WA gymnast Dasha Joura puts in a world class effort

12:51 AM

From Perthnow and can be found here.

May 22, 2008 01:15pm

WA'S Dasha Joura signalled herself a serious chance of winning Australia's first ever Olympic gymnastics medal at the national championships today.

Joura scored the highest on floor in the world this year - taking a huge step towards a third successive national women's title and virtually assuring herself selection for Beijing with her performance at Vodafone Arena in the teams competition on day one.

Her 61.6 combined score today featured a brilliant floor routine which scored 15.750 - a personal best - to take a commanding lead in the national women's all-around title at the halfway point.

Scores in the high 15s would put Joura in medal contention for Beijing, with national coach Peggy Liddick saying a repeat of her combined total may even be enough for a top five all-around finish at the Games.

The 18-year-old's floor effort bettered former world champion Cheng Fei's 15.7 set at the World Cup in Tianjin, China last week.

"It'd take at least that (61.6) to be in the top five, but I haven't seen a score higher than (15.75) in the world this year,'' a clearly delighted Liddick said.

Russian-born Joura, who moved to WA as a seven-year-old, was thrilled with her performance, especially when told her floor score set a world benchmark in an Olympic year.

Australia has never won an Olympic gymnastics medal, with Joura believing she can still build on her impressive efforts today.

``That was definitely by far the best floor I've ever done. The biggest confidence booster is there's still so many things to improve,'' Joura said.

``That's exciting to hear (it's the best score in the world this year). I know I can eventually add more difficulty to that routine, so I'm excited.''

The national championships double as the Olympic selection trials.

Liddick will name a squad of between eight and 12 female gymnasts this weekend, which will be whittled to the six-woman Games team at a combined training camp and competition in Canberra next month.

While Joura confirmed her place as Australia's leading female gymnast, WA teammate and Australian No.2 Lauren Mitchell had a difficult day to sit fifth after day one.

Mitchell had a disappointing routine on the uneven bars to start her rotation, and will be hoping for better in the women's all-around final tomorrow night.

Today's scores roll over into tomorrow night's event.

Victorians Shona Morgan (60.4) and Ashleigh Brennan (59.45) are currently second and third.

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