A return to the Gymnastics World Cup

After missing out on Olympics tickets (yes it’s been 18 months and I’m still feeling some resentment!) last year I went to the Gymnastics World Cup accompanied by my lovely friend Lynn.
20131208-011833.jpg
I like to think that I made her into a gymnastics fan! :) We had a great day, and decided we should definitely go again ‘next year’.

20131208-011913.jpg

‘Next year’ came about last Saturday. We were sad that Lynn’s daughter wasn’t able to use the ticket I had gotten her due to being at a camp for her Duke of Edinburgh award, so Lynn’s husband came instead!

20131208-011738.jpg

After he had been part of a flat (possibly vandalised) tyre fiasco on the side of the motorway. He thankfully made it for the last two rotations of the competition to see our country’s own Daniel Purvis win a silver medal. And we all sweated and gasped watching the men perform on High Bar. Which Sam Oldham ROCKED by the way.

20131208-011801.jpg

We went out for dinner afterwards. I’ll be honest – the dream of going to the Gymnastics World Cup has been what kept me going for those last few weeks of this term at uni. It was something to look forward to…not only to watch my favourite sport in person, but also to share the day with such good friends that I rarely get the chance to hang out with these days! Already we have plans to go next year.

I’m already excited!!

It’s time for Worlds again…

Tokyo 2011. I had a ton of annual leave to take, no money and so I took a week off work to watch every scrap of worlds coverage I could find. Thankfully as it was the Olympic qualifiers for our home Olympics, there was a ton. Everything but qualifiers was shown live through BBC online and on TV. Yippee! One happy gymnastics fan. I was part of the wikipedia team updating the gymanastics entries to help people new to the sport understand who people were and what they were capable of.

There were no Worlds last year because we had the Olympics, but this week Worlds is back. It’s an individual worlds, which is what happens in the first  year of the Summer Olympic quadrennium – many gymnasts take a break or retire, and not all a country’s junior gymnasts with Olympic potential will be of age during that first year. For example, this year Russia and Romania are short gymnasts due to injuries and retirements/breaks. Australia have no women at worlds this year at all. Some countries use this year to get specialists the best chance to accumulate medals. Others use it as a chance to give their gymnasts experience on an international level. Others who just missed out at previous Olympics may feel they have something to prove.

Frustratingly, I’m at uni and work this week – I couldn’t take annual leave which is total rubbishy pants. I’m having to rely on YouTube clips and folks with press passes at the event giving the lowdown on twitter.

Today was the first round of qualifiers. Here’s some dudes to look out for this week…

 Kenzo Shirai, only 17 years old competing for Japan. This guy does triple twists like no one else. His floor routine is spectacular, and I’ve heard his vault is pretty darn good too!

Epke Zonderland, competing for Netherlands and Olympic High Bar Champion. He’s been favourite for a world title for several years, so can the Current Olympic Champion be world champion too?

Daniel Purvis & Max Whitlock competing for Great Britain. Max had a rough time on Floor today, and Dan had a rough start on High Bar but both look good to make the All-Around final (and hopefully each an individual apparatus final).

Sam Mikulak of the USA is looking on great form after being part of the Olympic Team last year. He’s currently 2nd after the first few rounds of qualification and looks set to aim for some medals in Antwerp. Go Wolverine!

And of course…the King of Gymnastics. Kohei Uchimura did not look his usual self at Olympics last year, yet still the three-time World All-Around champion won that presitgious All-Around title. He is looking fabulous…will he make it a 4th World title? We hope so, but we also know that in gymnastics ‘it ain’t over, til it’s over’! Anything can happen.

There are lots more still to compete in qualifiers – some of our British lads compete in the morning, and there are so many gymnasts competing some incredible routines. The men especially are really raising the bar in breathtaking scary ways! Expect lots of gymnastics tweets on my twitter feed this week – I’ll be doing all I can to keep up to date as I follow my crazy new schedule! :)

British folks, be sure to check out the articles like this one, written by Ollie Williams on BBC Sport. I really appreciate the time he takes to get himself informed – you don’t find many sports journalists particularly knowledgable about gymnastics. It’s great to have him back in the country and doing his Olympic Sports journalism thing. You can also follow his daily Olympic Links blog – Frontier Sports. Donations to upkeep of his website go in part to Canada’s Frontiers Foundation, who he and his wife volunteered with in 2012/13.

