The WAG team competition for the Australian Olympic Youth Festival was held this afternoon at Sydney Olympic Park. The nations being represented were Australia (fielding two teams), New Zealand, China and Great Britain. There were age requirements for this meet, with the girls being born between January 1st 1998 and the 31st of December 2000. There were four members per team.
Australia fielded two teams. One featured the four girls from the Western Australian program (Darcy Norman, Paige James, Gillian Chan, Franceska Fusha) , while the other, which won the bronze, featured the girls from Queensland and Victoria (Alex Eade, Eliza Freeman, Eden Tarvit, Rianna Mizzen).
The AYOF competition was an exceptional opportunity to see what is in store from some of the ‘junior’ juniors from China, Australia, Great Britain and New Zealand.
The end result was:
1. China 162.963
2. Great Britain 160.064
3. Australia (Tarvit, Mizzen, Eade, Freeman) 150.798
Full scores can be seen on the Gymnastics Australia website.
But what did we see from the AYOF meet?
What I largely found was there are some exceptional things in store- particularly from China and Great Britain. The tiny Chinese team were exquisite and had some huge skills on bars. On this event we saw some multiple releases, and several full-twisting double layout dismounts. One notable criticism was that most releases and skills were being caught with very bent arms. Everything else they did on bars was magical.
The adorable Chinese team also shone (unsurprisingly) on beam. Favourite skills for these girls is a lovely chest roll mount with a half-turn. It was nice to see China varying up on mounts. They are also seemingly fond of a pretty punch front-Korbut flic connection. There were, however a few falls on beam, particularly on layouts and on dismounts. Among the four there was a mixture of laid out Yurchenkos and FTYs on vault, where they started the meet.
But to be honest, China was exactly as I expected. Bars were nearly flawless, while there were some falls and mistakes once they hit beam and floor. But there was also that magical, stunning Chinese form and dedication to execution. They were expected to win on difficulty and, despite the mistakes of youth, they prevailed as expected.
In some senses, the very young Australian team’s competition was also much as expected- given their lack of international competitive experience. The Aussie girls didn’t have a perfect day, and I am sure many of them would have liked to have done better. But it must be remembered that unlike China, and even the New Zealand girls who have had experience in big time meets like Pac Rims last year in Seattle and (for some Chinese girls) Massilia, most of these Aussies were donning the Australian uniform for the very first time. That is a huge experience for any young gymnast. And when seven of eight of them are having that experience, you have to expect some bumps.
This meet will provide some great learning for these girls though, and it is not often Aussie gymnasts get to have such a lesson of this calibre on home soil. And with this massive experience under their belt, they will do better next time.
While the outcome was patchy for nearly everyone, there were certainly some highlights. The biggest for me was Eliza Freeman. Although not having the perfect day, Eliza, who hails from Waverley Gymnastics Club in Melbourne (home of two-time Olympian Georgia Bonora and Youth Olympic medallist Angela Donald) ripped out a stellar beam set in her rotation today, enough to earn her a fourth place ranking behind some exceptional British beam work. She then went to floor and delivered another measured, calm performance. Kudos must be granted to this young gymnast who really kept her head- even on the most nervy apparatus. This is a personality you want on a team when it counts. Eliza has a quiet presence on the competition floor, but it was quietly achieving today.
Other highlights were Darcy Norman, who rocked out a gorgeous bars set (Pak, laid-out Geinger) to qualify sixth on that apparatus. Paige James, who showed some nerves throughout the day, did terrifically on floor, having added a double back tuck to what is usually a twist-packed (triple, 2.5) routine. Franceska Fusha, who was pulled in from her reserve spot to replace an injured (minor knee) Brooke Callcott (who did a beautiful job supporting her team mates on the sidelines and helping prepare bars for them) showed good consistency across most apparatus. One standout skill (although she didn’t quite hit it today) is connecting a wolf turn on floor straight into a standing turn. When it works, it is an impressive connection!
