When Charlotte Pollard makes history as the first gymnast from the island of Jersey, Channel Islands, to compete at the Commonwealth Games later this month in Glasgow, she hopes her experience in Glasgow will inspire Jersey youngsters to follow her.
“I try to use the pressure and expectation to promote this low-key sport within the island and encourage others to join in and have a go,” she told IG.
Pollard, who began training at age 5, was born Dec. 2, 1998, in Whangarei, New Zealand. “My parents were sailing around the world and I was born half way around,” she said. “I spent the first two years of my life living on the yacht and sailing back to Jersey.” The family now resides in St. John, Jersey.
Pollard’s identical-twin sister, Olivia, is a former gymnast who is training to qualify in swimming for the 2015 Youth Commonwealth Games.
Although Pollard’s international credentials are limited, she has represented Jersey in competitions outside the U.K. She placed 11th all-around at the 2011 Island Games in Sicily; and fourth all-around, third on balance beam, fourth on uneven bars and fourth (tie) on floor exercise at the 2013 Island Games in Bermuda.
In this IG Online interview, Pollard describes her physical and mental preparation she is making for the Commonwealth Games, as well as other key aspects of her gymnastics journey.
IG: How are you managing your personal expectations for the Games, along with the expectations that Jersey sports in general have placed on you?
CP: Managing expectations is easy because my personal expectations of myself are often higher than anyone's, even my coach's. I personally don't feel that there is any added pressure of being Jersey's first gymnast but do realize that others may see the expectation of being the first gymnast as daunting. I try to use this pressure and expectation to promote this low-key sport within the island and encourage other to join in and have a go. There are some fantastic younger gymnasts at our club, and I hope this encourages them to keep aiming high.
IG: You've competed well at the past two Island Games, but Glasgow will put you on a much larger stage. What specific goals do you have for the Games, in terms of your all-around and individual apparatuses?
CP: My goal when competing at the Games is just to go clean and not to fall on any of the apparatuses, though that is easier said than done.
IG: In the lead-up to Glasgow, how are you preparing yourself mentally so you can perform without nerves in such a major competition?
CP: I've never performed in such a large arena before. In preparation I have been trying to compete in front of as many people as possible, though this is hard in our tiny gym. A lot of my preparation is mental as I don't have access to a full floor, hard-matted bars area or a complete-length vault run.
IG: Who coaches you, and on which apparatuses?
CP: Tory De Mond is my coach. I first met Tory when I was six, and she has coached me on all apparatuses every since and continues to. More recently Shinarah Le Blancq has taken charge of our many hours of conditioning, and she choreographs floor routines. Our club also has a visiting coach, John Pirrie, who comes over from England once every two or three months, and has done so for the last four years.
IG: How many hours per week do you train, and how do you balance your school work with your training schedule?
CP: I train around 20 hours a week, often more, rarely less. I am fortunate that my school, Jersey College for Girls, allow me to miss my P.E. (physical education) lessons for extra training. Others than that, it is hard work to balance both school work and gym. I always work hard at school to ensure I leave myself with only the minimum amount of work to do at home. In the case of homework, I'll do most of it in lunchtime; otherwise it might be a late night. I'm lucky that both Olivia and I take the same GCSEs (two-year course to earn General Certificate of Secondary Education), so if I ever miss anything, I can always catch up using her notes.
IG: How do you hope the Commonwealth Games will help you prepare for future big internationals, and allow you to compare your progress with other Commonwealth gymnasts?
CP: The main thing I aim to take away from the games is experience. I try not to compare myself to other gymnasts, but to my previous scores, as that gives a better indication to my progress. I've never been to Scotland and am looking forward to meeting lots of new people.