Wednesday HodgePodge – Round 41

It’s Wednesday, I’m off work for the week (but weirdly more busy…I guess that’s the Edinburgh festival effect) and you can join in by linking up at Joyce’s blog and visiting the other HodgePodgers (click on the HodgePodge button to take you there!).
1. The first week of August is National Simplify Your Life Week…what’s one thing you could do this week to qualify as a participant?

Get rid of some of the shoes that are falling a part or are too small for me (weirdly, after my feet not growing from age 10, and even shrinking when I did ballet from age 14-16, my feet grew when I was about 24!)

2. It’s also National Peach Month…peach pie, peach cobbler, or please pour me a Bellini?  What’s your peach pleasure?

We don’t eat a huge amount of Peaches here, and ‘raw’ I prefer nectarines. Bellinis have always sounded nice (but I have to be careful because of the wine allergy) and peach pie also sounds yummy but I don’t think I’ve ever had some.

3. Eleanor Roosevelt once wrote, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Agree or disagree…explain.

Agree. But I don’t think it needs to be like jumping out a plane or anything. Sometimes it can be as simple as going on your own to the cinema. Two of my favourite quotes are from great authors and both talk about fear and how it can stop us leading a full life. Going to Australia and going to South Africa really scared me – from a money perspective, flying on a plane/sharing room with possibility of ‘what if they throw up’ perspective… But also I remember early this year being scared to apply for my dream job because I was afriad of rejection. In the end, I did apply and didn’t get it, but now I have no regrets or ‘what ifs’ about it.

4. What’s your favorite household chore?  Yes-you have to name one.

Cleaning the bathroom – I don’t know why, but there’s something therapeutic. It was the first thing I did after finishing my university dissertation at the end of my undergraduate degree! Submitted it, came home and cleaned the bathroom (household chores had fallen slightly by the way side in the 2 weeks I had to finish writing up my project!)

5. Fodors recently listed (what they’ve dubbed) the ten most beautiful sunset spots in America. Click here to read more and see the pretty pictures, but this is their list:

Butterfly Beach in Santa Monica CA, Mount Haleakala in Maui HI, Old Fort Marcy Park in Santa Fe NM, Laguna Beach CA, Hopi Point in Grand Canyon AZ, Four Seasons in Miami FL, Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica CA, Gay Head in Martha’s Vineyard MA, Ensign Peak in Salt Lake City UT, and Mallory Square in Key West Florida.

Have you seen the sun set from any of these spots?  If you could choose to watch the sun set this weekend from one spot on the Fodors List, which would you choose?  Where was the prettiest sunset you’ve ever seen?

I think I’d choose Maui, but that’s mainly because I’d love to see Hawaii! The prettiest sunsets and sunrises always occurred in Aberdeen. Strange, as it’s not really a ‘pretty city’ with all its grey granite (I laugh out loud at Bill Bryson’s comments that there’s no granite anywhere, he must either not have known what granite looked like or walked around Aberdeen with his eyes shut). But Aberdeen had the most unique and stunning sunsets.

One of the most memorable sunsets (because that’s a different question) was at Cape Otway, Australia. Watching the parade of penguins waddle up the beach as the sun went down behind the 12 apostles at the end of a day driving down the Great Ocean Road was spectacular. The other memorable one was watching the sunset in the Sahara Desert.

IMGP1755

6. What’s your favorite or most used app?  If you don’t use apps how about your favorite or most visited website?

I just got my first smartphone at the weekend, after my Dad called me last Wednesday and told me he was buying me one whether I liked it or not. Whats app is great since my Dad lives in Spain, my sister now lives in Cameroon and we can use it to communicate with each other very easily. My most visited website is probably Twitter. I don’t understand why anyone follows me!

My Dad said I needed to name her like I named my car…so everyone meet Phoebe (she’s now got a white wallet like case to protect her from my clumsiness!).

