Gymnasts from Australia and New Zealand will get their shot at qualifying to the Olympic Games this Friday via the Oceania Championships in Gold Coast, held in conjunction with Australia’s national championships.
The region has one Olympic berth available for both men’s and women’s competitors, with the top-ranked all-around gymnasts in each field earning the continental quota spots. Both Australia and New Zealand will send men’s competitors, but only Australia has opted to send a women’s team, meaning the Australian women are guaranteed to send a second athlete to Tokyo, after Georgia Godwin previously qualified an individual berth at the 2019 world championships in Stuttgart.
Veteran Georgia-Rose Brown, a three-time Commonwealth Games medalist and member of four world championships teams since her senior debut in 2011, will headline Australia’s team, which also includes 2018 Commonwealth Games vault bronze medalist and 2018 worlds team member Emily Whitehead, 2020 Melbourne World Cup finalist Breanna Scott, and 2020 Gymnix beam silver medalist Kate McDonald, with Macy Pegoli serving as the reserve gymnast.
Brown is most capable of earning the Olympic spot based on this group of athletes. An alternate for Australia’s Olympic team in 2012 and one of the hopefuls for her country’s individual spot four years later, Brown has been fighting for her chance at the Games for nearly a decade, so if all goes according to plan, it will be incredibly satisfying to see her finally get there, but Whitehead – who has been out of competition for two years due to a back injury and then the COVID-19 hiatus, is a strong all-arounder in her own right and could present a big challenge if she’s back to full strength.
The Australian men’s team includes three-time world championships competitor Mitchell Morgans, 2018 Commonwealth Games finalist and 2019 worlds team member Michael Tone, University of Illinois student athlete and two-time worlds competitor Clay Mason Stephens, and 2019 world junior championships athlete Jesse Moore making his senior international debut here. The four will compete against Mikhail Koudinov, a 2016 Olympian who has represented New Zealand at every Commonwealth Games since 2006.
Morgans is generally known more for his work on parallel bars and high bar, but he’s had some relatively strong all-around performances over the years, with his scores on par with both Koudinov and Tone. We also haven’t seen Mason Stephens in the all-around since 2018 due to a knee injury, and Moore hasn’t been on the international scene at all since he was a junior, but the Mason Stephens won the trial competition for this meet, while Moore was leading the competition until he had two falls on high bar, so I’m anticipating an exciting and potentially close competition for the men.
Currently, Australia has one MAG athlete expected to compete in Tokyo, as Tyson Bull earned a spot based on his high bar performance at the 2019 world championships, but no New Zealanders have qualified at this point.
Oceania Championships for both men and women will take place on Friday, May 21, with the Olympic qualifier being held concurrently with Australia’s senior national qualifications. Australian Championships will then continue with finals on Sunday, May 23. No streaming is available at this time, but we’ll update with the competition results as well as the names of the athletes who will compete at the Olympic Games as soon as this information is available.
Article by Lauren Hopkins