Olympian Allana Slater, WAIS senior elites Daria Joura, 18, and Lauren Mitchell, 16, practically already have their seats booked on the plane to China, destined to continue the institute’s fine tradition of Olympic calibre athletes. And while Joura and Mitchell, as well as eighteen year old team mate Olivia Vivian, have Beijing on the brain right now, pushing them through often twice daily training sessions six days a week, Molendijk is honing her skills to her own impeccable standards. Not age eligible for Beijing, the junior elite gymnast trains thirty four hours a week in the hope of making the 2010 Commonwealth Games team.
Molendijk began her career at six at the Star Mites Gym Sports club in Bayswater before moving to WAIS just two years later. “I love everything about gymnastics,” she says. “I just love it. I love everything about training.” Never giving a second thought to the 6:45am starts, Molendijk, who admits that nerves play a big part in competition for her, works on all four apparatus, as well as at conditioning, ballet and choreography under the eyes of coaches Martine George and Nikolai Lapchine. The work obviously paid off, because in 2007 Molendijk was selected to be part of the junior national squad, of which places are extremely limited.
Her refreshingly mellow but dedicated approach to gymnastics and life meant that the teenager didn’t know exactly what this selection entailed and had to ask her coaches what it meant for her. She is excited now at the prospects, even if 2008 hasn’t quite been the year she’d hoped it would be. Being on the junior national squad will give her more opportunity to travel and compete abroad she says, as well as opening more doors for her here at home.
The selection meant she travelled to California earlier this year to compete in the Golden State Classic, where she finished third all around behind team mates Emily Little and Britt Greeley, despite sustaining an ankle injury during the competition. Ever the perfectionist, she came away dissatisfied, describing the meet as disappointing by her own standards. But she remains positive, enthusiastically speaking about the wealth of experience she gained whilst in the US. The trip also included competition at the prestigious Pacific Rim Championships in San Jose, where Molendijk was forced to sit on the sidelines and cheer her team mates on due to the ankle injury.
With an unwavering eagerness, Molendijk looks to the future, demonstrating an athlete’s extraordinary understanding of the body. “If I make the 2009 world team I will be very happy,” she says. “But I don’t think I will have reached my full potential, skill wise, by 2009.” So instead her goal is to be in Delhi, India, with the Australian Commonwealth team come 2010.
She is modest enough to know her capabilities and limits, and not before their time. “I think by that time I will be of world class standards,” she explains. It is almost certain then that this young gymnast won’t come crashing down with unachievable dreams and walk away from the sport disheartened. It is a testament to the sport that even its youngest of prodigies understands what is required to reach the top. “I think that gymnastics disciplines and educates you,” Molendijk explains before going on to detail how nothing can come above gymnastics and school, not even a tempting late night at a party with friends. The sport, she says, has made her more mature, and able to make the right decision when elite sport clashes with teenage adventures.
Even when she is toughing it out with injury as she is right now, Molendijk continues to make the right decisions to drive her career forward. The ankle injury that occurred before the Pacific Rim Championships put her out of contention for the title at the junior national championships in Melbourne in May. The injury must be fully healed before she can get back on the competition floor she says, and in the meantime, she plans to work hard in other areas in the gym. There is no doubting gymnastics is one of the toughest sports out there, and even the strongest gymnast can struggle. After a thirteenth place finish at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival in January last year, Molendijk announced her retirement from the sport. Whilst she was away, the WAIS team won huge accolades at the Australian Championships, and this was motivation enough for Molendijk to return. Inspired by this win, Lance Armstrong’s biography, and Li Cunxin’s Mao’s Last Dancer, she walked back into the gym extremely motivated.
She admits a certain level of frustration often creeps into her training regime though, even after this return. “I get most frustrated when a skill I am executing isn’t up to the standards I expect of myself,” she explains. This must be what the 34 hours a week are for, but the young gymnast is always pleased with the results. “I love the satisfaction I get from training really well,” she says.That satisfaction must have gone through the roof when, in December last year, Molendijk won the junior title at the National Clubs Championships at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, confirming that she made the right decision to return to gymnastics.
Back at home in Perth, the Churchlands Senior High School student speaks highly of the great atmosphere at WAIS, her respect for her coaches and for her team mates. “Our whole group is very close,” she explains, adding that she loves ‘training with Loz and Dash’ in the gym everyday. It is these friendships with her WAIS ‘family’ that mean she doesn’t worry about being a normal teenager, or about missing out on normal teenager things. “I never really feel bad,” she says. “I do sacrifice a lot for gymnastics, but I still go out with my friends on the weekends. I think the sacrifices are necessary to succeed.” She concludes that, when her career is over, she will have all the time in the world to do whatever she has missed out on.