Photo on 2013-08-03 at 15.33

7. We’ve recently passed the halfway mark for 2013…write a seven word sentence that sums up your year thus far.

Lots of death, fun and unexpected twists.

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

So the other week, I  went into a shop and bought a postcard to get some change for the bus. Given the lament of people saying they miss getting mail and postcards, I’m having a wee silly competition sort of thing where if you share a wee tourist story, you might just get a postcard sent through your mailbox. :)

**Additional thought: sadness to hear the news that my Britain’s most decorated gymnast and the most successful British female gymnast EVER, Beth Tweddle has officially retired. Beth is almost exactly a year younger than me, so I’ve been aware of her since Athens Olympics. I was so excited to see a British gymnast in contention for INTERNATIONAL medals. British Gymnastics has done a lovely job of paying tribute to her as the news was announced this (Tuesday) morning – just after I’d written this post. I was almost in tears reading the announcement on British Gymnastics website on ‘Phoebe’ while waiting for an appointment. Part of that being these emotional videos ‘The Making of a Champion‘. Anyone who has spent a day following me on social media will know my passion for gymnastics and Beth has been an exceptionally inspirational role model both in and out of the sport, and I’m sure will continue to be even if retired from competition. THANK YOU BETH!**


Making it Count

1044687_641680195861866_1328009158_n

Yep, summer is still here. And I’m absorbing all I can.

More friends are turning 29, and it’s bringing that all important 3-0 closer, there are so many things that once you pass 30, you don’t get the opportunity for. Like a working holiday visa in Australia, for example.

I don’t know why, but each day I’m reminded how I could be dead tomorrow. And it makes me want to have as much fun and enjoy life. Get every scrap out of it I can. I was watching Adam Hills Tonight, and they had a segment called Naked Tuesdays. Naked Tuesdays was started by a great guy called Craig Coombes, who has terminal throat cancer. He just seems like the epitomy of an ‘Aussie Bloke’ – down to earth, sense of humour, friendly, caring, wants to have fun and doesn’t take himself too seriously. He started Naked Tuesdays as a way of showing his family, friends and the world that it’s still ok to have fun even in the face of terminal cancer. That he’s ok with his body. His mantra is ‘Make the rest of your life, the BEST of your life‘. Amen brother – let’s do it!

And I don’t want to wait to get runover by a bus, or diagnosed with some horrible disease to start living.

I love my bucket list. There are loads of ‘normal’ things on it, and some random things on it. Over the last week, as I’ve strolled, sipped iced lemonade, snoozed or read in the glorious sunshine, I’ve been thinking about other things I’d quite like to do.

Like be part of a flash mob. And go punting on a river. Learn Spanish, French and Sign Language. Get my holiday permit for Girlguiding. Try out an adult gymnastic class. Go see the NCAAs. Have lots of campfires and barbecues with friends. Go to more music gigs. Go to a symphony. Oh plus all the stuff that’s already on my bucket list!!

If I die tomorrow, I want people to know I have so few regrets. I don’t even regret days I lay cosied up in a duvet watching a DVD boxset of White Collar. Because I love that show. :) Or when I dance in the kitchen along with the How I Met Your Mother theme tune while cooking my tea before going to a Senior Section meeting.

The times I’ll regret, is the times where I could have done something but decided I couldn’t be bothered. That just sucks.

And so, I’ll jump on a train to meet my friends so we can go to the beach because the weather is gorgeous. I’ll stay in the beer garden and end up going to (what turns out to be a totally crap) fringe show with my friend at 1 a.m. I’ll go rock climbing with my friend. And I’ll go to the cinema to see Despicable Me 2 and randomly say ‘Bottom hee hee hee’ on facebook or while in the car driving with my friends for many months later. I’ll buy the How I Met Your Mother boxset so I can watch it on the days I’m sleepy and just want something that makes me smile. And I’ll attempt to do things on beach car park furniture that can act as a balance beam as the sun is setting over the sea. I’ll give my friends kids squeezy hugs and teach my godson and his brother silly things like dancing in the rain and swinging off of bars. I’ll bounce on a spacehopper or go to university in my pyjamas for charity. I’ll sing out of tune in the shower and the car. And I’ll cartwheel on a beach and end up falling in the sand. I’ll wait by stage doors to meet Logie winning Aussie soapstars. And I’ll wish that I could be in Bristol to go Gromit hunting with my friend. I’ll cheer people on, and try to encourage people to use their gifts and skills and not be afraid of failure. And I’ll bully my boss into pretending to run down a beach reenacting Chariots of Fire. I’ll read my bible. I’ll listen to God, and then I’ll get the words He tells me inked on my skin so I always remember the nutty moments of faith.

