Peggy Liddick plans to step down after 20 years as head coach of Australia's women's team, the Australian gymnastics federation announced Wednesday. Pictured: Lauren Mitchell and Liddick celebrate Mitchell's gold medal on floor exercise at the 2010 World Championships
Peggy Liddick plans to step down after 20 years as head coach of Australia's women's team, the Australian gymnastics federation announced early Wednesday.
The American-born Liddick has declined to renew her contract with Gymnastics Australia (GA), which expires at the end of 2016. Her replacement has not yet been announced.
"Now is the right time for me to step aside, both personally and professionally," Liddick said. "It's the start of the new Olympic cycle, my successor will have almost four years to prepare the Women's Team for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and I will do my utmost to assist in a smooth transition."
Liddick, a former gymnast at the University of Nebraska, moved to Australia following the 1996 Olympic Games, after helping coaching Shannon Miller to multiple world and Olympic medal.
During Liddick's tenure in Australia, the Australian women rose to become one of the top teams in the world, making team and individual finals at numerous world championships and Olympic Games. Australian gymnasts dominated several Commonwealth Games with four consecutive team golds. At the 2003 world championships, the team made history by winning the bronze medal in the team final. Two years later, Monette Russo won the all-around bronze medal at the world championships. In 2009, Lauren Mitchell won two silver medals (balance beam and floor exercise), and in 2010 became world champion on floor. Australian gymnasts have also won numerous World Cup medals.
"It's been an absolute privilege to have served as National Coach and to have worked with so many talented and committed Australian gymnasts, coaches and judges," Liddick said. "I will always cherish the fond memories and close friendships I have formed with the gymnastics community here in Australia and wish them continued success in the future. I have also been delighted by the extraordinary growth in participant numbers for gymnastics across Australia over the last 20 years. That growth will provide a great foundation for success at the elite level."
Liddick's departure comes after a tough year for Australian gymnastics. Struggling with injuries, in April the team came up short at the Olympic qualifier, failing to qualify a full team to the Olympic Games for the first time since 1988. In June, the Western Australian Institute of Sport in Perth announced it was closing down its gymnastics program. A few weeks ago, GA announced it would step in to save gymnastics at WAIS, and has applied for state funding to run elite programs.
GA is still in the process of recruiting a new head coach, but plans to retain Liddick in an advisory role to benefit Australian gymnastics, said Mark Rendell, chief executive office of GA.
"Peggy has made an outstanding contribution to Women’s Artistic Gymnastics in this country," Rendell said. "The sport is indebted to Peggy for her achievements, her professionalism and her commitment as National Coach."
On Monday, GA announced that Sam McKay had been selected as its new president, replacing Jacqui Weatherill, who will remain on the board of directors.
"Our sport has over 180,000 registered participants – a rise of 150 percent since the Sydney Olympics," McKay said. "We need to build on that success and become a consistent contender for Olympic medals. Gymnastics in this country will soon be ready to announce a new growth strategy based on the findings of a comprehensive review of our high-performance program for elite athletes commissioned by the GA board mid-year. We want to ensure that our elite gymnasts have the support they need to compete effectively on the international stage."
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