Categorized | Athletes, Commonwealth Games, Gymnastics, Sports

Naazmi brushes off grasshopper, Cypriot

Not even a gate-crashing grasshopper could steal the show from rhythmic gymnast Naazmi Johnston on Wednesday night as she claimed Australia’s first all-around gold medal in 16 years.

Johnston beat Cypriot top qualifier Chrystelleni Trikomiti by 1.125 points after overcoming the shock of sharing the stage with the large insect during her hoop routine.

The grasshopper bounced and flew within a metre of the 20-year-old several times, following her around the floor, narrowly avoiding her but not Johnston’s hoop.

At the end of the routine, the Sydney gymnast bowed but unbeknownst to her the grasshopper had met its maker.

“I found out I killed it and after my routine they had to go out and pick it up,” Johnston told AAP on receiving her second gold medal of the Games.

“Only in Delhi. That’s something to remember.”

Johnston managed to block out the surprise distraction to score an impressive 24.550 in her third routine to keep pace with Trikomiti going into the final rotation at Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium.

“When it got on the floor I turned around and I hit the floor and it was that close to my face and I just looked at it and went ‘urgh, just stand up and do the pivot’,” she said.

“We’ve been training on there and there’s been a lot of moths in the face.

“I can’t believe it was a grasshopper, at first I just thought it was a moth.

“It was a bit of a shock but you still have to get up and do your routine, you can’t let a grasshopper affect you.”

Johnston started in patchy fashion with a nervous ribbon routine but she managed to bounce back to take the lead at the half-way mark of the four rotations with a 25.215 on the rope.

She and Trikomiti were tied at the end of the third rotation, but the Cypriot left the door wide open for the Lismore-born gymnast when she had a horror final routine.

Trikomiti, so polished in the three previous apparatus, dropped the ball, literally, twice, with catches that would be considered dollys in cricket.

Her score of 23.550 left her in tears and meant Johnston needed to better that to win and emulate countrywoman Kasumi Takahashi’s all-around gold in 1994, and she did it with great poise to score 24.675 on the ball.

Through spearheading Australia to the team event on Tuesday, Johnston is on track to equal Takahashi’s record mark, set at Victoria, of six rhythmic gymnastic golds.

It’s a mark she’s happy to chase in Thursday’s individual apparatus finals, especially after considering giving up the sport following the Beijing Olympics, where she finished 22nd in the all-around.

“It’s amazing, it’s my second Commonwealth Games and in my first Commonwealth Games I only got a bronze medal,” Johnston said. “I’m so glad I’ve continued on and I’ve already got two gold medals.”

Teammate Janine Murray finished seventh overall in the 16-strong field.

NEW DELHI – 14/10/2010 7.42am [AAP]

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