2008 Australian Olympian Olivia Vivian shared her thoughts on her recent international comeback in Doha, and the challenges she faces in the newest stage of her long career. Pictured: The Australian women's squad in Doha - Lauren Mitchell, Vivian, Alexandra Eade and Mary-Anne Monckton
Vivian at the 2013 Australian Championships
2008 Australian Olympian Olivia Vivian's fourth-place finish on uneven bars at the Doha World Challenger Cup on Friday marked her return to international competition, and represented the latest step in her quest to fulfill her gymnastics potential.
Vivian competed at the World Championships for the first time at the 2005 Worlds in Melbourne, where she placed 13th on uneven bars. She was a member of Australia's sixth-place team at the 2006 World Championships and 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, and then enrolled at Oregon State University in the U.S.
After competing for Oregon State in the 2009-2012 seasons, Vivian returned to Australia, and placed first on uneven bars at the 2012 and 2013 Australian Championships.
Vivian's fourth-place finish in Doha last weekend reflected what she deemed a "freak mistake," but she still finished 0.05 only shy of the bronze medal. Her score of 12.725 included her Difficulty (D) score of 4.9, which was significantly lower than her D-score of 5.7 in qualifications, where she scored 12.95 to qualify second.
Coached by Martine George and Josh Fabian at the Western Australian Institute of Sport in her hometown of Perth, the 24-year-old Vivian is now aiming for important competitions later this year, including this summer's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and this fall's world championships in Nanning.
Vivian shared her thoughts on Doha, and the challenges she faces in the newest stage of her long career, in this IG Online interview.
IG: What caused the problem you had in the Doha final, and overall, what did your results in Doha show you in terms on your recent progress?
OV: My qualification routine wasn't in any way perfect or to the level I was training at prior the competition, but my D score helped land me a place in finals. In finals I missed my toe-half which lead to me skipping a special requirement. It was a freak mistake that will most likely haunt me for a while! These kinds of mistakes aren't common for me so, it could mean that I might just need a little bit more competition experience, as it's been a while since I've been on the scene. Hopefully I've shaken those rookie nerves and will return to being a solid performer! I can guarantee I won't be missing that same skill in competition again! I might be having nightmares about it for quiet some time!
IG: What led you to return to international competition?
OV: My time at Oregon State University was the best four years of my life, and the coaches and teammates I shared my time with there are the reason I still do it today. They showed me how to love and appreciate this sport for all it is. They taught me to treat competitions like a celebration of all the hard work you put into the gym as an athlete. They are the reason I fell back in love with this sport. I miss them every day and will try to replicate what they taught me in my gymnastics today.
IG: What is your motivation now, as opposed to younger gymnasts who are aiming to make it to their first Olympic Games?
OV: When I was younger my only goal was to be an Olympian. I was naturally talented on the bars but, in all honesty, I wasn't willing to put in 100% in my training and I would just wing it in competition. After Beijing and my time in the States I developed an understanding of hard work and the rewards that come from it, so my goals and the way I approach my training has changed.
I draw my motivation from all areas now instead of one focus to be an Olympian. I do it because I love the uneven bars and I cherish every moment I get to fly, flip and swing like a monkey!
I do it as motivation to others who think there's an age or height limit on gymnastics like I was told. And I do it because it's a sport where you are constantly faced with fears, challenges and opportunities, and I get satisfaction out of overcoming and accomplishing achievements in these areas!
IG: How many hours per week are you training, as compared to while at Oregon State and before Oregon State?
OV: Before I was at OSU I was training 34 hours a week. Then I got to Oregon State and they had a rule of no more than 20 hours a week! I was like "WAHOOOOOO!" I'm now back to 32-34 hours a week but some of those training hours are dedicated to other sorts of training and recovery such as weights, yoga and rehab.
IG: How is gymnastics more challenging for you, and in what ways is it easier for you, in your 20s?
OV: It's easier for me now because I understand the technical side a bit better. I can also stop and appreciate what an amazing sport it really is and the truly incredible things we go through to aim for perfection. It's challenging in ways that I'm not a little skip in this sport anymore, and I have to dedicate more time and importance to recovery and taking care of my body.
IG: What are your specific goals for the rest of 2014, in terms of specific apparatuses and at which competitions?
OV: My passion is the uneven bars, but I would like to get solid, reliable routines on floor and beam for up-and-coming World Cups, Commonwealth Games (in summer) and world championships (in October). With my bars, I want to get an internationally competitive routine that still possesses beautiful quality. We all know that this current Code has forced gymnasts to add extreme difficulty for D scores, but I find it's compromised quality a bit, so I would like to be known for both.
IG: Unlike younger gymnasts you have the challenge of supporting yourself financially while you train. How are you getting by, financially?
OV: I can honestly say I have had extreme difficulty with financial issues in the past couple months, and life got much more complicated after the passing of my father last year. It's extremely stressful and takes focus away from training which then adds further stress, and it ends up being one nasty stress cycle! The Western Australian Institute of Sport and Gymnastics Australia have been working hard to find ways to make things easier, and I give many thanks and gratitude for their support. I work where I can in between training sessions and on the weekends to help support living expenses, but it is hard to get a full-time job because of the required training hours and travel times. I constantly ask myself why I didn't choose a sport like golf or tennis where you get paid to do it, but as all gymnasts know, we do this sport because we love it, and I will continue to try to do so until the day I stop loving it!
International Gymnast magazine's recent coverage of Australian gymnasts includes:
"10 Questions with Olivia Vivian" - interview (March 2011)
"Golden Surprise" - Lauren Mitchell cover story (January/February 2011)
Georgia Godwin cover photo (March 2014)
"Aussie Long Shot" - Daria Joura profile (July/August 2012)
Coach Peggy Liddick interview (January/February 2011)
"Late Bloomer" - Amelia McGrath profile (October 2010)
Lisa Skinner chat (September 2010)
"10 Questions with Naoya Tsukahara" - interview (September 2013)
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