Come Beijing, you can bet that this young gymnast will be watching every moment of the gymnastics coverage on television, thinking towards the day when the rest of us will be watching her on the television as she twists and pirouettes her way to glory.
See? Smashing stuff.
(Brindy, I hope I divided the paragraphs correctly. When I copied and pasted the article here, it all went into one massive chunk so I did my best to remember where the breaks were.)
In my haste to celebrate the end of semester holidays, I neglected to mention the Stars of Moscow World Cup event on Thurs-Fri, at which Australia was represented by Dasha Joura and Lauren Mitchell.
Lauren qualified first to the beam final with a 15.7 which, personally, I think is would be a healthy enough score to get into the Beijing beam finals but probably not enough to get on the medal podium. Funnily enough she didn't end up on the medal podium in Moscow but I am still investigating what happened to bring about that result (a fall, most likely).
Dasha qualified second to the floor final with just a 14.55 and finished third. Her double layout was fine (phew!) albeit with a slight toe-stub on the landing but she under-rotated her double pike and stumbled forward. Good to see the red leo back again. She deserves a t-shirt bearing Adam Hills' famous slogan - GO YOU BIG RED FIRE ENGINE!
The poor girls must be so tired. Please, P-Liddy, wrap them in bubble wrap before the Games and put them in a sleep chamber.
I finally got the internet working on my laptop so now my blogs really WILL be coming to you live from my bedroom and various other moderately comfortable locations. The wireless package deal also came with a free phone which I'm still playing with (* play play play play*). It has so many buttons and functions and shiny things, and the in-built camera is just grand. I don't know what half of the functions do but surely there must be one on there somewhere that will make me breakfast...
ETA: Dasha's floor available for viewing and judging here.
ETA (sometime later): This post's title is very fitting, as I just got back from the hairdresser and my new 'do is not too dissimilar to Cate Blanchett's feist Russian minx's in the latest Indiana Jones film. *sigh* It's just slightly longer and brown instead of black, but I still keep feeling the overwhelming urge to shout "NO SOUP FOR YOU!" and frogmarch Mr Mez out of the loungeroom...
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
In more positive news, the following awards were handed out at the annual GA dinner:
Junior Athlete of the Year - Mathew Curtis (QLD)
Senior Athlete of the Year - Prashanth Sellathurai (NSW)
International Coach of the Year - Serguei Chinkar (QLD)
Junior Athlete of the Year - Emma Dennis (VIC)
Senior Athlete of the Year - Dasha Joura (WA)
Coaching Team of the Year - WAIS (WA)
World Championships Apparatus Finalist - Lauren Mitchell (WA)
and the retirements of Hollie Dykes, Melody Hernandez and Monique Blount were acknowledged.
Alex Croak has indeed qualified for the Beijing diving team so good on her!
We're coming up to the 6 month anniversary of this blog's launching (and 6 months for my fella and I. Oh, how that mistress Time is a glorious thing) so on July 1, find yourself an quiet corner to sit down in a chair, jiggle your legs up and down and go "uuuuumm..." for a few seconds because that's what I do every time I sit here to write something. Cheers, poppets.
Monday, May 26, 2008
Post #101 and a big exhale after Nationals.
The arena's getting packed up, video footage is being uploaded and downloaded and sidewaysloaded, The Chosen Ones are resuming training and then eventually jetting up to Canberra for final selection, yours truly is back on earth after spending a weekend in Gym Nirvana.
I highly recommend you check out the videos online courtesy of Misty and Nade (among others), they're smashing. Misty's in particular, she had a great seat for the apparatus challenge. Nade has footage of a Stateline (ABC) piece about Nationals, focussing on the Waverley girls and P-Liddy's selection procedures. My own video footage is being edited as we speak but there's nothing too groundbreaking I can add to the mix as it's all already there for you to see*^_^* There aren't [m]any vault vids up so hopefully mine can be of use. Maybe. I did get some footage of the athletes on the sidelines in addition to routines but that's about it, really. I got a few men's routines but aside from Rizzo's high bar, they're not that great to watch. Unless you're into Funniest Home Videos-style entertainment.
There is also a photo gallery at The Age online (www.theage.com.au), scroll down to the Sports section and look for "Twist and Shout - The Agony and the Ecstacy of the Olympic Qualifiers". There are some great ones of Miss D saluting; there's a cute one of what looks either either Ash's or Emma's feet leaving a chalk footprint trail on the floor mat, and there's also a very unflattering one of Olivia on beam, which I didn't think was very nice to include. International Gymnast gave the girls a mention too.
The WAG squad, eh!
