At this year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, Jea Maracha competed with Team Wales for her Commonwealth Games debut, where she made the All-Around and Balance Beam Finals. 2022 is Jea’s first year as a senior, competing in the All-Around and Balance Beam Finals at the British Championships in Liverpool, and in February, she became the All-Around, Balance Beam and Uneven Bars champion at the Welsh Championships. Amongst her highlights of her gymnastics career so far, Jea became the British Espoir All-Around champion and competed for Team GB at international competitions. Speaking with Jea recently, she told us about her Commonwealth Games debut in Birmingham, competing at senior level at the British Championships in Liverpool this year and her time at the 2022 Welsh Championships where she became the All-Around, Balance Beam and Uneven Bars champion.
Can you tell us how you found the experience competing at this year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham?
As my first Commonwealth Games here in Birmingham, the experience has been incredible. Everyone here in Birmingham was so friendly and welcoming it made me feel at home. This has been the most memorable part of my gymnastics career so far.
How did you feel finding out you’d been selected for the team and what was it like representing Team Wales at your first Commonwealth Games?
When I found out I was selected to represent Wales it was honestly a dream come true. It didn’t feel real at that time and took a while for it to sink in. But I’m honestly so grateful that I was able to take that opportunity.
Is there anything you enjoyed most about competing in the All-Around Final and how was the atmosphere on the day?
During the All-Around Final, I definitely enjoyed the experience in performing in such a big arena and just enjoying the experience. The atmosphere in the crowd was incredible, having lots of Welsh supporters out there and cheering us on was just great. So grateful for all the supporters.
How did you prepare for the Balance Beam Final and what was it like to compete in?
To make Beam Final was just amazing, being up there and competing with such amazing and talented gymnasts was very inspiring. Before competing, I just try and calm my nerves down so I don’t overthink what I’m going to do. When I start performing, I just think to myself: be confident and do the same as in training.
How was it staying in the athletes village and competing with the rest of your Welsh teammates?
Staying in the village was definitely something different. Normally when I go away to comps, I would normally stay in a hotel but staying in a village was definitely a lot more enjoyable. All the athletes and volunteers were so friendly and very welcoming. Having all my teammates with me throughout the Games was definitely something we will always remember, as it was all our first Games, it was great to take the experience in all together.
Earlier this year, you competed in the All-Around and Balance Beam Finals at the British Championships in Liverpool, what was this like?
Competing in Liverpool as my first year as a senior was incredible. Especially making Beam Final among such talented and amazing gymnasts was just great. During my All-Around Final, the atmosphere in the crowd was incredible, and lots of people were there to support me.
In February, you became the All-Around, Balance Beam and Uneven Bars champion at the 2022 Welsh Championships, how did it feel winning three Golds at this competition and what do you remember most from each of the Finals?
Winning three Gold medals at the Welsh Championships was amazing. Since this was the first comp of the year, I wanted to use this as sort of a practice comp to show and compete all my new routines in front of a crowd and judges. I wasn’t expecting to win three Gold medals at all, I was just there to show everyone what new routines I had been working on in the gym.
How has it been getting back to competitions since they were cancelled due to the pandemic?
It has definitely been tough getting back to where I was before the pandemic happened. Building up all my fitness again and getting all my skills back was definitely challenging but I am pleased to be where I’m at now. And I’m grateful to be doing lots of comps now since the pandemic.
What has it been like transitioning from a junior gymnast to a senior and can you tell us about your training?
Transitioning from a junior to senior is definitely tough, as you have lots more competitions to do, training has definitely been a lot more tougher as you are at the highest stage of gymnastics and you are competing against gymnasts that have been to the Olympics or Worlds. The selection and trialling process is definitely a lot more harder as there are many incredible gymnasts that you are against.
What are some of your other stand-out highlights from your gymnastics career so far?
My other highlights from my career so far is competing for GB at internationals, making the senior squad and becoming British Espoir All-Around champion.
Where does your love of gymnastics come from and is it something you always wanted to do at elite level?
My love of gymnastics comes from the people who inspire me. Seeing all these great gymnasts out there make me fall in love with the sport more and make me want to be like them. It has definitely been something that I wanted to do at an elite level as there are lots of big competitions to be done.
Which gymnasts inspired your career and have you been given any advice over the years that has stuck with you?
Some gymnasts that have inspired me were Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin. I just remember watching lots of videos on YouTube and just saying ‘wow’ because of how clean and incredible their gymnastics were. Advice that I got given was just to enjoy it.
How do you like to spend your time away from gymnastics?
Normally when I’m not doing gym, I like to relax or spend time with my friends and family.
Do you have any competitions coming up or have any that you are targeting that you can tell us about?
I think I’ll still have a few comps this year such as Northern Euros. But I would definitely love to compete at a Worlds and the Olympics, and hopefully the next Commonwealth Games.
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