Tuesday, July 12, 2016

How The West Was Lost

The Hon. Mia Davies MLA BMM
Minister for Sport and Recreation
Western Australia

Dear Minister and Department Members,

Dear you, Reader,

Dear Friends and Families,

This afternoon it was unexpectedly announced that the women's artistic gymnastics program at the West Australian Institute of Sport (WAIS) is to be closed down on December 31st, not long after the excitement and fervour of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

It is with great urging that I ask you to reconsider this action. Not just for my own interests as a longtime spectator and social media contributor to the sport, but for the wellbeing of the families and athletes who have spent years working with the program.

I wish that I could say that, in my capacity as the above, there was something remarkable about me. I wish I could say I inspired the kinds of hopes, dreams and excitement these athletes do. But I don't, I strive to elevate those that do.

Perhaps you were not all fully aware of the utter 'remarkableness' of this program.

WAIS Gymnastics is not only a significant program in the scheme of Australia's gymnastics operations, it is the premier program. Thanks to WAIS, Australia can boast a female World Championship gold and silver medallist, (the nation's first), 9 Olympians, a multitude of Commonwealth Games gold medals, FIG World Cup gold and silver medals, and a national championship results board that sags under its own weight. To put it bluntly - much of Australia's rise on the world stage in gymnastics between 1991 and 2014 is thanks to the environment and consistency fostered at WAIS.

There was something remarkable about Sarah Lauren, one of Australia's youngest ever gold medallists at a Commonwealth Games in 2002. There was something remarkable about Daria Joura, the Russian-Australian Olympian who in early 2008 received a floor routine score that topped the rest of the world. There was something remarkable about Allana Slater, an upstart redhead the world met in 1998 in Kuala Lumpur and watched lead Australia to a consecutive Commonwealth team gold in Manchester 2002. And truly there is something remarkable about Lauren Mitchell, our first women's world champion and a dual Olympian who graciously credits her success to her WAIS Gymnastics' renowned coaches and specialists.

Unfortunately, since 2011, Australia's international results are not completely what they have been in the past. The road to Rio has been paved with hard work, unpleasant decisions, nailbiting performances and the absolute best of intentions. Stalwart performer Mitchell has suffered a number of injuries that have hampered her world-class contributions to the team. Injuries have also niggled at our recent national champions Georgia Godwin and Rianna Mizzen, while Rio Olympics alternate Emily Little (who calls WAIS home) has herself fought valiantly in the green and gold despite minor injuries and a brief break from competing.
After the women's team performed shakily at the London Olympics, the funding and coaching structure within gymnastics (like other sports under the ASC's review) was under heavy scrutiny in an attempt to right the ship. National head coach Peggy Liddick acknowledged that improvement would not happen overnight, and after serious review and restructure of the national high performance KPIs decided to send no representatives to the 2013 World Championships, an unprecedented move. Australia had qualified a berth on its own merits, but all gymnasts were to stay at home with the intent to improve difficulty and consistency across the national program. Although lamentable, as several eligible athletes were fit enough to compete, the decision was upheld. The strategy paid off in a top-8 team finish one year later in China, even without anchor Mitchell, and an individual apparatus final placing for Victoria's Larrissa Miller. But the relief was short-lived after further nerves and injuries set in before 2015 World Championships, and a team finish outside the top 10 saw Australia face its toughest challenge yet leading into the Olympics. There would be one last opportunity to qualify a full team berth to Rio: Finish 4th or higher at the Rio Test Event in six months' time or settle for qualifying just one individual. To the dismay of fans, the Australian women (led by Emily Little) again did not finish as high as hoped at the event, and would see only one of them selected to compete at the Games.

And that is where we are today: only one Australian gymnast will compete in 3 weeks in Rio. It is not a WAIS gymnast, but it is a gymnast that justly earned her selection, and counts WAIS' competitors as her friends. Her compatriots. Her sisters. We warmly congratulate Larrissa Miller on her deserved selection. WAIS will proudly field the reserve role in Emily Little, who last week did not let disappointment distract her and won the vault event at a competition in the Netherlands, and finished 5th on the event in Portugal. These two Australians are great inspirations for young athletes everywhere, as are so many of WAIS' past and present competitors.