Given the Nats results (Dasha and Shona getting automatic qualification onto the team), and hoping everything goes well in camp, I'm predicting the Olympic team will be:
for the following reasons.
Dasha - Well derr, Fred.
Lauren - A high-scoring beam routine and equally impressive floor if she can just control the big tumbles. Her bars is showing promise, too. She just (again) needs some control but I'm sure she can work the kinks out in time.
Shona - Very neat and, as has been established, a "rock" on events like beam and floor. She just needs to keep her chest up to avoid falling forward most of the time. If she can get the Y-double, she's a lock for a vault spot and to be honest I'd rather see her on bars than Olivia in terms of potential B-scores.
Georgia - Beeeeyootiful beam work, not too much to whittle off a B-score there. She tumbles much the same as Georgia on floor but just as neatly. I think she was the 'other' girl with a Comaneci on bars but I hope I'm not confusing her with another Victorian...
Ashleigh - A striking performer who's getting more and more confident each time, particularly on beam where she hits a nice set but doesn't seem to have a "wow" skill just yet. Her floor is a delight and like her other state team-mates, goes for nailed landings with success more often than not. She's not looking to repeat her CWG floor final mistake again anytime soon!
Emma - Y-double on vault, elegant beam and floor work that the crowd will love, she really goes for the stuck landings (and succeeds most of the time). A real surprise package. Could do for the Beijing team what Shona did for the Stuttgart one.
Olivia - Gets my vote for a reserve position because she deserves to travel with the team. However, I wouldn't see a lot of use for her beyond bars, but even then there are other girls who could outshine her in terms of execution. She has great team spirit and if she neatens up at camp, we could see her perform in the preliminary round. Previous Worlds experience could work in her favour.
Mel J - a dark horse for a spot, but was shaky at Nationals. She's great on vault and shows such power on floor (gosh I love well-done double arabians!), but lacks the high scores and stuck landings of the other girls. She could sneak in there, it all comes down to consistency at camp.
Gosh, there's the c-word again (the good kind of c-word). I'm sounding like Bart Conor...
Over to you, Elfi.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
The event winners got giant novelty cheques which were a bit of a hoot to see; the athletes didn't seem to know what to do with them. Dasha J was the big winner, cashing in on victories on vault/bars/floor. Phil Rizzo had a welcome return to form with a win on high bar (sans Tak to def release). He did some excited fist-pumping and rock star air guitar after his dismount, further endearing him to the crowd. Lots of fumbles and BIG scary-looking splats from the men on floor (but a stuck double-layout from Josh J wowed the crowd). Once again, pommel proved to be their Achilles heel and we didn't have the usual Prashanth performance to lift everyone's spirits (but he was there to present pommel awards). Our designated Olympic MAG rep, Sam Simpson, showed some good releases on high bar but was still shaky in other places.
But the women were the real stars of the event. Dasha was again the classy performer, with Emma Dennis and Ash Brennan again proving they deserve their squad spots with some gorgeous floor work. Emma's choreographer is to be commended for what is an enchanting Eastern-themed routine that suits her well. It should also be noted that Em unveiled a Yurchenko double today! Shona Morgan had some fumbles which were a shame to see, as she'd done so well in the other days of competition. Lauren Mitchell stuck her piked double arabian ("at last!" I said into the video camera) but then stepped OOB on her tucked one. She can't seem to catch enough of a break. She won beam and improved on bars, getting a lot of vocal encouragement from her WA teammates in the process. G-Bo had a great beam set (the highlight is a dainty Onodi and a gutsy Rulfova) despite a stumble. Queensland's Amber Fulljames is a little pocket rocket and, let's face it, a cutie pie. She could, by all accounts, get away with murder. She's only 16 but looks about 12. The team flocked around her and hugged her and congratulated her, P-Liddy particularly taking time to consult her. She's a star of the future for sure.
The Graham Kennedy Award for Most Comedic Moment: An hour before the comp, as the girls were warming up, the dulcet tones of one Mr Ade Foster informed the early spectators: "Ladies and Gentlemen, the next fifty minutes of ad-free music will be brought to you by Olivia Vivian". It was perplexing but I assume Livvy had hooked her iPod or similar device up to the arena's speakers. Bon Jovi pumped out, followed by Queen, giving Dasha - who was warming up on beam at the time - a massive fit of the giggles and she couldn't continue. So cute.
The Fresh-Faced Home and Away Star Award for Best New Talent: Amber "playin' with the big girls" Fulljames who had some dynamic tumbling and neat execution for such a tiny thing. Keep one eye on her and another on Natalia Joura.
