Welsh gymnast Maisie Methuen had a breakout 2016 season. The season saw her become British Junior AA Champion, Welsh Junior AA Champion and compete all over the world representing Great Britain. Maisie represented Great Britain at L’International Gymnix in Montreal, Canada, the Italian Junior Friendly in Milan, Italy, the Junior Commonwealth Championships in Namibia and of course, the European Championships in Bern, Switzerland where Maisie helped Team GB take the silver medal in the junior team competition behind Russia.
Before her last year as a junior gymnast, Maisie also took the AA title at the 2014 Northern European Championships and helped Team Wales take the team title at these Championships. Maisie also represented Team GB at the 2015 Junior Japan International in Yokohama, Japan and the 2015 European Youth Olympic Festival in Tblisi, Georgia. She also took the silver medal AA at the 2015 British Championships in the junior division and was the 2014 British Espoir AA Champion. With vast international experience under her belt and rising success both nationally an internationally, it was no surprise that Maisie was chosen by British Gymnastics as one of Britain’s Olympic hopefuls and was sent to Rio as part of the British Olympic Association’s ‘Ambition Programme’. The programme sent Maisie along with 39 other young athletes and their coaches to Rio to get the Olympic experience and to inspire them for the future.
Certainly Maisie will be one to watch as she enters the senior ranks in 2017. She will continue to proudly represent both Wales and Great Britain as she sets her sights on Tokyo in 2020, accompanied by her longtime coach, Tracey Skirton.
Here, Maisie reflects on her 2016 season, talks about her early years of gymnastics, her plans for the future, school, her family and her coaches.
1) You have had a fantastic 2016, what was the highlight of 2016 for you?
The biggest highlight of my year was winning the silver medal at the 2016 Europeans.
2) How did you get started in gymnastics, what made you fall in love with the sport and keep going to the elite level?
I started at a local club near my home after going to a birthday party, I picked up things very fast but when I was 7 I hit a mental block and couldn’t go backwards that’s when my Mum spoke to the Welsh national coach Tracey Skirton and she took me on full time and just said to me “don’t worry it will all come back, your body is going too fast for your brain” so she taught me lots of different things like forward tumbling and forward vaulting and said she didn’t mind if I didn’t go backwards for a while and then things fell into place and I didn’t have any more problems and managed to do the elite pathway.
3) Did you always want to go to the elite level and how did you realise that you had the potential to represent Great Britain internationally?
To be honest I didn’t really set out to do elite, I just got better and followed the GB pathway as I got into squad when I was 8. I just continued through the system , it only seems like yesterday I was preparing for my level 4 competitions.
4) Does being a Welsh gymnast give you extra pride, knowing that you are not just representing Great Britain and your club, but Wales?
I do feel very proud to be Welsh but also we train together in Wales so it just feels like a club. We train at the National Sport Centre 6 days a week so we have everything under one roof, all of our medical support and strength and conditioning.
5) Tell me a little about your coaches and how they have helped you on your journey to the elite level.
I have worked under Tracey Skirton for 8 years and she knows me inside out ,she can read when I am tired or stressed or when I am in a good place to push harder. I also have Liv , Mark and Mathieu who are all part of the team in Cardiff.
6) What is your favourite event and on the flip side, what event do you or did you struggle with in the past?
I don’t really have a favourite event. There is not one that I dread doing ,I am naturally quite a scared gymnast so it takes me a while to get things but when I am confident I am usually consistent.
7) Tell me a little about how you balance your school work with training. Do you homeschool or do you go to regular school?
I live at home 3 nights a week and live at the gymnastics house in Cardiff the other nights as I travel 45 minutes to the gym. I still go to my local school full- time who are so supportive of me and its good to have my local friends as well as my gym friends
8) You recently competed at the Junior Commonwealth Championships, how was that experience for you, travelling a long way to Namibia and competing for Wales?
The Junior Commonwealth was a real mixture for me. I got off the plane and came down with a very bad cold and my coach was happy that I didn’t compete but I knew we would struggle as a team so we decided to water my routines down to do a good team job which paid off for the team. I would have loved to not be struggling to breath but my coach said she was proud that I dug deep and managed to do a team job and I could learn from the experience if I ever got to a major event and was poorly I could push myself. On the other hand it would have been nice to have rounded off a great 2016 with a healthy meet.
9) How has your training been going? Can we expect any upgrades for 2017?
Next year is all about getting my difficulty up so I am not competing for a while. I also have GCSE’s to focus on as I would like to do college gymnastics. I have performed new skills on beam and floor that were ready for Junior Commonwealth but because I was sick we decided not to risk them. Also with the code changing we have to see what new connections will work.
10) You will become a senior gymnast in 2017, are you excited to enter the senior ranks and what are you goals for the 2017 season and beyond?
It doesn’t seem real that I am going to be a senior soon and to have to compete against people I have looked up to ,but we spent a lot of time with the seniors for Europeans in 2016 and they were all really nice and helpful. I would really like to make a senior international competition next year to gain experience for the following year which are team competitions.
11) Did the GB women performing so well at 2015 World Championships and the 2016 Olympic Games inspire you and motivate you in your training?
Yes very much. Rio was amazing and I am so thankful to British Gymnastics who sent me there to get an appetite for the Olympics. I have to be honest it was hard to take my eyes off the USA , who just seem so on top of their routines. It was also interesting for me watching the all-around. We sat directly behind Simone Biles’ family who were so nervous, it’s interesting for me to see what families have to go through as well , as you’re so in the zone when you compete but sitting there seeing what it meant to them was very inspiring for me to see. Also to think that Amy is only a few years older than me and she got a medal was just fantastic.
12) What has been the hardest part about your gymnastics career so far and in contrast what has been the best part?
The hardest thing is missing my family and friends, but we just make sure when we are together we have quality time. This year after the Europeans my coaches gave me 2 weeks off so I had a lovely holiday in Spain. The best part was getting the team medal at the Europeans.
13) A lot of British gymnasts have recently competed in college gymnastics in the U.S, is this something that would interest you in the future or something that you would consider?
I have been over to the States and attended a college meet which was fantastic so it’s definitely something I would like to do. I would also love to perform in the Cirque du Soleil one day as well.
14) Tell me a little about your family, is there anyone else in your family involved in gymnastics?
I have one sister named Kayla who is 13 years old. She used to do gym until a few years ago when she fell in love with horses so now she is as passionate about that as I am about gymnastics. My Dad Mitch is a builder and my Mum Louise spends her time running me and my sister everywhere.
Yes I’m very lucky at only 15 years old I have traveled to some amazing places with my coach Tracey, Welsh Gymnastics and British Gymnastics.
There is a lot of countries I’ve traveled to and they are all my favourite as I always have great memories that will stay with me forever. I’ve traveled to Singapore, Japan, Florida, Las Vegas, Rio, France, Tbilisi, Bern, Canada, Belgium, Portugal, Barcelona, Utah, South Africa and The Isle of Man .
Yes we train when we are away but we do a lot of sightseeing as well and we have a great balance of it all and it’s a lot of fun. I’m really looking forward to my next journey with Welsh Gymnastics as I’m going to visit Australia. We are flying to Sydney and doing some sightseeing first and then flying to Brisbane for a camp. Then we travel to The Gold Coast gymnastics facility for The 2018 Commonwealth Games.