Last month, Poppy-Grace Stickler competed for Team GB at the Paris World Cup, and over summer, she represented Wales at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham for her Games debut, qualifying for the Floor final at both. Other competitions this year, has seen Poppy-Grace win Silver on Floor at the Koper Challenge Cup, Bronze on Floor at her first senior British Championships and, at the Welsh Championships, she won Silver in the All-Around and on Floor, and Bronze on Balance Beam. As a junior gymnast, Poppy-Grace became the British champion last year on Vault and Floor, and she won Bronze in the All-Around at the British Championships, and she is set to compete at her next competition this November at the Northern European Championships in Finland. Poppy-Grace talked to us about representing Team GB at the Paris World Cup in September, making her senior Commonwealth Games debut for Wales in Birmingham this year and becoming the junior British champion on Vault and Floor in 2021.
How was the experience attending the Paris World Cup in September and qualifying for the Floor final?
My experience going to Paris was incredible. The crowd was so welcoming and it was insane to be up there competing with such honourable gymnasts and especially being able to compete in a final with some of them.
What did you enjoy most about attending the World Cup and representing Great Britain in Paris?
I really enjoyed being up on that podium with Jen (Gadirova) wearing our flag together the most as it made us feel so proud to be representing our country.
You represented Wales at this year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, how was it making your senior Commonwealth Games debut?
It was an honour to represent my country at this year’s Commonwealth Games and even better to be able to share the experience with the friends I have trained with since I was young. I am very grateful for the support I have received from my family, school, teammates, coaches and Welsh Gymnastics that have helped me achieve this goal – they have enabled me to train and motivated me every step of the way. It was a new experience for me at a multi-sport event and I loved every minute.
Having qualified for the Floor final, how did this feel and how did you prepare for the final?
I felt very nervous and excited about qualifying for Floor final, it felt unreal to be competing against some of the top performers that I have looked up to for years. To prepare, I just made sure I was calm and ready to give it my all!
How did you stay focused throughout the Games and what was it like staying in the athletes village?
Throughout the Games, I stayed focused leading up to the comp by making sure I was doing my job in and outside of the gym to ensure I was as prepared as possible going into the competition. We had a great support team, including a team physio, which helped us to be ready for each day. Staying in the athletes village was amazing, it was so nice to see all the different countries coming together and supporting one and another. There was an Entertainment Centre which we would use to relax/chill, which was always good fun – it had lots of different games and even some inflatable fancy dress costumes which we had to put on!
Do you have any stand-out highlights from competing with your Welsh teammates and how was the atmosphere at the Arena Birmingham?
One of my most memorable moments from the Games was definitely walking out into the arena with my teammates for the first time. The audience were so supportive and the volume was insane! We had so many Welsh supporters come up, which really helped give us confidence.
In June, you won Silver on the Floor at the Koper Challenge Cup, can you tell us about the competition?
The World Challenge Cup in Koper was a great experience. It was my first time attending a Challenge Cup so the whole competition felt very different compared to other events I have been to, however, it was still very fun and to win a medal out of it just topped it all off for me. I got on really well with my teammate, Ruby Stacey, and we were able to have fun in and out of the gym.
At this year’s British Championships, you competed in the Floor final, coming away with the Bronze medal, how was this?
My first senior British Championships earlier on this year was definitely one to remember. It was one of my first competitions as a senior so I felt very nervous but happy to be competing with the top gymnasts in Britain. I wasn’t really going in with any expectations and just hoping to give the best performance I could. Coming away with a Floor medal really topped off the weekend!
What was it like winning Silver in the All-Around and on Floor and Bronze on the Balance Beam at the 2022 Welsh Championships and how is it competing in front of a home crowd?
Winning a couple of medals at the Welsh Championships felt really good as it was our first Welsh competition in a while due to COVID. Competing in front of a home crowd always feels special as we get to show our friends and family how hard we have been working, they are always so supportive and proud to see us all performing.
Last year, at the British Championships, you won Gold on the Vault and Floor and Bronze in All-Around, do you remember how you felt becoming the Vault and Floor champion?
Becoming Floor and Vault champion at the British Championships last year really boosted my confidence as we were still getting back from COVID, so having the reassurance that I could still go out there and perform my best after a long time off training was everything I could’ve asked for. It was great to end the year on a high and motivated me to work with my coaches on upgrading my routines ready for my first year as a senior.
Can you tell us about some of the other competitions you’ve taken part in over the years as a gymnast so far and what are some of your stand-out highlights?
A few other of my favourite competitions I have competed in over the years have been the Magical Classic in America, as we got to enjoy lots of the different parks, and Northern Europeans in Iceland. It was great to travel up with my Welsh teammates and to compete internationally together was very exciting.
How have you found transitioning to senior level and how did it feel representing Team Wales and Team GB for the first time as a senior gymnast?
Transitioning from junior to senior level has definitely been quite hard. The competition is phenomenal and we get to compete with such high-level athletes. Representing Wales and GB for the first time made me feel nervous as I wanted to make our home countries proud but it felt extra special to be out there doing what I love and having everyone behind our backs.
Where does your love of gymnastics come from and how did you start?
I started gymnastics when I was six years old due to my older sister starting and inspiring me to copy. My love for the sport definitely comes from the endless possibilities that could happen and the many opportunities it has and continues to give me. I also love the fact that there’s always areas that can be improved on.
What is a typical training day for you and how has your training changed over time?
My typical training day consists of going to school and then straight to the gym to get my work done. It has been a tough challenge but tackling both has really been worth it and my school are so supportive of my training and always make sure I have the resources I need to complete work. My training has increased a lot from when I was younger from training only a couple of hours to sometimes training twice a day. We are very fortunate to train at a dedicated facility and receive great support.
How do you like to spend your time away from gymnastics?
I spend my time away from gymnastics making sure I have completed any missing school assignments and also making time to go out and socialise with my friends, they are always so encouraging towards my training, I’m always very grateful to have such understanding people around me.
Do you have any competitions coming up that you can tell us about or that you are targeting?
I have many goals for the future I’m looking forward to hopefully achieving and will be competing in the Northern European Championships held in Finland this year in November!
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