Come and try ... gymnastics at the Murraylands Gymnastics Academy

Natahlia Wood and Salee Baker invite you to come and try gymnastics.

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The same thing always happens after the Olympics, Narrelle Roe-Simons says with a laugh.

People watching at home see the grace, the strength, the balance and control of the gymnasts competing at the highest level and think “I wish I could do that”.

About 15 newcomers have started taking classes at the Murraylands Gymnastics Academy since the Tokyo games, bringing the total number of gymnasts enrolled there to about 200.

Throughout the week, a slightly cramped but otherwise well equipped hall out the back of the Bridge Evangelical Christian Church, on Thomas Street, is filled with people of all ages, from toddlers to a lady in her mid-80s.

Roe-Simons, her fellow coach Jemma Tilley and a handful of helpers offer classes suited to people at all ability levels, from all over the region.

“We’re not a highly competitive club,” she says.

“Our focus is on getting kids (and grown-ups) enjoying gymnastics.”

Among those learning at the academy are Natahlia Wood and Salee Baker.

When did you first start taking gymnastics classes?

Salee: I’ve been doing it for six years. I’d done it once when I was really young and I didn’t enjoy it, but I wanted to do flips and stuff so I joined back up.

Natahlia: I’ve done it for about three years. I like doing flips and that, so my mum said “why don’t you do gymnastics?” I used to live two hours away, but this year mum moved up here so I could do it more.

What do you get out of it?

Salee: It’s fun. You don’t have to be good at everything; you can gradually work up to whatever you want ... I like the high bar, the rings and the floor. When you’re on the high bar and you’re doing flyaways and giants, nothing else matters.

Natahlia: My favourites are probably the floor and the beam. On the floor you can keep trying new tricks and keep improving, trying different combinations of skills. There’s no limit to what you can do.

Salee: I do a lot of sports and it really improves your hand-eye coordination, your balance, your fitness. I skate and ride bikes, but it helps with everything.

What has been the greatest achievement of your gymnastic career so far?

Salee: Finally getting a double front flip, or giants on the bar. A giant is swinging on the bar and going a full loop around the bar. That took me a long time (to learn). I came back (one day) and did it first time – it just clicked, bang, and I was like “what?”

Natahlia: Just improving all the time. You don’t really notice it at the time, but when you look back on what you were doing you notice what you were doing and you’re like “ooh, that’s really bad”. It’s the improvement over time.

How are you going this year?

Salee: We've been on and off (due to COVID-related restrictions). We’ve been doing Zoom classes. We can’t do a whole lot (over a video link), just stretching and keeping fit, strength work.

Natahlia: Because of COVID there have been a lot less competitions.

What do you hope to achieve as gymnasts?

Salee: I personally just want to do it for as long as I can.

Natahlia: I just want to keep improving and keep getting more skills.

Why should people come and take a gymnastics class?

Natahlia: It’s fun, you can meet new people, and you can get stronger and keep improving.

Salee: You don’t have to have any experience to start. You just come along and try it and you learn quickly. Everyone else helps you try to figure it out.

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