British gymnast Kelly Simm has recently returned from a lengthy injury and this year has become British all-around and bars champion. Competing in her second Commonwealth Games last month at the Gold Coast, Kelly found herself captain of the gymnastics team and went on to win team silver and bronze on beam. Before heading out for training, we sit down with Kelly to discuss her success this year, advice for injured gymnasts and fitting university around her career.
You’ve recently returned from the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, what was it like winning two medals there?
Really good. We were straight in the team competition, it was the first competition that we had. Normally we have qualifications but we just went straight into the team final, we were so close to the gold so that was almost bittersweet, but we had such an inexperienced team, so just to get that silver, I think everyone was really happy with that. I had an error in the all-around competition the next day so I was really happy to be able to come back and get a bronze in beam final.
Do you think you were more relaxed at this year’s Games to the ones you attended in 2014 in Glasgow?
Yes definitely. In 2014 I was really wide-eyed and very scared, I didn’t think I really belonged there, and it was a massive arena. This year, I had the experience behind me as I had done a lot of bigger competitions so I kind of knew what to expect, so I felt more relaxed.
Did you have chance to explore the Gold Coast whilst there and did you watch any of the other gymnastic events?
Yes, a little bit. We had about five days after we’d finished competing, so we went to the waterparks and the beaches, haha… all the fun stuff. That was really nice as we don’t normally have an opportunity to get to see that much of the country when we go away! We shared an apartment with the rhythmic girls, so we went and cheered them along the day after we finished.
When did you find out you had made the team for the Commonwealth Games?
I think it was about a week after the English Championships, maybe early March or end of February, around that time.
How was it going back to university after competing in Australia?
Quite hard! I struggled to get back into work for a little while as there were a few different opportunities and things, so it was quite busy when I first got back. I had to get straight back into training pretty much as well, so managing all of that was a struggle at first! It was hard to get back into it, but I’m fully back into it now!
How does it feel being British Champion for All-Around and Bars?
Crazy, hahaha, absolutely mad! I didn’t expect that at all. I got back from America on the Tuesday, then we went up to Liverpool on the Friday. I was really tired and just wanted to have a good competition, and just stay safe. That’s what people were telling me – just stay safe, we’ve got Commonwealths coming up – so yeah, to win, I didn’t expect it at all.
How do you prepare for competitions?
We have a massive build-up for big competitions, we have loads of trials and training camps at our national centre where we get to train together as a team before we go and compete. We also usually do a few practise competitions in the gym, so my coaches would act like judges and put the pressure on a bit to make you a little bit more nervous, so it makes you a bit more ready for competitions. It’s a lot of training during the build-up and then just before we compete, maybe a couple of weeks before, the repetitions will die down. It might be a couple of good routines on each piece and then you’re done, so training sessions get shorter closer to competition.
What would you say has been the most challenging competition of your career so far?
Ooh that’s a good question. I think the European Games in 2015, that was one of my first major big ones after 2014. The expectations were a little bit higher and I just didn’t have a good competition at all, I made my first all-around final and I was the only British gymnast in that final, so it was very scary. I didn’t have a good one at all but I definitely learnt a lot from that, I’ve come back stronger since then.
You’ve recently returned from injury, how difficult was this?
Very difficult. I was injured for about two years which was really, really hard. I hadn’t had a big injury before that either, so I didn’t really know how it was going to go. Coming into this year, I had no idea what was going to happen, I didn’t know if I was going to make it through a competition or whether my body was going to break down. I literally took one day at a time this whole year so far, I was ready for anything, I didn’t know what was going to happen but I’m so happy to be back.
For young gymnasts currently out of training due to injury, what advice would you give them?
Just be very, very patient, listen to everyone around you, and do your rehab properly. Remember that you will come back, it might take a long time, but you will get back there!
What club do you train at and how long have you been there?
I train at a club called Dynamo School of Gymnastics. It’s in Hamble, it’s ten minutes away from where I live and from where I go to university. I’ve been there since I was six years old.
How do you fit university around your training schedule?
I’m doing university for five years instead of three. I do part-time, like a flexible degree as I train about thirty hours a week, so it’s just fitting it in between that. The university has been really good about it, I can move different lessons and jump into other lessons and stuff, so it works really well.
Can you tell us about the award you won at the Official Team Solent Ceremony?
Yes, that was a couple of weeks ago and it was a special recognition award for 2018. It’s really nice that the university supports me so much and are really interested in what I’m up to! A lot of people watched it on TV, and it’s nice to get that recognition from university.
You’ve written blogs for your website, what can readers expect from these?
Ohhhh that’s a good one! I mean, I’m not as good as I should be at updating it haha, but I like to give people a bit of an insight as they don’t always see what goes on behind the scenes. People see the major events, so I try to give them a little bit of insight into that. I do need to work on updating that more, hahahaha, I’m a little bit busy!
Which gymnasts inspired you when growing up?
I think Beth Tweddle. When I started growing up she was the first one who’d won a medal at the Olympics, so I really looked up to her. I got into the Great Britain squad as she was almost finishing so I got a year to train with her, and just seeing how she trained, she was so kind as well, so I definitely look up to her.
Were there any other sports you were good at whilst at school?
No! I didn’t really have time to try any others as I started gymnastics so young. My mum wanted to make sure me and my brother could swim so we did swimming when we were younger, but then I didn’t really try any other sports once I found gymnastics. I loved gymnastics and so I kind of stuck with that.
Do you have any competitions you are in training for at the moment?
Yes, we have the European trials in about a month and a half, so I’m just trying to get a few new skills into my routines ready for those.
Are you hoping to compete at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games?
Yes, that would be my absolute dream to compete there. It’s still quite far away and anything can happen, I try not to think about that too much, but yes, if I can get to Tokyo that would be incredible.
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