Silver lining for Australian gymnasts after worst return in 36 years

Australia has been left without a gold medal in gymnastics for the first time in 36 years after England's pocket rocket Claudia Fragapane confirmed herself as one of the superstars of these Commonwealth Games with a fourth gold medal on Friday.

Silver medals to Lauren Mitchell on the floor and Mary-Anne Monckton on the beam added to Australia's collection on the final day of gymnastics competition but their overall medal tally at the Hydro does not make for great viewing.

In Delhi four years ago Australia returned with 12 gold medals - nine in artistic gymnastics, three in the rhythmic format. Glasgow has yielded none, an unwanted record matched only in 1978 when the sport was first introduced to the Commonwealth Games program at Edmonton and had just four events on the program.

England, meanwhile, claimed nine. One of the major contibutors were the dazzling performances of 138cm Fragapane, who by out-scoring Mitchell on the floor on Friday was able to equal the Australian's return of four gold medals in Delhi.

The 16-year-old's jubilant Italian father was seated in the crowd and wore a Ferrari polo shirt. It's safe to say she is going places very fast.

The judges scored Fragapane's brilliant routine 14.541, well ahead of Mitchell's 13.833 and Canada's beam gold medallist Elsabeth Black (13.666), and the Australian 23-year-old was just as impressed.

"Obviously you always hope for gold but Claudia's routine was amazing, and it was 0.8 in front of mine even if I did stay on the floor and did everything. She was just incredible," said Mitchell, who also won silver in the women's team event after recovering from shoulder surgery to compete in Glasgow.

"I think just after London (England) have kind of really stepped it up and it's really good for us because that means we have to step it up too. We've just got to go home and work hard."

A relative veteran, particularly compared to Fragapane, former world champion Mitchell announced her intention to continue competing, setting her sights on the world championships in China in October.

"I say after every major comp I'll reassess and see where I am and probably during this competition I reassessed and I was like 'I'm not done yet, I want to go to worlds'," Mitchell said.

That will be music to the ears of women's head coach Peggy Liddick, who believes Mitchell can go on to the next Olympics in Rio de Janiero.

Liddick said it was always going to be difficult to meet the expectations set by Australia's efforts in Delhi.

"It wasn't an impossible expectation but certainly it's really hard to maintain that level for such a long period of time," Liddick said. "We're in a little bit of a rebuilding year. We'll see how it comes out next year and see how it comes out in Rio.

"Let England have a turn. We'll get back. Next year in 2015 and 2016 we have a couple of little hot shots that are turning 16, because they have to be 16 before they can compete at this level. So we've got some 14 and 15-year-olds back at home that will be 'our Claudia' next year."

The Games were worth celebrating for 19-year-old Monckton, who suffered an ankle injury on the eve of Delhi for years ago and also had surgery before the selection trial for Glasgow.

The Victorian beat Fragapane (fifth) and Mitchell (sixth) on the beam and like the more seasoned Australian leaves with two silver medals. Monckton was in the gold medal position with a score of 13.666 until Black (14.9) came over the top with the last routine.

"I got selected for the Delhi team and then I hurt my ankle about a week before we left so the reserve got pulled in. Being selected for this team was completely unexpected," the Australian teenager said.

"I just had a little bit of surgery straight before nationals, which was the selection, so I was just ecstatic just to make it. To come out of it with these medals is just amazing."

The story Silver lining for Australian gymnasts after worst return in 36 years first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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