I don’t get to choose how I die, but I get to choose how I live.

And I choose to live so I have lots of fun and stories to share.

What else are blogs for?!

This weekend was brought to you by the letter G…

1300 members of Girlguiding Edinburgh attending the Diamond Jubilee Beacon Night

1300 members of Girlguiding Edinburgh attending the Diamond Jubilee Beacon Night

Nicola asked about what her blog readers’ weekends have been like. Well…

Our Guide unit (the Monday night group of 10-15 year olds) have been asking about camping. The generation that came before them (a few of them now in the new Senior Section Unit) were not fans of camping. I’m sure they won’t mind me telling you that the idea of living without use of a hairdryer for an entire weekend (never mind week) fills them with mild horror.

However, our current generation seem to want to camp. Jo is a Mum of three kids aged 6 and under, and I’ve never seen a day where Ashleigh didn’t have perfect hair, make-up and beautifully manicured nails. I was away from Guiding for 9 years…sooo…none of us has our camping and holiday license required to take a unit on any overnight camp (tented or otherwise!). And so we’re trying to find a way forward.

Enter ‘Camp Out‘ Go For It.

We’re going to be doing the ‘Camp Out’ GFI which kinda prepares girls for what camp involves and gives them ideas about how to plan camp activities and so on. While the patrols chose their own Go For Its to do this term, we’re going to be doing ‘Camp Out’ on the weeks where there is been a holiday the week before. The reason for this is that we find that the girls tend to forget to bring stuff they need for the activities they’ve planned if there’s been a week away from Guides! Our hope is to then have a night at Trefoil (a campsite not far from us) with a campfire and outdoor games at the end of term.

We did a night at Trefoil last year as part of a combined ‘Be A Good Sport’/Olympics/Amelia’s Challenge night with a campfire I built with very soggy wood, and we had a night at Trefoil with the rest of Girlguiding Edinburgh for the Queen’s Jubilee where I discovered most of our Guides don’t know any Campfire songs.

And so this weekend, I’ve been putting together a selection of activities from Camp Out and an older related GFI activity pack for the girls to choose from, and tracking down Campfire songs in preparation for teaching the girls them.

Of course, this is in between keeping up with the European Gymnastics Championships where our British Team won 5 medals (2 Golds, 2 Silvers, 1 Bronze). Our mens team have come home the most decorated mens team. Although the Russians won 3 Golds, they only got 4 medals in total. I’ve begun to update the gymnastic pages on wikipedia (with others doing the same) – there’s a lot of gaps with nothing updated since the Olympics in a lot of places. Some gymnasts don’t even have their own entries. My hope is that by doing this, people new to watching the sport can understand who people are, what they’ve achieved and get interested in following the sport more! I was also super pleased to wake up this morning to the news that University of Florida women’s gymnastics team won their first ever National Team title. I was hoping they would, as they’ve been top most of last year and this year – and it was British Olympian, Marissa King‘s last NCAAs on the Gator team. They won the title on her birthday too. What a gift! You might remember I was hoping to be at the NCAAs this year as they were scheduled to be in Los Angeles the same week as the Q conference. I wish I’d been there last night so bad! :)

Now, I just need to make some cupcakes for a memorial celebration/fundraiser a rainbow unit have organised in our area, in honour of their Rainbow leader who lost her battle with cancer last month. And then I’ll be ready for Monday!

Is inequality why girls aren’t inspired by women?

Last Monday, the patrols I was working with finished doing the Promise Consultation earlier than we expected. And knowing that after half term they’ll be using time to plan the two nights they are leading next term, I wanted to get them thinking about International Women’s Day.

So I asked them what I thought was a simple question.

‘Can you tell me about a woman who has inspired you?’

