Canadian Gymnastics organisers have wrapped up Commonwealth Games selection trials in Ontario, Calgary and Montreal by nominating a skilled team for Melbourne, looking to continue the strong tradition of medal success for Canadian teams in both Artistic and Rhythmic competition.
Alexandra Orlando of Toronto will lead the Rhythmic Gymnastics team, looking to repeat the success of the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Games, when the event was last contested, in which Canadian Erika Leigh Stirton took home five golds and helped her colleagues to a silver medal in the Team Event.
Orlando, 19, posted four victories in the Elite Canada competition doubling as the Games selection trials, winning in Rope at 14.575 points, Clubs at 14.175 and Ball at 15.000, after picking up the All Round win.
‘’I was most satisfied with my rope win," Orlando said. "It was my weakest event in the All Round competition and I came back today with an extremely clean routine one of my best in awhile. I’m excited about going to the Games and I know there’ll be a big pressure to win because Canada will be one of the favourites."
But Montreal’s Yana Tsikaridze denied Orlando a golden sweep, winning the Ribbon competition at 15.025.
Orlando, Tsikaridze and Carly Orava of Toronto will be nominated to the team for the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games by Gymnastics Canada Gymnastique.
Orlando’s coach Mimi Masleva was also announced as the Commonwealth Games team coach.
The Men’s Artistic Team, which took home silver in the team event in Manchester, will aim to better its efforts in Melbourne and knock off the strong British team and all other challengers to claim prime position on the medal podium.
The five member team includes four gymnasts from Calgary, led by Grant Golding, who will make his third Games appearance after finishing first in the All Round competition at the Commonwealth Games team trials.
Golding’s two-day total score of 177.40 points edged out Nathan Gafuik of Calgary, who came second with 176.20. Adam Wong of Calgary fills the third slot at 174.70 and David Kikuchi of Halifax came in fourth at 173.00.
Olympic champion Kyle Shewfelt of Calgary will have a chance to defend his two gold medal wins from Manchester, grabbing the fifth spot on the team for his outstanding performances on Floor and Vault and also posting the second best score on High Bar.
Men’s high performance director for Gymnastics Canada Gymnastique, Jeff Thomson said the team for Melbourne looked extremely strong.
"The guys didn’t miss anything," he said. "There’s a lot of experience and the younger guys like Nathan and Adam showed once again they belonged to compete alongside the very best."
And in the Women’s Artistic trials, Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs completed her first All Round competition since October and placed first
Hopfner-Hibbs, who enjoyed a breakthrough season internationally by finishing 10th on Bars at the 2005 World Championships before suffering from an injury late in the year which left her unable to complete her floor routine, placed first in the Trials rankings with 71.050 points.
Alyssa Brown was second at 68.700, while Gael Mackie was third, ahead of Brittney Habbib and Jenna Kerbis, with all five earning a nomination to the team.
"It feels great to make the team," Hopfner-Hibbs said. "I’ve worked really hard especially with the new code of points. It’s not so much the new code is challenging but we were interested to see how it would all play out."
The code of points describes the scoring in Gymnastics and is usually changed after an Olympic Games.
Brown, who finished second, was tied with Hopfner-Hibbs after the opening round of competition, and said the Games was a big step forward.
"Except for the beam, my second day was a lot better and I was really pleased to see my vault routine go so well," she said. "We don’t have any major events until the Games so there’s some time to fine tune our routines."
Gymnastics will kick off at the Rod Laver Arena with competition in the team Artistic events from 16 – 18 March, before apparatus finals on 20 – 21 March and Rhythmic competition from 24 – 26 March.
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