Australia’s ‘lost generation’ of gymnasts

Australians, including Monette Russo, Chloe Sims and Hollie Dykes, were victorious at the 2006 Commonwealth Games. None of the three are still competing as the Beijing Olympics loom.

In the wake of 2006 Commonwealth Games Champion Chloe Sims’ unexpected retirement last week, Australia is taking a closer look at its gymnastics program.

Case in point: An article in this morning’s Courier Mail.

In the past 18 months there has been a record 15 supremely talented teenagers, including seven Queenslanders, who have left Olympic-level programs only months from Beijing.

The shock retirement this week of Queensland’s Chloe Sims makes her the latest elite gymnast who has turned her back with the ultimate prize in sight.

Most of the gymnasts have retired because of mental and/or physical burnout as well as a heavy injury toll, pressure to be thin, limited financial reward and a lack of enjoyment.

…Queensland’s former Olympic squad members Sims, Alyce Arrowsmith, Kayla Winch, Jasmine Webb and Hollie Dykes, who moved to Canberra about eight years ago to train at the AIS, and AIS-based Hayley Wright are among the exodus.

“Something must be going wrong – everyone is getting injured, everyone is retiring,” Arrowsmith said.

“All the people I trained with, all the people I competed against – it’s like the lost generation, we were one of the best groups.”

Many similiar articles have been written in the United States, the U.K. and Romania. But it’s still shocking that Dykes and Sims, who both seemed to have legitimate shots at an Olympic Games, chose to retire less than six months before the Games. Do you agree with the theory that they just didn’t want to know whether or not they were good enough? Or is it something else?

Chloe Sims, 2007 World Championships Prelims, Floor Exercise:

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4 Responses to “Australia’s ‘lost generation’ of gymnasts”

  1. Diana Says:

    I think this happens to alot of big programs after success at the begging.
    example: Romania after 76 a communist gov saw a chance at major propaganda and completely altered the way its gymnasts trained and put more pressure on them.This also happened with the US after 84 when there were so many injuries and eating disorders were pretty much ignored so we could pump out “the next Mary Lou”

  2. mez Says:

    Hi again.

    This is being discussed on several web spaces at the moment. The general concensus is that Peggy Liddick’s time is up. Her work ethic is clearly doing more harm than good to the athletes.

    I don’t believe it’s that the gymnasts “don’t want to hear the truth” about their progress. One of the major factors is that there is little incentive to continue with the sport in this country. There is no equivalent NCAA here. No endorsement deals, sponsorships or products in general thrown at them (many would kill for Shawn Johnson’s lifestyle I am sure). Nothing to make it exciting. Short of judging or coaching, they get little for what they do. Even when they medal (the girls got several golds at Melbourne’s Commonwealth Games, and Philippe Rizzo was a World Champion but they have little to nothing to show for it in regards to commercial success). Furthermore, it’s frustrating to read that Peggy Liddick thinks that ‘the fun’ is only in ‘the winning’ or succeeding. Clearly there are enjoyable times in between, Peggy?

    Many of the State WAG programs work their gymnasts too hard, or at the very least in a manner unbecoming of an efficient sports program. It was brought to light this morning that in Western Australia (where Dasha Joura/Lauren Mitchell/Olivia Vivian/Allana Slater hail from) the number of elites at the state’s Training Centre is relatively small, therefore the coaches can successfully work with the athletes individually. There also seems to be a more easy-going, positive atmosphere at the centre. They’re an example for the other State Training Centres to follow but for some reason they all choose not to take heed.

    The Queensland program (the focus of this article) is rather suspect, given all the retirements. I don’t know the full story there but I know they’ve got problems. The AIS is notorious for gymnasts with short-lived, injury-riddled careers. Beautiful but broken ballerinas. As the primary sports/athletic institute in the country, representatives of AIS have a very prestigious reputation to uphold but in the gymnastics sector they don’t quite go about it the right way. After allegations of abuse over a decade ago from the coach who was head of WAG before Peggy came in, they’re not doing themselves a lot of favours. It’s often noted that the AIS girls have lovely technique and execution in skills (ballet lessons are core elements of the training at the centre) but few “daring” elements or “x-factor” aspects to their routines.

    We also believe the AIS have “gag orders” and confidentiality agreements with several of the gymnasts and their families; hence they cannot (or do not) always speak with the media, at all or in detail. Note that Hollie is not actually ‘quoted’ in the Courier Mail article.

    Anyway, just thought I’d help flesh things out a bit. πŸ™‚

    That this now comes up after the Jennifer Sey hoo-ha is a bit of a shame.

    Regards,

    Meredith
    at the Australian Gymnastics Blog.

    PS: Chloe is capable of slightly better routines than that of Stuttgart. She is usually less erratic and nervous. This was her first big comp since March 06, and Peggy had been criticising her in the media during Nationals so naturally she had a lot to be nervous about. Anyway, check her out on YouTube. It’s a shame to see her go, she had some gutsy skills. She didn’t always appear to be the happiest of individuals but you couldn’t fault her difficulty and power.

  3. lars Says:

    6 months is a long time when you are 15or 16. Maybe they just couldn’t hack half a year more of training, fatigue, dieting possibly, failed schooling/education, limited social interaction. Maybe they were too sore to continue wihtout taking drugs. The olympics isn’t everything.

  4. lars Says:

    Sims was amzing though and I lovedher floor routine

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