The women’s artistic gymnastics competition at the 2014 Commonwealth Games begins tomorrow, July 28, with the vault and uneven bars qualifications at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow, Scotland.
After their utter domination in New Delhi four years ago, Australia is back with a team of veterans, all of whom have either competed at the Olympic Games (Olivia Vivian in 2008, Larrissa Miller in 2012, and both years in the case of Lauren Mitchell) or been named Olympic alternates (Georgia Rose Brown and Mary-Anne Monckton).
The team also boasts years of World Championship and other international experience, and everyone on it has looked strong so far in 2014. What’s interesting is that it’s a team almost entirely comprised of specialists; though Brown and Vivian are expected to compete in the all-around, each athlete is known more for her strength on individual events. Mitchell has a serious beam routine that could easily win gold if she hits, Vivian’s bars are gorgeous, Miller will showcase tremendous bars and a strong floor, Monckton has a clean FTY and a very strong beam, and Brown is solid across the board, but stands out on bars and floor. Basically, there is a ton of potential here for individual medals in addition to a likely strong team performance.
Being that the 2010 Commonwealth Games were held two weeks before World Championships, other top-performing nations like England and Canada sent B-teams in order to save their strongest athletes for Rotterdam, leaving Australia – who used their best athletes for both meets back-to-back – to come away with a landslide victory, including team gold and eight individual medals.
This year, however, won’t be as easy, even with the stellar team they’ve assembled, as England and Canada are also sending their big guns.
The English team sends two-time Olympian Hannah Whelan, 2008 Olympian and 2014 British beam champion and silver all-around/bars medalist Becky Downie, 2014 British bronze all-around/bars and silver vault medalist Claudia Fragapane, 2014 English all-around and bars champion Ruby Harrold, and 2014 British vault champion Kelly Simm.
Though they are without this year’s British all-around champion Rebecca Tunney, it remains an incredibly strong team, especially on bars and beam – meaning they will go head-to-head with the Australians here in apparatus finals. A beam final battle between the 23-year-old Mitchell and 22-year-olds Downie and Whelan would be a great testament to the longevity of these athletes, all three of whom competed in Beijing six years ago and remain at the top of their game today. Downie and Harrold should also impress greatly on bars, while Fragapane and Simm could challenge for medals on vault.
2012 Olympian and 2014 Canadian national all-around champion Ellie Black leads the Canadian team, one that’s less experienced overall but boasts great talent on vault and floor. In addition to Black, 2014 Canadian silver vault/floor medalist Maegan Chant, 2014 Canadian balance beam champion and silver all-around/bars medalist Isabela Onyshko, and 2014 Canadian bronze beam/floor medalist Stefanie Merkle round out the team initially sent to compete.
Earlier this week, when 2012 Olympian and 2014 Canadian floor champion Victoria Moors was dismissed from the team, 2013 Gymnix all-around champion Victoria-Kayen Woo was named in her place. Between Black, Chant, and Merkle on vault and floor and Onyshko and Woo on bars and beam, the team is relatively well-balanced, though they are also very young and I think it would take their best outing to compare to the experience of the powerhouse English and Australian teams.
Individually, however, Black should be hard to contend with on vault, and could also win the all-around title pretty handily on a good day. Onyshko could also challenge for an all-around medal (though she might struggle to stand out in the bars and beam finals among the English and Australians), while Chant should make an impression on vault and floor.
Outside of the big three, I’m really excited to see what the Welsh team can accomplish. It’s easily the strongest team to come out of Wales in recent memory…Raer Theaker and Georgina Hockenhull are coming off of a very successful British Championships, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hockenhull perform well in bars/beam finals.
Host team Scotland may also have some good moments, as Emma White – who became 2014 Scottish all-around champion at 24! – could make it to vault finals, and I’d love to see her young teammate Erin McLachlan join her in the all-around finals.
It will also be interesting to see what the young New Zealand team can do. They’ve had a pretty traumatic week, first dealing with the hospitalization of Anna Tempero, who underwent surgery due to a knee infection when they arrived. Miraculously, Tempero is already fit to compete, though unfortunately they’ve now lost Courtney McGregor, the brilliant vaulter who took home a silver medal on the event at Pac Rims with her brand new DTY, the most difficult vault ever competed by a kiwi gymnast.
Though they’ve lost a huge medal opportunity here, still be on the lookout for the young ladies who have worked tremendously hard to build this program from the ground up. They do have some potential to qualify into the all-around final, including from Brittany Robertson, the steady Mackenzie Slee, and Charlotte Sullivan, who should also make the beam and/or floor finals if she hits in qualification. I believe at this point, Tempero will only compete bars.
Also keep an eye out for Northern Ireland’s India McPeak, Singapore’s Heem Wei Lim and Joey Tam, South Africa’s Kirsten Beckett, India’s Dipa Karmakar, Isle of Man’s Tara Donnelly, and Malaysia’s Farah Ann Abdul Hadi.
In addition to McGregor and Moors, Malaysia’s Natasha Ilana Devaraj has also withdrawn from the competition this weekend. No replacement has been named.
Subdivision start list line-ups were released today, and you can follow the action live via the Commonwealth Games YouTube channel. Also, don’t miss a thing from The Gymternet’s coverage of the Games! Keep an eye on our complete coverage page for news, features, analysis, and more!
Before we go, enjoy some photos of podium training!
Such a gorgeous color for the English ladies!
A bit more of England at podium training
Canada looking lovely in purple
A lovely shot of Canada training on beam…digging those tartan pants!
The Welsh team…everyone’s leo game was ON POINT today.
Loving this sporty Adidas look from the Malaysian team…Farah Ann Abdul Hadi is an Adidas ambassador!
Green and white unite! The Northern Ireland team with the South Africans.
The Isle of Man team matching the arena
Lone competitor from the Cayman Islands Bethany Dikau trains on bars
The Cayman Islands represent!
Article by Lauren Hopkins