This time last year
I am standing in warm up hall on the 11th of April before the Team All Around Final Competition. I can hear rumbling as the crowd begins to enter and fill the 7,000 seats of the Coomera Sports Centre. Starting with hoop I begin to warm up sections of my routine, time is passing painfully slow as I wait for my turn on the competition floor. 5 routines to go. Sweaty hands, heart beating uncontrollably, my stomach is in my throat. Keep moving, just a few more minutes to go. 2 routines to go. The floor volunteer signals my way, time to move. With my hoop, hand towel and lucky teddy tucked under my arm, I start the long journey towards the competition arena. As I begin to walk, Enid re-enters the warm up hall after performing her first routine. No words are exchanged but as if reading each others minds, we shared a look that said “We’ve got this”.
I begin making my way down the hallway, counting each step I take, trying to distract myself from what was about to happen, 21, 22, 23. One routine to go. I reach the end of the hallway and the final marshalling area before walking out into the arena. I begin to visualise my routine, seeing myself go through the motions, every pivot, every throw. Deep breathe.
My name is called and I step into the arena, my heart skips a beat with the deafening cheers of the crowd. I take my start pose, the music begins to play. The next 90 seconds are some of the happiest of my life. I hit my finish pose and cheer with elation as I rise to my feet and take a look around the stadium for the first time, soaking it all in. 7000 people look back cheering and celebrating with me.
I still get goosebumps thinking back to these precious moments in time and will always cherish my experience on the carpet at the Gold Coast. Realising that we had earned the Bronze Medal in the Team Competition was simply incredible. As I stood in front of a home crowd with a medal around my neck, I was overwhelmed conflicting emotions. Pride - To be standing on the podium as an Australian in front of a home crowd was amazing and I guess I finally understood why people told me hanging around for a home games would be worth it - a once in a lifetime experience. Relief - We had given the Australian Gymnastics Community what they expected and the Australian public what they wanted. We were walking away with a Bronze Medal. Sadness - I felt in my heart that I didn’t contribute my best to the team and my performances that night were not worthy of receiving that medal. The medal meant different things to each of us as teammates, despite our very different journeys to get there, we all came together and achieved something great and I couldn’t help but think about how lucky I was to be there.
I took to the floor on Friday 13th for the final time at the Games and performed the last routine of my gymnastics career. I poured 16 years of hard work, passion, love, dedication and grit into that final ball routine. As I left the floor that day my heart felt like it shattered into a thousand tiny pieces. The dream was over. For my last 18 months of training I had envisaged this moment when I would walk away from the Rhythmic floor and it was so far from what I hoped it would be.
I felt empty. All the hours of training, the injuries, the frustrations and tears were all for nothing. I had embarrassed myself, my coach, my sport and my country with that performance.
For many years I had put a filter on everything I did in the competition hall, plaster a smile on your face, pretend its fine, don’t give up, keep it together…Trying to be the best athlete, the best role model, the best gymnast was exhausting and in that moment I let it all go and let my unfiltered self be present for everyone to see.
I am almost certain that I left a part of myself on the carpet that day. The part of me that was so self critical it would keep me up at night, the part of me that demanded perfection every single day and the part of me that placed my own self worth on the results I achieved.
The life of a Rhythmic Gymnast is one that demands structure, discipline, perfection and all around uptightness. For 16 years I moulded myself to be this person and as I woke up on the morning of Saturday 14th I could finally replace that part of myself with a nicer, more rounded part that would let me eat more than 10 almonds for lunch.
Gymnast will forever be apart of my bio, it’s who I was for 16 years. My sole identity. Rhythmic taught me incredible life skills that will help me well beyond the gymnastics floor and I am so grateful to be able to carry those with me as I move through life as an old retired lady.
It feels like yesterday that I was standing in the middle of the gym with a ribbon in my hand but in the last year since retiring I put my uni degree on pause, I started full time work, I have fallen in love with coaching, moved apartments, gallivanted around Europe and said yes to marrying the most wonderful and handsome man I know.
What will the next year hold? I have no doubt it will still include hoops, ribbons and endless amounts of cutting music and choreographing routines but I know it will also include planning a wedding, drinking delicious wine and spending more time with my family. Life is good.