The AGB convoy rolled on through the eastern suburbs today as your trusty blog captain had the chance to sit in on a training session at everybody's favourite smile time variety show.
Yes, that's right, I had myself an audience with the coaches, athletes and parents of Waverley Gymnastics Centre. I am extremely grateful to club president Bill and club director Tanya, not to mention the coaches who allowed me to observe their squads today, for this very special opportunity.
I don't quite know where to begin! Myself and my accomplice had a tour of the facilities (including kitchen and canteen area, physio room, uniform/merch store room, ballet room and coaches room) and a walk around the main gym, complete with introductions to accomodating coaches and gymnasts (who didn't seemed to mind visitors while they stretched and prepped) and me tripping on a trampoline mat. I am truly class personified. Peggy Liddick visited last week and apparently all went swimmingly. Seniors, juniors, and national levels girls were working today. Being a recreational club in addition to an elite training centre, the gym is often a difficult place to both be in and maintain during school holday time.
Around the gym are posters and banners celebrating gymnasts past and present, notably the three Olympic Squad members from 2008 and its 2009 European Tour team members. Plaques, pennants, trophies, medals and photos from competitions line different walls of the gym - the club has a formidable national reputation in addition to its international one - but this is one club that celebrates achievement without ego stroking. In short: lovely atmosphere, lovely people.
One of the niftiest things there is a quite unassuming length of rope near the tumbling track with a bell tied to the top, and a smaller bell mounted near the bars sets that was given to the club after a past team's European tour. They've each been dubbed the 'new skills bell'. Each time a gymnast masters a particular skill or sequence on their own, the bell is rung to call for both celebration and attention. Once it is rung, everyone in the gym stops to watch them perform the skill and then go back to training. It's a brief moment that says 'Wahey! Good on you!' and reminds everyone of the importance of progress.
Now to the gymnastics on show.
I have some photos which you can view here at the blog's Photobucket account.
I also have a few short videos here.
Both my phone and camera were running on low battery so I apologise for their abrupt and blurry nature. Please also disregard the conversations going on in the background. Gymnastics doesn't stop so one can chat! I only started taking notes about halfway through the session, once I'd clambered onto some disused seats for a good vantage point. I tried not to be a distraction with all my moving and clicking and scribbling and red-light-flickering.
Shona Morgan, Emma Dennis and Georgia Bonora were all in training today. Emma had her ankle strapped up. She is gunning for this year's Commonwealth Games so I wish her the best in the post-PacRim hoopla.
The Collister twins were also training, in almost identical croptops, so I had a very hard time picking one from the other!
* On the tumble track, Georgia showed a couple of double pikes. Shona showed a double pike and a layout double twist.
* Emma D did a dance-through on floor (still the Chinese opera music) and pushed a spotting box along to represent her tumbling runs. I captured it on video and it looks bizarre, but it's to simulate the resistance she would get doing the tumbles. Still gorgeous dancework, I even had the pleasure of meeting the club's ballet coach who worked with Stacey Umeh to choreograph the routine.
* Both Collisters trained bars and did dismount repetitions (double tucks, half in half outs if I recall correctly...?)
* One of the National 9's on floor showed a nice double front twist and another warmed up a double tuck. One had Beth Tweddle's 2005/06 floor music, which made me giggle considering Tweddle trained at the club during the 2006 Commonwealth Games.
* Emma and Rachel C have a similar beam mount, a little piked swing over the beam to sit, much like a male gymnast commences a pommel horse routine. Emma's skills included a front aerial to roundoff, a side somi, a switch split leap to wolf jump and a switch side. Rachel's skills included a switch split leap to wolf, a side somi from a front somi approach and a double tuck dismount. I really hope I didn't just watch the same twin twice! Emma was nicely told off by coach ShaoYi for completing a full routine in one minute, thirty one seconds.
* Shona trained some toe-on to full pirouettes on bars. She did some light beam work top (single LOSO, and BHS-LOSO after long pauses) which I didn't quite catch because I was watching floor.
* I got quite excited at one point because it looked - to me at least - like one of the Collisters was doing preparations and timers for a layout front handspring vault (cf. Trudy McIntosh, Daria Bijak); she was getting some big air, travelling in a forwards laid out position right over the horse (padded with an extra mat over it) onto a high stack of mats, but we left the gym before I could see more of its progress.
* Some of the younger girls showed lovely straddle press to handstands on beam as well as tic-tocs, stag handstands and very focussed arabesques, plus some nice single front handsprings and back layouts on floor. All were doing their best to pay attention to presentation.
There. I said it. You can't miss her now.
This girl is a star of the future, something I am sure of since her standout 2008 performances at Nationals. She has impressive skills and impeccable form to boot.
* On bars she showed crisp handstand work and determined double back timers before performing a full routine.
* On beam, she really drew your attention. Under the watchful eye of ShaoYi, she warmed up a Korbut flic, that became a confident Korbut full when it came to performing her full routine. Unfortunately I didn't capture her final, full routine on film in which she added the Korbut full plus an elegant Liukin-esque scale with back leg touching her head (there must be a word for that?), a switch ring leap, and a sheep jump to immediate back tuck. The other skills she warmed up included a front aerial and BHS-LOSO. Her dismount was a BHS-flic-full twist. Girl's got some serious style.
I think that's about all I managed to take in. There was simply so much going on! I got to quickly chat with John Hart at the end and he's looking forward to having the girls perform to their best in camp. It's a great atmosphere there and I hope to go back again. Best wishes to all coaches and athletes for this competition year. Thanks again to the Waverley staff for letting me drop by and walk all over your mats.