Ireland’s Emma Slevin credits history-making results to “a much more positive mindset”

Written by John Crumlish for International Gymnast Online

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Through a combination of upgrading and finessing her program, Irish gymnast Emma Slevin seeks to repeat the history she made last year as she prepares for this summer’s European Championships in Munich and this fall’s World Championships in Liverpool.

Slevin, who trains under coach Sally Batley at Renmore Gymnastics Club in Galway, twice reached Irish gymnastics milestones in 2021.

Last spring she became Ireland’s first female all-around finalist in the history of the European championships, finishing 19th at the Europeans in Basel. (Teammate Adam Steele earned the Irish men’s first Europeans all-around final berth in Basel, placing 21st.)

More significantly, Slevin became the first Irish gymnast to advance to the all-around final at the world championships, a feat she accomplished at last fall’s Worlds in Kitakyushu, where she also finished 19th.

Slevin, a Galway native who will turn 19 on May 2, hails from a very athletic family. Her twin sister, Kate, is a centre midfielder for the Galway Women’s Football Club senior squad and also plays Gaelic football. Her older brother, Mark, competes in Gaelic football and hurling.

IGO: Your all-around performance in Kitakyushu was far superior to your performance at the previous Worlds in Stuttgart (97th all-around in qualifications). Aside from two extra years of training, what do you think created the huge improvement in your program and your consistency between Stuttgart and Kitakyushu?

ES: I think the main difference between the Worlds in Stuttgart 2019 and Kitakyushu 2021 was my mindset. I remember in 2019 I was struggling with injury. It was very hard to stay focused on my goal. I was also less experienced and definitely more nervous. In 2021 I prioritized how I felt physically and mentally, and listened to my body if I felt any problems. This allowed me to be in a much more positive mindset heading into competitions, which proved to work very well for me. 

IGO: Prior to the all-around final in Kitakyushu, what mental boosts or alignments did you have to make in order to cope with the pressure of not only your first world all-around final, but Ireland’s first? 

ES: Prior to the all-around final in Kitakyushu I was feeling very excited. I did feel a little bit of pressure on the day of the competition but I just followed my normal pre-competition routine to recreate the feeling before qualifications. I listened to music and did some visualization to calm my nerves. At that point I had already made my country proud so it was a case of going into the final to enjoy the experience and perform beautiful gymnastics. 

Emma Slevin (IRL) during the all-around final at the 2021 European championships in Basel

IGO: In 2021 some of the top gymnasts did not compete at Europeans and/or Worlds because they were focused on the Tokyo Olympics. Knowing that the competition to get into the top 24 is likely to be tougher as a result, what do you think you need to change or improve to make the final in Munich and Liverpool?

ES: One of my main goals for this year that will improve my scores and rankings is to improve my attention to detail and execution. I am also working on some new upgrades to add into my routines, so hopefully a combination of these things will get me a spot in this year’s finals again. 

IGO: For some gymnasts, adjusting to a new Code of Points can be especially hard because their existing program does not meet the new requirements. How much rearranging of skills and upgrades do you foresee for yourself, so you can match the demands of the new Code?

ES: Fortunately, the new Code has not affected my current routines too much. There are some small changes I need to make on each apparatus, but nothing major. In terms of new skills, I had to rethink my next bars routine, as connection values have changed, so there is a bit of work to be done there.

IGO: Specifically in terms of difficulty, what are some of your new skills and/or combinations in the works for 2022?

ES: On vault I am looking to compete a Yurchenko one-and-a-half twist this year and continue to train a double twist. On bars my main upgrade at the moment is the Bhardwaj (full-twisting Pak salto). Beam is more about improving my consistency and execution, but I am hoping to add a wolf turn and switch leap half and possibly a new dismount as well. 

IGO: You have been a core member of the Irish team for two Olympic cycles now. From your inside perspective, what are the key causes of this improvement?

ES: One of the key causes of this improvement is the team of athletes we have. We help push each other to be the best versions of ourselves. I think my teammates have played a huge part in my recent successes in the gymnastics world. 

IGO: In some families with more than one athlete, the siblings like to share their experiences and provide advice to one another; in other families, sports and home life are separate. What kind of interaction do you, Mark and Kate have in terms of discussing the challenges you face in your sports?

ES: Our family is always talking about sport but surprisingly with my siblings, we don’t really talk about our own careers to each other. I suppose the challenges that we face are just so different because of the types of sports we do. But I like it that way. When they reminded me of how proud they are of me as a sister when I made the world championships final was probably the most memorable moment. I think Kate and I are good at keeping each other motivated as we are very driven and we are both in our final year of school. Trying to balance it with sport is proving very difficult but we learn how to manage time from each other. 

IGO: What are some of your resolutions for 2022, in and out of the gym?

ES: I want to stay on top of my school work, set monthly goals and sleep seven hours every night. In the gym I aim to be more focused and present while training. 

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