In short, WAIS Gymnastics is worth much more to Australia than the loss of it would be. It is greatly distressing to read that parents and athletes, and even Gymnastics Australia officials, were not given prior warning of this decision. We respectfully ask that you do not extinguish a fire that ignited in 1998 with a maiden Commonwealth Games team gold medal, and the Perth gymnast who became the trailblazer for so many. Gymnastics Australia President Jacqui Briggs-Weatherill said of the news, "This sends the message 'Your aspirations aren't important'." and it is heartbreaking to have to think of the situation like this. It would be extremely difficult for the 60 gymnasts of the program to transition to other locations to continue training, or other sports programs altogether. The 2016 National Championships in Melbourne allowed WAIS gymnasts to show tremendous promise and potential, in both junior and senior fields. There is so, so much more to come from this program in the lead-up to Commonwealth Games 2018 and Tokyo 2020.

Please reconsider the move to close down the WAIS Gymnastics program.

My sincere thanks for your time.


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

National Championships 2016: Apparatus Finals

The last Saturday and Sunday in May are always a bit chilly in Melbourne, but the skills and confidence on show at Hisense Arena in the apparatus finals were hotter than a jalapeno hula skirt!


No surprises here, with Chris Remkes and Emily Little taking the golds in their respective senior fields.  Remkes was one of only 3 men's competitors, so it was a question of what colour medal he would be taking home if he successfully stood up his vaults. The shy 145cm-tall South Australian repeated his recently acclaimed World Cup form, standing up a daring Dragulescu and a Tsukahara 2.5 twist for 14.862 to take the top spot over national AA champ Luke Wadsworth and WA's Jake Thompson (neither of whom could match Remkes in the difficulty stakes).

Like Remkes, Little was also unmatched for difficulty in the final. We are extremely excited to hear Em has a Tsukahara 1.5 twist and an Amanar in training, though neither was on display this weekend. No stick on the Baitova but a nifty stick on the tsuk. Her 15.012 was one of the highest women's scores of the weekend and I've no doubt the teased higher difficulty will keep that 15 streak going. Next in difficulty though not in ranking was Yasmin Collier whose highlight was a decent Yurchenko 1.5 twist, she had to settle for 4th place. In second was Kiara Munteanu, who did not vault a Yurchenko 1.5 while third placegetter Naomi Lee (13.612) did, though sitting down her 1/2 on double pike off secured Munteanu's medal. Sometimes it's all a matter of execution. While the rest of the field was admittedly little flat, we do know the senior women's field has doubles waiting in the wings from Godwin, Mizzen and an absent Monckton.
  Execution and difficulty on the junior women's side left a lot to be desired, but rising star from Jesolo last year Talia Folino proved victorious again after her Junior All-Around win, as one of only 2 gymnasts with a 5.0 difficulty vault in this final.


Oh, the agony and the ecstasy.

The 2016 bars title was, as I grandiosely stated after the all-around final, Larrissa Miller's to lose. And in an unexpected finals turn (a Maroney Moment if you will), she did.

Miller was completely stunning in her stalder and pirouette work, catching every release smoothly though appearing to clip her feet ever so slightly in her in-bar geinger. And then it all fell apart. Back on the high bar and seconds away from clinching another podium finish, Larrissa lost momentum in a full pirouette and came off. Unfortunately she was not able to fully brush the mistake off, and repeated the error almost immediately. Back on the ground she seemed extremely distressed and keen to finish up, which she eventually did again - finishing the skill on the third attempt and landing with her trademark stuck full twist dismount. It was devastating to watch unfold and to see her ranked last, but Larrissa is a fighter and we knew she'd come back strongly in the floor final. The medal dais was not to be Waverley-less, as first year senior Emily Whitehead (competing on her only apparatus of these championships due to injury recovery) snatched silver with a competent routine that featured a Markelov and shap half for 13.775.

