“To lose almost a year of training, it's just unthinkable”

By Caitlin Rundle

CLONDALKIN Gymnastics Club Chairperson Julia Toomey spoke to The Echo about the hardship the club has endured throughout the past year as a result of the Covid pandemic.

The club, which operates all 52 weeks of the year, has been permitted only four weeks of training in September since the initial March lockdown.

Clondalkin Gymnastics 02 1

Giving up a year of training has been a heavy price to pay for Clondalkin gymnasts

“We train at Clondalkin Sport and Leisure Centre and we can only train if they allow us in there, but they won’t allow us to train at Level 3,” Toomey said.

“It was really frustrating when we could see privately owned clubs training.

“It’s hard on our gymnasts to see other gymnasts still training, or they see people playing football or whatever.”

“Gymnasts who were about to reach their peak in the last 12 months, they'll miss that opportunity,” she said. “It’s a sport where you have to do it practically every day, if you want to stay at the top of your sport.”

“You work with these children, some of them seven days a week,” she said. “You've seen them grow from tiny gymnasts into senior elite gymnasts and you know this is going to be their year, and it's all snatched away. It's really really sad.

“Those who do come back will have to start from scratch, it’s absolutely heartbreaking” she said.

Certainly the elite gymnasts of the squad have never been out of action this length of time, usually not even taking a break for summer holidays.

Not only has the club had to face almost an entire year without training, Toomey has had to postpone one of the biggest events the club would have ever hosted now three times.

Gymfest 2020 would have hosted 500 international and national athletes and 800 spectators in the National Basketball Arena in March of 2020.

Just two weeks before the event, the country went into a first lockdown, resulting in its postponement to the following October.

“I was thinking this was all going to be over by then and of course, October 2020 came around and I was like ‘oh no, we have to postpone again,’” Toomey said.

“So I postponed it to March 2021, which was very far into the future, and this week now I’ve had to push it back again.

“Being an eternal optimist, I’ve postponed and booked it for October 2021.

“We would’ve had our Precision Display Squad competing. They are the highest ranking display squad in the country. It would’ve been an amazing event.”

Unsure of how many members will return, Toomey said “You could have a very talented gymnast, but if they haven't trained for a year, they might look for another sport where they could continue training,

“It’s just our passion for the sport that keeps us going, Gymnastics is a very passionate sport.

The people involved in it are very passionate about it, and I think that will carry us through” she stressed.

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