With blank looks, I asked them if there was a woman who they looked to as a role model, or did something they thought was cool, or maybe showed characteristics they’d like to have as they got older.

One girl (aged 10) piped up with ‘Rosa Parks’.

The rest of the two patrols all looked at her strangely then looked at me and said ‘Who is Rosa Parks?’

With some help, this 10 year old girl explained who Rosa Parks was and her simple act of courage. But all the girls struggled to come up with their own answers. One said ‘Peppa Pig’ and someone else said ‘Can we choose One Direction?’

I’m trying to remember who I looked up to when I was their age. I remember Betty Boothroyd being the woman with the gavel in the House of Commons. I remember the Spice Girls and finding out a lot more about their back stories – I really admired Melanie C because it was someone who wasn’t wearing teeny skirts and high heels all the time. I wasn’t a fan of Margaret Thatcher, but I do remember being told she was the first female Prime Minister. I admiring the dancers in the Scottish Ballet. Lavinia Milosovici, Kerri Strug and Amanda Borden because they seemed like nice people as well as so hard working that they got to the Olympics! Perhaps Mother Teresa and Princess Diana.

But really most of history seemed filled with men. Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Steve Redgrave, Linford Christie, Winston Churchill, soliders from World Wars, Stephen Biko, Donald Woods, Nelson Mandela… All the ladies just seemed to be there to look like human Barbie dolls. Perfect hair, perfect make up, pristine clothing. That wasn’t me, and I didn’t identify with them. There just didn’t seem to be many equivalents to not just admire their talents but their ability to live functional ‘normal’ lives.

I have been blessed to grow up in a world where anything seemed possible for women. The only inequality I found growing up is that girls were not allowed to play football at primary school. I remember distinctly there being a football team set up for the boys, but there was absolutely nothing for the girls. Not even another sports team of any sort.

And so it makes me wonder why it is such a difficult question to answer.

And how really I’ve believed a myth of no inequality when actually there seems to be a special secret going on.

Only just this morning, I heard that the Scholastic Athletic programme in Massachusetts is doing away with Men’s Gymnastics.  The MIAA spokeperson went so far to say this: “It’s a girls’ sport…. when was the last time you watched boys’ gymnastics? They don’t get on the cover of the Wheaties box. They don’t get the endorsements.

Oh. My. Word.

Who hires people like this?! First of all, I’m not even American, and I know plenty of male gymnasts with endorsements. Hilton Worldwide. BMW. Ralph Lauren. That wouldn’t have been John Orozco on Piers Morgan would it? And no they haven’t been on a Wheaties Box recently. Because they haven’t been quite so successful as the American women’s gymnastics team.  But hey – in the UK, Louis Smith made it to our equivalent of Dancing With The Stars and you’ll see him on Subway shop windows. And maybe, just maybe,  the state that produced one of America’s most well-known male gymnasts perhaps wants to rethink that decision. Especially if that’s your sexist and severely misguided view of the sport of gymnastics.

Screen shot 2013-01-28 at 23.14.52

So it makes me wonder if the problem with inequality lies in ignorance or stereotyping. Perhaps some of the guys out there have the same problem. Who are the male role models for them?

I think I have a lot more to say on this subject, but I would love to hear your thoughts…

Ticking off the gymnastics bucket list…

…Despite being off work most of last week with a throat infection, I was DETERMINED to get to Glasgow on Saturday. After failing to get Olympic tickets, I was truly gutted – and totally scunnered to see empty seats at the events when I was watching it on TV. I knew that there was an FIG World Cup event in Glasgow each year, and so when the chance came a couple of months ago to get pre-sale tickets as a fan of British Gymnastics I jumped on the opportunity straight away not caring who I got to see compete! My friend Kathy was going to come with me, but then she realised she had a wedding – so Lynn stepped up to the plate as my gymnastics friend.

Saturday came, and I got up, sucked on strepsils, packed a lunch, covered my face in concealer, foundation AND bronzer because according to my Mum ‘I look awful’ at the moment (extra pale), and headed to the train station with my Olympic Torch Relay flag.

