The Australian and New Zealand women’s teams at Oceania Championships
This weekend, Australia held the Oceania region’s continental championships meet in Carrara, where the women’s team sailed to an easy win while the men had a heart-pounding finish on high bar to defeat a strong New Zealand team by just half a point.
Though the Australian women’s team was without several of its top stars, including 2022 Commonwealth Games all-around champion Georgia Godwin and her 2020 Olympic teammate Emily Whitehead, the women still performed really well here to put up a 156.261, on par with the team’s finish in qualifications at world championships last year.
Led by Kate McDonald and Breanna Scott, both integral members of last year’s world championships and Commonwealth Games teams, the team also showcased first-year senior Ruby Pass, who won the all-around here with a 50.464 while putting up the top scores on vault and floor, along with Kate Sayer, who put up the second-best scores on vault and floor, and Macy Pegoli, who at 21 finally made her international debut in Germany this year and is adding a solid level of depth to the program. Both McDonald and Scott competed three events apiece, with McDonald taking the bars title with a 13.633 while Scott led the field on beam with a 14.133, and they should once again be top choices for the worlds team this year as Australia will hope to qualify a team to the Olympic Games.
It was exciting to see New Zealand with a full team here after sending just individual competitors to major meets over the past five or so years. Last year, only Reece Cobb and Keira Rolston-Larking were representing the country internationally, but this year they added 19-year-old Ava Fitzgerald, who made her elite debut at nationals last summer, first-year senior Ava Baddeley, and Madeleine Marshall, who trains at Tolworth Gymnastics Club in England and made the decision to join the New Zealand squad last year.
Scoring a 139.963, the team wasn’t able to qualify to worlds, but they did lock down two all-around spots. Cobb, who finished second overall with a 47.765, had a clear lead for this squad, but the second spot came down to just one one-thousandth of a point, as Marshall finished with a 44.966 and Rolston-Larking was just behind her with a 44.965. It’s a tough loss for Rolston-Larking, especially because it came down to the issue of scores being truncated at three decimals instead of rounded, the same issue that decided the world all-around title in 2005, but as heartbreaking as this loss is for her, I find it more bittersweet, as the circumstances are a result of added depth to this program that has often struggled to field full teams. I’m bummed for her on the individual level, but happy that New Zealand has been growing its talent pool and hope it’s something we continue to see going into the next quad.
While the men’s team from New Zealand is typically pretty solid, I was definitely not expecting them to come as close to the Australian men as they ended up, especially having finished a full five points back last year. But with Australia missing a few key routines on various apparatuses – like Tyson Bull on high bar and James Bacueti on floor and vault – they were a little behind what they managed to do at this competition last year, giving the kiwi men a bit of a leg up, especially on pommel horse.
At the end of the day, Australia had a slight lead going into high bar, and even it didn’t go perfectly well, they managed to drop a score in the 10s to tie New Zealand exactly on the event, keeping them at the top when all was said and done. This feat was thanks especially to a 13.633 from Heath Thorpe, who also had the top score on floor here with a 13.933 and counted scores on pommels and vault as well, with the men forced to go three-up three-count on the latter. Clay Mason Stephens and James Hardy both competed in the all-around, finishing second and third with scores of 77.998 and 77.531, respectively, while David Tanner had the third-best scores of the meet on rings and parallel bars, and Mitchell Morgans had the second-best score on p-bars, though unfortunately wasn’t at a hundred percent on high bar, where he’s typically a standout.
For New Zealand, it’ll be Mikhail Koudinov and Ethan Dick off to worlds, where Koudinov – who won the Oceania all-around title with an 80.766 in addition to winning p-bars with a 14.7 and high bar with a 13.8 – will hope to qualify to his third Olympic Games at the age of 32. Dick won the pommels title, his younger brother Sam Dick won rings but fell short in the all-around competition due to a rough pommels routine, and William Fu Allen and Daniel Stoddart rounded out the team, with Fu Allen doing some of the team’s best work on floor and vault, while Stoddart counted scores on rings and high bar, where he finished third overall.
Complete results for both the women’s and men’s competitions can be found here. Up next on the continental circuit are the African Championships and the Pan American Championships both held beginning May 26, while the Asian Championships will take place in June.
Article by Lauren Hopkins
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