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Hopfner-Hibbs boosts Canada medal tally

Written by: Staff
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MELBOURNE, March 21 (Reuters) A late surge of gold from Canada could not prevent Australia topping the gymnastics medals table as the artistic programme concluded at the Commonwealth Games today.

Three golds in a row to open the evening from Kyle Shewfelt, Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs and Grant Golding moved the Canadians clear in the table, but wins for Hollie Dykes and Damian Istria helped Australia tie with six golds, and dominance overall on countback.

Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs led the charge with a nerveless victory on the beam to deny crowd favourite Dykes.

''I don't really watch the other athletes so I didn't really know I was beating Hollie,'' Hibbs, who also won gold in the uneven bars, told Reuters.

''I knew the Australian team were strong but I try to close all that out of my mind when I'm out there.'' Dykes, a member of Australia's team gold medallists, set the standard with a confident show that produced a mark of 14.925 points.

But Hibbs, who executed a perfect landing and was generally more exuberant on the apparatus, won when her superior landing helped her to 14.950.

''She deserved it, she did really well,'' said Dykes, who admitted her nerves at performing in front of Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

A fall early in her routine took Australia's world championship-winning bronze medallist Monette Russo out of the reckoning.

PARTISAN CROWD Dykes and the partisan crowd were not to be denied, though, as she recovered to take gold in the floor exercises, where she was a class apart.

Displaying exquisite grace and timing, the 15-year-old scored 14.650, over seven tenths clear of team mate Ashleigh Brennan, who took silver.

''I knew what I needed to do and I did it, I am really pleased that it comes good at a place like the Commonwealth Games,'' said Dykes, who completed her collection of medals following beam silver and bronze in the all-around competition.

The Canadians thwarted the hosts in the men's parallel bars when Golding flung himself to a second gold of the Games.

Part of his country's men's team gold winners, Golding put in the most error-free routine to eclipse second-placed Philippe Rizzo of Australia with 15.450. Overall men's champion Joshua Jefferis failed to add to his tally of two golds when he finished third.

Shewfelt retained his vault crown after two solid leaps. He nailed both landings to gain an aggregate total of 16.337, the highest mark of the night, to push Canadian team mate Nathan Gafuik into second place on 16.112.

Bronze went to Australia's Samuel Offord with 15.862.

The programme concluded when Damian Istria claimed gold in the men's high bar to ensure Australia stayed in charge of the medals table.

He went out first and set a standard that was not to be beaten with a powerful display that brought marks of 15.600.

Wales and Scotland earned their first medals of the competition when David Eaton and Adam Cox collected silver and bronze.

Australia topped the final medals table with six golds, tied with Canada, but with a superior record of 18 podium finishes.

Canada won 13 medals with England third on six, including two golds.

REUTERS PDS PC2116

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