The Why is Richard Wilkins Still Here? Award for WTF!?ness: Our Beijing rhythmic gymnastics rep Naazmi Johnston performed for the crowd, which was nice. She has amazing flexibility in both her rope and ribbon routines. But one couldn't help but notice that for the opening 45-or-so seconds of what we assume is the ribbon routine she'll be doing at the Olympics, she didn't go anywhere near the ribbon. It lay on the floor some metres away while she danced an elegant dance, apparatus-less. Are they even allowed to DO that...?
The Hugh Jackman Not So Up Ourselves That We Reject Our Roots Award for Retirees: Allana Slater, Joanna Hughes, Brooke Walker, Steph Moorhouse, Netty Russo for presenting awards.
The Marlon Brando Sorry I Couldn't Be Here to Accept This Award for Absenteeism: Beijing-bound trampolinist Ben Wilden, who couldn't wave to the crowd at the end due to the unavoidable fact of him being at an overseas competition.
Hope you all enjoyed Nationals as much as I did (though hopefully you didn't have a schoolkid repeatedly kicking your chair).
On a personal note, thanks everyone for stickin' with me for nearly 6 months now.
I know I waffle on a bit so 100 isn't too much of an achievement I suppose :P
Here's to 100 more!
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Many thanks to GGMB-based special agent K who brought to light some new articles on Chloe Sims from her local Toowoomba newspaper. They're quite poignant, and give more insight into the reasons behind her retirement. The articles are not accessible online, and are difficult to be scanned, so K went to the effort of typing them all up. To save on space I will highlight the most crucial parts here. Chloe was brave to come out and admit what she has in the way she has; I'd hate for it to mean she gets distanced from anything GA-related and doesn't get the kind of fun, interactive opportunities that Monette Russo/Karen Nguyen/Allana Slater/Steph Moorhouse got at Nationals this year.
Battling an eating disorder and mental fatigue, [Sims] chose personal happiness over the ultimate prize of a shot at winning gold. It was the most difficult decision of her life, but for Sims it was the only way she could overcome her inner demons. “I was mentally unhealthy. I had a lot of problems. I had an eating disorder and I was under a lot of pressure,” she said. “Every morning I woke up and didn’t want to go to training. It felt like I was wasting my time and other people’s doing something I didn’t want to do.”
“It wasn’t gymnastics that go to me; it was the pressure [...] It was hard knowing that I wouldn’t be able to experience the Olympics, but I don’t regret my decision. I already feel healthier. I guess you could say I’m at peace with myself”...
“I still love gymnastics but I had to stop competing and training at that top level for my own well being. I’m so grateful for the amazing memories the sport has given me. Winning gold at the Commonwealth Games was really special but the best moment was when I got my first Australian tracksuit and leotard. The tracksuit was hideous, but wearing the green and gold had always been a dream of mine and earning that first tracksuit was the pinnacle of my career. The rest was a wonderful bonus.”
Since severing ties with the inner-circle of the Australian gymnastic squad, Sims said she has experienced feelings of social alienation.“It’s hard not to go to the gym every day and see all my beautiful friends. We were very close but it’s hard to maintain that bond outside the sport,” she said. “My parents and my brother and sister are very supportive and have been incredible through all this.”
“I have entered a new stage of my life. Now I can do whatever I want. I don’t have to look a certain way. I can be who I want to be”.
Good luck Chloe, in all your pursuits. Your gymnastics fans wish you the best and hope that you still hold on to the good memories you had while in the sport.
Victorian on floor. Their leos looked great.
Let me know if you'd like to see larger versions. I do have some, I just didn't want to take up all the space on the page :P
Friday, May 23, 2008
Gold: Joshua Jefferis, QLD (84.650 and he's sporting a ridiculous new fuzzy hairstyle)
Silver: Sam Simpson, QLD (82.900)
Bronze: Christopher Martin, NSW (79.300)
2008 National Championships WAG All-Around Qualification
1. Dasha Joura, WA (61.600)
2. Shona Morgan, VIC (60.400)
3. Ashleigh Brennan, VIC (59.450)
4. Emma Dennis, VIC (58.200)
5. Lauren Mitchell, WA (57.150)
6. Georgia Bonora, VIC (56.800)
7. Olivia Vivian, WA (55.225)
8. Amber Fulljames, QLD (54.200)
2008 National Championships WAG All-Around Final
Gold: Dasha Joura, WA (122.200)
Silver: Shona Morgan, VIC (120.700)
Bronze: Ashleigh Brennnan, VIC (119.650)
Gossip just to hand: Dasha J to compete in the upcoming Moscow World Cup??? Hm... this is not a great move, Peggy. I thought you wanted girls on the team who were "competition savvy"? If that really is the case, then send Shona or Ash or Emma along too, so they can GET competition savvy! It's only fair. Don't waste a good opportunity lest we fluff preliminaries again and risk missing a finals placing! Don't ya see!? DON'TCHA SEE!?!?!? *grabs imaginary Peggy and shakes*
THE COMPETITION (hasty post-comp notes, cross-posted from GGMB, to be refined later)
Ok, there's not much new that I can add.
