“You don’t just need to have Olympic dreams to be a gymnast… anybody can do gymnastics.”
Our favorite quotes and quips from the Irish star following podium training!
Photo by Grace Chiu
How are you handling the pressure and where you are as the prodigy?
I enjoy it. It’s good for the sport, especially in Ireland. There’s not many high-profile gymnasts that come out of Ireland, so it’s very good to bring publicity to the sport. I know there’s many different levels in gymnastics, and I think I tweeted this the other day, but you don’t just need to have Olympic dreams to be a gymnast. You know, anybody can do gymnastics and I kind of wanted to bring that message across to everybody around the world pretty much.
How is the training situation now for you?
It’s pretty good. It can get lonely, but I’m in this huge gym, a world class gym in Dublin which is great. But it’s myself and my coach and you can hear an echo in the gym sometimes, but I just put on some rap music and then that kind of drowns the echo out. We’re making some really good changes to the [pommel horse] routine. We’re just focusing on execution mainly because that’s something people push to the side on pommel horse. We’re trying to change the game and show the judges what they want to see.
You were very methodical in training. You had all your focus on the buildup and the performance and so forth. Talk about how that has helped with your gymnastics.
My training has completely changed. We started focusing on the little things and then that forms your basics in gymnastics into the final product, which is a pommel horse routine pretty much, and any other routine. Without the basics there’s no gymnastics. That’s why you see sloppy gymnastics—bent legs, not pointed toes. To focus on them precisely, and that’s what I do in my warmup… It’s not just a body warm-up, it’s a mental warm-up, too. I’m making connections. When I do my lines on floor, I put a credit card between my feet and that’s just from sometimes my feet didn’t stay together on the pommel horse, so we thought, put a card in between my legs and that will fix that, which it has. It’s just the little things in training that make me think mentally about my gymnastics.
How long have you been doing the credit card trick?
I would say maybe a year now. Since surgery we’ve also been focusing on the little things and execution is a big part of my program now and a big part of what we’re focusing on for the routine.
You mentioned rap music. Who are some of your favorite artists and do you listen to that before a
I listen to Eminem, 50 cent, you know all the big guys. None of the mumble rap, that’s a no-go for me. I’m all about the lyrics.
Outside of gymnastics, what do you like to do for fun when you want to get away from the sport?
I like listening to music. I like to just get out of the house. I’m trying to take up golf now, so that’s one of the few sports that I can do that I won’t get injured. But it’s a good thing to have down time after training because you can just get too caught up in your training program and that’s something I don’t want to happen to me.
When you were younger, who were some of the gymnastics you admired on pommel horse?
Well, Krisztian Berki (Hungary), he was saying some very kind words to me in training. It’s a shame that he can’t compete on Sunday. But hopefully, I’ll get another opportunity to compete alongside him because I have grown up watching these guys and learned from them. You can probably even tell, I’ve taken so many routines and pieced it together to suit me, so I do learn from others. I’m a visual learner and I have to be thankful that [they] were before me too.
Do you watch other people’s routines on YouTube to see how they’re progressing?
Yes. That’s why I don’t really post much online, because I know how much I learn from seeing people’s routines and I don’t want other people to learn from mine. Maybe in the future when I’m a coach, I’ll tell everybody my secrets, but the routines are for me and for me only.
How is your shoulder?
I would say it’s 100% back to normal now. Of course, we’re gymnasts, we’re always going to have these little things here and there. But it’s so much better, I don’t have any problems with it. I have been focusing more on pommel horse and not focusing on the other pieces so much because it was just too soon after surgery to come straight back into rings and high bar and the things that put a lot of stress on the shoulder. But I’m very happy with where I am and feeling very good for this competition.
I heard you named your dog after a gymnast?
Yes, Sui Lu, after the Chinese gymnast. She’s now retired. But yes, I got my dog from a Chinese family and obviously I’m a gymnast, so I thought that would be a good name. I always admired Sui Lu’s gymnastics too, so that’s where the name came from.
This is your third World Championships. Do you think this is the one where you can have a chance to medal?
For sure. I mean, I had a chance in Doha. I had the momentum and I think I could have gone to Doha and been a world champion, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Injuries are a part of the sport. It’s a cool environment to be around and talk to people who have similar situations. But there’s no shoulder issues this time around so I’m hopefully going to do a very good pommel routine.