Chloe Sims and Australia win gymnastics gold
UNSUNG hero of Australia’s golden campaign at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, Queenslander Chloe Sims, was lifted to a dual gold medal performance by the huge tide of home crowd support.
Sims, only 15 years old at the time, was not only a member of the five-strong Australian women’s team gold medal but she also snared the individual all-around crown after upsetting highly rated Canadian Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs.
In a sensational and thrilling last rotation finale Sims finished on the same score as Hopfner-Hibbs, with both gymnasts achieving 57.1, but Sims won on a countback according to tie-break rules.
Hopfner-Hibbs took a 0.2 point advantage into the final of four rotations, the floor routine, but she didn’t start well when she stepped out of the boundary. She recovered to finish strongly and scored 14.0.
Moments later Sims took to the vault not knowing what score she needed to surpass the Canadian but produced a clean landing to achieve 14.2.
Sims’ Australian teammate Hollie Dykes had the chance to leapfrog the pair as the last finalist on floor and the last competitor of the evening. She needed 14.75 on her floor routine to win the gold medal but she scored 13.45 and settled for the all-around bronze medal.
“I was one of the least likely gymnasts to win the all-around title, I was definitely the underdog,’’ Sims said. “I had nothing to lose. Some days you can put it altogether and the Commonwealth Games was one of those days.’’
Brisbane-based Sims, now 27 and married to Jeremy Gilliland, said nothing had prepared her for the huge volume of noise generated by a sell-out Games crowd at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne and she believed the support gave her a winning edge.
“The cheer from the home crowd would hit you in your heart, it was so loud and intense … you knew it was for you,’’ she said. “The home crowd support definitely on the second day it helped. It was a good feeling because it made you realise you could do it.
“I didn’t know what to expect from the Commonwealth Games, I hadn’t been to a competition of that calibre before nor had I ever competed in a massive stadium in front of a big crowd in your home country. Something like this rarely happens.’’
Sims, eight months pregnant with her first child and coaching at Premier gymnastics club, said she still keeps in contact with the other members of the Australian team: Victorian duo Ashleigh Brennan and 2006 world championship all-around bronze medallist Monette Russo, as well as fellow Queenslanders Naomi Russell and Dykes.
Dykes won gold on floor, with an outstanding 14.65 in the final, while Russell produced a stunning final vault under pressure to snare a bronze, finishing with 14.137, in the individual apparatus finals.
“It was exciting that Hollie, Naomi and I all walked away with at least two medals each,’’ Sims said.
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The three were key members of the Australian team who finished ahead of England and Canada, silver and bronze medals respectively.
“On the first day of the team finals we were all nervous and I had a horrible day, I fell off beam, bars and floor,’’ said Sims, who only gained an all-around finals berth after Russo pulled out with an ankle injury.
Sims is still regularly in touch with friends Dykes, who has just had her second child, and Russell, an executive assistant for Melbourne Rebels.
“Naomi is still one of my closest friends and the whole team, we were really good friends,’’ she said. “That was the best part of the whole experience is that you got to do it with your friends.’’