It was rather a splatfest but Dasha and Shona outdid everyone.
It was great to meet and re-meet some GGMB-ers and Aussie Board folk. You guys rock.
Crash of the night - Georgia (I think? Possibly Emma. It's 2am and I can't remember) whose full-in ended in a shuffle to a hasty forward roll. Interesting save. Ties with Emily Little who whacked her foot on the bars and crashed to the ground in a very nasty fashion. Good on her for getting up and continuing.
Lauren WAY out on the arabian front piked again. Overdid it in warmup, didn't learn from the mistake and did it again in the comp. OOB on the other arabian too, I couldn't quite tell. Otherwise, GREAT new routine. New music for Shona too, so she's not blushing behind Sacramone. Emma had a lovely beam mount - press to handstand, bring legs through to sit in pike. Big applause.
The camera I was using crapped out 3/4 of the way through but I managed to get the Waverley chicks on all events. Stay tuned for vids.
I personally couldn't see P-Liddy anywhere, but that might have been my seating arrangements; she certainly made herself known at the very end, jumping up and taking photos of the juniors on the medal podium (for posterity before she BREAKS THEM I assume). She seems to really be behind Olivia who, I must say, showed a pretty sketchy bars routine. Nice personality but really irksome execution. Olivia stood right near the end of the floor podium and cheered for Lauren when she was on. I got brief video footage of WA's team huddle before the comp began.
Dasha was the class of the night, she has that double layout DRILLED like crazy. Shame about the NZ girl, she scored a 9. something at one point. A really rough meet, falls all over the place.
I went up to Melanie Jones afterwards in the foyer and simply said "good luck" and "there are lots of fans gunning for you" and her eyes opened wide and she said, 'Wow! Thanks! Thank you so much, that's great to know!" Several gym parents went up and hugged John Hart/Martine and thanked them for their daughter's opportunities and wonderful performances etc etc.
I got an ace photo of Dasha hugging her coach after the comp was over, but I don't have a usb cord to upload it at the moment.
I'll be there tomorrow and will hopefully get some vision of BabyDasha competing.
Again, it's 2am *is dead*.
2008 National Championships WAG Level 10 All-Around
1. Natalia Joura, WA
2. Amaya King-Koi, QLD
3. Angela Donald, VIC
Today was an up-and-down day.
The camera battery conked out again and the spare one didn't work so I only got Wurth's floor routine at the very beginning. Natalia did indeed win the day after leading from the start, but didn't seem as pleased about the whole thing as her sister. She's got lovely execution on floor, nice pirouettes and neat twists, doing everything high on her toes... she even runs into tumbles on her toes! WAIS were very systematic in their floor warm-up. Instead of all separating to different corners of the mat, they all lined up in the one corner and moved around together practising the same tumbles (double pikes, double twists etc).
Add the following to the "now where have we seen that before?" file:
1. Tierra Exum looks like Betty Okino, though her long legs were not always working in her favour.
2. Tierra's floor is lifted DIRECTLY off Steph Moorhouse c. 2002, music AND choreography. Even the very end pose. Think Commonwealth Games team final. That's what we saw, just with a new and much younger girl.
3. I think it was the McGrath girl on beam who does a nice straddle to handstand planche mount, just like Hayley Wright.
There were a LOT of vaults landed to bums and a LOT of flubs on bars. A South Australian girl got a 7.175 on beam. King-Koi had a nasty stack on floor on her opening double-pike but she recovered pretty well. Wurth had a bad one too.
I'm rather glad I changed my seat from where I originally chose. There was a girl in the row in front of me who I KNEW I must know from somewhere but couldn't work out where. Then it hit me - it was Naomi Russell. Naomi was sitting with some Queensland juniors and cheering for her team. In the seating bay adjacent to mine were the WAIS girls - Dash, Olivia and Lauren, all cheering Natalia and the other Level 10's. Olivia came over to chat to Naomi, wavy hair done up nicely in butterfly clips. All smiles and hugs. I can report that Naomi was wearing some kind of ankle strapping. It was purple. At first I thought it was a thick furry sock! She seemed pretty nonplussed about it. She joked with Olivia about her Pink Panther floor choreography ("Your first one [arm swipe] was like 'raaar' but your second one was like "RAAAARRRR!") and showed her some footage of herself training bars on her pink iPod. Then one rotation later, lo and behold along come Melody Hernandez, Monique Blount and one Miss Hollie Dykes. I must admit it actually took a while to recognise Hollie. Her hair is now chocolate brown and since being out of gymnastics she's got a fuller figure. Regardless, she seemed happy to be with her mates and not out on the floor. They all cheered their respective club-mates but I couldn't decipher much of what they said to one another.
