A lot of people are unfamiliar with trampolining as a sport. How did you get into it, and what makes you love it so much?
Trampolining is a minority sport but is privileged enough to be in the Olympics. However, I compete in a discipline of gymnastics called Double Mini Trampoline (DMT) which is even more of a minority sport. DMT is fast-passed and adrenaline-driven, which is what often attracts spectators to the sport (Google it, it’s cool!). I got into DMT after first starting out as a trampolinist. My older sister was attending trampoline sessions at our local leisure centre and one day my parents asked if I wanted to join her- I was 7 years old. At first, I said no (whoops), but after some persuasion I finally agreed and the rest is history. Trampolining was great because it’s so different from any other sport and it gives you sensation of flying. But to me, DMT is even better due to its use of speed and power as well as the aim of trying to complete the most difficult skills humanly possible. DMT is a sport that often makes you go “WOW” as you watch it, and that’s what I love most about it.
Over lockdown, your training must have been affected. Did you manage to find any gym equipment? How did you adapt?
At the start of lockdown 1.0 I was actually injured- I has just had ankle surgery so I spent the majority of the lockdown completing rehabilitation exercises. Luckily this didn’t require much gym equipment, and I was able to use the small number of dumbbells and resistance bands I had at home. During lockdown 2.0 and now 3.0, I have been lucky enough that my elite athlete exemption allows me to train, so my training regime has pretty much been completely normal. I have, however, had to stop attending the gym which I have found really difficult. But to overcome this, I’ve been working closely with my strength and conditioning coach to complete some home workouts which have enabled me to keep my fitness up and keep me strong enough to slowly return to my sport after surgery. Everything in the world right now is so different, but it’s all about focussing on what is in your control and making sure you are doing your best to make things as ‘normal’ as possible where you can.
You won your first European Gold and broke the world record for the highest female score in 2018. How did you feel about achieving such incredible heights so soon?
Honestly words can’t even describe that feeling. I was in complete and utter shock for about a month after that event, and to be honest I still can’t believe it now. I knew going into that competition that I wanted to medal; I came third at the previous senior European Championships in 2016, so to better that was my goal. But by no means did I think I could win! It was at this point I really started to believe in myself as a gymnast, and I can only hope that I am able to continue achieving things like this for the rest of my competitive career.
Having won numerous European medals from as early as 2014, how did you manage to deal with pressure going forward? Did you feel any burnout symptoms?
I’d say I’m super lucky that I have never felt any signs of burnout or boredom from the sport- I still love it now as much as I did when I started (actually I probably love it more). For me, winning a medal, no matter what the competition, only means I must work even harder for the next event to make sure I keep improving. There’s always going to be more I can achieve in the sport, so I’m always going to try my best to reach all my goals and push my own boundaries. Pressure is something I’ve always dealt quite well with- in fact, I thrive under pressure. I am such a competitive person that sometimes my coach must put me in a competitive situation during training just to get my best results. The pressure that comes off the back of doing well in a competition can be tough to deal with, but I just have to keep focussing on my goals and reminding myself that the only way I will success is if I focus on the process and believe in myself.
You have had two nasty accidents that have required surgery within the last two years. How did this effect your motivation and drive? Do you feel you still have what it takes to compete at the highest level?
I’d say tackling these two injuries have been the toughest challenge I’ve had to face in my sporting career. The first injury, which occurred at the end of 2018, was a big emotional hit. I was honestly so lost when I couldn’t train, it almost felt like I’d lost a bit of my identity. But luckily it was only a 9-month turnaround before surgery and rehab was complete and I was back competing- hallelujah! But then, at the end of 2019, the second injury hit. As you can imagine, that felt like a motivational punch in the stomach, I was absolutely devastated. However, looking back at it now, I don’t think it was as emotionally challenging the second time round. I guess where I’d gone through the injury and surgery process before, I knew the mindset I needed to have in order to battle through it and come back stronger. I knew the focus had to be on my rehab exercises and keeping myself involved in the sport as much as possible to ensure I didn’t lose my drive or my belief in myself.
As to whether I will still be able to compete at the highest level, who knows? I am back to training now and I’m working towards some big competitions, however my return to sport hasn’t been as easy this time round. I am still experiencing some little niggles which are slightly impairing my ability to train- but this is just an extra test of resilience that I must conquer. I am not giving up yet if I can help it!
Having been rehabbing since Feb 2020, what lies ahead for you in 2021? This time next year, where do you what to see yourself at?
2021 has already set off on a rocky start, with lockdown 3.0 etc. However, if we put aside all the uncertainty of events, I am currently working towards qualifying myself a place at the 2021 European Championships, which are due to be held in Sochi, Russia in April. It’s definitely going to be a challenge, as the selection process is not easy this year, however it’s what I’m working towards in training. Following this, we will (hopefully) have the British Championships in July, which will act as a qualification event for the World Championships which are due to take place in November 2021- this is the BIG goal of the year. I want to be in Baku, Azerbaijan, representing my country and fighting for another team world medal- the GB girls are determined to get the gold medal eventually, so this could be the year! Fingers crossed.
This interview was conducted by Tom Pittman, Athlete Manager at The S Word