Already crowned national all-around champion, Rianna Mizzen backed up last year's first bars place finish with another stellar routine (capped off with a stuck dismount) that brought her the gold. Like fellow finallist Queenslander Georgia Godwin, Rianna shows fantastic toe-on and Weiler work, and her tkatchev into pak is beautifully controlled. Her difficulty (5.8) is just below Miller but enough to top the field. Godwin herself managed the bronze with a routine that admittedly lacked some of the calm control she shows on beam and floor, and finished with a mere double pike dismount. Another routine that will surely get more daring with time.

In junior uneven bars it was again a Waverley dais double act with Talia Folino and Jade Vella-Wright taking gold and bronze respectively (12.150, 11.100). Another final that showed a few cracks in the pre-senior tier (only silver medallist Lily Gresele had an execution score above 7), Folino's 5.2 difficulty is helped by a corker of a straddled jaeger. She like several others in the final showed just a double pike dismount but she has so much stamina I am certain it will be a double layout, or better, extremely soon. I am told they didn't show Junior Bars on the livestream so courtesy of my phone and twitter here are....
Lily Gresele 
Talia Folino
Cassidy Ercole
Eadie Rawson
Elly Bayes

Parallel bars and high bar were yet another Luke W battle, with Wadsworth taking out the former and Wiwatoski finally breaking his silver streak in winning the latter on the final day. Both fought hard these championships that has seen many succumb to fatigue.  Each one's double pike dismount off pbars sent their clubmates into loud frenzy each round of this competition and this final was no exception. While Wiwatowski has the difficulty edge by two tenths, it was Wadsworth who pipped him with better execution to nab a 14.200. On high bar, "Wiwa" was the only gymnast to show a noteworthy release in the gravity-defying Kolmann he'd missed nights earlier in the all-around, and a thrilling double-double dismount. The gold this time was unquestionably his. Scott Brooks? Not so lucky!


I watched this one from home on livestream, and once again it was a Luke W 1-2. Both have a 5.5 difficulty, both showed a tucked 1.5 dismount... you'd be forgiven for thinking this was a gymnastics Parent Trap! But once again, Wadsworth's execution notched him again of Wiwatowski for a golden 14.375. Chris Remkes had the highest difficulty of everyone with 5.9 but could not translate it into a medal-worthy performance. Bronze went to ACT's Adam Falzarono, a serial apparatus finallist this year. I was thrilled to see the return of South Australia's Clay Stephens, usually a vault powerhouse but like Em Whitehead only competing the one event this year. Unlike Whitehead he was unable to squeak into the medals and settled for 4th place.


Again, not the funnest event to sit through. Pocket rocket Remkes was one of several to suffer falls and bobbles, the most entertaining being Wiwatowski's front somersault off the side of the horse after a hand slip. Sorry, Luke, acrobatic bonus doesn't work on this event! This was another event that went to Wadsworth, the last man standing.


The senior women's event was one of 2 'blue ribbon' finals on day 2. Unfortunately all-around champion Rianna Mizzen was withdrawn from this final (I had so looked forward to her layout stepouts again) and replaced by Georgia Godwin. Despite a fall from first up gymnast Yasmin Collier (who still drilled her own layout stepout sequence and made my heart flutter), each performance was close to or better than the one before it. Every single gymnast hit the routine of her life, it was so wonderful to see. Georgia-Rose Brown had one of her most confident showings yet, fully extending in her leaps and back handsprings, I am certain the meet photographers got some gorgeous shots. Godwin, too, showed the beam prowess that had brought her national championship placings over the years. More crisp wolf spins, and a solid BHS-back layout. However, Georgia brought me the second of two heart attacks this final with her extreeeeeemely close to the end of the beam side aerial sequence - the first was Alex Eade taking a very long pause before her dismount, leading me to think she'd suffered a total mental blank.
   Controversially, gorgeous beam queen Emma Nedov was awarded just 13.8 for a routine that, even without the additional layout stepout from the all-around, was hit tremendously. So great to see her make her bhs-flic-layout sequence with confidence, and have no significant issue on her double pike dismount. She did protest the low score but the 13.8 was upheld. The only error I could see was in one of her pirouettes, though I am sure code experts have a lot to say on the matter! She was bested only fractionally by Emily, who was skittish but stayed on to take silver. Personally I think the result should have been swapped, but I guess you can't have them all.

