World and European championships veteran Nicole Mahwinney of Northern Ireland is confidently preparing for her first Commonwealth Games in Glasgow later this month, where she is aiming for team and individual success.
Born April 24, 1996, Mahwinney began training in gymnastics at age seven at Rathgael Gymnastics and Trampolining Club in Bangor, where she was coached by Clare Taylor and Kim Kensett Friar. She now trains at Salto Gymnastics Club in Lisburn (near Belfast), where her coaches are Kensett Friar and Sun Jie. Kensett Friar works with her on balance beam, Sun works with her on uneven bars, and both coaches work with her on vault and floor exercise.
Mahwinney competed for Ireland at last fall’s worlds in Antwerp and this spring’s Europeans in Sofia.
Representing Northern Ireland, Mahwinney placed 10th all-around and third with her team at last fall’s Northern Europeans in Lisburn; and sixth all-around and second with her team at this spring’s Commonwealth Invitational/Celtic Cup in Perth, Scotland. Also this spring she finished second all-around at the Irish championships in Limerick.
Mahwinney's Northern Ireland teammates in Glasgow will include Sarah Beck, India McPeak and Ciara Roberts. Luke Carson and Matthew Cosgrave will represent Northern Ireland in the men's competition.
In this IG Online interview, Mahwinney details her goals for Glasgow and assesses her potential for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
IG: Heading towards Glasgow, what is your perspective on the expectations that are being placed on you, as well as your own expectations for the Games?
NM: The main expectations being put on me are mostly to do with the team. A good team ranking is expected from our recent success at the Commonwealth Invitational in Perth (Scotland) in April, where we finished in second place. To achieve a good team ranking I am expected to perform clean routines in the all-around competition over the first two days. My own expectations are to not only achieve a good team ranking, but to also qualify for the individual all-around final, which the top 24 gymnasts compete in.
IG: Northern Ireland did not field a full team at the 2006 and 2010 Games. What do you think the team wants to prove in Glasgow, and how well do you think your team can fare against the current Commonwealth powers such as England, Australia and Canada?
NM: The Northern Ireland team is aiming to go out in Glasgow and prove that we are more than capable of competing against the other nations at this level. The team has shown great improvement recently in a number of events, such as placing second at the Northern Europeans last November, as well as our recent success in the Commonwealth Invitational. Also, I and my other Commonwealth Games teammates recently represented Ireland at the European Championships in Bulgaria, where we qualified for the European Games in Baku in 2015. The recent success in these events show that the Northern Ireland team is moving from strength to strength, and that we will hopefully finish in a good team position. The English, Australian and Canadian teams consist of a lot of high-level gymnasts, some of whom have competed in one if not two Olympic Games. These teams are therefore at a much higher level and, with us being younger, we can only try our best to strive forward to reach their level someday.
IG: Glasgow will offer you the chance to establish yourself among the best of the Commonwealth countries. What do you think a good performance in Glasgow will do for you, in terms of how you will be perceived on the international scene going forward?
NM: A good performance in Glasgow would hopefully put my name on the international scene and make people more aware of Northern Ireland gymnastics. Becoming more well-known in the world of gymnastics would be a great confidence boost and would hopefully inspire younger gymnasts to want to reach the world, Commonwealth and Europeans level.
IG: In the previous two Games, your club mates Katie Slader and Seriena Johnrose finished 12th and 14th all-around, respectively. What is you hope for all-around and apparatus placement in Glasgow?
NM: I am definitely aiming for the all-around final in Glasgow, which I feel is within my reach. Due to the more experienced, Olympic-level gymnasts, I am unsure of how the apparatus finals will pan out, but I will definitely give it my best shot, especially for the floor and vault finals. We will just have to wait and see.
IG: What is your ultimate goal in gymnastics, and how close to your potential do you feel you are at this point in your career?
NM: My ultimate goal would be to compete in the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016. However, it's uncertain how many gymnasts Ireland will be sending to the Games. Therefore, from now to then it's just a waiting game and lots of hard work, to ensure my scores keep improving by increasing my difficulty and showing clean performances in competition. The Commonwealth Games has always been my first main goal to achieve, so once I got the go-ahead of making the team, I was determined to work harder than ever to reach my peak for the Games. Going into the Games, I feel fitter than ever and very confident with my routines. However, there are a number of new skills that I'm currently working on which I hope to perform at the world championships in China in October. I therefore feel like I haven't yet reached my full potential, and I'm excited to progress further over the next two years on the lead-up to Rio.
International Gymnast magazine’s features on gymnastics in Northern Ireland and Ireland include:
"Beyond Brave" – Kieran Behan profile (August/September 2011)
"Room to Grow" – feature on IG's visit to Salto Gymnastics Club (March 2009)
"Shooting Star: Sarah Beck" – profile (January/February 2009)
"International Gymnast" – Rohan Sebastian profile (April 2008)
"Rising Irishman" - Matthew Cosgrave profile (December 2007)
"Pride of Ireland" – Katie Slader profile (March 2005)
"Pressing Her Luck" – Holly Murdock profile (August/September 2001)
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