Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Visit to the VWHPC

I arrived this morning at around 9am, having slept through my alarm by 20 minutes and taken a wrong turn on my walking route through Prahran. Damn you, Google Maps!

I finally found the place. I headed upstairs to the artistic gym and was greeted by lovely ladies who took my donation and pointed me to where I had to sit - halfway across the room and through gymnasts performing on practice beams and bars. Scary.

Almost all their WAG groups were training today - Level 6, Level 8, International Level 10, Junior International and Senior International. I know Laura Hingston, Zoe Lorenzin, Tiera Exum, Britt Greeley by name/face. The others I wasn't so sure about. I met Laura and Zoe's mums who were lovely (hi, ladies!) and who had nice things to say about the blog.

I sat with two blog readers and fellow gym enthusiasts (hi, ladies!) and whiled away the practise session taking short video clips and chatting (the latter probably audible on the former).

But now onto the juicy stuff.

Not sure if she's going for college recruitment or being welcomed back into the senior fold, but Fiona Coley appeared with Ashleigh Brennan some time just before 10. Both warmed up together but then parted to work individually on strength or weight work. Ash didn't show any skills or routines, mostly stuck to weights or conditioning. Fiona did a lovely triple pirouette on floor, some single layouts onto mats, a running double front onto the tumble track and a walk-along on beam (which included a simple yet elegant pose up on her toes held for about 30 seconds. Karate Kid, eat your heart out!) She also showed good flexibility in stretches at the beam. Monette Russo, Steph Moorhouse and Ruth R-unspellable surname popped by and chatted to Ash/Fiona near the end of their training before handing out yellow ribbons at the end of the session. Big ups to the older girls who were all also wearing yellow ribbons in their hair.

Little gymnasts are the kyooootest. Especially those who go at beam skills with a tongue hanging out or firmly in the cheek in concentration. Several littlies were working in synch on beam. Step, step, scale.

Things That Are Popular With Gym Mums: The new levels floor music (notably Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies for Level 6), chewing gum, Stacey Umeh-Lees ("She's great! She's such a character!")

Things on the Walls: Old and recent comp posters (2003 worlds, 2005 worlds, old IG posters of Amanar/Podkopayeva and the like), autographs from members of medal-winning teams past.

Near the gymnasts' lockers and shelves are posters autographed by Monette Russo, the 2006 WAG Commonwealth Games team and the 2005 World Championship medallists

***Skills on show***


Let me just get two out of the way first-



Is your mind not boggling!!!????

One of my fellow observers who didn't turn up slightly late and a bit hungover like myself (sorry, gym mums! Big night out last night!) noted that when some of the other girls were doing punch somis early on, all except Britt could do them without a supporting mat. Foot problems? I don't know. But she did just about all of her tumbles to the one corner of the floor... the corner with the mat.

It was a bit of a madhouse, with the coaches Mischa and Tracey watching up to two apparatus at once. You never quite knew who they were calling out to.

Tierra Exum showed some nice high double pikes and a 1.5 twist to pike front but that was about the only thing her long legs did justice. Her twists were a bit tangled and her beam work suffered a little too.

Britt did a nice dance-through on floor plus a 2.5 twist to layout punch front. Say what you will about her bars or beam work, she's really working that choreography, especially with improved toepoint. And she's sure getting those tumbles up.

Tierra once again has the old 'Ojos Asi' music Steph Moorhouse used. Apparently the girls still do not have new floors yet but Peggy has said the girls need to focus on skill acquisition and upgrading at the moment, not so much whole new floor arrangements.

Simone Williams (some girls I just worked out by hearing Tracey call out to them!) did a front 1.5 twist. I think. It's so hard to count the revolutions!

One girl was spotted doing a double layout in a harness.

As a general thing, I noted that most floor tumbles were over-rotated rather than under. At AYOF they might have appeared insipid, but in training these girls really attack their tumbles.


Britt trained full-twisting flips on the floor as well as rulfova drills. One of her combinations is to be (if I remember correctly) a front aerial to switch leap, then a rulfova. She had trouble with the rulfova for a bit today (it took Netty 6 months to get the skill, wonder how long it will take Britt...). Her dismount is a 2.5 twist.