Allana Slater helped with presentations and got a hug from Peggy prior to doing so.
Photos up soon!
Let's get going with some results. Who's running this sheep station, anyway!?
2008 National Championships MAG Team Final
Gold: Queensland (335.450)
Silver: New South Wales (315.850)
Bronze: Victoria (311.300)
2008 National Championships WAG Team Final
Gold: Victoria (178.050)
Silver: Western Australia (173.975)
Some videos from the women's team comp are up at YouTube, courtesy of MistySakura. Check out Dasha's floor with a kick-arse double layout and quad pirouette, yeeha!
Getty Images apparently has some photos up, so perhaps try searching under "australia gymnastics" or the athlete's name.
Dasha Joura, WA (darling, lose the back-combed boof. You're better than that and you know it)
Lauren Mitchell, WA
Kirsty Gully, SA
Looking at some of them though... there is some SHOCKING form going on. Particularly on bars. Flexed feet like nobody's business.
Gymnastics Australia has results up for Day 1.
Dasha got a mention at IG but sadly her record-setting floor score didn't get the pomp and circumstance awarded to the likes of Cheng Fei or He Kexin. But hey, you can't rush progress and in terms of Australian gymnastics, no press is bad press (that recent Courier Mail article notwithstanding...)
More to come soon. Stay tuned for the all-around final!
For news coverage and things for your scrapbooks, try these lovelies on for size...
4. My Honours thesis is about children's literacy and reading habits.
The flight to the Olympics "boards'' in Melbourne... GAME ON, MOLLS!
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
I just HAD to breathe a big digital sigh of relief because my application form for ethics clearance to conduct my "research project involving humans" (cf. Honours project involving interviews with primary school children) is finally completed after 6 insane weeks of re-hashing and stressing. It's finally ready to be mailed tomorrow. It's 50 pages long(!) and I have to provide 4 photocopied versions(!) so it's pretty full-on.
Uni kids, only take on Honours if you really think you can. It's hard yakka.
I hope to update later if/when Dasha's weekly column gets posted. Right now, I need to have breakfast (read: up early to amend form).
It's the most wonderful tiiiiiiiiiiiiiime
of the yeeeaaaeeaaar...
Monday, May 19, 2008
Channel 7 have started airing their promotional advertisements for the Olympic Games. But if you're not Grant Hackett, it's a bit hard to work out whose face it is.
This one features what could be Phillipe or possibly Sam Offord (on rings/pommel) and what looks like Dasha. She's spotted fleetingly, doing a back handspring on the Great Wall, it's quite hard to tell.
This one is for those of you who like long, nostalgic promo's with little to no gymnastics in them.
I can't work out who the Chinese gymnast is in this one. Don't take that as a case of "OMG RACIST BECAUSE YOU THINK THEY ALL LOOK THE SAME!". I just don't know many of the Chinese team members bar Cheng Fei, Zhou Zhouru and Pang PanPan.
Brennan Dowrick was profiled in The Age over the weekend, with his wife (awwwww!) as part of a feature on couples who stayed together as one another's "first loves".
Saturday, May 17, 2008
2. Chloe Sims OFFICIALLY retired. Wow, I can't believe it's now, at this moment, that La Liddick finally says something positive about her... though it's a shame none of the press release features quotes from the girl herself.
3. Squad camp is OFFICIALLY over for now, according to Olivia Vivian.
4. Emma Dennis OFFICIALLY got profiled in the newspaper.
5. The Courier Mail is OFFICIALLY explaining (and speculating about) various retirements in this article. It's quite sad, really, particularly when you read some of the gymnasts' comments.
Queensland's former Olympic squad members Sims, Alyce Arrowsmith, Kayla Winch, Jasmine Webb and Hollie Dykes, who moved to Canberra about eight years ago to train at the AIS, and AIS-based Hayley Wright are among the exodus.
"Something must be going wrong – everyone is getting injured, everyone is retiring," Arrowsmith said.
"All the people I trained with, all the people I competed against – it's like the lost generation, we were one of the best groups."
Winch said: "It's a hidden thing. We are in the spotlight and suddenly we all disappear. Where have we all gone?"
