May 18 2013 Latest news:
Robin Cottle, Reporter
Friday, February 15, 2013
Not even the sweltering heat and jet lag could take the smile off Catherine Lyons’ face when she competed as the youngest member of the British team at the Australian Youth Olympics last month.
The 12-year-old was not allowed to have any contact with her parents during the competition, but sacrifice is something the youngster has had to familiarise herself with.
Catherine didn’t settle for just taking part at the Australian Youth Olympics, she claimed a silver medal as part of the women’s artistic team, narrowly missing out on a gold.
Now, as one of the burgeoning stars of gymnastics, she has her sights on Rio 2016 and perfects her art at the Europa Centre in Crayford six times a week.
But having been British champion for her age group five times, she is taking it all in her stride: “If you love your sport enough then all the sacrifices you have to make are worth it,” she says, speaking from the national training camp at Lilleshall in Shropshire.
“I make a lot of sacrifices and sometimes I can’t spend as much time with my friends as I would like, but being a professional sportswoman is my dream.
“Travelling to Australia was an amazing experience although the jet lag and heat were challenges and it was hard not seeing my parents while I was competing.”
Her coach Rochelle Douglas says Catherine is one of the best talents she has had the pleasure of teaching in eight years in the business.
Rochelle is based at the Europa Centre as well and has been coaching the youngster since the age of six.
“Her progress has been incredible,” she says. “Most of the people she was competing against in Australia were 15 – three years is a lot of development.
“Catherine loves to perform. With some gymnasts they look great training but freeze up on the big stage but that’s not the case with her.
“She was especially impressive as it was only the second time she’d been abroad to perform, and the first was only to Belgium.”
Catherine lives in Dulwich and makes the 12 mile commute to Crayford because the facility is the best in London for her sport.
She combines this with a full-time school schedule, which means starting her homework when she gets back from training on weekdays – usually around 9.30pm.
“Getting all of my work done can be a struggle,” says Catherine. “I only get one full evening, other than that I’m training or going to school.
“But going to international competitions whetted my appetite for having a successful career. I know gymnasts have very short careers and I’m focused on the Rio Olympics.”
Rochelle added: “There’s no reason why Catherine can’t think about Rio in 2016 if she keeps working hard.”
Her coach also hopes Catherine, who won’t be 13 until the end of August, will be able to get sponsorship so she can go to a school in Bexley – she and her family will do anything to make sure she reaches the top in one of the toughest of sports.