In the two weeks leading up to 4 June, the 2018 Australian Gymnastics Championships are being held at the Hisense Arena in Melbourne. And even though the event is not over just yet, there’s already one athlete that has made their presence known.
We’re talking about young Olina Karatzias, who, even up against kids a lot older than her (she was in the 13 and younger category), managed to bring home three gold and one bronze medals. More specifically, the 9-year-old came first in the individual uneven bars, first in the beam, and third in the floor final. Overall, she scored 97.200 points, the highest of any athlete in that category, coming in first.
Having already become an overachiever at such a young age, it’s difficult not to imagine a bright future for the youngster. But what was it that pushed her into the world of gymnastics in the first place? Neos Kosmos had the opportunity to speak to Olina’s mother, Despina, who shed a little light on the matter.
“When she was in 3-year-old kindergarten, it was during the time of the London Olympics (2012) and she was doing a little toddler ballet at the time and at the kinder, they had people come and do a little toddler gymnastics and she then saw gymnastics on the TV and she just started [saying] ‘Mum take me to gymnastics’. I didn’t know anyone that does gymnastics but she was so persistent for a few weeks and I found a gym locally and that’s where it all began.”
Having given in to her daughter’s plea, Despina later understood Olina’s potential in the field: “Before she started, one of the coaches gave me a call and said to me ‘Despina, she (Olina) has all the traits for competitive gymnastics. She just ticks all the boxes with her ability and we’d like to try her in a squad’ and so she started this journey at the same time she started school, where she got into a squad and went on to accelerate into this level in the last 4-5 years.”
So, after her success at the national level, what’s her next target? According to her mother, it’s still a bit too soon to talk about going international. “She’s only nine and until she’s 11, due to the structure of Gymnastics Australia, she can’t be chosen to represent the country on a international level.”
However, the people training Olina can definitely see that potential in her future: “Speaking with her coaches, she’s definitely in an international pathway. Currently, after her successful national season, it’s a matter of sitting down with her coaches to review what her next goals are. All I can say is, she is in a stream for international competitions and to represent Australia.”
What about young Olina herself? Does she comprehend her success, even though she’s only nine? Well, not so much, according to her mother: “Before the competition, she really got into a dance show. And she started saying ‘I’d really like to do something different and do dancing’, so I said to her ‘Let’s get through the competition and then it’s not a problem if you want to change it.’ And just last night I said to her ‘What about that chat we had about dancing?’ and she said ‘No, no, gymnastics is my thing.'”