Artistic gymnast Hamish Carter is training hard on getting a place on the team at Tokyo 2020. Now a full-time gymnast after completing education, he spends most of his time training for future competitions. In between his busy training schedule, we talk to him about winning medals, his journey to Tokyo and what he’s got coming up.
Is gymnastics something you always wanted to do?
Gymnastics, for me, has always been something I have done as opposed to something that I’ve always wanted to do. Honestly, I struggle to think of a time where I wasn’t in the gym; the very earliest memories of my childhood are a combination of primary school classrooms, my home in Nottingham and the four walls of Notts gymnastics club. It’s just a part of me.
When you were younger, which gymnast did you look up to?
Growing up in the same gym as him and watching him train over many years, I looked up to Sam Oldham. My coaches and family would comment on his work ethic, how focused he was and his propensity to work hard. All these attributes I have, without which I would not be the gymnast that I am, but as a young gymnast, I was extremely hyperactive. I was labelled a liability the first time I trialled for the Elite Boy’s squad and was subsequently turned away because I had ‘too much energy’. As I worked myself through the rankings, I would look to emulate Sam’s training more and more. To this day Sam, now a close friend of mine remains someone in the world of gymnastics whom I take a lot of inspiration from.
How did you find studying for your exams alongside being a gymnast?
To cut a long story short, it resulted in many late nights, many early mornings and occasionally tears! It was always a compromise, it was just a matter of what was to be compromised. I met my biggest struggle when I began 6th form at my school Bishop Vesey’s Grammar School. Not only had the intensity of my academic studies increased drastically, I faced the challenge of preparing for major competitions such as the Junior European Championships and transitioning into a senior gymnast. Unfortunately, six days before I was due to fly out to Berne, Switzerland for the championships, I fractured my left big toe on the floor exercise, consequently putting me out of the team. I was meant to in fact complete both my AS French and Spanish exams at the British Embassy in Switzerland (my Spanish exam the day before the team final), so stress levels were already at an all-time high. It’s not been easy to say the least! Despite the adversity, I am very proud that I stuck at it and saw it through to the end. I achieved 4A*s, 4A’s and a B at GCSEs and 3 B’s in Biology, Chemistry and Spanish at A-Level. I owe part of my success to both British Gymnastics and Bishop Vesey’s who have been hugely supportive of my commitments; I simply cannot thank either institutions enough. Truly.
Now you are a full-time gymnast, how do you think your life will change?
Now I have much more time on my hands having finished my secondary school education just a few weeks ago, I am looking for every way possible to transform my Olympic dream into a reality. It gives me the opportunity to not only fine-tune my body by following a weights gym programme, concentrating on my nutrition, exploring new paths of rest and recovery etc, but I can now focus on the other half of my sport; the mind. It plays a huge part of a competitor’s success in sport, even more so at high level. I will utilise the team around me; strength and conditioning coaches, nutritionists, physios and the likes in order to make my bid for the Olympic Games and major competitions to come. The earlier I fully invest and commit to the life of a full-time athlete, the earlier my success will come.
What was it like competing at the World School Games in Brazil, where team England won silver?
This was the first major competition of my life yet, unlike any international I had done before. I was competing with gymnasts four to five years older than myself; lightyears ahead in terms of gymnastics. Nile Wilson, the oldest member of the team and team captain, another gymnast I massively respect, kept me ‘in check’ whenever my concentration began to slip. I was young and inexperienced so I relied a lot on the older boys for guidance, but had a great time as there was little pressure for me to perform or win individuals medals. The Opening Ceremony was wonderful spectacle to be a part of, and was, I’d say, the highlight of the trip. A truly amazing experience that I am very excited to be part of again.
How does it feel winning medals for Team GB?
Competing and winning medals for Team GB is a very different experience from the Great Britain internationals that I do. As an aspiring Olympic gymnast, I had my first taste of the Olympic experience; the Athlete’s Village, the buses to and from the training hall, the many days of competing spread out over a week, the vast dining halls where all the athletes ate. Being in an environment with thousands of other athletes who are all focused and driven, who all have a goal in mind fuelled the fire in me. It made me realise that to be a successful sportsman was what I wanted to be.
Has the training started for Tokyo 2020, and how many hours do you train each day?
Yes it has! I have the games in Tokyo firmly set in mind, and 2024 also. My training hours as of yet have not been confirmed, but I will be training a mixture of four-six hours day throughout the week, supplementing that with weights and recovery sessions as well. I’m at a very good point in my gymnastics career at the moment; I am young so my body can endure the many hours of intense training required to reach the higher level.
