Thursday, October 7, 2010

Youth no obstacle for suprise packet Rae

The youngest gymnast from any nation at the Commonwealth Games, New Zealand's Jordan Rae came surprisingly close to bagging a medal in the vault overnight (NZT).

The 15-year-old rekindled memories of 1990 starlet Nikki Jenkins, who won the vault at the Auckland Games to record New Zealand's only artistic gymnastics gold.

Jenkins' triumph unfolded nearly five years before fellow-Aucklander Rae was born.

Indeed Rae barely qualifies to be at Delhi, sneaking inside the minimum age for gymnasts by just 15 days.

Any nerves weren't obvious as she produced two consistent vaults early in the competition, drawing scores 13.350 and 12.975 for an average of 13.162, a score that challenged her seven opponents.

England's Imogen Cairns won with 13.775 points, from South African Jennifer Khwela and Canadian Gabby May, whose score was just 0.550 points clear of Rae.

"I'm very pleased," Rae told NZPA.

"I was just wanting to do good routines and see how it goes. There was no plans for medals or anything."

Rae said her composure came from a stint this year at the Texas gym of former Russian great Valeri Liukin.

There she trained alongside the likes of Liukin's daughter Nastia, the 2008 Olympic all-around champion.

"It was nice to get a taste of what it's like to train like an Olympian," she said.

"It gave me an insight on what they do and I feel like I learned a lot there."

Rae planned to take a break for school exams once home.

Meanwhile, there were three decent cracks at individual apparatus medals from New Zealand men today.

Misha Koudinov was fifth with 13.975 points in the rings, won by Australian Samuel Offord with 14.825.

Koudinov was sixth in the floor routine with 13.225 and Patrick Peng eighth with 11.900. Neither could match the 14.675 of Australian winner Thomas Pichler.

The gymnastics competition ends tomorrow with Peng contesting the vault and Mark Holyoake the parallel bars.

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