The Gymternet correspondent Sam Minns recently spoke to Australia’s Mary-Anne Monckton, who won a silver medal on the balance beam at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and is currently preparing for World Championships in Nanning, China. She talks to us about her journey to making the CWG team, handling nerves, skills she’s training, and gives a bit of advice to rising gymnasts.
Congratulations on yours and the team’s achievement at the 2014 Commonwealth Games! Can you tell us a little bit about the process it took you to get there?
Thank you! I don’t even know where to begin because Commonwealth Games was a massive surprise to me! Coming back to gym after London, I was mainly focusing on this years World Championships…the Commonwealth Games never crossed my mind, however after being named to the 2010 team and missing out due to an ankle injury, it was a dream; one that I didn’t think it could become a reality.
Especially because of an unexpected stomach problem which required surgery just 4 weeks before Nationals (which were the selection trials for Commonwealth Games). That experience truly put everything into perspective for me…how quickly everything can change…then my biggest goal was just to compete at Nationals because I felt so ready and didn’t want all of the training to go to waste.
When I was named to the team I was utterly shocked and cried my eyes out. (Tears of happiness of course)
To come out with two silver medals, I couldn’t be happier! The team medal was the most unexpected…we were a team of ‘specialists’ going over to Glasgow to make our respective finals, which we did…but to come 2nd as a team was far above our expectations.
For beam, my aim was so do a clean routine, the way that I do in training. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. I’m very happy with the result, 2nd! However I am not satisfied with my routines…but now we know what to work on in the gym to ensure a more reliable, steady performance next time.
How often do you train when you’re back at home and what are the national team training camps like?
I train at the Victorian Women’s High Performance Centre in Melbourne. We train around 32 hours a week. However since London I have only been training about 20 hours in the gym, and the rest of the sessions I trained at the Victorian Institute of Sport doing strength, cardio, rehab and swimming.
Just before Nationals this year I started training more sessions in the gym to help refine my beam routines and to pick up vault and bars again.
We have National Training Camps in Canberra at the Australian Institute of Sport every 6 weeks or so, depending on what is coming up. It is awesome for all of the girls around Australia to catch up and train together for a week. We usually have trials for competitions, or if it is not during the comp season we will all show our upgrades, new skills and connections. Our National team is a very tight knit bunch of girls, we love training and living together at camps, and we really push push and encourage one another in the gym which helps us improve.
As the 2014 Commonwealth Games were your first major televised multi-sport event, how did you handle your nerves when competing in front of the camera? Do you have any tips for others on how to keep it together?
A comp is a comp, to me Commonwealth Games was no different to any other competition in terms of nerves. I wasn’t as nervous for vault and bars, than I was for beam. I put more pressure on myself for beam because I know I can do really clean routines, unfortunately I didn’t show what I am capable of in Glasgow…Maybe next time.
In relation to the cameras, I just tried to be myself out there on the floor. I am usually very animated with my body language and facial expressions, however in the beam final I tried to be a little more reserved, even though I wanted to congratulate all the girls, I felt like I couldn’t run up to hi five them, if they had just fallen. So I just waited patiently until the end…All my family and friends said that I looked pretty chilled and relaxed when they watched it on the tv.
As leotard designs are becoming increasingly important in the current era of gymnastics, what was your favourite leotard design in your kit? How do you feel towards the (sometimes controversial) hot pink leotards Australia often sports?
My favourite leos are definitely the patriotic ones. It is such an honor to represent your country and to go out and compete for Australia in the green and gold makes it so special.
Sometimes in gymnastics people get caught up with what the leos look like, but it’s more about what they represent. To us gymnasts that is years of hard work and dedication to represent our country at the highest level…I would compete in almost anything if it meant I was representing my country!
Since you’ve been in the game for a few years, do you have any advice for those in gymnastics for persevering when it starts to get difficult? How do you make it through a mental block or a tough workout?
There are many hardships that gymnasts have to overcome, whether it is injury or mental blocks. I have had a fair few injuries over the years, so my advice for gymnasts going through a rough patch of injury is to always remember why you started and why you are doing gym? For me, it’s the love of the sport and my goals as dreams that I want to achieve; this is what really keeps me going. Also, try to focus on the positive rather than the negative. For example, put all of your focus and energy towards what you CAN do, rather than what you CANT.
Mental blocks are also a common occurrence in gym, for me, a huge one was on aerial cartwheel – layout step out on beam. When I moved to Melbourne in 2011 I was having real problems with committing to the entire skill, however talked with my coach Tracey about my fear of missing the beam. Then I worked hard with our sports psychologist and we come up with simple strategies to eliminate my fear and come key words to help my brain instruct my body what to do without becoming flustered and scared.
If you are every going through a tough time, just remember that it is finite; it will end. It cannot last forever, you will overcome it if you believe you can.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time away from gymnastics?
I am studying Exercise Sports Science and Business at the Australian Catholic University, so that, along with training keeps me pretty busy! On the weekends I just chill out, go to church on Sunday morning then go out for lunch with my family 🙂
If you could perform any gymnasts routine who’s would it be (and on what apparatus) and why?
My gymnastics idol is Catalina Ponor, because I remember watching her compete in the 2004 Olympics on my video recorder at home…So I would love to be able to attack the beam with confidence the way she does.
What does the future hold for you and gymnastics? Do you want to continue on for next years worlds and even Rio? Do you have any aspiration to stay in the sport in other ways?
After London in 2012, I just decided to take it year by year…at this stage I’m aiming to make the 2014 and 2015 World Championships teams, and to help Australia qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. I love gym so much and won’t be finishing any time soon, so personally I just want to keep improving my gymnastics as much as my body will allow. My biggest goal now is to medal at a World Championships.
After I achieve what I want to, I definitely want to become more involved with coaching elite gymnastics in the next few years.
Are you currently training any upgrades on any apparatus?
Double twist on vault…bars I have heaps of skills, it’s just a matter of being able to put them all together in a full routine. Constantly mucking around with new releases and combinations-it’s fun.
For beam I am mainly working on consistently hitting my 6.5, but Tracey and I have a few different and interesting ideas to bump up the start value next year!
Thanks you to Mary-Anne Monckton for taking the time to answer our questions!
Article by Sam Minns