10 minutes with: Andrew Smith (IRE)

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Earlier this year Ireland’s 21 year old Andrew Smith burst onto the scene in the Senior division, ranking 4th place overall in the World Cup Floor standings behind 2010 World and 2012 European Floor Champion Eleftherios Kosmidis, Tomasz Markovic (2nd) and Tomas Sepulveda Gonzalez (3rd). He began competing internationally for Ireland in March at the Cottbus Cup in Germany. He has now successfully competed in all of the World Cup series events, making four finals to finish in the top 8 of each, competing amongst some of the worlds best gymnasts including World, European and Olympic finalists and medalists.

Andy was part of the Irish senior team who placed 15th at this years European Championships in Montpellier, the highest position any Irish artistic team has ever placed. His 12th place floor score of 14.925 helped the team to place in an incredible 3rd position on floor behind Russia and Great Britain. This was a remarkable achievement for the team which shows the great potential that the Men’s High Performance Team of Luke Carson, Kieran Behan, Rohan Sebastian, Chris O’Connor and Anthony O’Donnell have amongst them for the future. The team are now preparing for the 2013 season where they hope to compete in the European championships in Moscow in April, the World Championships in Antwerp in October and back onto the 2013 World Cup Circuit.

Andy’s instant success in this years World Cups has led him to receive an invitation to compete in the World Cup A series in 2013, so we will be seeing more of his powerful tumbling and stylish floor routines come March in France when the next competition is scheduled for. Andrew is only one of a few gymnasts who performs a three and a half twist on floor so I can’t wait to see what else he can include in his floor routine.

We sat down with Andrew earlier in the month to discuss his career so far and where he hopes to be in the future.

Andy, when and why did you start gymnastics?
I started gymnastics when I was about 5 years old, but this was just recreational I properly got into it when I turned 8 and joined the Notts boys squad, I was a very high energy kid and my parents sent me off to gymnastics to tire me out a bit and things just went on from there.

What is your weekly schedule at the moment in terms of training?

I’m in the gym about 26-30 hours a week training and about 10 hours per week helping out with some coaching at my club, in this off-season of competitions I’m using it to try some new moves for 2013.

Many people will be wondering, like Kieran Behan, you have an english accent but can compete for Ireland. What is your connection and background with Ireland?
My Irish roots come from my mum’s parents who were both Irish, my grandmother coming from County Down, and my granddad from County Sligo, also my mum having spent a lot of her childhood in Dublin and the West of Ireland and a lot of my family still living in Ireland.

Tell us about the last couple of months since you began competing for Ireland as a senior?
This year has been a real break-through year where I feel I have completed a lot of my goals that I knew I was capable of, but also after been injured for along time it has just been great going around with the team competing all over the world with the best in the world.

Earlier in the year, you helped the Irish Men’s Europeans Team place in their highest position ever, what was the general feeling among the team? And what has it inspired in them to aim for next?
As we were competing in Montpellier at Eeuro’s it really came to light how much potential this team has, especially with the great start we had on floor and the way we interacted together. There was a great team spirit and something I was very proud to be a part of.

What has been your highlight to date since beginning to compete for Ireland?
Just this past year competing for Ireland against people that I have watched for years on the television or internet win European, World and Olympic medals and on occasion beating them too it has been great.

You have had great success at the Category B World Cup Events, so much so that you have been invited to join the prestigious Category A World Cup after ranking 4th in the 2012 series. The invitation came through last week following your 6th place ranking in Ostrava, how do you feel about competing in the higher ranks in 2013?
As 2012 went on I knew there was going to be a chance I could finish in the top 4, so it is something I have been thinking about. I’m going out there with a lot of confidence after this past year and I know I have a lot more to give, so I’m very motivated to go out there and try pull off a few shocks.

Have you any plans to upgrade your routines for 2013?Tell us about your training plan over the next few months.
Yes I plan to add a lot more difficulty to my routines in 2013, as it was my first year competing for Ireland I wanted to make sure the routines I did were safe, secure and get the job done really but now I’ve settled down into international competition i feel ready to put the harder skills in, and this is something I will be working on over the winter period as I am spending time out in America to train.

Who would be your gymnastics idols and why?
My idol when I was younger was Alexi Nemov, a Russian Olympic champion, he combined difficult skills and style like no-one else I saw at the time, I remember I would always try to mimic the way he competed in my training.

What do you do- mentally and physically- to prepare the day of competition?
When i was younger I never used to eat the day of competition, i guess it was the nerves but I never did, nowadays I make sure I get a good breakfast at least in me before i compete, but generally just focusing on the time when I out my hand up to signal the start of a routine that i’m absolutely prepared for that moment.

What, if anything, does your coach always have to remind you about?
My coach will always remind me on problem area of my routine, if i’m having a problem adapting to a particular piece of apparatus or a skill just won’t go right in warm up, he’ll just give me a few pointers to concentrate on whilst i’m doing that skill in competition and it has proven in this past year to be very helpful.

What is your favourite part of being a gymnast?
My favorite part of being a gymnast is it’s so unique in terms of sport, there is always something new to try doing gymnastics as there are 6 pieces for you to rotate about learning new skills, and when you get that new skill it is a very good feeling.

What has been the most difficult skill to learn so far?
I’m known best for doing difficult work on the floor, but I’d say the hardest skill I’ve ever done would be on the high bar a skill called a Kolman, basically a double back with a full twist to re-catch the bar.

Thanks Andy for taking the time out to catch up with Full Twist. Best of luck training in America during the winter period and we can’t wait to see you compete in March and see what new tricks you have up your sleeve. You can follow Andrew on Facebook here.

Also in this series

10 minutes with: Mary Anne Monckton

10 minutes with: Sophie McCoo

10 minutes with: Kiara Munteanu

10 minutes with: Ye Zhennan

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