I have to say the event was super organised(aside from the tickets only arriving about a week before the event sending me into panic stations). They had put on free shuttle buses from the main bus station in Glasgow to the arena. And as it turns out…just as well.

I soon realised that my bringing my flag from the Torch Relay (a Union Jack) was a dangerous thing – as our bus stopped for a rather large Orange March on our way to the arena. I then realised the arena was in the Parkhead area…the home of Celtic Football Club. You might know about the riots and violence that’s been going on in Northern Ireland over the last week. You might also know that people on either side of the Republican/Loyalist debate like to associate with Celtic and Rangers – the ‘catholic’ and ‘protestant’ football clubs of Glasgow. Basically, wandering around a ‘Celtic’ area of Glasgow carrying a Union Jack flag is basically like walking around with a target on your back. And it didn’t fit into my backpack. OOPS.

I got there safely on the bus, and was greeted by friendly stewards who handed me a programme, showed me where to go and allowed me back out to meet Lynn with her ticket!

We settled in our seats to eat our lunches, watched Beth Tweddle and I explained who all the gymnasts competing were to Lynn. They had helpful videos on the big screen to explain each event which was great for the newbies to gymnastics.

It was a super long afternoon, but we were blessed with some great gymnastics – especially considering it’s the end of an Olympic year! Marcel Nguyen showed why he won the silver medal behind King Kohei Uchimura in London. we got to see Danell Leyva’s Dad and Coach, Yin do his exuberant  clapping, bouncing and air punching. I strongly believe that Elizabeth Price could win the All-around at worlds next year in Antwerp. And I was gutted that Rebecca Tunney fell from the beam, because she could easily have got a medal if that hadn’t happened. The crowd loved the Japanese guy (I can’t remember if it was Saito or Tanaka) who threw a bit of Gangnam Style when they ‘introduced’ all the gymnasts. I loved the amazing mount to the beam Wakana Inoue performed. Daniel Purvis gave a great pommel horse routine and fought through some minor errors after falling on the Floor event. Kristian Thomas nailed his floor routine, but a disastrous time on Pommel Horse became a theme as he fell on several other events after which was very uncharacteristic for him. What I loved though, is any time a gymnast fell, the crowd cheered them on throughout their routine once they got back on – no matter what colour their leotard was.

So finally – some pictures from the day…

The Wednesday HodgePodge – Round 11

1. Share your traditions surrounding the Christmas stocking.

This folks, is my Christmas stocking. It’s felt and I’ve had this for as long as I can remember!Photo on 2010-12-25 at 10.15

Every year, my Mum collects random stuff for it, and it used to be that it was placed on the end of bed when I went to sleep on Christmas Eve. Now my Mum dumps it outside my door when we get back from the Midnight Service! The rule is that you can’t open any presents until you’ve woken up from sleep on Christmas Day. When I was a kid, I’d take it through to my Mum’s bed and open everything up then I’d usually be made to go to sleep for a few more hours before being allowed to open presents under tree at more civilised hour. Tradition is that there is always a clementine or satsuma, some pennies, chocolate coins and a packet of Thorntons Viennese Truffles in there!

2. How many hours of sleep do you average at night? Is it enough?

I usually sleep for 7-8 hours. If I get less than that, I really do not function. If I don’t catch up on sleep after 48 hours I usually come down sick with a cold or something very quickly. When I was a teenager, because of school starting so early (and me not usually being able to get to sleep before Midnight or 1 a.m.) I often got only 4-6 hours a night. I used to sleep on my desk in several classes! 1st year of uni I was worse – I used to be awake til 2 or 4 a.m., get up at 8 a.m., go to my 10 a.m. lecture, study, have lunch come back, fall asleep and often missed my afternoon lectures. And I had glandular fever at the time. It’s not surprising that I got Post-Viral Fatigue Syndrome really.

3. If you had to give up one thing for the remainder of this year what would it be?

I don’t know. I’d like to try and stop swearing. I do try all the time…but have you ever tried changing the way you speak? I’ve grown up using ‘f’ and ‘b’ and ‘s’ words since I was a wee girl just the same as using words like ‘aye’, ‘wee’ and ‘outwith’.

4. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (or Wills and Kate as I like to call them) have announced they’re expecting a baby. Do you follow news of the Royals?