Teeny little Zoe's dismount is a back handspring, flic, double pike but a few times she did it with a double tuck if I remember right. She was also working on an acro series but I couldn't tell whether it was a back handspring to back pike OR a back handspring to a whip that was just a bit piked... she ALSO trained, on the floor, a back handspring, flic, layout to two feet. Don't know if this was prep for her dismount or an actual acro series. I'd love to see it as an acro series, we'd have another little Monette Russo on our hands. Zoe's mum says her daughter had a wonderful time in Massilia and is happy where she's at with her gymnastics. So that's great too.

Tierra did a back handspring, back tuck that looked a little laboured. When this girl sits on the floor with her lugs tucked up, her knees measure just over her chin, not simply at her chest like you or I! Betty Okino wants her figure back...

One gymnast trained a lovely-looking Onodi-immediate cartwheel on a low beam with Tracey.

Quote of the day to a gymnast landing beam skills: "You've got small feet now but not forever!" (Tracey)


Grace... Claringbold, I think? Grace did a nice tkatchev, more than once.

The girls would do some giant swing work on a single bar, then move to another single bar over a pit to work on releases with a coach, then to the uneven bars set. Zoe and Britt looked great in their giants, and I honestly thought Britt had improved her foot work. Unfortunately, she still flexes her feet quite a bit on her releases which were a giant full to geinger and hip circle through to tkatchev. She missed the latter quite a bit but I'm sure it will get better.

Tierra stuck to practising giants and stalders on a low bar, but moved to the bar set and worked on what we think will be a clear hip circle to overshoot and handstand. At one point (I think it was her), she was doing circles around the bar in stoop position, like we have seen Krasnyanska and Ivana Hong do. Pretty impressive!


I didn't get much of a look at this. Tierra did Yurchenko fulls. Otherwise the girls did lots of drills and timers. Not much on show today, the little ones took over the vault run for quite some time, with their adorable flingy-armed runs!

At the end of the session, Monette and Steph were signing postcards that were for sale (proceeds again to fire victims) and posing for photos, as did Ash when she came along. They handed out yellow ribbons to all the girls (lined up, so teensy!) and we had a minute's silence.

It was an insightful morning, all for a good cause, and very well spent... save for me missing breakfast. I had a great time and hope this is all as informative for you as it was for me. The parents [and some schoolteachers] in attendance seemed right pleased with how the girls were going and applauded, even when it wasn't necessary.

Fellow observers of the session, please correct me if I'm wrong on any of these notes. As you know, I was juggling a video camera and notebook and my own eyes at the one time (not in a gross Hostel kind of way) so I may have got girls mixed up or counted twists incorrectly.

Big thanks to Mr Foster who handed over to me a goldmine of gymnastics magazines, many archived or out of circulation, including the now-defunct Somersault mag and an amazing 1991 commemorative edition of The Australian Gymnast after our girls placed a historic 6th at Worlds. I am beyond thrilled to now have such a collection in my possession.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Foster, forsooth!! Am I really that old??


Mez said...

No, just worthy of thanks :)

nswgymnast said...

mez thank you SO much for the update! its so nice to read about these things when ur unable to go and watch for yourself (the draw back of living in NSW - we have no HPC or institute of our own..)

Nic said...

i was looking forward to meeting you mez, as im such a fan of you and the blog, however i dont know what you look like so i wasnt sure who to look out for. Oh well I still had an awsome time meeting all my heroes and if it wasnt for you i wouldnt even have known about it so thanks mez and maybe ill get to meet you next time.

:) Me and my friends did get a pic with Ashleigh and Monette though we were all so happy.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update Mez, so lovely to have such an informed report when you are too far away to attend yourself.

Mez said...

I was sitting on the floor, beside the seating area, in a blue Superted t-shirt. I was writing in a notebook and brandishing a camera phone most of the time.

I was one of the people Ade kept kneeling down to talk to.

I didn't get photos with the girls :(

nade00 said...

The vid I took (all bits edited together):

Anonymous said...

you didn't mention svetlana at all :(

Mez said...

Unfortunately I do not know Svetlana by face.

I must admit I listened out for names being called by parents and coaches but I didn't hear her name mentioned in the session.

Anonymous said...

Svetlana is facing the camera in the photo of Zoe on the vault and in Nade's video she in on the beam at 1.15 to 1.33 doing the Yang Bo (I think) leap - sorry not too sure of name of leap.