Australian national team head coach Peggy Liddick told IG that, while defending senior all-around champion Madelaine Leydin is not at full strength, several gymnasts should contend for titles at the Australian championships that begin Thursday in Melbourne.
"Honestly, it will be a challenge for Maddi to retain her title," said Liddick of Leydin, who has been troubled by a foot injury for the past several months. "I don't expect that she will be at full strength, although she is giving it a good go in training. I would not put that kind of pressure on her, and we spoke about this last week."
Liddick said she still looks for a steady if conservative performance from Leydin in Melbourne.
"I would expect Maddi to debut her new bars routine and perform consistently on the other apparatuses, as best she can, with the limited training she has been forced to do," Liddick said. "I would not risk any further injuries by trying to outperform her limited physical condition."
Two-time Olympian Lauren Mitchell, the 2010 world champion on floor exercise, is expected to compete on three events in Melbourne, Liddick said.
"Lauren is going from strength to strength each week," Liddick said. "I just spent last week with her in Perth and she has surpassed my expectations as to where she is, both physically and performance wise. I would expect her to debut her new beam routine and a world-class floor routine. Her vault is coming back strong as well."
2013 Australian all-around bronze medalist Georgia Godwin has had limited preparation time for the championships since she injured her ankle in training prior to the Jesolo Cup in Italy earlier this year, Liddick said.
"I would not expect Georgia to perform anything that she has not been doing in training, so her difficulty might have to be compromised for safety," Liddick said. ‘We will make that call during the podium training."
Veterans Georgia-Rose Brown, Olivia Vivian and Mary-Anne Monckton should also challenge for top positions, Liddick said.
"Georgia's training has been one of the most consistent," Liddick said of Brown, who placed fifth all-around last year. "She is relatively healthy and I would look for her to have a good nationals."
Liddick said the 24-year-old Vivian, a 2008 Olympian, is looking strong on several apparatuses.
"(Vivian’s) beam is at a 5.9 (Difficult score), and I have recently seen a few very good performances from her on that event during training," Liddick said. "Vault and floor are not her strong points, but she does like to perform them, so she does have all-around potential."
Monckton, the 2012 all-around bronze medalist, is in good form despite a recent health scare, Liddick said.
"Just two weeks ago, Mary-Anne was rushed to the hospital for a near ruptured cyst, not gymnastics related, that had to be removed arthroscopically," Liddick said. "She is back in full training again, and I expect her to shine on beam and vault."
Liddick said 2012 Olympian Larrissa Miller has title-winning potential in Melbourne.
"Larrissa will be performing on two apparatuses, uneven bars and floor," Liddick said. "She has recently added some new skills and combinations to her bars routine, and I would expect her to vie for the bars title. Larrissa will be a contender for the floor title, as well, if she can land all her tumbles cleanly."
Other gymnasts whom Liddick considers leading candidates in Melbourne include Kiara Munteanu, who placed fourth all-around last year; Isis Lowery, who placed ninth all-around in 2012; Emma Jane Nedov, the 2013 gold medalist on balance beam; and Alexandra Eade, the 2011 and 2013 junior all-around champion.
"Kiara could be a contender for the all-around title if she goes clean both rounds of competition," Liddick said. "Isis has been upgrading her difficulty and will be a contender for the vault title. Emma Jane has the potential on beam to be a world-class performer. I know she has had a renewed interest in her training and she hopes this will pay off at nationals. I look for Alex to burst onto the senior scene at nationals, as well, this year."
The championships will also play a strong part in determining the Australian squad that will try to win its fifth consecutive team title at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this summer, Liddick said.
"The Commonwealth Games Association is requiring that the teams be named this early, for logistical reasons as per the Olympics," she said. "I would prefer to wait until the week of the actual competition, but we all have to follow the regulations. The national championships will be a major part of the criteria for selection, along with training camps and verification performances, international competition performances, international ranking and current health status. These are some of the important criteria that will be considered in naming the Commonwealth Games team."
As Liddick prepares to select her team for Glasgow, she is also considering its composition for this fall’s World Championships in Nanning.
"I am mindful of the world championships in October, as well," Liddick told IG. "So I will be considering the correct strategy for injured athletes staying home from the Commonwealth Games and preparing for Worlds in some cases. I have been given directives from my superiors that the team must be named directly after the finals on Sunday (May 25) at the competition. Team, medal chances and health, such as ability to train, will be the main criteria, while their latest competition results will be fresh in my mind."
International Gymnast magazine's recent coverage of Australian gymnasts includes:
Georgia Godwin cover photo (March 2014)
"10 Questions with Olivia Vivian" - interview (March 2011)
"Aussie Long Shot" - Daria Joura profile (July/August 2012)
Peggy Liddick interview (January/February 2011)
"Late Bloomer" - Amelia McGrath profile (October 2010)
"Golden Surprise" - Lauren Mitchell cover story (January/February 2011)
Lisa Skinner chat (September 2010)
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