Competing for her country at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow will be a dream come true for Christchurch-based gymnast Anna Temper, who learnt her craft in Blenheim. Peter Jones reports.
Representing her country at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games will be a dream come true for Anna Tempero, who returned to Blenheim for the Marlborough Gymnastics Championships at the weekend.
The 19-year-old, who developed her skills at the Blenheim Gym Club from age six, was named in the 10-strong artistic squad chosen to travel to Scotland a fortnight ago, and she couldn't be happier.
"I'm really excited, it's been my goal to get to the Commonwealth Games," she said, adding that she hadn't had time since the team naming to get nervous about what lies ahead. "It's been a bit of a whirlwind since we got picked. Crazy. I can't really believe it. It hasn't sunk in yet.
"[Representing New Zealand has] always been a long term goal for me, but it probably wasn't until around 2010 that I thought ‘I should really try for this'".
As in most sports, the path to wearing the silver fern doesn't always run true. "Well, in gymnastics it's kinda hard to go smoothly," the bubbly teen explained. "There are always ups and downs. I broke my leg last year, at the Marlborough champs, and that was a bit of a downer. But after I had the time off I had to work harder once I got back. It was my first major injury so I wasn't used to having to go through the recovery process."
She credits her move from Blenheim to Christchurch, at the start of 2013, with lifting her performance to another level. "When I was in Blenheim I was only training 10-12 hours a week and I was the best gymnast here, so I didn't have anyone to push me. When I moved to Christchurch I started doing twice as much training and the other girls are all on the same level as me or better than me, so when they were getting their skills I would try harder to get new skills as well. The Christchurch coaches also had a lot more experience with the skills I was doing ... whereas in Blenheim, the skills I was doing were a first for me and for [the coaches] as well."
Achieving a more consistent level of performance has been another factor in her rapid improvement. "When I was in Blenheim we didn't have much time to work on consistency. It was just getting skills done and moving onto the next one ... in Christchurch we have time to do the skills hundreds of times over. Then you gain confidence. It just kinda comes, you just have to go for it, your body knows what to do."
Tempero and the other four Glasgow-bound female gymnasts hone their skills at the Christchurch School of Gymnastics, training 28 hours a week. "The training consists of conditioning, that's mainly strength training and endurance, then we do skills and stretching and our routines."
But it's not all gym work that fills her days, Tempero is working part-time in a Wendys ice cream shop to help with expenses.
After several weeks waiting anxiously for the Games team to be announced, the naming date being changed on several occasions, the gymnasts were thrown a curve ball by their coach. "We weren't sure whether [the selectors] were going to take a full team or not. I thought if they do I should be on the team but if they just take individuals I probably won't make it. I was freaking out the whole time," said Tempero.
"We had a meeting on the Wednesday and the coach started by saying they weren't [initially] going to take a full team, so half of us were thinking ‘we don't want to hear this'. But then he said, ‘but it's OK, you are all in the team, they decided to take a full team'. We were all sitting there totally confused. It was odd. They had just told us that our dreams had come true and we were sitting there without smiles on our faces thinking, ‘what just happened?'."
In the NZ team announcement, GymSports NZ described Tempero as "a good all rounder who excels on all apparatus", meaning she is able to perform with distinction on vault, bar, beam and on the floor.
Asked which disciplines she prefers, Tempero pointed to the beam and floor, although she is not sure at this stage which she will be competing on Glasgow. "Over there the format is four-up, three-count, and there is a five-person team so only four of us will compete in each event. Up until then we will all be fighting for a spot ... so I might not be competing in all four."
Medals are given out for individuals on each apparatus, plus overall, and there are also team medals. Although Tempero will be competing as part of a team effort, she will also be up against her team-mates in the individual sections. Tempero's first taste of top international competition came at April's Pacific Rim champs in Canada. "It was a bit of a rough competition for me," she said, "but a good stepping stone to the Commonwealth Games. It was just good to get some international experience."
Her expectations in Glasgow are modest. "Just to compete at my best. Gymsports NZ said they expect us to be top four in the teams so hopefully we can reach that goal, but for me personally I just want to do the best I can and help the team as much as I can."
She was happy to be back where it all started, in Blenheim, showing the Marlborough faithful the skills she had accumulated on Saturday evening. Another former Marlborough gymnnast, Matt Palmer, will also travel to Glasgow, his second Games, and Tempero was quick to point out the influence of the little Blenheim Gymnastics Club in the NZ team. "We make up 20 percent of the artistic gymnastics team," she proudly declared.
- The Marlborough Express