Eighteen months of hard work was all over in a week but what a week it was for the 11 young gymnasts from Donegal who represented Ireland in the World Gymnaestrada in the beautiful city of Lausanne, Switzerland.
From the moment they were welcomed on board their Swiss air flight to Zurich excitement levels were sky high. They were then transferred to their hotel in Lausanne where all the team gathered for a welcome meal and then off to bed nice and early. The next day was the Opening Ceremony where the team marched into Pontaise Olympic Stadium to a capacity 30,000 crowd.
The honour of carrying the Irish flag went to Marian Cullen who has dedicated many years to sport in Donegal and she led the Irish team in with pride. The following day the girls got under way along with Italy, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Finland, Mexico and Israel.
They were very nervous going on after Greece but as soon as the music started all the training kicked in and they performed well. On to Tuesday where they were grouped with Britain, Argentina, Chile, Norway, Sweden, Canada again another solid performance. On Wednesday the team were grouped with Japan, Hungary, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Algeria and Korea. This third day’s routine was by far the team’s best performance and received great applause and response from the crowd.
That afternoon the team got to perform by the shores of Lake Geneva in a city performance for the general public it went down a storm which mirrored the weather that day. Having completed their four performances the team could do no more.
Unfortunately Ireland on this occasion didn’t take part in the FIG Final Gala which mainly included routines from the host nation Switzerland, the reigning G.F.A. world champions Estonia and the next world G.F.A. hosts South Africa as well as group performances from Austria, USA, Japan and Great Britain. The team were still very upbeat with their performances and the response and feedback they got.
They had made so many friends and contacts over the course of the week. Most notably they have been invited to Atlanta with the USA team to train as well as work along side and help the USA disabilities display team. Also, former Russian Champion Natilia Chereneyko has welcomed and invited the team to her club in Estonia to train and perform. The head of London Gymnastics has also requested the team be the only non-British team to travel London for the London Gymnastics Festival 2012.
In addition to these invites and opportunities, The President of FIG Prof. Bruno Grandi said at the opening ceremony there are events in the life of a gymnast that leave a lasting mark and one of the most vivid of those is participation in a World Gymnaestrada the emotional high that accompanies the celebration is unparalleled to any other. Whatever these young gymnasts go on to achieve in life this event will leave memories that last a lifetime.
G.F.A Ireland team: Megan Bernardo, Alannah Gallagher, Maria Gallagher, Molly Gallagher, Ellie King, Fiona Lafferty, Orla Lonergan, Eilise McLaughlin, Ciara Nolan, Cara Nulty, Micheala O’Boyle. Meganne Stewart Coach; Linda Bennett , Choreographer.