Can you tell us more about the Sky Scholar Programme?
The Sky Scholar programme is a funding programme where I believe ten athletes are chosen every Olympic cycle. The programme involves mentoring and media training of the highest calibre and aims to help make athletes fulfil their potential and perform at the likes of Olympic Games and World Championships. I applied for a position in the programme but unfortunately didn’t get a place. I have been part of a programme like this in the past, I was a Jaguar Academy of Sport Rising Star for two years in 2011 and 2012, so I am aware of the level of support that you can access, so I am absolutely gutted to have not got it. However, it means I cannot solely rely on somewhat of a ‘safety net’ and forces me to get my head down to put myself in a position where sponsors are approaching me. Now is the time to get my head down and work!
Do the older gymnasts ever give advice on performances?
Absolutely. As a senior squad we are so close, I’d say the closest out there on the international gymnastics circuit. The support and love we have for one another is simply unparalleled. There’s a difference between wanting your teammates to succeed and actually being emotionally invested in them. That culture has been bred over many years, and without doubt it has been a defining factor in our success as a nation.
Did you do any other sports when growing up?
Not seriously, no. However, being naturally athletic and combined with the very capable body that my gymnastics training had produced, I lent myself to a range of sports. Gymnastics trains almost every aspect of the human body imaginable; strength, speed, agility, power, awareness, reflexes etc. and so as a result I excelled in the likes of sprinting, swimming, football and cricket just from doing gymnastics. I’ve always enjoyed being sporty, I thrive off physical activity, so to do other sports for fun served as a harmless distraction from my gymnastics programme. From nine years old I was training 35 hours a week so an escape was needed. Gymnastics however always remained in the fore front of my mind, it’s been a part of me for almost as many years as I’ve been alive; as one of my former coaches, Nick Blanton once said: “It’s like a tattoo, its on your body forever.”, and in that case I got that tattoo when I was three years old, when I first set foot in a gym.
Are your family and friends supportive of what you would like to achieve?
Absolutely, I wouldn’t be on this pathway in life if those closest around me. My parents have given me so much in support, not only financially but emotionally also. Over the years I’ve had some low lows, I wouldn’t have been able to emerge a better, more confident or more focused gymnast, student or person without my mum and dad. Whatever the circumstance, they have always been able to offer advice that has my best interest at heart, circumstances I would have handled poorly without them at my side. They have been at my every beckoning call, at the hardest of times! That sort of support is utterly priceless. It’s the same case with my friends. I’ve had to sacrifice building and maintaining relationships with many of them as gymnastics has taken precedence but I’ve always had their support, always. For that reason, I never forget the people that have been a part of my journey. I am so grateful to have the people I do in my life.
When you’re not at the gym, what do you enjoy doing?
Well, not having any school to concentrate on has given me a new world of freedom and time. I recently did a track day with my dad, driving at Westfield. I seemed to pick up the skill very quickly taking after my father who did rally driving in his years. It’s a different type of rush compared to gymnastics. To have all the power at my feet was scary, but was something that immediately had me hooked. Aside from that, I enjoy seeing my friends and spending time with people that I hadn’t had the luxury of seeing throughout my gymnastics career. I left Nottingham at twelve, leaving behind dozens of people that I was very close to. Now I am a fulltime athlete, it gives me a chance every now and then to see them and catch up. It’s keeps my mind in a good place, and seeing them serves as a positive distraction from such a strict regime.
How did you get involved with the Sutton Coldfield Community Games?
I believe it was via my school. Bishop Vesey’s has had a close connection with the Community Games. Every year our 6th form students help out the staff and make up numbers. The chief organiser Dennis Kennedy was interested in my story and gave me the opportunity to become an ambassador, to which I gratefully accepted. Since then, I have developed a brilliant relationship with Dennis and am very proud and honoured to give back to a community that has supported me over the years.
What competitions do you have coming up this year?
Firstly, the London Open in September. As I am now a Senior gymnast, I have to make my mark not only within the British Squad, but Europe and the rest of the world. As the London Open is my first majors qualifier, I certainly am excited to get out there, show my routines and do my best. I have upgraded almost all of my routines, so as well as I am excited I recognise the effort required to perform them well. I have a solid plan of how to become one of the top British gymnasts and eventually a gymnast who is going to win major medals, and can say truly that I’m itching to get started! Now I compete for Scotland, I will attend numerous competitions over the 2nd half of 2017 in order to qualify for the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, and of course will have bigger and better routines by the time those Games come round!
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