Rhythmic gymnasts are usually girls and perform a routine to music using gymnastic, balletic and co-ordination skills and a rope, ball, hoop, clubs or ribbon. There are events for both individuals and groups.
Binding coaches in her spare time – for her day job, she works for the Somerset Activity and Sports Partnership teaching Gymnastics in schools and advising sports centres. After work, she usually travels to Bath, which is an hour away from her home in Burnham-on-Sea, to coach for two hours, clocking up around 70 hours a week in paid and unpaid work, not including weekends, when she coaches and judges at competitions.
“I absolutely love the sport,” she says. “I used to love competing and now I love seeing the girls achieve either a simple move or win a medal or trophy. Rhythmic Gymnastics has been in my blood since I was five when I first walked into a gym and I eat, sleep and breathe it. I love choreographing routines for the girls and seeing the expression I can bring out in them.
“I’ve been coaching for 12-13 years and I coach girls from aged four to 18 at all levels. When they’re young, it’s essentially about having fun – they learn co-ordination and love dancing to their first routines, which are without apparatus. As they get older and progress to national level and higher, it involves many hours of training, conditioning, discipline and repetitions. We have had many champions at British level and we have the current British Junior Champion.
“The London 2012 Olympic Games is the first time we have decided to enter the GB Group with some of our best individual gymnasts. The Games will be a dream come true for many – it will mean so much to the sport and all involved to compete in our home country. It’s been my ambition as a coach to take a team to the Olympic Games since I first started coaching, so it will be fantastic for me too.
“However, it will involve a lot of extra training for the girls, who come from different parts of the country, and a lot of commitment, sacrifice and expense for their families. The sport gets funding through British Gymnastics for individual gymnasts to compete abroad, but this GB Group is completely self-funded – the gymnasts have to be totally supported by their families for transport and finance.”
Explaining why she applied to the British Airways’ Great Britons competition, she says: “I entered because it is such a good idea and a great opportunity to try and win flights to achieve our dream. Going to the European Championships in Germany next year as the GB Group is really important because it’s the first step on the road to the dream of the Olympic Games. The team has to prove itself and rise up the rankings to qualify for the London 2012 Games.
“We need as much help as possible, and getting free flights to our first big international competition as a group would be fantastic. The group is dedicated to representing Great Briton at the 2012 Games – the girls have the potential, they have the talent, they have the ambition and they have the drive to train and compete. The only thing stopping them at present is money.”