Friday, May 16, 2008
I found this gem of a two-parter on YouTube. It's catchy and VERY well edited. I particularly like the opening 10 seconds of the first part. Kudos to Bethany, the creator.
If you like your nostalgia, prepare to get a big fat helping.
ETA: The Olympic draw for the preliminary round took place yesterday.
Subdivision 1 – China, Romania and two mixed groups
Subdivision 2 –Great Britain, Italy, Japan and the United States
Subdivision 3 – Australia, Germany, Russia and Ukraine
Subdivision 4 – Brazil, France and two mixed groups
Time-wise, the girls will be competing on Sunday August 10th between 5pm and 6:30pm, and they will be starting on floor exercise.
So Australia will once again have a nervous wait as the likes of France and Brazil finish off their qualification round. Hopefully we can fare better than an 8th place scrape into the final. Better yet, I hope they will benefit from the kind of scoring we saw in Stuttgart, where teams who competed later in the day scored just a little bit better than those who went earlier... like us.
You can't help but feel bad for host nation China, though. They're up early to compete in subdivision 1 and they're starting on beam. A nervous situation on all accounts!
Thursday, May 15, 2008
I've missed the last two or three (or twelve) seasons of Lost.
I didn't realise Grant Bowler, everyone's favourite reality tv voiceover guy and crewcut-sporting Kiwi is now in it! It's so strange!
Come on. It's Grant Bowler, people. Grant freaking Bowler! I'm half expecting him to reveal Locke as "The Mole" and then frisk him for heroin tablets. Shame they don't have the reliable golden retriever on the show anymore.
In other, more relevant, television news...
From May 31, Channel 7 will be airing a "Road to Beijing" series in the lead-up to the Games. It is to be hosted by sports and lifestyle stalwart Johanna Griggs, and will feature on-location reports from China, as well as profiles on athlete preparation. One assumes gymnastics will at some point play a part.
Will we get another pre-Games emotional story a la Allana's father?
Possibly. My vote is with Georgia B's brother who has just undergone a third bypass surgery on his heart. Not to take away from the seriousness of the whole thing of course. I just hate that when the media is involved (particularly on the commercial networks), an athlete's family situation is so often dragged into talk of their preparations like they need the thing weighing on their minds more than it usually is.
TEAMHURTYWATCH!: This article from a Queensland newspaper examines self-demoted Monique Cowan's decision to return to the sport in a coaching capacity after a prolonged period of injury. Poor thing. Though I don't quite know why they've pictured her in grips next to what we all know is a men's apparatus...
Also reportedly out of Nationals with injury: Tain Molendijk (WAIS Senior), Mary-Anne Mockton (AIS Junior)
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
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.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Anyway. MyHeroes is making a good effort in promoting the sport if anything (heeheehee... a height chart with Prashanth on it... how ironic).
The dates for the on-demand internet stream of Nationals are listed at GA but you can't subscribe just yet:
Thursday 22nd May - WAG Senior/Junior Team Event (from 7.30pm EST - Thu 22nd May)
Friday 23rd May - WAG Senior/Junior All-Around and Apparatus Finals(from 10.30am EST - Sat 24th May)
Sunday 25th May - MAG/WAG National Apparatus Challenge(from 7.30pm EST - Sun 25th May)
The WAG National Squad profile page has been updated. Noticeable changes:
1. New addition to the senior rankings is Amber Fulljames.
2. All of the girls (bar Kerby Purcell and Tain Molendijk) are shown in funky new squad tops and tees (thank GOD they've got them looking like a team at last), which all looks very flattering. I think Lauren's braces are off!
3. They've updated competition results for each girl, going up until the recent comps in the USA.
The MAG profile page still looks like a dog's breakfast, with shocking passport photos (and some completely blank spaces) next to athlete names for the whole world to see. Give them a bit of respect, GA. Honestly!
I'd said this morning that I was yet to find truth to the rumour that Chloe Sims has retired as she is listed there with the WAG squad. Well, apparently she has retired, though details are pending. I'm quite sad for her, seeing as it's so close to the Olympics. I was holding out for an improved and inspiring National Championships from Chloe, but she must have her reasons for her decision. I wish her the best in whatever she pursues.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Tests and exams bring out the stressiest, on-edgiest, please-don't-let-me-die-or-worse-circle-A-instead-of-C side of me. Particularly when they're first thing in the morning.
So in a total brain meltdown moments ago, I flicked off my lecture notes and cruised around YouTube, discovering this. Sadly, the sound on this computer doesn't work so I'm assuming any narration is the stuff written in the "Info" bit. It's all footage from the Beijing Test Event. Enjoy!
And for those of you who like YouTube (who doesn't?), you can now watch the news report on the Waverley girls.
