Heartbroken gymnast Lauren Mitchell misses out on Olympic place

Disappointed: Lauren Mitchell at the 2016 Australian Gymnastics Championships in May . Photo: Pat ScalaHeartbroken at being overlooked for the Rio Olympics, courageous gymnast Lauren Mitchell is being urged to put the disappointment behind her and look to Commonwealth Games in Australia in 2018.

The 25-year-old four-time Commonwealth games gold medal winner “rearranged her life” in her quest for an Olympic berth, according to Australian coach Peggy Liddick, and is now “gutted”.

Liddick could not say if the 2010 world champion would now retire, but said she would like Mitchell to try for the Commonwealth Games to be hosted on the Gold Coast in two years.

Larrissa Miller was selected as sole representative in the artistic gymnastic competition for Brazil on Wednesday after Australia failed to qualify for the team event in April – the first time in 20 years – in which Mitchell would almost certainly have been included.

Mitchell tore an anterior cruciate ligament less than 12 months ago and after having surgery returned to competition at the national championships – the gymnasts’ final pitch to make the Rio team – with a performance that left observers agog.

“She is the toughest kid I know,” Liddick said, but acknowledged that Mitchell would have needed another three months to be up to Olympic standard.

“You have big old rugby players who don’t come back that fast, and yet she was able to twist and turn and squat on that knee at the nationals.

“If we’d got a team in, I could almost guarantee she’d be in that team,” Liddick said. “So now she needs time to refocus, as does Emily [Little] and the rest of the girls [who missed].”

Solo qualifier Miller told Fairfax Media how she waited several days before gently reaching out to Mitchell, who went into the London Olympics as a favourite for gold but did not win a medal.

The Commonwealth Games silver medallist based at the Waverley club in Melbourne said she wanted to giver her teammate space.

“I actually hadn’t heard from Lauren after my selection was conveyed and it was quite a few days later. I was stressing that I hadn’t heard from her,” Miller said.

“I eventually reached out to Lauren and she messaged back and told me how hard it had been and I told her that it was hard for me too, knowing that the girls wouldn’t experience it themselves and that I wouldn’t have my team there with me. And it has been like that with a few of the girls.

“At the same time they’re so supportive of me. They’ve told me how proud they are of me, and how happy they are that I’m going, but obviously they’re distraught that they can’t be part of it.”

Liddick has described how Mitchell’s “brain understands it, but in her heart she is very disappointed. I’m disappointed that I couldn’t take them all”.

Asked whether she expected Mitchell would retire, Liddick said: “I would love to see her stick around.

“The door is always open. I would put Lauren as a leader of my team any day.”

The pair is travelling to Portugal next week to watch a World Cup competition together.

“She just needs some space, you need time to grieve over something like this and accept it and think about it.

“I just said, not this time, and I encouraged her not to be disappointed. It’s not like she should have any regrets. There’s nothing she did wrong. It really was a tough fight.”

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