International Gymnast Online's annual series of holiday-themed features continues with this interview with Australian gymnast Emily Little, who, in her first international competition since the 2012 Olympic Games, placed second all-around at the Mexican Open in Acapulco earlier this month.
The 20-year-old Little, who trains under coaches Nikolai Lapchine and Martine George at Western Australian Institute of Sport in Mount Claremont, shares her thoughts on her comeback, new goals and the holidays.
IG: Between London and mid-2014, what kept you busy, and how much gymnastics if any did you do during that time?
EL: For the first sixth months of my break from training, I was able to do some of the things I couldn't do while I was training. I would hang out with my friends more often, and sleep in, and I got a job at a coffee shop. Then after a while I missed being in the gym and I wanted to be more active, so I started sports acrobatics at my local club, Jednorog. I was in a trio with two other girls and I was the base/middle. I found it quite difficult to be in a team sport because artistic gymnastics is [individual], but I really enjoyed it. I also started Olympic lifting and power lifting with my coach, Jim Miller. Training weights has helped me improve my strength a lot and I can really feel it when I'm at training in the gym on all my apparatuses. I will continue to train weightlifting throughout my gymnastics career because there are so many benefits from it.
IG: What motivated you to return to gymnastics after a long break, after which many gymnasts would probably not be able to come back?
Emily Little (Australia) at the 2012 Olympic Games
EL: I missed having what felt like an important purpose; I wanted to compete for my county again. I missed my friends and coaches in the gym and, after I realized I had the ability to come back, I feel quite motivated to do better than I did last time around. I would like to prove that Australia has some great, hardworking gymnasts, and even though we are so far away, we can compete against the rest of the world.
I think the hardest part about making a comeback is forcing your body to get into shape quickly enough so you can put your skills together. I believe any gymnast can make a comeback. You just have to prepare yourself mentally and physically and you have to really want it.
IG: How were you enable to get your routines in competitive shape quickly enough to be named an alternate for Nanning and, more impressively, to finish second in Mexico?
EL: Because I felt quite fit from sports acrobatics and Olympic lifting, I think I found it easier to come back and get my routines together. I train with younger girls in my gym at home at the moment, and they really do motivate me everyday. Seeing them working hard motivates me to keep going.
IG: What are your training and competitive goals for 2015?
EL: I really want to improve on the difficulty of my routines. So I am working on learning and perfecting new skills - on all apparatuses, then adding them into my routines. I would love to get an Amanar on vault and compete it this year. I know that would make (national team head coach) Peggy Liddick really happy. I'm not too sure what competitions I will be competing in next year, but my goal is to definitely make the next world championships team. Other than worlds I would like to get some experience competing some new skills in my routines.
IG: How and where will you spend Christmas and New Year's Eve?
EL: I will be spending Christmas "Down South" with my brother, his family and my boyfriend. The rest of my family is traveling to Bali and Queensland for Christmas. I like watching my two little nieces and my nephew open their Christmas presents. They get so excited over little things and it makes Christmas more special. I'm not sure what I'm doing for New Year's yet, but I want to spend it with my boyfriend and my close friends.
International Gymnast magazine's recent coverage of Australian gymnastics includes:
Alysha Djuric profile (July/August 2014)
"The Lowdown from Liddick" – comments from Peggy Liddick (June 2014)
"Catching up with Allana Slater" – profile (April 2014)
Georgia Godwin cover photo (March 2014)
"10 Questions with Naoya Tsukahara" - interview (September 2013)
"Aussie Long Shot" - Daria Joura profile (July/August 2012)
"10 Questions with Olivia Vivian" - interview (March 2011)
"Golden Surprise" - Lauren Mitchell cover story (January/February 2011)
Peggy Liddick interview (January/February 2011)
"Late Bloomer" - Amelia McGrath profile (October 2010)
Lisa Skinner chat (September 2010)
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