The truth about being an Olympic gymnast
Jets alumni and two-time Olympian Georgia Bonora reveals the truth about what it’s like to be an elite gymnast.
Let’s face it –gymnastics at times can come across as glamorous.
The effortless-looking flips, the shiny leotards and matching scrunchies. But every gymnast knows this is far from the true.
It’s not as easy as waking up, going to training and heading home.
For Georgia, gymnastics and training became a way of life – a 24/7 routine consisting of structured diets and meals, doctor and physio appointments, training inside as well as outside the gymnasium.
The flips and tumbles look effortless, but a lot of people don’t realise a lot of blood, sweat and tears goes into making every move appear easy.
For Georgia, gymnastics training alone was a 32-hour week – not including the extras that come outside the gym.
“It was a 24-hour thing – morning sessions, afternoon sessions, double sessions -it was hard but it comes with the territory I guess,” she said.
“If you do the right thing – if you eat and sleep well you’re ok.”
The Olympics became a reality in sight for the former Jets gymnast at just 16 years of age, following her first World Championships back in 2006.
“I didn’t like to think about it too much because it’s a big thing for a 16-year-old to be thinking about, I just took it a step at a time.”
“I liked challenging myself.”
People often watch in awe or their jaws drop when gymnasts share the amount of hours they train.
While it can be tiring, for a lot of elite athletes, the physical aspect isn’t the most tiring, having the right mindset is the biggest challenge.
Picking yourself up when you fall, trying again, finding the motivation to continue and the determination to not give up.
“The days I got exhausted it was more a mental thing,” Georgia said.
“I remember days where it was mentally challenging.”
“One specific day – it was a morning session, I was warming up and doing laps around the floor and I got super-overwhelmed trying to perfect everything.”
“I had a mental moment and had to pick myself up again and see things from a different perspective and take it one training session at a time.”
At the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, Georgia placed the highest amongst the Australian girls, finishing 13th in the all-around final.
But like for most elite gymnasts, success doesn’t come without its setbacks.
After the Olympics, Georgia underwent surgery on both of her ankles to remove ankle spurs.
She then had hip surgery in the lead up to the 2011 London Olympic Games.
Despite her injuries, Georgia did not give up. If anything – it fuelled a fire of determination in her to recover and get back to work.
“London was definitely more of a struggle,” she said.
“I knew in my head what I needed to do, but my body was a bit broken.”
“It was definitely a major issue, having injury after injury. I had hamstring issues, ankle and hip issues – my back started getting pain as well.”
“But – I never thought I wouldn’t be able to get back into things.”
For most elite gymnasts and for Georgia – gymnastics is far from glamorous.
But if there had to be a flicker of glamour, standing amongst an Olympic team knowing you have lived your dreams, would be it.
“I looked up to the girls I was standing beside, it was a pretty incredible experience.”
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