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By Caroline.

Caroline who is a free-lance writer for the French Gymnastics Federation magazine met the Australian gym star Allana Slater at the French Internationals. Here is her report.
(Special thanks to Melanie Green (U.k.) who did the translation).

Ah! ...llana Slater !

It's not difficult to spot the Australian Allana Slater in the warm-up hall at Bercy.
A young lady of 18, she has a feminine figure and her flaming red hair contrasts with her very pale skin. The gymnast is training alone without any teammates. The Australian federation decided to only send one female athlete to the apparatus Worlds, and in this case picked its most experienced:Allana Slater.
French audiences barely know of her although her list of successes already includes two World Championships (1999 and 2001) and participation at one Olympics. We'd like to know a bit more about her, so it's a good thing that Allana turns out to be a real chatterbox. While some gymnasts struggle to give answers to journalists' questions, mumbling a barely audible "yes" or "no", the Australian is by contrast tireless in her responses.
"I began going to gymnastics halls very early on, at around 2 years old. As a baby I was often ill and had problems with my balance and difficulty co-ordinating my movements. The doctors recommended the sport to my parents and basically, I just loved it!" Her physical attributes were spotted early on and at the age of 6 she joined the Institute of Sports at her home town of Perth. When the National Championships took place, she represented the state of Western Australia (the country is divided into six states, each with its own championships and infrastructure).
Her trainers, one Russian and one Australian, were not the only ones to have faith in the young Allana. In 1994 Australian television showed a series of profiles for its great hopes for the Sydney Olympics. Ian Thorp was profiled for the swimming event and Allana Slater for gymnastics.
As the years passed the little girl from back then blossomed into a mature young lady and an accomplished performer. She is an all-rounder without any noticeable weaknesses. Her ninth position in the all-around at Tianjin (1999) remains the best ever performance by an Australian in a World Championships. Her team finished fifth, an excellent result prior to the Olympic Games.
Australian flag.

However at Sydney the Australians finished a disappointing seventh in the team event, and Allana came 22nd without making a single apparatus final. "We were genuinely ready for these Games, and our preparation for them was very intense. But we put ourselves under great pressure, not to mention the heavy pressure that the media put on us as host country. Looking back, I think that we were ready for everything except the pressure. As a result I've been left with mixed feelings about those Olympics. On the one hand I'm proud to have been a part of it, for all of us it was our dream, but on the other hand we've been left with this disappointment that we didn't perform better.".
For many gymnasts the end of an Olympic cycle signals a time to retire. However after Sydney Allana was still very young (only sixteen). "After the Games there was a sense of unfinished business. In a way I was disappointed by my individual performance there. I felt I could do better and wanted to see just how far I could still go. In a nutshell, I was still hungry for gymnastics!" And her post-Olympic results would prove to her that she had been right to continue. A place in the floor finals at Ghent (where she finished fourth) elevated her to the ranks of the very best specialists on this apparatus.

Page (c) Caroline and Bernard for   Kostiskal
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