The third post in our “Meet the Worlds 2013 Selection” series, introducing the confirmed gymnasts competing at this years World Championships in Antwerp.
Ireland is a gymnastics nation unknown to many. To date, only two Irish gymnasts have ever qualified to the Olympic Games – Barry McDonald gained his spot to the Atlanta 1996 Games via a wild card and Kieran Behan qualified and earned his place via the London 2012 Test Event. In recent years, under the guidance and direction of Technical and Performance Manager Sally Filmer, MAG has gone from strength to strength with Olympic Coach Paul Hall thinking that Ireland is where Great Britain was five years ago, so watch this space. The influence of foreign coaches and decision of gymnasts to train abroad has added to the success. Kieran Behan attracted attention to gymnastics in Ireland upon becoming the 2011 World Cup Series Floor Champion and this becoming a break out star. Upon qualifying to the London 2012 Olympic Games, he became an overnight star. Undergoing surgery and illness this year meant that Kieran is out of contention for the 2013 World Championships but is still training and firmly has Rio 2016 in sight.
Let’s take a look at those who qualified to represent Ireland in Antwerp:
- Luke Carson
- Andrew Smith
- Chris O’Connor
Luke Carson – a long time veteran of gymnastics in Ireland. Born in Northern Ireland, he trained in City of Lisburn Salto Gymnastics Centre until 2010 before being invited to train at Huntingdon Gymnastics Club in the UK alongside Daniel Keatings and Louis Smith. The move to the UK has been nothing but positive for Luke, with his gymnastics improving over the last couple of years. He has represented both Ireland and Northern Ireland on the International stage in European and World Championships as well as the Commonwealth Games. The 24 year old is coming off the back of two difficult years which nearly ended his gymnastics career – read more about that here. Whilst physically training is going well, financially this is not so. Unfortunately due to lack of funding and sponsorship Luke is likely to be forced to return to train in Northern Ireland without a coach in the very near future. He is currently seeking sponsorship to prevent this bump on the road to the 2014 Commonwealth Games and also, Irelands long term plan to qualify a team for the first time, to the Olympic Games. Machine Fitness, a gym apparel brand based in the UK have started a campaign to help keep Luke’s CWG dream alive. Luke is the current Senior All Around Champion in Ireland and will be aiming to try out all of his new routines in Antwerp in preparation for next years Commonwealth Games.
Andrew Smith - similar to both Luke and Chris O’Connor, Andrew trains in the UK (and also USA). His Irish background is from his mother who’s parents were both Irish. Andrew burst onto the scene in 2012, like Kieran Behan, establishing himself as a fine floor worker, although he is an All Around gymnast. The Notts gymnast has spent 2012 and 2013 splitting his time between training in the UK and Ireland, many might recognise him from competing at the Professional Gymnastics Challenge earlier this year for Team World. In terms of results Andy placed an impressive 12th on Floor at the 2012 European Championships (ECh’s) and 19th in qualification at the 2013 ECh’s just behind Russia’s Denis Ablyazin. Between excellent scores from Andy and team mates Rohan Sebastian and Kieran Behan, Ireland ranked a surprising third on floor in the team event in Montpellier. In 2012 he placed fourth on floor at the Challenge Cup in Maribor, Slovenia, eighth on floor at the Challenger Cup in Doha, Qatar and eight in floor qualification at the French International in La Roche-sur-Yon earlier this year. In terms of the physical floor work, he is only one of a few gymnasts who performs a three and a half twist on floor. Another interesting tid-bit from his floor work is that we are unlikely to see Andy perform a back handspring in his routine, earlier this year he told IG:
For me it isn’t something I was taught. It was simply a technique that came about when I noticed I got a lot more power from my round-off than a back flick (handspring). Also, as I am a taller gymnast it can help me to fit everything into the diagonal by skipping the back flick. I see more and more people using this technique, as it gives you more space on the diagonal.
Chris O’Connor – another Irish gymnast living and training in the UK. Training partner to Kieran Behan, Chris trains in Tolworth gymnastics club. Chris has been around for sometime, competing for Ireland in World Championships, European Championships,World Cups and Northern Europeans as well as guesting in competitions in the UK. Over the last year Chris has been upping his difficulty with new skills especially on Parallel Bars and Floor, so we will have some interesting combinations to look forward to:
The Irish Men will be hoping to show off their new difficulty and nail their routines in Antwerp.
Image via Luke Carson on Twitter