During March 2020, acrobatic gymnasts were training in the hope of competing in the World Championships scheduled for May, in Geneva. I spoke to a student of St Catherine’s School, who is a training gymnast and has participated in the sport for 9 years. 

Coronavirus has had a devastating impact on gymnastics in terms of funding, levels of fitness and standards of performance. 

She spoke of how difficult this period has been for her and others at her club. When COVID-19 began to headline, all the members of her club watched the news frequently during training sessions to keep up to date. Then on 23rd March, when the national lockdown was announced, members of her gym all had to pack up their blocks and weights. She and the rest of her squad usually train 5 times a week, so the change for lockdown was enormous. 

During the first week of lockdown, the coaches tried to organise a programme to keep up with training. The next week, her squad were told to download Facebook, where they each had a sheet of instructions and stretches, and were told to upload pictures of themselves completing their tasks. 

She struggled with motivation and discipline, during this extended time period away from the gym. 

"Acro skills are required to be practised repeatedly. It’s difficult to maintain the level of skill to a high standard, and keep up motivation to complete training and submit times.” Some people within the squad didn’t have space to perform the tasks that their coach had allocated to them, which in turn also contributed to an overall decrease in fitness. 

With skills deteriorating, flexibility lacking and motivation lessening, the athletes had not been training intensely for 5 months, which was the longest period she had been off in her whole acrobatic career. This had a detrimental influence on her confidence.

There were also practical difficulties at the end of lockdown. As well as a deficit in training, most of the pairs and trios had to be split up, as many of the gymnasts had changed in height and strength; the groups have to fit a particular height distribution. Some of the boys in particular came back stronger, as they had used the time to bulk up, but there was an imbalance as some boys had not had the same opportunity at home, due to lack of gym facililities. 

Another side effect of lockdown was that some gymnasts are now considering whether they want to commit to the intensity and stress of resuming training. 

Some students in Year 13, who had been due to go to university, decided to postpone continuing their education for the next two years, so that they have the possibility of going to the World Championships in 2022. They might now be regretting this decision, given that a new lockdown is upon us and the future of acrobatic gymnastics remains uncertain. This has been an extremely challenging time for gymnasts and has resulted in the closure of their gyms and the postponement of their dreams.