Dedication reaps dividends

Last updated 11:01 16/05/2014

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Courtney McGregor is 15 but does her schooling through correspondence, a sign of the level of commitment required to be a world class gymnast.

McGregor is leading something of a gymnastics revolution in Christchurch, where a small but highly talented and committed group of athletes are starting to blaze a trail.

There have been breakthrough results in the past month and there's potential for more, bearing in mind the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow are on the horizon.

McGregor completed a couple of firsts for a New Zealand artistic gymnast; her fourth place in the vault, in Qatar, was the best showing by a Kiwi at the World Cup event and her silver medal, also in the vault, at the recent Pacific Rim Championships in Canada was the first medal won by a New Zealander at the prestigious event.

Each time she recorded a New Zealand best score, an impressive 14.132 in the latter event that ranks her second in the Commonwealth.

McGregor is also very good on the floor, and reached the top-eight final in Canada in that apparatus.

Her aim is to master the all-around glamour event given it combines all the individual apparatus. And she is not alone.

Fellow 15-year-old from the Christchurch School of Gymnastics Charlotte Sullivan made the floor final in both Qatar and Canada and her ranking would suggest she is also a serious medal contender for Glasgow.

There are others, too, like former Marlborough gymnast Anna Tempero, Brittany Robertson, Hanna Malloch, Wellington's Mackenzie Slee and Jordan Rae from Auckland.

They will form the basis of an expected five-person New Zealand team for Glasgow.

It's been 20 years since a New Zealand woman last won an artistic gymnastics medal at the Commonwealth Games, and 24 years since Nikki Jenkins, then 14, won the vault gold medal in Auckland, New Zealand's only gold medal in artistic gymnastics.

Slim pickings indeed but the sport is on the up, and Christchurch is leading the way.

It's quite remarkable really when you consider the Christchurch School of Gymnastics was battered and broken during the 2011 earthquake.

It's testimony to the dedication of a small group of elite gymnasts and the people behind them that they've risen above the rubble and are now thriving.

"We've built this team up, " says Avril Enslow, the CSG's chief executive and an international gymnastics judge.

"It's amazing we've been able to achieve this with a cracked and broken gym but we've got committed people there, and anyone who wasn't committed has gone.

"It's pleasing that the earthquakes haven't stopped the progress of the gymnasts.

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"It takes a few years for results to show. They are starting to show nicely now."

These girls - and their families - are totally committed. McGregor, who started gymnastics when she was 5, pulled out of school last year and now studies through correspondence to allow her to train 30 hours a week.

"It's pretty intense, " she says of the training. "It was hard doing schoolwork and getting to the gym.

"I was missing school in the morning for training, so we just thought it would be easier and it works really well for me."

Sullivan, also a gymnastics "veteran", having started when she was 5, still attends Christchurch Girls' High School and manages to fit the same number of training hours around her school schedule.

"It's full on but it's manageable. I fit stuff in before and after school, " she says.

As always there are the unsung heroes - the families.

The trip to Doha cost about $4500 and Canada $6000.

But the hard work and sacrifices are starting to pay off.

The big reward would be a medal in Glasgow. Fairfax NZ

- The Marlborough Express

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