The Two Victorians at the World Challenge Cup
For the Victorian pair of Kipp Smith and Marcus Casamento, the dream of international competition seemed like it might never truly eventuate. But last weekend, both men were amongst the five-strong team that headed to Europe for the FIG Men’s Artistic World Challenge Cup series.
For Kipp, the dream of an international senior debut has played on his mind constantly throughout the last two years. Selected in the squad for the ill-fated Pacific Rim championships, he was never able to take to the floor with the event cancelled due to the pandemic. For the better part of two years, Kipp was forced to train night-after –night, isolated in his living room, watching as his interstate peers were allowed back in their clubs.
“We certainly had a long time spent in our living rooms on a low pommel horse, and many evenings with a skipping rope in the driveway,” said Kipp, recounting his lockdown training regime. “My pull-up bar certainly got a lot of use, and we all took advantage of our one hour of allocated exercise… meet[ing] up in pairs at a local park to do cardio when we were allowed.”
One of those teammates who Kipp trained with, was Marcus Casamento. 20 years old, Marcus got his first taste of international competition at the 2020 World Cup in Melbourne, just one month before the pandemic broke out worldwide. But rather than allowing this to serve as a demotivator, Marcus used the lockdown as an opportunity to improve.
“There weren’t really any times where I thought that I wouldn’t get back out there,” Marcus said. “Although it’s taken three long years to finally get back out there, I am still young and I have more than a few years left to compete with the best, and I could see that through the pandemic.”
In May this year, Marcus broke through with a standout performance at the Australian National Championships, where he won Gold for his Floor routine. It was a moment that “meant the world” to him. “On Day 2 of Nationals, the Victorian team were finishing on Floor, which meant a long, dramatic wait to compete. I remember landing my dismount and feeling such an overwhelming sense of relief that, despite all the setbacks and doubts, I still put out the best routine I could.”
The World Challenge Cup is great opportunity for Marcus and Kipp to demonstrate how the years of hard work, isolated from the rest of the world, have made them stronger, more resilient athletes. “Kipp is a great teammate,” said Marcus. “He’s always got my back when it matters, and he’s incredibly supportive.”
The MAG World Challenge Cup series kicked off last weekend in Paris, where Kipp finished qualifying on the Horizontal Bar in 12th place with a score of 13.300, whilst Marcus’ strongest performance was on Floor, with 12.550.
The next round of competition begins in Hungary this weekend.