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Countdown to Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games

Grace Harrison

Athlete Profile: Grace Harrison

Home town / Village: Douglas, Isle of Man.

Occupation: Sport and Exercise Science (2nd Year) at Loughborough University

Sport: Gymnastics

Sports Club: Manx Gymnastics Centre of Excellence

Achievements:

2012, 2014 and 2015 Isle of Man Championships - All-around ladies champion.
2012 British Challenge Cup - All around, bars, beam and floor champion.
2013 Northern European Championships - 11th overall, and qualified for the beam and floor finals finishing 6th in both events.
2014 Commonwealth Games Invitational – 14th overall and qualified for the vault, bars and floor finals.
2014 British Challenge Cup - All around and floor champion.
2014 Northern European Championships – 5th overall and qualified for the floor final, placing 5th.
2015 British University Championships - All-around, bars and floor champion.
2015 British Challenge Cup – Beam champion and 2nd all-around and on vault.
2015 Northern European Championships – Qualified to the beam final, placing 5th.
2016 British University Championships - Beam, floor and vault champion and 2nd all-around and on bars.

At the 2013 Island Games in Bermuda Grace won 10 medals in total - 5 gold, 4 silver and 1 bronze. She said: “Bermuda was a great experience. The locals there are very friendly and enthusiastic people. This really added to an already great atmosphere.”

Commonwealth Games Achievements

Gymnastics – Artistic – Individual All – Around – Women (21st Position)
Gymnastics – Artistic – Team Competition - Women (10th Position – 139.480)

When did you first represent Team Isle of Man at a Commonwealth Games?

My first experience was when I was selected to represent Team IOM at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, for Gymnastics. 

How did you become a Gymnast? 

I began gymnastics at a young age when I was only 2 years old. My older brother took part in gymnastics, I followed and joined in on numerous 'baby gym' sessions at the Manx Gymnastics Centre of Excellence. From there I developed a thirst for the sport. From initial participation at club and IOM local competitions, I slowly moved up through the levels. I progressed to represent Team Isle of Man at the Åland 2009 and Bermuda 2013 Island Games before representing Isle of Man at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

Why do you compete and represent Team Isle of Man?

I love the sport of gymnastics and I am so proud and thankful to have the opportunity to represent the IOM in numerous competitions. There is such a great passion for sport on the Island and to be able to be a part of it all is wonderful.

How does it feel to represent Team Isle of Man at a Commonwealth Games? 

I was born and raised on the Isle of Man and I am very proud to represent the Island at the Games, where the Isle of Man is allowed to compete as an independent state. Glasgow 2014 provided me with a great opportunity to give something back to the Island after all the help I have received through the years. I am so grateful to IOM Sport Aid, my club Manx Gymnastics, IOM Gymnastics and my personal sponsors for all of their incredible support, which helped me reach the Games. The competition, atmosphere and overall celebration of the Games was an experience to remember forever. The excellent experience of competing in Glasgow has only increased my determination to qualify for Gold Coast 2018.

What has been your favourite sporting moment whilst involved with Team Isle of Man?

My favourite moment is definitely the Glasgow 2014 opening ceremony. Walking out into Celtic Park following the Isle of Man flag filled me with such a huge sense of pride. The support that we received from our friends and families in the crowd was wonderful. Knowing that we had worked so hard in the build up to the Games and they had finally begun was truly fantastic and an experience I will never forget.

Have you got any funny stories to share with us during your time at the Games?

The day before the competition in Glasgow began I unexpectedly experienced a bundle of nerves - I couldn’t even talk. Every competitor is given a number to pin on the back of their leotard, but for some reason my hands wouldn’t work and I couldn’t pin it on for the life of me. On a usual day it would be an easy task but on this one day it wasn’t. I started freaking out and needed my roommate Nicole to sort me out. Luckily my nerves calmed once I began competing. On reflection this was a memorable experience for me. Hopefully going into 2018 I will be more relaxed, and I hope to have a calming influence on athletes competing in their first Commonwealth Games.

What has been your ultimate achievement in sport?

Making the Artistic Individual All-Around final at Glasgow 2014 was a special achievement. Qualifying for a Commonwealth Games Final had always been a huge goal of mine and something I am so happy to be able to say I achieved. This is closely followed by achieving 5 gold, 4 silver, and one bronze medal at the Bermuda Island Games in 2013.

What one or two things do you currently do in your training that are keys to your success? 

I am extremely committed and have a huge passion for my sport. I really enjoy training, and try to always give 100% effort. I currently train 6 days a week, for 3 hours a day and head into every training session with the goal of being as efficient as possible to make the most of the time I have in the gym. 

Have you had any key role models growing up? 

Mark Cavendish has always been a key role model of mine. His incredible successes are proof that despite coming from a small island, there are no limits to what you can achieve.

What has been the most significant challenge you have faced in your preparation leading up to a sporting event?

Two weeks before competing at Glasgow 2014 I broke my finger whilst training. With efforts to recover in time for the Games, I had many hyperbaric chamber and physio sessions to ensure I could compete at the games! I knew I may not get this opportunity again, so I had to just believe in myself and all the training that I had done.

What would be your advice for a young aspiring athlete aiming to represent CGA IOM?

My main advice would be to really enjoy the process, take the positives from every situation and believe in yourself. It might not be easy, but all of the hard work and sacrifices will be worth it in the end.

Where do you see yourself in the future? What aims do you have? 

My upcoming aims are to compete at the World Student Games in Taipei 2017 and qualify to represent the Isle of Man at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast 2018. I am currently training while at university to meet the standards for both competitions. On completion of my Sports & Exercise Science degree I aim to work within the sporting industry. Whether that will be on the Isle of Man or further afield, I am very excited for what lies ahead!