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Russo Reflects on Career, Retirement
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Australian world medalist Monette Russo, who last week announced her decision to retire from international competition, said she plans to stay involved in the sport.
Monette Russo

Russo, 18, told IG she is retiring because of the fractured tibia that kept her out of the 2006 World Championships.

"I did not officially make the decision to retire until last week, but after my leg was not getting any better after six months, that kind of made my decision for me," Russo said. "This is the second time my tibia cracked, so I know how long the first one took."

Despite the injury, Russo said the decision to retire was a difficult one.

"It was definitely not an easy decision—it still is not," she said. "I wake up each day still thinking it is time to go to training! I really miss my gym 'sisters,' they are my best friends. I am looking forward to this next chapter in my life and finally finishing high school. My parents struggled with this I think more than I did, but they finally said, 'Just make a decision—we will support what ever you decide,' because they saw how divided I was."

Russo had a break-out performance at the 2003 World Championships in Anaheim, where she helped Australia take home the team bronze, its first women's world medal. Individually she finished 12th all-around and eighth on balance beam.

She was a member of Australia's eighth-place team at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. At the 2005 World Championships in Melbourne, she won the all-around bronze and the Longines "Prize of Elegance" award.

"After 2005 Worlds I felt very proud of my accomplishments and did not know if I could top that," she said. "I am seeing how hard this group of girls on the national team is working and I did not know if I could catch up. They look really good."

Australian coach Peggy Liddick said she was not surprised by Russo's decision.

"Monette had been mulling over this decision for a year now," Liddick said. "I told her to take her time and make sure it is what she really wants. This sport is too hard to be in it half-heartedly."

Russo said she is proud of the relationships she has with her personal coaches, Misha Barabach and Tracey Penaluna, and Liddick.

"I hope to have them continue to influence me in the future," said Russo, who is now helping coach at the Victorian Institute of Sport, where she trained.

Liddick said she hopes Russo, who will graduate from high school in December, will consider competing for an American university.

"We will miss her huge smile in the gym," Liddick said. "She was always ready to train and gave 100 percent all the time. She has a great rapport with the rest of the national team and was a great leader. I will definitely be having her serve some sort of mentoring role in the future. Unfortunately, her ankles and knees succumbed to the rigors of gymnastics training and ultimately, would not let her continue."

Russo said she can retire knowing she fulfilled her goals, but hopes she will be remembered for more than her many achievements.

"I am proud to be an Olympian—this is something that I will have for the rest of my life, a special club," Russo told IG. "It was something I told my Mum I wanted when I was 6 years old. I hope I am remembered for not only what I accomplished in the gym for Australia, but also for how much I really love gymnastics. Just because I am not going to compete anymore has not changed my love for the sport."

International Gymnast Magazine's related features:
Russo on cover, "Russo's World" (interview) - March 2006
"Smooth Transition" - Russo interview - April 2005

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