Joanna Hughes (AUS)
unbelievable. We were sitting there with our fingers
crossed. And then when the rotation was finished and
we saw Australia up in 12th place we were just
jumping around and screaming. I mean, we felt sorry
for the other team...- Hughes (in International
Gymnast), on the
Australian team making the top 12 at the 1995
Worlds (Sabae) and qualifying a team to the 1996
1991 Australian Grand Prix: 5th AA, 4th A, 2nd FX
1991 Australian National Championships: 3rd AA, 1st V, UB
7th, BB 3rd, FX 2nd
1991 World Championships: 6th T, 19th AA
1993 Australian National Championships: 2nd AA, 3rd V,
1st UB, 5th BB, 1st FX
1993 Nikon International: 5th AA, 3rd BB, 2nd FX
1994 World Championships: 65th AA (competed only BB due
1994 Australian National Championships: 1st AA, 2nd V,
1st UB, 2nd FX
1994 Commonwealth Games: 3rd T
1995 Australian National Championships: 1st T (VIC), 3rd
AA, 2nd BB, 2nd FX
1995 (?) Aussie Worlds Trials: 5th AA
1995 World Championships: 12th T, 32nd AA
1996 American Cup: 14th AA
1996 Olympic Games: 10th T, 34th AA
Hailed as one of the best gymnasts in
Australian gymnastics history, Joanna Hughes is often credited
with bringing Australia to the world gymnastics map. Most amazing
of all perhaps, is the knowledge that Joanna won such praise in
the face of several untimely injuries - injuries which prevented
this highly decorated athlete from performing up to potential.
Joanna burst onto the scene in
1991, winning numerous medals at that year's Australian Nationals
and winning a silver medal on floor at her first international
meet (the 1991 Australian Grand Prix). That same year, the
Australian team was the talk of Indianapolis, jumping up numerous
spots from their finish at the 1989 World Championships to place
6th at the 1991 World Championships - comfortably earning a berth
to the team competition at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. Just
13 at the time, Joanna explained (to IG magazine) that she "didn't really understand what coming in
the top 12 meant...to take a team to the Olympics."
As the top Australian at the 1991
Worlds (19th AA), Hughes was Australia's shining hope for the
1992 Olympics. Sadly, these aspirations were dashed just prior to
the Olympics, when she injured her elbow. Age-eligible for the
Barcelona by a mere 8 days, Joanna and her long-time coach felt
positive about Joanna's chances for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
The next few years looked
promising for Joanna. She continued to win medals, most notably
on FX - an event that was quickly becoming a favourite and
specialty for her. At the 1994 World Championships in Brisbane,
Joanna even qualified to the floor exercise finals - the first
Australian to make a floor final and only the second to make an
event final of any kind. But then, another untimely injury
struck...during the AA portion, Joanna rolled her ankle and had
to withdraw from competition altogether.
Although the ankle continued to
bother her during competitions throughout the year (e.g., 1994
Commonwealth Games), the "tide turned" in 1995, when
she triumphed as the top Australian at the 1995 World
Championships in Sabae. Escaping further untimely injuries,
Joanna led her Australian team to a 10th place finish at the 1996
Olympics and individually was the top Australian finisher in
Atlanta (34th AA).
Interestingly, Joanna's success
was accomplished in the face of much pressure and disapproval
from various national coaches and officials. At the time,
virtually all Australian elites trained at the Australian
Institute of Sport (AIS) in Canberra under the national coach, Ju
Ping Tian. Joanna was asked at least three times to move from her
home in Sandringham to the AIS and at least three times she
refused. Joanna had spent six weeks at the AIS prior to injuring
her elbow prior to the 1992 Olympics, and did not enjoy the
atmosphere. As a result, she insisted that she continue her
training with her long-time coach, Fiona Bird.
Interesting, Fiona Bird, the head
gymnastics coach at the Victorian Institute of Sport and 1994
Victorian "Coach of the Year," was herself a talented
gymnast. Fiona trained in Melbourne under a Japanese coach, Mr.
Kazuya Honda, until he moved to the AIS in 1981. At 14, Fiona
followed Hondo, but after an uphappy year away from home, she
quit gymnastics. With this in mind, Fiona fought hard to allow
Joanna to stay at home to train (and train very successfully!).
Joanna retired from elite
competitive career following her successful and satisfying
performance at the 1996 Olympics. She began working in the sports section
of Melbourne's Myer department store and was elected to serve as
Athlete Representative on the Australian Gymnastics Board of Directors. Joanna
very much enjoys watching Australia's current group of elite gymnasts (indeed
she was spotted in the stands at the 1998 Australian
Commonwealth Games trials).
After a few years off, Joanna
resumed light training. In July 1999, she represented
Australia at the 1999 World University Games in Spain. Also
representing Australia was Jenny Smith (who has since returned to
elite gymnastics) and Louise Cashmere (former Australian National
team member who is now a gymnast at a university in Idaho, USA).
In 1999, Joanna
received a scholarship to Cal-State Fullerton University. She moved to the USA
in December and will begin competing NCAA this January. Joanna plans on studying Criminal Justice
(investigating crime scenes, etc.).
For more information
about Joanna, please visit The
Official Website of Joanna Hughes.
Joanna Hughes was born on December 22, 1977.
. This page was created on June 1, 1999 and last updated on January 1, 2000.