Seeking home support
He may be competing for Auckland, but top New Zealand gymnast Matthew Palmer says he is hoping for strong support from his home crowd at the National Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Blenheim.
Mr Palmer left Marlborough seven years ago to pursue a gymnastics career in Christchurch and Auckland, going on to represent New Zealand at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
However, he said he always considered himself a Marlburian and was looking forward to competing at home in his first outing at the championships last night.
"It's my first home nationals and I'm pretty excited about competing in front of a home crowd. I hope they feel the same."
Mr Palmer said he started his career at the Marlborough Gymnastics Club when he was seven after being talked into it by his sister.
He was inspired to be a career gymnast after watching the 1996 Olympics and competing at his first national championships the same year, he said.
"I must have been about 10. After my first nationals down in Christchurch they did testing with the kids to see who had potential and I went up to Auckland. I didn't make the national squad, but just trialling with those guys was great."
His Marlborough coaches Maureen Elliot and Alan Best were also key in encouraging him, he said.
"Allan Best was my coach from when I was 10 to 18, he helped me a lot and taught me sport is about having fun."
These days Palmer is keen to return the favour, returning every year to help judge the Marlborough gymnastics championships and coach some of the young competitors as well as visiting his parents who still live in Blenheim.
He also brought home flags from the 2010 Commonwealth Games and the 2010 World Championships in Netherlands to hang in the Marlborough club gym and inspire the next generation of Marlborough gymnasts.
"A lot of clubs in New Zealand have flags from where their gymnasts have been and I wanted to bring back flags to show that even from a small community you can get to the top, to the world champs where the Americans and Japanese compete."
The Marlborough Express