 The highlight of this rotation was the return of Lauren Mitchell to her first major meet final since the knee injury that kept her out of worlds last year. Nobody seemed to mind that Loz was accidentally introduced as "Lauren Miller". She showed much more poise than on night 1, successfully landing her two-foot layout sequence and two(!) wolf pirouettes. She took just one step on her double tuck dismount, clocking up all of her 6.2 difficulty to win the day on 14.025

I finally spotted Peggy Liddick on the sidelines as beam finished up and floor got started. I am sure the performances this rotation made her selection job even harder!

Unfortunately I didn't catch junior beam, but Waverley were victorious again - this time Jade Vella-Wright took the top spot on 13.255 over Shannon Farrell of NSW (a powerful vaulter), with golden girl Talia Folino settling for the bronze.


Once again, Chris Remkes proved that when he's on he's really on. Overcoming the hiccups from all-around night, Chris stood up a high-flying triple twisting double layout (it's a mouthful!) albeit with a step out of bounds, to a roar from the crowd. He backed it up with a double front pike, an arabian as a side pass and a triple twist for 14.450. He squeezed every ounce of of his 6.4 difficulty value but copped a fair whack in execution deductions. Jake Houtby of Queensland boasted a close 6.1 but numerous large falls on piked tumbled and a 3.350(!) execution dropped him to last place.
  Wiwatowski got the better of Wadsworth (before high bar of course!) with the silver medal on just .025 behind Remkes. He showed really tidy arabian work and a nice 2.5 twist closing pass.

Junior women's floor was starting to leave me a little uninspired until young Miss Eadie Rawson hit the mat. She only managed bronze, but her audience engagement and choreography (even simply walking on and off the floor) was utterly golden, a real junior Joura. Here she is at the recent Australian Classic, it truly is something special. Another Lisa Bradley masterpiece! Fresh off her beam win, Jade "Vee Dubs" took gold here on 13.525, a lovely whip to double tuck made everyone sit up and take notice. Talia Folino won silver and showed fantastic potential with a tucked tsukahara, high double tuck and a double pike almost cleanly stuck (5.2/13.225). This was quite the meet for her.

Senior women's floor was the most electrifying final of the weekend, not least of all because of Mitchell's return to the event that delivered her 2010 World Championship gold. It was a killer lineup (minus the national champion), with Rio Test team members, the previous year's all-around champion, and exciting young upstarts. Kicking us off again was Yasmin Collier who showed lovely choreography and combination passes, but the fireworks were yet to come.
  With teammates and coaches roaring like crazy in the corner once more (think a college team during the final rotation of a Super Six!), Emily Little blew the roof off with a full twisting double layout, a tiny little bit piked down but a vast improvement on her outright piked full-in. Phenomenal. She followed this with her usual strong Tsukahara and double tuck and pike for a straight 14.0

Alex Eade kept the exciting vibe going with an almost-stuck double layout, the only one of the women's competiton (so to speak... aside from Emily!) and nice tsukahara. I am so thrilled Alex has stuck around, she has really blossomed as a senior. I am glad to hear other people got Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs vibes from her choreography and expressions, her routine is a blast. Georgia Godwin, too, stood up her tricky double front opening pass and stuck her double tuck, but it was only good enough for 6th. I still stand by my statement that her wolf turns are so great she would excel at figure skating!

Lauren Mitchell had been waiting a year for this moment. After two other days of up and down competition, she found herself back at the top of the favourites list in a final against the nation's very best. It was hard not to let out a cheer as she stuck cold her piked full in (not connected to any jump) and successfully stood up her double arabian (welcome back!) and double pike. It was masterful, and if her knee is still experiencing discomfort she certainly didn't show it.

