Kayla Smith (Year 12) and Leah O’Connor (Year 8) have just returned from Namibia in Southwest Africa, where they competed in the 2016 Junior Commonwealth Gymnastics Championships. The girls won gold in the team event for Trampolining. Kayla won silver in the individual event and Leah came 4th. We caught up with them to find out more…
Hiya girls! Firstly, massive congratulations on your incredible achievements, how are you both feeling?
LO: I’m still feeling excited!
KS: It still hasn’t sunk it really; to achieve what we did! It was nice to come home to my family, knowing how proud they would be.
What was it like to represent your country?
KS: I felt very honoured to represent Wales and wear the leotard. It was great to be a part of the team, alongside girls from my club and my school.
LO: I’ve never been to Africa before; it was so different to home. It was fab to sing our national anthem on the podium with the girls.
How did you both get selected to represent Wales?
LO: I attend a trampolining club in Maesteg and I was training for future competitions. I had to enter a competition to be selected and despite my age and experience, I got selected as a ‘wild-card’ option for the Championship in Namibia.
KS: Our coach Sue Williams is the Welsh Trampoline Squad team manager and she asked us to attend a trial to become members of the squad. We both got in and then got selected for the Commonwealth Championship this year. I was so relieved that I hit the required score, especially after training so hard in the run-up to the trials.
Talk us through the competition, how you won team gold and your other medals?
KS: I had to compete against the African Champion and an elite Canadian gymnast, who have been competing at a very high standard in the run up to the Championships. I had to execute 20 skills in the preliminary round and 10 in the final, saving my best routine for the final in order to place as high as possible. I was disappointed with my performance on the day but amazed with the outcome of a silver medal.
LO: I feel extremely proud to have finished ahead of the African Champion. I was so happy as I didn’t expect to finish that high. For the team competition, we had a bounce order, I was really nervous when it came round to my turn but it went better than I expected and I was very surprised and excited when we won!
KS: The Namibian team was very strong but we matched them all the way, but overall our routines were better executed, which put us ahead of them and won us the gold!
That’s fantastic girls, what was it like to receive your medals?
LO: I have never had to sing the anthem before, at a competition, it was a lovely surprise to be on the podium and hear the anthem start playing. The judges and the organisers shake your hand and congratulate you as you receive your medal, it made me feel very proud, to come first for Wales.
KS: I have never been involved in a competition on this scale before, so to come away with two medals feels overwhelming. The team supported each other throughout the competition and I believe this is what helped us to win gold. We’re all looking forward to competing together again soon.
Well, we are sure that you’re a force to be reckoned with girls, a massive well done from everyone at Ysgol Maesteg, we are super proud of your achievements. You truly embody our school motto of ‘Motivated to Strive’ and we are extremely proud that you are wonderful ambassadors for Maesteg School.