Less than two weeks until Nationals, people. I smile every time my train goes past Vodafone Arena.
Friday, May 9, 2008
All the girls got a short soundbite about how excited they were, and coach John Hart said some nice things too. We saw them warming up/conditioning and doing some fairly standard skills.
Interesting to note was that Emma, in her little soundbite, could be seen wearing an "Aim for the Stars" (sporting grant from the Layne Beachley Foundation) jacket and not her Waverley or VIS one.
ETA: The report can now be viewed online as a link from Waverley's website. Get in quick and view it, before it disappears!
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
When I made the state Sport Aerobics team some years ago (now there's a sentence you don't see on every CV), we trained for two days at the Victorian High Performance Centre. We had an ASADA official come and talk to us about the dangers of doping. Because... y'know... some of the kids there were aged seven and eight. I mean phwoar, if they're not the ones coked up to the eyeballs come Nationals time, then I'll be a monkey's uncle. They couldn't even spell "antibiotic" let alone administer it themselves.
Anyway. I couldn't take the whole thing seriously because
a) of the above point. Little kids? In trackies and sparkly scrunchies? Doping? I think not good sir (though you can never put it past stage mothers...)
b) The ASADA guy kept saying "ping".
"You take a cold and flu tablet? They'll ping ya for that."
"Try and use a masking agent? They'll ping you for that."
"Skip a urine test? They'll ping you for that."
"Take an energy supplement the day before? Oh, they'll ping you for that."
The poor kids in the junior divisions didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
Thankfully the AIS and GA folk are getting the squad used to drug testing procedures now. They're not pleasant but at least the athletes won't freak out halfway through their Olympic competition when they go for their first drug tests after team qualifications.
And on another note - if Miss Joura gets team captain then I hereby nominate Olivia as Team Morale Officer. What a champ. I do love her personality even if I haven't always loved her gymnastics.
ETA - Dasha's new column is up with more insight from camp. When I last read about those distraction tapes, apparently they also had sounds of burps and glass smashes. If anyone burped out loud during a gymnastics competition and I was anywhere in the vicinity, I'd take them outside the venue and smack them sideways. Table manners go beyond the table, people.
Monday, May 5, 2008
A great news update at the GA homepage made my afternoon.
It states that the MyHeroes page (see past entries) will feature Phillipe Rizzo, Prashanth Sellathurai, Josh Jefferis and Sam Simpson (for the men) and Lauren Mitchell, Dasha Joura, Shona Morgan and Ashleigh Brennan (for the ladies). It's bittersweet because we can't exactly rustle pre-Beijing support for the men's team who won't even be there (save for Sam), but by all means we can rally behind them right through to next year's Worlds in London.
Meanwhile, the WAG Olympic training squad members are looking great in green-and-gold up in the nation's capital...
L-R Rear: Ashleigh Brennan, Georgia Bonora, Olivia Vivian, Emma Dennis, Chloe Sims
L- R Front: Lauren Mitchell, Dasha Joura, Amber Fulljames, Shona Morgan, Melanie JonesNote: Thus far, nobody in crutches or slings *touch wood* and I'm hoping Mel's bandage is just a stopgap.
Additional note: Can anyone tell me why Ms Sims insists on having her leotard sleeves pushed up all the time?
Additional additional note: Dasha's got the right idea. Fringes look quite good with ponytails and make your forehead look a bit more normal. Sure, they're not for everyone but my word those ponies are severe. I'm holding out a faint hope that the only ailment we see strike Camp Australia before August is alopecia.
Ironically, this could be the last time some of them will be wearing the green-and-gold and taking part in a group that has the word 'Olympic' tacked onto it.
Aaaaand I'm hoping they eventually play this on tv sometime soon (though it's annoying that they don't actually show any landings on the skills). Look at those evil eyes on Prashanth at the very end. Now THAT'S a game face, kids.
Saturday, May 3, 2008
I'm going out with mates today to do some shopping, boozing and karaoke (not in that particular order) so I'll have something pink and bubbly at some point as a quiet little symbolic observance of Miss D's special day.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
I'm "Waking Up With Friends" on Sunrise? Please. Wake me up when the sun stops shining out your arse and you do some positive, well-informed sports journalism. Without the jingoism and preferrably without ONE mention of Jana Rawlinson, if you please.
Edit: It was brought to my attention that, the day prior, Channel 7/Sunrise promoted the piece using footage of Monette Russo from the 2005 World Championships (which they broadcasted). Monette was in no way connected to this piece nor the contents of Sey's book. I think this is a very unfair and inexcusable move by the program, as it throws a negative light onto an athlete who probably didn't even know her image was being used in the first place. Shame shame shame.