Young gymnasts ready to take on the world this year

Astra Gymnastics club members (from left) Emma McCaughan, 21, Olivia Hurley, 16, Kate Coates, 18,...
Astra Gymnastics club members (from left) Emma McCaughan, 21, Olivia Hurley, 16, Kate Coates, 18, and Josie O’Neill, 17, strut their stuff. Absent: Brooke Davies, 22. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
They may look like graceful and artistic athletes, but the aerobic and rhythmic gymnasts at Dunedin’s Astra Gymnastics club are showing they can punch well above their weight.

The club has five athletes representing New Zealand on the world stage this year — four of them in aerobics and one of them in rhythmic gymnastics.

Rhythmic gymnast Kate Coates recently returned from representing New Zealand at the Singapore Open gymnastics competition, where she gained third place in the hoop apparatus, fourth in the ribbon apparatus, and placed fourth overall in a strong field of gymnasts from around the world.

And now, aerobic gymnasts Emma McCaughan, Olivia Hurley, Josie O’Neill and Brooke Davies are headed to the Gold Coast to represent New Zealand at the 2024 Australian Gymnastic Championships, June 27-30.

Club manager and rhythmic gymnastics head coach Keita McComb said it was a first for the club.

"We’ve never had this many representing New Zealand in the same year."

She put that down to good coaching and the strong determination of the girls to achieve at high levels.

"We’ve got a good cohort going through at the moment.

"They’ve had to attend trial events around the country to gain a ranking in order to qualify for the national team.

"So it wasn’t straightforward."

She said the girls had been training for more than two hours, four days a week, and that would ramp up as they got closer to the competition.

"The younger girls love to watch the older girls do cool stuff like this at the club.

"It’s inspirational for them."

While they were raising the profile of aerobics and gymnastics around Dunedin, they were also raising the club’s profile across the country, she said.

"We are punching above our weight a little bit.

"The girls are really exceeding expectations.

"We don’t have the resources that many other clubs around the country have, to train gymnasts at this level.

"We’re all volunteer coaches, so I think it’s pretty special."