Sunday, November 16, 2008

Australians All Let us Rejoice....!

Yay!  Australia won the poll!  I have to say I'm having a rare patriotic moment right now.  So, i wonder if there have been some particularly rabid Aussie voters this fortnight, or if the girls are just popular favorites?  I hope its the latter.  We have some have had some incredible gymnasts come up and had some great personalities emerge over the recent years and I just hope its going to get better.  Here's a list of some of my favorite things about Aussie gymnastics.

Monique Allen was our first world class gymnast, ranking as highly as eighteenth in the AA in Barcelona as well as winning Commonwealth Games medals. She competed in three Olympic games. Her Barecelona ranking was a first for Australia and became a sign of what was to come. A strong all-arounder she also excelled on bars.  As an added bonus, she also had hilarious eighties hair and winningly broad Aussie accent which she brought to colour commentating after her retirement.
While Monique Allen was the star of late eighties Australian gymnastics, Kylie Shadbolt was up there too. Her floor work was simply beautiful. Her tumbling was difficult, not as difficult as some, but her dance was better than any Australian gymnast before her, and for a while after. She was regal, clean and had a mean handstand piroutte! It was rewarded too, when she won a floor gold at the 1989 Konica Cup in Brisbane. She also won gold on floor and All-Around in the 1990 Pacific Alliance in Manilla.  These girls were the first of the new calibre of gymnasts coming out of the country once international coaches were hired and training techniques improved.

I can't help it, I just love Dasha Joura. I think she is a fabulous gymnast, a funny girl and a total (self-acknowledged) cheeseball. Even as i cringed every time she did that little salute, i still managed to enjoy everything she did in between. She is so, so winning.  She managed to charm the pants off half the gymnastics world, while grating on the nerves of the other. I don't think, though, there were many hardened gym fans tough enough not to feel for her after her tragic Beijing experience. It should have been her turn. Really, it should have. Her bars set rocked, her floor work was famous and her other two events good enough to keep her in contention for an AA medal. Not. Fair. She needs a t-shirt saying "I went to Beijing and all I got was a black eye" Poor Dasha.

Joanna Hughes was, in my opinion, one of the greatest gymnasts Australia has ever produced. Her bar work was world class with its crazily high Deltchev and her twisting and her leap elements on floor were just amazing for their amplitude and height.
 From the moment she placed fourth in the Australian junior Nationals in 1989 at age eleven, Joanna Hughes immense talent was immediately recognisable. The following year she won gold as well as taking out every apparatus medal. She was only 13 when she helped Australia to their unprecedented sixth spot in the 1991 World Championships and came 19th in the All Around contest. Unfortunately her career became chequered due to badly timed injuries like a dislocated elbow and ankle problems, meaning as well as having tough training periods, she also missed a spot on the 1992 Olympic team. Luckily for Joanna she got her spot on the 1996 Atlanta team and placed 36th in the AA. Afterwards she retired from elite gymnastics, going off to America to compete collegiate for Cal-state. According to her website, for her first collegiate floor routine, Joanna used her 91 World routine, claiming it wasn't too tiring "for an old woman like myself!"

The training of our girls by Chinese and Russian coaches means that we have produced some incredibly graceful and elegant gymnasts over the year. Hollie Dykes, Lisa Skinner, Ruth Moniz, Monique Blount, Valentina Barabach, Alexandra Croak and Allanah Slater. All of these girls had such lovely lines, ensuring that Australian gymnasts are known for their beautiful work as well as their big skills.

Trudi McIntosh, the teeny tiny ittle pocket rocket of Australian gymnastics achieved what no other Oz gymnast had before, getting her name written into the code of points. Her layout front full was named after her after she performed it at Sydney in 2000. Unfortunately, there were gymnast who performed it better, with tidier form afterward, meaning she never won an international medal for it, but Trudi was the first and that's still something to be proud of.