The gold medal went to a tenacious Larrissa Miller. As hoped, she bounced back like a trooper from her bars final errors the night before. Miller later admitted that prior to starting the routine she was a little teary from feeling so exhausted (emotionally as well as physically, I am sure). How admirable to see her put it aside and hit one of her best routines ever. I will never tire of that beautiful front lay to double front, even some international fans tuning into the livestream remarked on it. She took a step out of bounds in her combination pass but the rest was so sublime it kept her at the top of the rankings. The crowd's reception of it put me in mind of a ballet diva taking her final bow. If that was an emotional, tired, self-doubting Miller.... fear her when she's having a good day, is all I will say.

And that was that.

Winners crowned, losers frowned, and artistic gymnastics waved goodbye to Hisense Arena for 2016. Full results and more media can be found at ausgymnasticschamps.com.au

Gymnastics Australia report that we will officially find out our Rio Olympics artistic representative at the conclusion of the championships (tumbling, tramp, and rhythmic take place this second week). Here is one of my tweets stating the case for my preferred selection - the tweets after it in my timeline give a bit more context. But as this week proved: the game can go anyone's way on the day.

Thank you for joining me!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

National Championships 2016: Senior Men's & Women's All-Around

Christmas comes but once a year.

Twice, if you're an Australian gymnastics enthusiast.

Friday May 27th saw the first finals night of Senior men and women's artistic gymnastics competition at the 2016 Australian National Gymnastics Championships. Teams battled it out for glory, while individual seniors looked to improve on Wednesday's preliminaries and walk away with the individual all-around title.

Australia is in a tough position this year, qualifying neither a full men's nor a full women's team to the Rio Olympic Games. While this fact hangs over Hisense Arena a little like the creeping Melbourne fog outside, it does not diminish the importance of the event to those athletes seeking valuable podium experience - especially the one female gymnast to be selected as our sole Olympic representative.

The arena this year is resplendent in blue and red, with a proud 'jumbotron' at its centre. It seems all the stops have been pulled out and the atmosphere is more engaging than ever. We had dance-cam and Snapchat filters, post-competition fan photo opportunities and wonderful energy throughout the night. And in lieu of a Gymnastics Australia representative entertaining the crowd before and during competition, we welcome to our humble sidelines the one and only James Sherry, TV presenter and football roving reporter extraordinaire. Sherry was incredibly impressive for someone completely new to gymnastics. He shared delightful moments with gymparents, junior gymmers, and even past and present competitors. Sherry was warm and inquisitive with his guests of all ages, and displayed genuine admiration for the skills on show down on the floor. Having him at this event is a masterstroke - I nicknamed this competition the Sherry With A Twist. ;)

Missing from the championships this year is fan favourite Maryanne Monckton, while junior upstart Emily Whitehead only competed uneven bars. The biggest buzzes were around returned powerhouses Lauren Mitchell and Georgia Godwin (the latter looking to 3-peat), while some new faces set to surprise.

 On the men's side, it was to be an exciting battle for who would step out of the shadow of recently retired Naoya Tsukahara, though missing in action were 2015 crowd-pleasers Clay Stephens and Mitchell Morgans. I was amused to see a competition field with multiple Jakes and Jacks, a Jay, a Joel, two Joshes and a Jordan!

A big shout out to FullGymnastics for uploading videos from the livestream. 

So to the competition proper:

 Two absolute standouts here: Emily Little (WA) for the women, and Christopher Remkes (SA) for the men. Both were in medal form on the apparatus recently, with Little reaching the podium at the Olympic test event and Remkes winning a maiden world cup medal in Doha. Both are explosive and, in training videos, show potential for even more difficulty to be added. They were superb in prelims and even better tonight. Of note is Little's Yurchenko double twist (15.1 total), currently the hardest vault being performed in the women's national program. Little had a slight shuffle backwards on landing that even appears to be hinting at a quarter turn, a clear sign she could be our own McKayla Maroney and make the fabled 2.5 twist vault on home soil. I have heard very strong rumours we could see it as early as Saturday's vault final. She currently tops the standings with this vault.

