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James goes out on a limb for the gold

Canberra's James Bacueti is preparing to represent his country in January's Australian Youth Olympic Festival, the 17-year-old buoyed by his recent success at his first international competition.

Bacueti last week returned from the Future Cup in Austria - the world's premier event for emerging junior gymnasts - with a gold medal in the vault.

Making his achievement even more impressive, the Woden Valley gymnast had never cleanly landed the difficult vault he had chosen for the European competition, a handspring forward with laid-out front salto and 1½ twist.

But Bacueti, who competes in the level 10 (under 18) division, knew it was the move he needed to pull off in order to achieve his goal of winning the vault.

''I can do easier vaults a lot cleaner than that one, but it's not the same,'' he said. ''If you do a harder vault - I had the hardest vault in the competition - it gives a good impression for the judges. It makes you look above the other competitors.''

When he executed it perfectly and stuck his landing, the gold was Bacueti's for the taking.


''That was the first time I've actually stood it up,'' he said. ''Normally, I fall backwards.

''I think it's easier in competition, because there's no time [to think about it] … the adrenalin helps.''

His first-place finish was the best result for the four competing Australians, who finished fourth in the teams event. Bacueti came sixth overall.

''There would have been 20 guys all up in the under 18 division, and some of them were very, very good,'' the Canberra College student said. ''It was really good to compete against [them] and see what the level of gymnastics is overseas.

''I'm stoked, it's fair to say, with the result, my first international competition, especially the overall placing, even though I was only sixth. It's not great but it was a bit of a surprise, because other than vault I was just going for experience.''

Bacueti wasted no time in getting back to training for the Olympic Festival in Homebush, starting on January 18, but his recent success has not changed his expectations, other than to land the tough vault again.

''I want to keep that level at vault, so if I can do that again at the Youth Olympic Festival, that would be really good. I just want to do my best, I want to make all my routines and have a good time … it's still the start of my gymnastics career.''