What do you do when you’ve sent one of your teammates flying into the air and when you look up, instead of flying gracefully through the air, she is tumbling towards your face like a sack of potatoes? Do you try to catch her or get out of her way?
According to up and coming acrobatic gymnast Indigo Conroy, 18, you try and catch her, even if it means getting hurt yourself.
Originally from Tanja in the Bega Valley, Indigo is now based in Oak Flats and together with her teammates Ella Treanor, 16 and Naomi Gibson, 13, she has just won gold at the Australian National Gymnastics Championships in Melbourne.
Indigo laughs and says that the trio has had “some bad stacks” along the road to gold.
“You have to try to catch whoever is falling, otherwise they could really hurt themselves, you just do whatever you can do to break their fall.”
Amazingly, since she began training at Eden Area Gymnastics in Pambula at 11 years of age, Indigo hasn’t suffered any broken bones or major injuries, “just the odd bruise”.Gymnastics trainer Ben Moroney, of Pambula, met Indigo when she first started and still travels to Oak Flats every Wednesday to work with her and other budding young gymnasts.
Ben is nearly 70, has been training gymnasts for 30 years and reckons he can pick the kids who will compete at a national or international level when they first begin training.
“You see it right away. You give them something to go for and you see it in their attitude, they have to have the brains, it doesn’t matter about the body if the brain wants it.”
It was Ben who suggested that Indigo try Acrobatic-Gymnastics, which is always performed in teams of two or three and is based entirely on the floor instead of using the beam seen in traditional gymnastics.
Setting her sights on competing at higher levels meant Indigo needed a more rigorous training schedule and more options for teammates than Eden Area Gymnastics could offer so, at the age of 16, with her families support, she relocated to Oak Flats near Wollongong to train with the Oak Flats Albion Park Kiama Gymnastics & Acrobatics Club.
The Oak Flats club is the best in Australia, according to Ben and won gold in five categories at the Australian National Gymnastics Championships.
“They consistently win more gold than any other club in Australia and the best part is that they train out of an old cowshed at the Albion Park showground. Once a year they have to pull all the training equipment out so they can have the chicken show there.”
Ben says he gets as much of a kick out of the kid’s success as they do and that his goal is to “get kids off the street and make sure they are too tired to make trouble.”
With four hours of training every afternoon and a five-hour session on Saturdays, Indigo is definitely tired but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s a hard sport but it teaches you about life – that hard work pays off,” she says “I love achieving and competing and traveling with the whole team.”
The trio now has their sites set on the World Championships, to be held in Switzerland in May 2020.
And after that? Indigo is also completing an online course to become a personal trainer and plans to pass on what she has learned about physical conditioning to others.
“It’s amazing what the body can do,” she says passionately before heading off to yet another training, eyes firmly on her goal.