The next hardest vaults came from unassuming performers Yasmin Collier and Naomi Lee. Lee (ACT) is a great leg gymnast, impressing us later on floor. with big tumbles. Emily's Rio test teammate Rianna Mizzen, usually a bars specialist, is still overcoming injury and was not able to show the Yurchenko double she herself has recently mastered. Rianna went with a simpler full twist as her first vault but a stellar execution score on this and her second vault (9.4 and 9.35!) assured she would stay near the top of the rankings. Teammate Georgia Godwin, also capable of a Yurchenko double, also stayed safe with a full. Australia has a number of female gymnasts with obvious leg power who could in the months and years to come be impressive vault gymnasts in the vein of Little. Things are going in the right direction with the foundations being put in place now at camps - Mizzen, Monckton and Leydin got their harder vaults in fairly short time given the high pressure circumstances of the last 12-18 months -  but it comes a little too late for the Class of 2016.

My knowledge of men's vaults is rather lacking, but there was no denying the stellar effort of Remkes. A huge (and rare) Dragulescu vault landed to his feet wowed the crowd, the sometimes shaky Southstrayan was consistent across the two 6.0 difficulty vaults to rocket up the standings. Sadly he couldn't translate this consistency over to floor. Crowd favourite Scott Brooks (VIC) also showed off a nifty near-stick for 14.766, one of his better scores of the night.

My thoughts with Michael Merceica, who going into this week was 2nd individual reserve for Rio off the back of his performance at the recent test event. Michael was injured mid-parallel bar routine in the qualifying round, landing awkwardly on his hand during a transition and having to be assisted off. He confirmed on Thursday that it was a dislocation, with fractured metacarpal. Michael also stated he was officially having to withdraw from the championships, we wish him the best for a speedy recovery. The highlight of this apparatus in qualifying and the final was the Victorian one-two punch of Luke Wiwatowski and Luke Wadsworth who hit their routines (capped off with neat double pike dismounts) very nicely, sending the home crowd sitting right in front of the apparatus into an absolute frenzy.

I pretty much missed all of high bar unfortunately! I'll be interested to see who this year can out-wow the crowd in the apparatus final given impressive performances in the past by rockstars Tyson Bull and Mitchell Morgans who are absent this year.

On uneven bars, this year it is transplanted Queenslander Larrissa Miller's title to lose. Veteran bars star Olivia Vivian snaps at her heels in most domestic meets but a freak mistiming error on her double front dismount on Wednesday, and a crash landing on her piked jaeger after hitting her feet in this final, have practically counted her out. But she's ok, folks...!
  Miller is far and away the nation's best bars worker. And what work it is - crisp and controlled handstands, impeccable release moves performed inside and outside the bars, and textbook toepoint on her dismount that she stuck cold in the final after shuffling in the prelim. The crowd roared. You can especially see the work that has gone into controlling the final full pirouette before her dismount, no Glasgow nerves here. The best thing about this gymnast is she is always better than her last round of competition. She greatly improved on her 14.650 score from qualifying and we know even better is yet to come.
Rianna Mizzen made an even bigger impression than in last year's title-winning performance and will give Miller a run for her money. A neat worker with great toe-on giant work in the very same vein as Miller, she showed no sign of the nerves that plagued her at the recent Pacific Rim Championships. A stuck dismount sealed the confident showing (14.725). Reigning all-around champ and fellow Queenslander Godwin was shaky in her set that includes some decent Weiler kip work, but only a double pike dismount (12.45). Victorians Munteanu and Whitehead showed off their brave release work, the latter boasting a very cool Markelov.

  Emily Little made a rare bars appearance this year, showing that she's not to be counted out for an all-around role. There were some form errors in her releases but still gutsy work for what is her weakest event (12.425) including the always impressive double layout dismount. I finally got to see the measuring and adjusting hoopla that goes into raising the bars for tall poppy Georgia-Rose Brown, our announcer Ade even saying during warmups on night 1, "This now concludes your warmup... everyone except Georgia Rose." Georgia showed a tidy routine (13.90) that makes the most of her exquisite Russian-esque bodyline, but still a pak salto with some kinks in it like a crease in an elegant ballgown, and a surprisingly stuck double tuck dismount.

