Brisbane born Danielle, is one of Australia’s most decorated Rhythmic gymnasts. She has recently earned her place in the history books by becoming the only Australian female gymnast to compete at 3 Commonwealth Games. She is also the only Rhythmic gymnast to win 5 National All-Around Championship titles and in 2016 was Australia’s sole
representative in the Rhythmic gymnastic competition at the Rio Olympics.
Danielle’s journey from a budding gymnast to an Olympian began at age 11 with a gymnastics club that used the local school hall as their training facility. She initially trained for just 2 hours a week but was quickly identified by her coaches as having the potential to excel in the sport and was soon training up to 25 hours a week.
Whilst still in primary school and only a few short months after taking up the sport, Danielle chose to dress up as an Olympian for her free dress day entitled ‘what I want to be when I grow up’. And so began her Road to Rio. Winning her first State championship title in 2006, Danielle made her international debut at the Australian Youth Olympics in 2007, where she finished four in the all around competition and was also a member of the
gold medal winning team.
With a podium finish at a senior level every year for the last nine, she has been a dominant competitor at national level for more than a decade, she has won five National Champion titles (four won consecutively between 2013-2016) and amassed a total of 27 All Around and Apparatus Gold medals, a feat that no other Australian Rhythmic Gymnast has achieved.
In 2009 Danielle competed at the first of her 7 World Championships with her highest ranking of 52nd achieved in 2017. Four years after missing out on selection for the 2012 London Olympics by the smallest of margins and
living by the mantra ‘Don’t be bitter be better” Danielle finally realised her childhood dream of becoming an Olympian when she placed 25th in the All-Around competition at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
A dual Commonwealth Games medalist Danielle has competed at 3 consecutive games in 2010, 2014 and 2018 and lists competing in front of a home crowd at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games amongst her
most memorable moments during her sporting.
“If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough”
The time has finally come…
The time has come for me to make a decision, one that I have considered for many months now. Since starting at age 11, gymnastics has taken me on the journey of a lifetime. After 16 years of training, travelling and competing, I am finally ready to say goodbye and hang up my leotards.
There are too many people who need my thanks, who I am forever grateful to for their help in many different aspects of my career. I thought about making things a little easier for myself by saying the obvious there are too many people to thank for me to name you all but as I sit here and reflect on my career I can’t help but want to name a few key people so hang tight…
From the very beginning the most wonderful dance teacher who suggested I try Rhythmic, Miss Janine. My first coach Sam Bridges who helped recognise my potential and gave me my first taste of Rhythmic Gymnastics at Splitz Gymnastics.
To Meryl and Phoebe Papas whose passion and love for the sport influenced me in a way that you will never imagine. Taking 8 young teenage girls to some of the most incredible places in the world is feat that cannot be forgotten. From Boznia, to Egypt, South Africa and Russia, these trips will forever hold a place in my heart. As I now prepare for my own coaching journey, I often think back fondly on how inspiring your drive and determined natures were in the gym everyday, and I can only of dream of one day being the same inspiring influence on the athletes I coach one day.
To Gina and Edith, my second mum’s for the better part of 9 years. You helped shape me into the athlete and woman I dreamed of being. With your unwavering encouragement and support I was able to achieve feats that I had always dreamed of but never thought possible. To my very first World Championships, Commonwealth Games Teams and the absolute pinnacle and icing on the cake the Rio Olympics. Thank you for the laughs, tears and years of love and support you gave me.
To Dani Le Ray, thank you for seeing me right to the very end. Your passion, drive and honestly helped me achieve those final milestones in my career. Thank you for opening your arms and welcoming me into the Le Ray Family as an athlete and now coach. You inspired me to push the boundaries and fight harder than I have ever fought before. From putting me on the floor in Dehli to putting me on the floor for my very last routine, thank you for believing in me.
To be an athlete at this level you have to be selfish, focused, driven, hungry (figuratively and literally in Rhythmic) and spend most of your life to exhausted to move. To the people who supported and looked after me during these days are truly the most understanding and considerate people you will ever meet. They are the people who love me regardless of my performances and have been there behind the scenes every step of my career.
To my mum, dad and sister who spent most of the their years being a taxi service driving to and from training, forgoing holidays and moved houses all to support my dreams. You went above and beyond to support and help me achieve whatever I put my mind to and I will never be able to repay you what you have given me (literally!!).
To my fiancé, Greg who I met during the year of Olympics and was thrown in the deep end from the very beginning. You accepted RG was not just part of my life but my whole life and still loved me anyway. I most definitely wouldn’t have survived these last few years without you.
The last 16 years have been filled with so many moments of joy, fulfilment and success but they have also seen moments of frustration, doubt and defeat. This sport requires you to demand perfection, from the way you execute a routine, to the way your hair looks, to the number you see on the scale.
After the incredible high of the Olympic Games, I was hungry to replicate the indescribable feeling that I had on the Worlds biggest stage. In my mind continuing to the Commonwealth Games was an easy choice for me. An opportunity to feel the high I craved, to pursue a goal I was yet to achieve and the chance to finish my career in front of a home crowd. At the time I was filled hope and determination to make the very most of my final few precious months as an athlete.
Unfortunately only now looking back I can see that these hopes also came with an enormous amount pressure. Pressure to be the perfect Team Captain, to be the perfect image of Rhythmic for the Australian public, to be the perfect gymnast with a perfect fairytale ending. The desire to be perfect finally began to wear me down and eventually led to the moment when my ball flew off the carpet in my final routine. Walking off the carpet, the only thought running through my head was “its okay I’ll just do it again”…. “I will keep going, I won’t retire, I’ll do it again until it is perfect and I get that feeling when I know it’s right and only then will I stop”.
As the weeks passed after the Games, I convinced myself that I would continue to chase the perfect ending. But weeks turned into months, I could not seem to make myself pick up my gym bag and go to the gym to try again. In my heart I knew that I wasn’t going back but the thought of letting go of my identity was too scary to consider.
So now almost 10 months later I know it is time to finally let go. It breaks my heart to know that I will never step on the carpet as an athlete again. From my very first National Championships, to Comm Games and finally the Olympic Games. My life will be forever entwined with Rhythmic and I don’t know if I will ever feel as alive as I did on performing on the carpet.
I will be forever grateful for everything this sport has given me and everything it has made me. Thank you to everyone who has been with me on this journey, it’s been a good one. Here’s to a perfectly imperfect ending.
And so with that I say goodbye…xx