Well living in the UK, it’s hard not to – the BBC News homepage right now (Tuesday morning) looks like this – and this is after the news is already a day old! Poor Kate though – Hyperemesis Gravidarum is horrible. I’ve had a few friends who had really terrible morning sickness where they’ve puked numerous times a day throughout their pregnancy and that is horrible enough. I’ve had 2 friends with HG – one seriously just wanted to die, and was in hospital constantly. She couldn’t go 20 mins without throwing up. It got to a point she couldn’t move without being ill. Every. single. day. For 8 months. Can you imagine puking 10-40 times a day for that long?

Screen shot 2012-12-04 at 11.45.18

5. For me, the sound of childhood is__________________.

Laughter.

6. Fruit cake-yay or boo? What’s your favorite dessert made with fruit?

Boo. We do not have fruit cake or Christmas pudding in our house. I love Apple & Blackberry crumble, I love berries in general, and at Christmas I use berries and mix them with whipping cream, chocolate fudge icing to make Chocolate Berry Panettone.

7. What is one thing you want to accomplish before 2012 comes to an end?

I accomplished quite a few things on my bucket list this year, so I’m chuffed with that!

I got a tattoo, I cartwheeled on a beach next to the Celtic Sea in Cornwall. I went on a spa day with my friend Carrie and though I didn’t see the Olympics in person, I hope that by next week I’ll have at least seen an international gymnastics competition in person which will include some of the London 2012 Olympians!

8. Insert your own random thought here.

Photo on 2012-12-04 at 00.01

I got the other reindeer, and have named them Ruairidh (a Gaidhlig name, pronounced ‘roo-ah-rhee’ which means ‘red king’) and Saija (a Finnish name which I think is prounounced ‘sai-ya’ means ‘Princess’). They are currently wearing smoothie hats 9 & 10, and standing guard over my tickets for the Glasgow World Cup which is THIS SATURDAY!!!! Very excited to see Marcel Nguyen & Danell Leyva (2012 Olympic silver and bronze medallists), not to mention our British Olympics Kristian Thomas, Dan Purvis and Rebecca Tunney. Elizabeth Price (an Olympic alternate) will also be there, and I suspect she’ll contend for the medals at Worlds next year competing for the USA. She won the Stuttgart World Cup competition last weekend. This is my first time seeing elite gymnastics live so I’m super excited!! Worlds next year wil be in Antwerp, which isn’t too far away either…

The way to get better at something is to…

When kids are little, they think grown ups can do anything. There are things they can’t do or haven’t learned yet, and when we’re able to do things they can’t it might seem like we’re waaay more superhero like than we actually are.

It might be because we can drive a car to get somewhere exciting, or jump up so high we can touch the ceiling. The fact that we can draw a picture with incredible detail that you know exactly what it is without having to ask. You are the person that can quench their curiosity with answers to their questions and they might wow at your knowledge.

But of course children grow up, and eventually they learn that you’re just as flawed as everybody else and you’re not really a superhero after all.

My friend’s daughter looks up to me. When I realised that, I got a bit intimidated. After all, we already know that I can be a corruptive influence on the younger generation. ;) Whenever she was in church and I was singing in the worship band (often with her Daddy who plays drums and other grown up friends she knows) she always got excited. When she was little she’d do impressions of us all – she’d sing with her eyes shut – one arm raised in the air and declare that she was me. My response was a mixture of embarrassment (oh my – is that really what I look like when I’m singing?!), hilarity and pride. She made me a card on my 26th birthday that declared I was a rockstar. And I guess to her, it maybe looked that way. I mean I got to sing on a stage with a microphone with a band. That is COOL. To her, I was an amazing singer.

But the truth is, although I can sing, I’m not anything remotely close to amazing or rockstar like!

When we were on holiday last month, my friend and her daughter (and indeed everyone else on the beach that day who might have been watching) got to see me suck at something. I love gymnastics. But I can’t do it. My friend’s daughter like me, loves dance and other sports but isn’t brilliant at them yet. She’s still learning after all. At first she didn’t try the cartwheels with me. Until she saw that I couldn’t do it, and was having fun trying anyway. So together we tried to fling our bodies into the air attempting handstands and cartwheels. Again. And Again.

