During the Chetkovich Cup in Western Australia tonight a special award will be handed out. This award to be called the Allana Slater medal. It is lovely to see this gymnast be honoured in such a way.
For those of you who are new to international gymnastics, or are not familiar with Australian gymnastics, it would be safe to say that this gymnast was one of the best things to happen to Australian Gymnastics. In fact, there was a time when she basically was Australian gymnastics in the international public’s eye.
I like to think that she did not just get this medal created in her honour for being one of our most decorated and internationally successful gymnasts (although she certainly was) but because she remains one of our most exciting, elegant and unique gymnasts in recent history.
And if that is not reason enough for her to be awarded, Allana also deserves a medal because she was the quick-witted gymnast who insisted something was wrong with the vaulting horse at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000- the embarrassing mishap that wrought all kinds of havoc on the all around final. That fateful night while her coach told Slater to stop fussing and get to vaulting, Slater insisted that it ‘didn’t feel right’, according to Kathy Johnson’s version of events. Lo and behold when Slater’s reticence convinced officials to re-measure the vault, it turned out something really wasn’t right- to the tune of 10 cms.
Slater was the product of the very successful Western Australian Institute of Sport (WAIS) gymnastics program. WAIS staff scouted her as a very young recreational gymnast and she later emerged onto the mid-nineties gym scene showing great skills and an regal, stylish air to her performance, despite her tender age.
As she made herself known in Australia and abroad, Allana proved herself to be a terrific all around gymnast with no exceptional weak spot. She was a good vaulter, a terrific bar worker, a card-carrying beamer and had incredible style on floor.
Here she is only thirteen years old, performing a routine that is- to me- reminiscent in style of a baby Soviet. In fact she reminds me a little of a young Dina Kochetkova. And it is not just the ginger hair but the beautiful, slightly haughty carriage of her head and arms.
Only a few years later, her style had matured and her talent for dance ripened. This is one of my favorite of her routines, which showed off her flair for the dramatic;
Her bars were lovely and super-clean;
And the best thing about her beam was her terrific mix of skills;
Since retiring from gymnastics in 2005, Slater has not rested on her laurels for a moment. She took up rifle shooting and even trialled for the Beijing Games shooting team. She has also become an accredited judge, which is no easy task. She told the Australian Sport Commission;
‘It’s a big responsibility to get it right, to really care about getting it right and use your knowledge. You get a huge sense of satisfaction from doing it well. It’s almost as enjoyable as performing.’
Australian Gymnastics is lucky to have someone of her talent, dedication and love for gymnastics remain with the sport. And this medal, handed out in her name is truly a deserved honour.
Allana was part of- AND created- some key moments in Australian gymnastics history, such as;
1998 Commonwealth Games, Kuala Lumpar
Allana helps Australia to its very first team gold in gymnastics and picks herself up two silvers, one in the all around and another on one of her best events, floor.
1999 World Championships
Allana finishes the all-around in 9th place- the highest finish of any Australian gymnasts in history at the time, while also helping Australia to a record fifth-place finish as a team.
2000 Olympic Games
As mentioned above- our Aussie sleuth realises something is up- or down- with the vaulting horse and puts a stop to the ruining of any more dreams in that particular AA final (except Raducan’s, of course).
2000 DTB World Cup
Allana creates a little bit more history for herself and for Australia, winning our first World Cup medal by taking gold on uneven bars and then picking up a silver medal on floor.
The 2003 World team bronze
Australia qualified seventh into the team finals at this Olympics, helped along by Allana Slater’s tenth place finish in the all-around qualifications- the highest of any Australian that day atthe World Championships in Anaheim. And while Team China earned penalties that would keep them off the podium, and Team Russia faced disaster after disaster on the floor, Team Australia performed beautifully throughout the team competition, finishing, to everyone’s- even their own- surprise, on the medal podium alongside the US and Romania with bronze medals around their necks.
Athens, 2004, Beam finals
It might be hard to imagine after this era of Lauren Mitchell, but for many Australian gymnasts, it wasn’t just medalling that was difficult, competing amongst stars from the dominant gymnastics countries, such as US, Russia, Romania, China etc. It was also considered quite a feat to even make an event final. When Allana Slater qualified to the 2004 Olympic beam finals, she not only qualified easily, but had a real chance at a medal, with her 10.0 start values, her difficult skills and wonderful execution. She sadly fell from the beam and did not, but as I said qualifying was a triumph in itself.
TCG congratulates Allana on this honour.
Article: Brigid McCarthy
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