While Dasha Joura was writing her very well known Perth Now column in the lead up to the Olympics, the Australian team's class clown Olivia Vivian wrote an incredibly funny, frank and informative blog for the WAIS (Western Australian Institute of Sport) during the months approaching Beijing. Dasha's blog was interesting and eloquent (perhaps she was a little too fond of the thesaurus) but to me, Olivia's blog was the total delight to read.  Olivia's was so well written and her incredible and very Aussie sense of humour just leapt off the page. There's not too many gymnasts who have the talent for words or the time to give to a project like that to give an insight into elite gymnastics training in Australia. She then continued to blog while she was in Beijing, including some cute snaps of her and the girls in the athletes village. Its worth it just to go back and look at what she had to say. I hope she has a wonderful time in collegiate gymnastics. She deserves it and she would be such a fun person to have on a team. Let's hope she remembered her passport!

I love Liz Chetkovich.  Every time I hear her commentate I praise heaven that our veteran expert is nothing, nothing like the evil trio of Trautwig (edit), Schlegel and Dagget.  We are very lucky in this country to have a frank, precise knowledgeable commentator who knows her stuff, relates it without hyperbole, love Australian gymnastics, and though she is often proudly biassed (so is everyone else, how can they not be) recognizes the realities of the sport.  I often feel sorry for her when she is lumped with a useless colour commentator, but she always handles it with aplomb and never says any of the hilarous/incredibly daft things a lot of other commentators have been accused of saying.

So I can be a bit of a leotard nazi, and generally I think, as Mez over at The Australian Gymnastics blog so hilariously illustrated a while back, Australia has had some really, really bad team leos. This has mostly, I think, been because of the unfortunate proclivity toward the ole pink and purple colour scheme. Blech. Why pink and purple? I do not get it. Green and gold I get. Blue and red I get. But where on the Australian colour palette did they drag pink and purple from? Did I miss something? Was Captain Cook wearing a purple velvet evening jacket when he stepped out to stroll around Botany Bay? It's like when the Romanian Team turned up at the Euros wearing orangey-red and black. It just left me confused and slightly alarmed.
There was nothing quite like witnessing poor old redheaded, fair-skinned Allanah Slater don a hot pink leo for the Commonwealth Games team comp. Seriously unfair to put the team star, the one we will be seeing most, in perhaps the most unflattering colour she could wear.
Now I have to say that I rarely ever recommend yellow for anything or anybody, but in the case of the late eighties, early nineties gold team leos that were in use, I have to admit I was a fan. I love the gold wattle print and i really, really love the one with the (somewhat dubiously appropriated) aboriginal emblems on it on Jo Hughes above. And as for the white one with the eucalyptus blossoms on it, I love, love, love it. The designs on these were delicate, pretty and actually make me think of Australia.

Speaking of The Australian Gymnastics blog, it would have to go down on my list of one of my favorite things about Oz Gymnastics. Blogger Mez has a wicked way with words and digs out the most newsworthy and entertaining things she can find on gymnastics in the country and is generally up on everything that is going on. If it weren't for her, we'd have to sift through the GA news pages to find out what is worth learning. Instead Mez does it for us, puts her funny, bright spin on things and sends it with love. Where else would we find out gossip like the great smoke alarm debacle of 2008?
Being an Aussie blogger myself, it make me happy to see a homegrown internet community getting so excited about the sport, both locally and internationally because when I was younger there was nothin', and i mean nothin' to be found on oz gymnastics.

In the last twenty years or so, we got better.  And we are just going to get better.  With girls like Emily Little, Karina Brooks and Britt Greeley coming up the ranks, thing are just looking up.  I can't wait for the day when we win another world or Olympic medal.  And this time i want it to be about excellence (not to say the others were not) but without anyone talking about overscoring, home ground advantages, or default wins.  I wish it had been Dasha.  sigh.


  1. I think rather than John Tesh you are referring to Al Trautwig, who normally announces with Elfi Shlegel and Tim Daggett.

  2. Tried to post a comment before but it wouldn't work - apologies if you get this message twice.

    Thanks for the kudos! I like your lists and photo captions very much.

    I'm just finding it hard to pick just one favourite!