Although she wasn’t able to pull it out quite as she’d have liked in competition, Alex Eade’s warm-ups and routines showed some high level work. She has added a Shaposhnikova on bars since we last saw her and is doing her DLO dismount. She did not perform the double layout on floor she was doing last year, sadly. She did, however, nearly stick her FTY on vault and show a great range of skills on beam, including a flic to a very laid out back pike on beam. This girls continues to show an abundance of natural talent. Now, she just needs to get used to competing because she will be important in the coming years, I imagine. Both Queensland up-and-comers Eden Tarvit and Rianna Mizzen had mistakes today, but both have built on their skill set. This was a first opportunity to put them into action under pressure.
Australia showed today that they have a ways to go before they can climb the ranks of the top eight again, but these girls do not lack for talent and Rio is still four years away. We have work to do, but we have time. With work and experience, they can do it.
Nerves also seemed to getting to the talented and interesting New Zealand girls too. These four were all part of the team representing New Zealand at Pac Rims in Seattle last year, so they have been out in this situation before. I think (?), however, they have all made a few upgrades since then, so maybe that affected them a little
They all had some real highlights, however. Charlotte Sullivan pulled out a Pak transition on bars, and hit her double pike dismount with only a small step. Courtney MacGregor has mastered a Geinger on bars (I think it is new, but I could be wrong), but it was a little cautious. Millie Williamson really shone on bars during the warm up with some gorgeous lines and a full-twisting double tuck dismount, but sadly fell in the meet. Millie was also gorgeous on beam where she got bonus TCG kudos points for performing an Onodi. Hanna Malloch performed my favorite combo of the day on floor, a full turn into a turning double stag jump- simply gorgeous!
However, for me, it was the British girls who were the revelation of the meet.
These girls, Catherine Lyons, Tyesha Mattis, Teal Grindle and Amy Tinkler all showed that at this tender, rather inexperienced age, they have THE package. They had big skills, wonderful presentation, great choreography and showed great calm under pressure given their limited experience in international competition. Catherine Lyons, who is already known for her stunning form, was magical on beam and floor, and came out on top in the beam rankings. She opened with a beautiful jump to split mount and took every opportunity to show off her awesome flexibility and form on beam.
In fact all the British girls shone here. And this is because they have something we are all sorely missing on beam- actual choreography. Not only do they have gorgeous moves, they are a little sassy and interesting. I loved it.
Tyesha Mattis topped vault rankings with a whopping FTY that looks about ready for upgrades. The distance she gets from the horse is crazy impressive. Mattis also performed a Geinger and a sky-high Tkatchev on bars. Foot form issues are the only thing holding her back from being fabulous on this event (fabulous as opposed to great- so the only way is up).
Here is her floor exercise, where she shows terrific power, but needs to work on her tumbling form:
Little Amy Tinkler showed great promise, an outstanding skill of the day being her back full on beam. Teal Grindle was also very solid on beam, performing a perfect flic series. Her saucy little floor routine was also wonderful and her whip-quick triple twist was the best of the day.
Bars was GBR’s weakest event, and the one that gave China the advantage, but they looked great across the other three apparatus and there is great potential to be stronger on bars.
Mark my words, Great Britain continues to be on the up-and-up. Watch this space. If you don’t know it already, let me assure you, you are in for a treat from this nation’s gymnastics future.
All in all it was a great day of gymnastics. Usually, when I get home from a competition and the copious note-taking, the last thing I want to do is the write-up- ESPECIALLY after a two-hour train ride (one which usually takes only twenty minutes) due to signal meltdown in 45 degree weather (That’s a whopping 113 degrees Fahrenheit, for you Americans!). But tonight, I couldn’t wait to write this up. That is because there was plenty to get excited about and plenty of hope in all these young teams’ futures.
Look out for video. Much was taken and is sure to be uploaded shortly!
Also, we should have some photos very soon from Nadia Boyce, who photographed the competition.
Also, sorry if this report is a little ragtag, I have had VERY little sleep! Actually, I have had exactly none.
Article: Brigid McCarthy
Photo: Catherine Lyons from http://www.europagymcentre.com/page33.html
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