Australia is looking to build on the growing success of its gymnastics team by naming a young squad for the Commonwealth Games.
Monette Russo will head the Australian Gymnastics team in March.
World Championships bronze medallist Monette Russo will lead the women’s team, while triple Commonwealth Games gold medallist Philippe Rizzo will do his best to share his winning ways with the men’s team as the 13-member squad hit the mats in Melbourne.
17-year-old Russo will compete in front of her hometown crowd, looking to continue the form which saw her pick-up an all-round bronze medal at last year’s World Gymnastics Championships.
She also made Australian history when she reached the finals on balance beam, floor and uneven bars – the first time an Australian gymnast had made three individual apparatus finals.
Russo will be joined in the women’s artistic team by the rising stars of Australian gymnastics, all of whom will make their Commonwealth Games debut, including Queensland teenager Chloe Sims, who won four gold medals at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Bendigo in 2004.
Australia Commonwealth Games Association CEO Perry Crosswhite said programs had been put in place to boost the national gymnastics team were paying off, and he expected Australia’s outstanding women’s performance from the last two Games to continue.
“Our Target 2006 program, implemented in 2003, has played an important part in the development of this team,” he said. “Particularly in the women’s artistic program, where the Commonwealth Youth Games has provided an opportunity for the likes of Chloe Sims to experience international competition.”
The men’s team features the same group that represented Australia at the World Championships last year at Rod Laver Arena, including all-around finalist Josh Jefferis, high bar finalist Damian Istria and pommel horse finalist Prashanth Sellathurai.
“Hosting the world championships at Rod Laver Arena last year also provided a boost to our gymnasts as they demonstrated the huge advances they have made over the past four years,” Mr Crosswhite said.
Manchester triple gold medallist Philippe Rizzo, who won in the pommel, parallel bars and high bar apparatus events, will also line up with the men’s team that is a strong chance of winning its first team gold in Melbourne.
Rizzo tops the list of winners from Australia’s 18 individual discipline golds, with his triple haul in Manchester starting him as the favourite for the individual all-around title, an event an Australian has have captured only once.
The rhythmic team contains three members who competed in the 2005 World Championships and is lead by 2005 Australian champion Amy Khera.
Kasumi Takahashi has been Australia’s sole gold medallist in the rhythmic events, her sole Games appearance in 1994 netting a superb personal total of five gold and one silver medal.
Twenty gold medals will be up for grabs – 14 in the artistic disciplines (8 for men and 6 for women) and six in the rhythmic competitions, which are only for women.
A gold medal will be in all three sections for team performance, which also acts as qualification for the individual apparatus.
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.
The Australian Gymnastics team includes:
Women's Artistic: Ashleigh Brennan, Hollie Dykes, Chloe Sims, Naomi Russell, Monette Russo.
Men's Artistic: Damian Istria, Josh Jefferis, Sam Offord, Philippe Rizzo, Prashanth Sellathurai.
Rhythmic: Naazmi Johnston, Amy Khera, Kimberley Mason.
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