Victorian and Queensland men really shine on high bar, and have for several years if past results are anything to go by. Like WA on women's floor, their daring sets them apart on the event. Variations on a double layout dismount (some singles and doubles in the mix) are always incredible to watch. Wiwatowski came off on a missed release but pulled through for an amazing stuck dismount, his difficulty one notch down from the 5.8 he had in qualifying.


Ah, pommel. If beige was an apparatus it would be you. I only really paid vague attention to it during prelims, where Luke Wadsworth suffered a scary fall on his dismount (over-rotating into his head) and Luke Wiwatowski stayed on - remarking after the competition that doing so was his highlight of the meet!

Rings... err.... was a thing that happened. That I can assure you. My watching of it was not. Someone did a really amazing double-double dismount, though, might have been rocking Remkes or bombastic Brooks again!


Lauren Mitchell's post-injury beam routine is dampened but not disappointing. Although a little skittish, she improved from preliminaries where she fell on her two-foot layout, and still rocks a 2.5 wolf turn (twice!)  like she's done it for a hundred years. Her dismount was a BHS-flic-double tuck landed a little squatted, I always worry she has pulled in too close and is going to clock her head on the beam!

Little suffered a fall and was hit with major execution deductions but it was not the worst we have seen from her, and she is always someone keen to improve. I hope one day we get to see the back tuck full she once showed off as a 'muckaround' skill in training. Her WA teammate Yasmin Collier, who is a real treat in the choreography stakes, surprised us all with a back handspring to two layout stepouts, beautifully performed. Mizzen also showed off this skill sequence very nicely too, and had a near-stick on her double tuck dismount to leapfrog Little (13.825). Not so lucky with the same acro sequence was Emma Nedov, favourite to take the beam title after preliminaries with a stunning routine. She added in the extra layout stepout that Maryanne mentioned during Wednesday's livestream, but slipped off clutching the beam and had to settle for 13.425. There is huge score potential, though, if she repeats the routine of this difficulty in the final with the confidence she did on Wednesday.

Godwin showed a decent two-foot layout (from one back handspring and not two these days) and excellent wolf spins, but had form errors in her change leg ring leap and double pike dismount (13.15).


On the men's side, head and shoulders above his competitors is teeny tiny Chris Remkes. He performed much better in qualifying with 6.6 difficulty (13.233) but couldn't repeat it in this all-around final, crashing out badly on his unique 'triple double' opening pass - yes, a double layout somersault with THREE twists! He bounced back with nice arabian work (tucked and piked) but there were some form errors throughout that hamper him, ending with 12.60. A few fellas came unstuck in their twisting work, and it will be interesting to see routine composition once roll-out skills are done away with. Costin, Wadsworth and Wiwatowski all kept their nerve to each score above 14.1, at one point Wiwa showed a double arabian with so much extra bounce I thought he was going to launch into an immediate extra front tuck!

The women's floor rotation was the blue ribbon event here, with the return of Lauren Mitchell drawing in much of the crowd. But alongside her were WA compatriot Little who has shown spectacular form recently with her new-look routine, world championship finallist Miller, reigning all-around winner Godwin, and upstarts Paige James, Naomi Lee and Alex Eade.

The absolute highlight outside the the actual routines was the WAIS team. Standing in the corners adjacent to the stands, they cheered for every girl's performance, and none were louder than head women's coach Martine George. Along with Stacey Umeh and competitor Olivia Vivian, they were getting the crowd involved from rotation start to rotation end, following every beat to one another's music and all heartily joining in the "HOO-WUH!!" vocalisation and claps in Emily Little's routine.

Mitchell again has had to show a modified routine due to injury rehab, but for the second time in as many years her performance made me utter "WHAT injury?!?" Still performing to hip-hop strings, she showed a powerful piked full-in to open (couldn't quite hit a fully-splitted jump on landing) and double back tuck and pike, the latter landed a little low. Her London Olympic teammate Little performed her fun new floor that wowed the crowd recently at Pacific Rim. Although still some form errors, there is no denying her explosive power. Her piked full-in is almost back to fully laid out, and she backs it up with a great tucked one straight afterward. No cold sticks tonight, but an engaging routine that gets serious air (13.650).

