A member of Australia's Olympic teams before and after the arrival of American-born head coach Peggy Liddick, three-time Olympian Lisa Skinner told IG that Liddick's presence has substantially contributed to Australia's rise in the world rankings.
"Peggy put immediate emphasis on a few particular things," said Skinner of Liddick's move to Australia following the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. "They included much more competition experience for everyone, and a big push, with no leniency, on a consistent execution of routines with higher Start Values. Most importantly, she generated actual confidence in the fact that Australia could realistically move up the ranks."
Skinner said Liddick and "a team of fantastic coaches and fantastic gymnasts" combined to stimulate a surge in success for the Australian team in the following decade.
"Collectively, these things seemed to spark a change in the direction that Australian gymnastics was headed," said Skinner, who retired after the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
Australia achieved its best Olympic finish (sixth) at the 2008 Games in Beijing, and its best world championships finish (third) at the 2003 Worlds in Anaheim. Top individual performances include Monette Russo's all-around bronze at the 2005 Worlds, and Lauren Mitchell's silver medals on balance beam and floor exercise at the 2009 Worlds.
At this fall's world championships in Rotterdam, the team will begin its quest to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in London. The top 24 teams will advance to the 2011 Worlds in Tokyo, where the top eight teams will qualify for London. Four additional teams will qualify closer to the Games.
Skinner said maintaining a place at the top of the sport is a challenge for all teams, not only Australia.
"I think nowadays even the best sometimes have a hard time staying up there," Skinner told IG. "All you can do is continually provide people with the belief and fight to achieve their real potential, not only in competitions, but every day in training, That is where I believe things really count."
Read "Third Wind," a profile on Skinner, in the June/July 2003 issue of International Gymnast magazine. To order back issues or subscribe to IG Magazine, click here.