Posted on 05/08/2020 in Rhythmic
Five gymnasts are back in the gym after sportscotland Institute of Sport approved the return of a limited level of performance gymnastics.
Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games medallists Kelvin Cham and David Weir with their City of Glasgow club mate Rory Smith are joined by West Lothian’s Cameron Lynn and Ellie Russell who was also part of Team Scotland at the last Games.
Our performance team has worked closely with the Institute of Sport to enable this, working with the restrictions over criteria and protocols. They were required to use competition performance as an objective measure to identify the gymnasts.
During this Scottish Government phase, only athletes who are senior (16+) representative potential for Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games performance squads are allowed to return. They must also be a sportscotland Institute of Sport named athlete receiving service support and/or produced a top eight finish on at least one apparatus or all-around at the 2019 British Championships and/or produced an individual medal performance in 2019 at a senior international competition when competing for Scotland.
The guidance allows for limited sessions and has had significant medical input: a Covid-19 medical officer is in place for the programme, the venue has been deep cleaned, and social distancing and PPE will be in place during sessions with coaches Marius Gherman, John Campbell and Becki Campbell. Everyone will be screened for Covid-19 symptoms before each entry to training including having their temperature checked.
As the sessions are being held at Craigwillow Centre, home to West Lothian Artistic Gymnastics Club, Becki has been heavily involved in preparations for the return to performance sport. She said:
"We were in the process of renovating the facility and we had recently taken on the lease of the whole building. We had a big clear out, our main hall and boys’ gym have been completely repainted and everywhere freshened up.
“We have deep cleaned the whole facility, mapped out one-way systems and created several sanitising stations throughout the building. We have rearranged the equipment to allow for social distancing which has also allowed for extra equipment too. Zero DryTime deep cleaned the carpets and the new floor area.”
However, nothing prepared her for welcoming the gymnasts back to the gym.
“It was really emotional. I was standing by the beam and I had butterflies in my stomach waiting for the gymnasts. I knew I had missed coaching in the gym, but to be back there was so exciting and emotional. Just seeing the smile on the athletes’ faces as well was amazing. They were grinning from ear to ear even though we were just carrying out athlete testing and going through basic elements in the session.
“We have been using Zoom for training sessions during lockdown which has been fantastic but the kids are starting to get demotivated and you get fed up of hearing your own voice for hours on end. Being in that session just really showed that Zoom sessions just cannot fully replicate being back in the gym.
“I’m really proud that Ellie is back in the gym as she works extremely hard and deserves it. It is also much more motivating being in the gym and seeing each other face-to-face and so important for the coach-athlete relationship. We have been doing five three-hour sessions a week together on Zoom but nothing can replicate the load and force going through their body when the gymnasts train in the gym."
“We are working on a 10-week plan building the gymnasts up to where they were before lockdown. The intensity, workload and frequency will gradually increase to avoid any injury. Psychology plays a huge part. Getting back up on the beam after not being on it or for the boys being back up on the high bar, it feels very strange, so we need to take the skills slowly so they feel confident in what they’re doing.”
Commonwealth bronze medallist Kelvin Cham said: “It was exciting to be back as we’ve been locked up in the house for a long time. It doesn’t seem like much time, but five months is a lot as usually one or two weeks off training is a long period for us.
“We were missing gymnastics, missing training, and I was looking forward to seeing coaches and other gymnasts again. It will be nice to get back to a normal routine.
“It enjoyed the first session. We didn’t do much as I have to adjust to my body being not sharp and fit like normal. But getting back on equipment again, just seeing equipment again, was nice. That was good and made me really happy to be training again. It is a process which we’ll take slowly as our bodies have changed mentally and physically. We’re only doing a few sessions a week and it’ll take a lot for all of us to get back into it properly.
“It’s tough because there are only five of us and I know a lot of boys and girls would love to be training again. I know I’m in a fortunate position, but everyone will get back soon and they need to take it as it comes. With the long hours usually involved in gymnastics, we need to take baby steps and see how we’re feeling. Some will get back quicker than others so take it slowly and enjoy it when you can.
“It is a shame for those who can’t be back in training, but just stay positive, keep pushing yourself at home and when you’re back, it’ll feel great.”
Scottish Gymnastics head of performance Sam Hendrikson added: “We are as frustrated as all our members are about indoor sport not resuming before now. We understand the effect it is having on many young people who miss the friendship and fun as much as their own personal challenges of taking part in such a fantastic sport.
“This return to performance training is limited in the number of athletes, frequency of training and in the skills they can do as part of a gradual return. We need to make sure gymnasts are progressing steadily to restore their levels of physical and mental fitness. This is a positive step forward and we have asked sportscotland to consider a return at the appropriate stage for further performance programme gymnasts who did not meet the selection criteria.
“We have also created return to training guidance for competitive gymnasts in every discipline and British Gymnastics is providing non-competitive discipline-specific guidance for coaches who will be key in gradually and safely getting gymnasts at all levels back to doing what they love."