Wednesday, April 13, 2011

'Memories come down on me once again, I'm caught without an umbrella...'

Quote: Michael Franti, Spearhead.

For 7 years or there abouts I trained most days. From the age of 15 having finished up 10 years of gymnastics, I began trampolining. Gymnastics was too hard and I was too thin and too tall to really succeed how I wanted to. I loved the sport but it was too tough on my frail physique at the time.

Trampolining was in it's infancy in Ireland in 1998. There was quite simply nobody 'training' trampolining in Ireland at the time. I came from a strict gym, it was fun for me, but it was strict. I brought the discipline I had learned in gymnastics to my training in the student trampoline club I started in and was more or less laughed at, at first.

Understandably so as the rather bemused students must have thought 'who's this child who doesn't speak, trains every session, and doesn't drink?' - I looked about 12 at the time, and kept a low profile for the first year. Everyone there was at least 3 years older than me - most were 5-10 years older...

So I trained everyday, and met team mates who came and went, but I stayed on, training and training to what end I didn't know at the time... I just trained.

The sport began to develop and those who developed it included me as the best female trampolinist from the republic, but at the same time seemed to resent my very existence. The first world championships rolled around in 2003, and despite having the goods to bring to the table, it was with scoffs and tuts from those in charge that I was awarded my place on the junior team. (you can be over 18 and still compete in junior worlds in trampolining...)

We travelled to Hanover and I placed 42, or 43 or something. I was, to the best of my memory, the only Irish girl (or one of the only Irish girls) to finish my routine on my feet. Every other routine was recorded on camera. Except mine.

The placings came up after the competition and my name was all funny. I can't remember exactly what the spelling was, but it bore little resemblance to my name and the head of the squad said 'whatever, don't worry about it' and it was left at that.

2005 rolled in and I was awarded a place on the senior team travelling to the World Championships. I would be the first girl from Ireland, North or South to represent the country at senior worlds. With a full mens team we travelled to Eindhoven, Holland.

I had trained for 7 years, paid for flights, hotel, tracksuit etc with no subsidy, (the bill for which I'd rather forget). I was told when I arrived I wouldn't compete. No reason. No comeback. No support. There was nothing I could do and no one cared.

I remember sitting in tears in the tiers watching the competition. The Irish rotation came in. We were to compete with my heroes at the time - the Chinese Team. It always went - female competitor, male competitor, female competitor, male competitor and so on...

When it would have been my turn, two male competitors went in a row - I was inconsolable. I was told to stop crying and support the men's team. Sitting in my Irish tracksuit, with the flag at my feet I couldn't even look up.

People said to me when I got back to Ireland, 'you have to continue'... I gave up almost straight away. Never 'training' again.

I suppose the point of me writing this is firstly because it's come up a couple of times recently and it's an awkward story to tell without ruining the fun that's usually on the go.

But secondly and more importantly, a bad experience shouldn't mean the end of one's sporting career. I went away after trampolining and did a 4 year degree, I coached gymnastics to pay my way, but didn't really do any sport at all. I needed the break.

After trampolining, I could never have known that I'd find bouldering and all the amazing times, awesome places and incredible friends it's offered me.

Every time I send a problem I've been projecting, I sit at the top of the boulder and think how happy this sport has made me, which I guess explains the over sized smile and utter elation on my face at the top of each of my sends.

It's not just the sport though. It's sport+people+situation... I've been in sport since I was 5 and for the first time, I feel like I've got all 3 just right.


  1. Excellent post!
    No more to say on the matter

  2. Good post Trish ! Unless you are refering to the activity that involves bright pink holds and score cards, I think you could safely say that bouldering is not a sport, which is probably why it's so enjoyable.
    Fuck the tramps dude, let's go bouldering![said with Walter Sobchab voice]

  3. How did you feel about the climbing comps you've entered? Do you think your experience with gymnastics has affected how you feel about competing?

    Pierre obviously has strong feelings about comps, but I'm guessing you must enjoy the comps on some level, as you've entered a couple...

    - Angela

  4. Climbing competitions are just different than gymnastics or trampolining - in trampolining I always felt like there were people in the room that wanted me to fail. I was competing in spite of them...

    With climbing everyone wants everyone to do well. I've enjoyed the climbing competitions I've entered, for sure, they're always brilliant fun - For me sport used to mean competition, everyone competed. Why else would you train?

    But now I train to realise my personal goals in sport/climbing and I find it a far richer experience. Maybe I'm growing up?!!! ;)

  5. Nice post :) Interesting that you've jumped into a sport (especially in Ireland) where 'training' is only in it's infancy also - comparable to when you started trampolining too.

    Enjoy the social of climbing - it's definitely what has kept me in it for so long!

  6. Yeah, it seems to have just worked out that way, me and minority sports seem to go hand in hand!

    There's two reasons I enjoy bouldering so much:

    The first is the social side - you're never too high to not hear the banter,

    The second is that for the most part, I can throw myself at any move and not be afraid of falling a long way, that might result in injury... in short I'm never scared when I'm bouldering.

  7. So does this mean you're not going trad climbing in the Gap this weekend? I kid I kid...