Before becoming National Head Coach of Australian Gymnastics, Peggy Liddick was best known as Shannon Miller’s coach. Born in Nebraska, Liddick coached Miller along Steve Nunno at Dynamo Gymnastics in Oklahoma. Following the 1996 Olympic Games she was asked to become Head Coach for Australian Gymnastics in route to their home Olympics set to take place in Sydney four years later.
By 1999, one year before the Olympics, Australia had already improved, they were fifth at that year’s World Championships and Allana Slater placed 9th in the all-around. However Sydney 2000 would be a disappointing meet for the Australian squad as a fall-plagued qualification round meant they just barely missed a team final spot. They finished 7th in a qualification where the top 6 teams advanced to the final. Still Lisa Skinner made Australia proud with her 8th place finish at both the all-around and floor final.
Three years later Australia’s first big success came at the 2003 World Championships. There Russia and Ukraine (then a powerhouse) struggled and China received a neutral penalty of 0.2 after Fan Ye warmed up on the podium. Australia, that had been the highest scoring team on the uneven bars, went on to claim bronze by a 0.076 difference. At those World Championships Monette Russo advanced to the beam final where she didn’t have much luck finishing last however her time was still to come.
At home World Championships in 2005 Monette Russo made history by becoming Australia’s first ever World All-Around Medallist with her bronze medal score of 37.298. And the 2006 World Championships were also very good for Australia as they finished 6th as a team and Daria Joura was 5th in the all-around and 6th in the uneven bars final. At the 2007 World Championships Lauren Mitchelll qualified to the beam final where she finished 5th but there was still a lot more to come in her career.
At the Beijing Olympics Australia delivered a solid 6th place in the team final but the next couple of years would be the best in Australia’s gymnastics as Lauren Mitchell would collect three world medals in two years. She won silver on beam and floor in 2009 and then in 2010 she became the first Australian to win a World Title with her gold medal performance on Floor. Lauren would advance to the 2011 World and 2012 Olympic Floor Final finishing 5th both times.
However after London depth problems began to appear in Australia’s gymnastics and they began to rely more and more on their veterans for major teams. In 2013 Peggy Liddick decided not to send any gymnasts to the World Championships and in 2014, just before Worlds, Lauren injured her ankles. Despite her absence the team still managed to place 8th.
Then in mid-2015 Lauren tore her ACL and the Australian team did not do well at the World Championships placing 14th. Australia competed at the Test Event for one last chance of qualifying a full team to the Olympics, Lauren was not named to that team as she was still recovering and Mary Ann Mockton tore her ACL and was forced to withdraw from the team. Despite not having two of their top athletes, Australia nearly achieved their goal finishing fifth in a competition where the top four teams would get the chance to send full teams to the Olympics. With only one spot for Rio 2016, Larissa Miller was named Australia’s representative. Finally in December of 2016 Peggy Liddice announced that after 20 years she would be stepping down from her position as Australia’s Head Coach.
A new head coach, yet to be announced, will be now in charge of rebuilding the Australian team, and despite the terribly disappointing result of not qualifying a full team to the Olympics in decades, Australia’s rebuilding will not be as hard as it may seem. Their main issue continues to be depth as currently few gymnasts are at their top level and many of them are veterans. However the team is still strong with Emily Little as an outstanding all-arounder that can also compete two vaults and Georgia Rose Brown and Rianna Mizzen as their top uneven bars workers.
UPDATE: Mihai Brestyan, Alexandra Raisman’s coach, has been named Australia’s new Head Coach.