There has been much discussion and speculation as to the direction and the possibilities for the Australian women’s gymnastics program and this has only intensified in the lead up to and in the wake of the Commonwealth Games.
In both 2006 and 2010, Australia walked away with the major medals at the Commonwealth Games, namely the team and all-around gold. Lauren Mitchell, in 2010, set the bar incredibly high, guiding the team to gold before individually taking three gold and one silver. In 2010 in particular though, the competition wasn’t the same. The world championships were mere weeks away and a lot of the other major competitors (most notably from England) were not present.
It was known from the outset however that 2014, with the competition in Glasgow, would be different. The competition would be stronger, the race for the medals invariably tighter. We saw the European team silver medalists, Great Britain (although competing under England at the Commonwealth Games) come into the competition as hot favourites. If anyone was going to challenge them, it seemed it would be the Canadians, who only two years ago, had their highest ever team finish at the Olympic games. The Australians were (and this was stated by head coach Peggy Liddick) ranked third coming into Glasgow.
When the team was announced on the final night of competition of the Australian National Championships back in April, it was met with some confusion. The standard and expected configuration for a five-person team is three all- arounders and two event specialists. Although this is not set in stone and was perhaps always going to be different for the Australian team, the decision to send one all-arounder and four event specialists was a surprise. Also raising a few eyebrows was the decision to leave newly crowned national champion, Georgia Godwin off the team.
So in light of the results of the Commonwealth Games, did Peggy make the right decision in selecting the team? Did the Australians maximise their medal potential? The speculation continues.
With the exception of Godwin and considering the question over her injury status at the time, the Australian’s did not leave many higher scores at home. The irony however does exist in that Georgia-Rose Brown (who was injured and unable to compete on night two at nationals) was selected over Godwin who although perhaps was coming back from injury, was able to compete. However, if you consider the most recent international competitions, it would have seemed that Brown was on this rise, performing more and more consistently culminating in a strong Pacific Rim performance at which Godwin did not compete. The last time that Godwin and Brown went head to head was night one of nationals in which Brown was stronger on three of four events and was over 1.5 points clear all around. However Godwin’s best all-around score of 55.8 does outscore Brown’s best of 55.5 (although it is worth noting that either of these scores at the CWG would have been enough for a silver medal.)
So could we have gained an all around medal with the inclusion of Godwin? Mathematically yes (but a mistake free Brown could have also taken a medal), although Godwin’s consistency would certainly have been tested. However perhaps it was Peggy’s intention to leave the reasonably inexperienced Godwin at home with more time to prepare for worlds?
Godwin could also have been handy would have been beam, with a 6.1 difficulty score, especially considering Australia’s mistakes on beam, once again assuming that she too wouldn’t have succumbed to any mistakes. If Australia were to take Godwin, then who could be considered to be have been left off the team? In terms of targeting the event finals, Australia selected three national champions in Larrissa Miller (bars), Mary-Anne Monckton (beam) and Lauren Mitchell (floor) and this selection paid off with all three winning individual silvers on their title events. Realistically speaking there was no one left at home who could have toppled these results.
Theoretically (at least before the competition) it could have been Olivia Vivian who was left behind as she was the second best bar worker at nationals but was not pulling in the biggest of numbers on the other events. Although she didn’t make any individual finals however, Vivian did pull a surprise start in the all-around, finishing 5th final ahead of Brown. However, the possibility exists that what the team would lose on bars without Vivian, Godwin could make up on floor, beam and vault. It must also be considered however, that Godwin did not have strong final performances on beam and bars so none of these potential results are definite.
The only other two gymnasts who may have been able to put themselves in contention for selection were second and third placing at nationals, Maddie Leydin and Kiara Munteanu. Leydin, who had a decent showing at nationals had battled throughout the year with injuries and should definitely be considered too under done to be selected. Munteanu, who has shown extraordinary growth and improvement in her international competitions this year, was still lacking that consistency to back a decision to put her on the team. Both, however, should be long term considerations for future national teams and as such were named alternates. But would they have contributed better number and in turn better results for Australia? It would seem unlikely.
So, did Peggy get it right? Were four silvers the best Australia could have achieved in Glasgow? With the possible exception of a very in form and solid Georgia Godwin performance in the all-around (which may have snuck a medal over at least Hannah Whelan), the answer appears to be yes.
Australia’s outstanding bar and solid vault rotation along with a few key performances on beam and floor rewarded them with a silver medal over a very strong Wales and a struggling Canada.
But a perfect Georgia Godwin in the place of any of the girls would not have bridged the gap left by a far too strong English team. As for event finals, our three national champions won three silver medals and I very much doubt anyone left in Australia could have topped that.
This is not to say however that this is a long-term solution to Australian team selections. Although we fear for the time it actually comes, there will be a day when Lauren Mitchell is unavailable for selection and Miller and Vivian will not be around forever either.
The future is in Munteanu, Leydin and Godwin with Monckton and Brown still pushing for some more solid years on the team.
If Liddick picked this team with consideration of both the best possible results but also allowing the younger girls more time to prepare for worlds (and Australia arrives at worlds with upgraded, stronger routines) then the decision will have paid off. If they arrive in Nanning with the exact same team, it could prove detrimental in the long run.
But, whilst the hypotheticals could be debated all day, it certainly appears that Australia’s Commonwealth Games results, although not as strong as previous years, were most likely the best achievable for the team at this stage.
How this meet sets up the team for worlds in October and the next two years after that, only time will tell.
Article by: Tracy B
Photo Cover: Georgia Rose Brown by Michelle Webb