Beam queen Nedov showed a little anxiousness tonight, hugely under-rotating her opening tsukahara and closing double pike, putting her hands (and almost her face) down on the mat on both. I am pleased to observe though that they have worked on the volume of the wailing vocals in her music, it is obviously much quieter now at its peak - to the relief of the stadium sound guys, I am sure! Georgia Godwin was also unable to replicate her prelims performance, sitting down her opening punch double front but staying strong to get great height in her back double tuck (very open, like Kytra Hunter) and double pike for just 12.4. Errors aside, her wolf spins are so smooth, she would make a tremendous figure skater!

Larrissa Miller (14.4) showed the delightful form that made her a world finallist in 2014, her evocative dance combined with neat difficult tumbles thrilled the crowd. Who doesn't love a front lay to double front performed like it's ballet? Expect her to medal this weekend, and to be top of the candidate list for Rio. Test Event teammate Brown showed one of her best floor performances yet as well, with more air and stamina than ever in her 2.5 twist and stuck double tuck, her unique dance elegance showing up well on the 'big stage'.

The standout floors came from some dark horse gymnasts. Alexandra Eade (13.050) has gone from shy, small junior to explosive and mature senior. Her salsa-inspired routine had the crowd grinning, and not just because she showed off the only double layout of the women's competition. Like a Joura or a Slater of years past, she shows great expression in her face as well as her dance and will be a real asset to floor lineups of the future. Even more so is ACT's Naomi Lee. Lee, like Eade, always seemed shrimpy and shy. This nationals was a wonderful deb ball for her! I mentioned her vault above, and her floor was pretty remarkable too. While performing to "Fire and Ice" made famous by Monette Russo (who was in the house), Lee showed off a dainty double arabian and thrilling triple twist. An out of bounds and some execution deductions held her back, but the potential is amazing.
  And then there's Paige James from WAIS who has been on my radar for over 2 years now. The only indigenous Australian female senior, Paige showed great firepower in a routine much improved from prelims for 12.225. A speedy full twist through to triple twist and double back tuck were the highlight, ongoing injury recovery meaning her third pass was just a laid out punch front. But like Little and Eade, she really got the crowd clapping along.

Mizzen sealed the deal in her final rotation. Although her score couldn't beat Little or Brown, her ground had been made up on beam and bars, and she capitalised on the errors of Nedov and Godwin to take the lead for her first national all-around title. I'm sure it will not be the last. She showed the fantastic form she had already shown in the Pacific Rim team trial, with wolf spins to rival Godwin and tidy tumbling. Her strengths are intelligently nurtured by her coaches and she put behind her all the errors from her recent international competitions.

3 - Little
2- Brown (also helped Victorian to team gold)
1 - Mizzen


3- Costin
2 - Wiwatowski
1 - Wadsworth


Congratulations to our senior winners Rianna and Luke, a testament to the strong coaching and development in their respective training centres. Two gymnasts with calm and focussed competition demeanour, I look forward to seeing them in more team lineups in the future. They and all the medallists showed off Australian gymnastics at its best and should be very proud.


  • "I'm fine. [But ] sorry to anyone who had to change their underpants!" - Olivia Vivian, being interviewed after her scary bars fall
  • "ONE! TWO! YES!" - Martine George, counting Emily' Little's wolf spins at the start of her floor routine. Every. Single. Time.
  • "Um, about 6 weeks?" - Small child in the audience picked for one of the gymnastics challenge games, asked how long he has been doing gymnastics
  • Godwin and Darcy Norman shared the cutest high-five/handshake on the team medal dais
  • Georgia-Rose stooping down for photos with shy fans outside the arena was adorable
  • For the love of God please do something about the end part of Kiara's floor music where it fades out quickly, it is SCREAMING for "finishing behind the music" deductions that she doesn't deserve to get.
  • A tweet of mine made the livestream on Wednesday, apparently? Cool.  :)
  • You are damned right I got a selfie with James Sherry