We didn’t succeed.

But we had fun trying.

You know, I was never able to sing in harmony. It took me ages to learn. At first I could only do it if I was provided with the notes I needed to sing over and over. When I began to sing in church, I stuck to the melody. Eventually I got the harmony if someone made it up for me. And then with practice and trying (and some awful bum notes in the process) I began to be able to harmonise. Our leader at Powerpoint now jokes with me because I don’t know the melodies to songs anymore – I’m so used to making my own harmonise version as we learn a new song! But when I was 19 I never thought I’d be able to do that. I had to keep practising. I had to ask others from help and teaching. I had to keep trying. I had to make myself vulnerable to making mistakes in the process.

As I came away that day, I reflected on the importance of that lesson. It’s the words that now stick on my head watching footage of World Champion (and now Olympic Champion with her teammates) Jordyn Wieber trying to do a gymnastics move in her living room and falling on her first attempt when she was a little kid. Her Mum is behind the camera as she goes for another attempt…‘The best way to get something done is to try again’

You want to get better at something? Are you being held back because you failed the first time and you don’t like not being the best at something on first go?

I’m with Rita Wieber on this one.

Try Again.

It really is the best way to live. :)

History was made today

History was made this weekend, when the British gymnastics team qualified a mens team AND womens team to an Olympic Team Final. That hasn’t happened in the modern era of  gymnastics…EVER.

And today…we won BRONZE – the first Olympic team medal in men’s gymnastics in 100 years!!!

I’d got really annoyed in the last few months reading gymnastics sites who had so many articles about medal contenders and hadn’t mentioned the British men’s team. Last month, one of the best sites that I follow regularly declared the medals would be given to USA, Japan, China, Russia or Romania in men’s team final. I was so angry – did they not realise the talent we had? Our men’s team had BEATEN Russia, Germany and Romania at Europeans as recently as May. Yes, injury comebacks and a disastrous day (not unlike the one the American men had today in team final) at the Prelims in Tokyo meaning they didn’t qualify back then. But the fact that Daniel Purvis got 4th all-around and Smith got Bronze even after a big error on his Pommel routine should have been a sign not to count us out. We dominated the London Test Event. Daniel Purvis got the highest All-Around score at Euros – on 3 hours sleep and a stomach bug! And then we won and became the European Champions.

I always knew that a medal was possible – though not probable today. There were some great teams – the American men proved in qualifers they were capable of making that medal podium. I knew that it was highly unlikely that China wouldn’t hugely improve from qualifiers – they did that at Worlds and they  have great mental toughness. Germany had huge potential. Russia had huge potential. In all honesty, the surprise for me today was not the British medal, but the almost medal for Ukraine. The only one I’d noticed in the last year was young Oleg Stepko. Shame on me for counting out the Ukrainians. They did AWESOME today, and I hope to see plenty more of them in years to come.

I hope now you see why I made my complaint to the BBC – why I’ve complained that they’ve really not promoted gymnastics too much on the BBC Sport website except for Louis Smith and Beth Tweddle. These guys can inspire a whole generation of kids to get into sport with the drive of a dream of representing their country in international competition. Making the choice to work hard, be disciplined, stay healthy. Wouldn’t that be fabulous? Even if they never become Olympians, what they could gain to take into whatever they wish to work hard to achieve in life is priceless.

And stay tuned. Some people may say this is a ‘surprise’ medal or that the British men ‘overperformed’ – but those who paid attention (and that includes Japanese coaches when they first saw today’s team in junior competitions like the youth olympics) saw the potential. And if you paid attention to the European Championships this year you’ll know that there is some great talent amongst the Juniors that hopefully will come up in the next few years before Rio 2016.

I’m so looking forward to the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and World Championships in 2015 – both competitions will take place in Glasgow. It may mean a trip on the ‘road of doom’ (the M8 for those not in the know!) but today I’m even more disappointed not to have gotten those Olympic tickets I applied for and tried to get other ways.

And I’m not regretting a second of my precious time off being used to watch our British Olympians. Whether they win medals or not.

:)