Hey Gal! This is me…. Charlotte Owens, 19 years old and studying a Bachelor of International and Global Studies at the University of Sydney.
My deal is… I am a rhythmic gymnast and have represented both NSW and Australia at an elite level.
How I got here… I did ballet and tap dancing for three years before I started rhythmic gymnastics when I was 7 years old. I vividly remember my first lesson and trying to awkwardly position my legs into the splits and then not being able to bounce a ball properly… Let’s just say I’ve come a long way since then! I began to frantically practice cartwheels in my back garden, which must have paid off as I was fast-tracked into the elite stream a year later. Since then I have represented NSW seven times, competed overseas and this year I competed in the most advanced level of the sport: Senior International.
My day looks like…. In the busiest time of the year, this is what I get up to. I rise at 6am and brew a pot of tea before settling down to finish some uni readings or work on assessments. Then it’s brekkie and off to uni for the day! If I have long breaks between classes, you can find me in the library either tackling a reading or trying to read a French novel…not as easy as you think!
Since I use public transport, the train ride to gymnastics training in the afternoon after uni is a chance for me to re-wind a little before whipping my hair into a bun. Training is for 4 hours and combines fitness, strength and conditioning, stretching, body work, ballet, apparatus repetitions and practicing our routines with the music. Needless to say, it’s a pretty busy end to the day! And if it’s a day off, I’m kept occupied with tutoring or coaching gymnastics.
I try not to do too much uni work afterwards unless I have to, so after having dinner and a shower I finish the day by snuggling up to read in bed and journaling. Ending the day like this is a non-negotiable for me as it’s my time to relax and is usually enjoyed with another cup of tea!!Where my sport has taken me so far… Rhythmic gymnastics has taken me to Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Auckland as well as countless times interstate. The 4+hour training sessions, missed parties, physio appointments, wedgies, injuries and copious amounts of glitter and hairspray are all worth it, without a doubt!!
What I love about it… Rhythmic gymnastics is a sport of perfection and striving to achieve your personal best is everyone’s goal. In saying that, training in a positive, supportive environment makes it just that bit easier. I love my coach Marija, the girls I train with and the crazy things we get up to (mostly comparing carpet burns, gaging at the stench of toe shoes and making pained faces in oversplits!)
The challenges are… As with any elite sport, challenges are part of the package of pursuing something you love! It’s challenging when you’re constantly interrogated by people who consider you to be too busy or being peppered with the question ‘but can’t you miss just one training?!’ (the answer is always no). What I’ve learnt from this is to surround yourself with people who support your passion and believe in you whole-heartedly. This has always been important to me, but especially so during injury rehab. and other inevitable disappointments of elite sport.
What I pursue alongside my sport… Since I am such an eager-beaver and busy bee, I also teach Speech and Drama at a school, tutor high school students, coach gymnastics and I recently completed an internship as a Foreign Correspondent for the Organisation for World Peace. I am constantly looking for new sources of stimulation, which might explain why I also read so much (so far, I’ve read 33 books this year!) I am also beginning to do some work as a United Nations Youth Volunteer which I am really excited about!!
The balance is… Well actually, I prefer thinking of it as blend not balance. I strike to achieve a lifestyle that blends everything that makes me thrive; from my uni degree, to gymnastics to jobs. You CAN do it all, if it encompasses all your passions. The Sydney Uni Elite Athlete Program hits the nail on the head by encouraging its members to be ‘academic athletes’; students who are devoted to both their studies and their sport. In fact, there’s so much research done by the AIS proving that elite athletes have incredible time management and dedication, which transfers perfectly into their academic pursuits!
My greatest achievement is… Being crowned the Level 10 New South Wales State Champion and my selection to represent Australia in New Zealand last year. However, competing at nationals this year as a first year gymnast in Senior International was an incredible experience and one that I never thought that I would’ve achieved!
The toughest setback i’ve had… Although I’ve dealt with a colourful array of injuries (ranging from stress fractures to concussions), the toughest setbacks are when your routines look amazing in training but you don’t deliver at competition. That’s something I’ve worked really hard to overcome for the past few years and my different mindset and renewed self-belief now enables me to perform as I have trained on the competition mat.
So, what’s next… I’m one of the ‘gym grandmas’ in NSW but I’m definitely still competing in next year’s competition season. Down the track I’ll be going on exchange to either France or Switzerland for 6 months as a component of my degree, which I’m sure is going to be an amazing chapter in my life! Career wise, working in the global sphere in relation to human rights, geopolitics or international security is the ultimate goal. Whatever it is that I pursue, rhythmic gymnastics will always be a passion of mine and I intend to be involved in the sport forever in either a coaching and/or judging capacity.
My advice to anyone pursuing a pathway like mine… Follow your heart not your mind. This means surrendering yourself to the never-ending journey of learning and also embracing your passions. You learn the most from your failures, so a positive attitude can turn any situation into an opportunity for improvement. Remember to not take yourself too seriously, no one is ever too old to laugh when a throw doesn’t go quite to plan and catapults across the gym! Lastly, acting with love never goes unnoticed! Be gracious when you’re disappointed and others succeed. Always take the high road and if you’re ever feeling uninspired, just remember why you started!!