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Social Inclusion Week – My Olympic Gymnastics Journey

In honour of Social Inclusion Week, our staff are sharing their own stories of inclusion. Writing about her dream to be an Olympic Gymnast is Kiri Penter.

At the age of 6, my mum took me to my first gymnastics class. My best friend’s mum was a coach at our local club, and she had convinced my mum to let me have a go. I loved it!

Within 6 months, I was obsessed with cartwheels, leaps and my coaches. I loved going to gymnastics twice a week and spent all my spare time practising my routines and mastering how to present to the judges on competition day. I was given the opportunity to go to competitions and before every single event, our head coach would sit us down and say “Just go out there, try your best and have fun!”. So I did. I went out there and I mucked around with my coach, I admired all the pretty leotards everyone had and I was even lucky enough to win ribbons, medals and trophies. I became so in love with gymnastics I decided I wanted to go to the Olympics.

What I didn’t realise at the time was that my local club was just that, a local club. The club just wanted to give kids the chance to be part of a sport and have a good time. We trained twice a week and the competitions we attended, were, realistically, a grassroots opportunity, they were nothing bigger than an interschool sports carnival. I certainly was never going to the Olympics. In fact, I probably wasn’t even going to State Championships.

Gymnastics, for me, was a great way to be active and I got to learn so many life lessons, but the thing I enjoyed the most was being part of my club. I loved making friends with people that didn’t go to the same school as me or were different ages, I loved interacting with all the coaches and I loved going to all the different social events that were put on throughout the year. I didn’t actually love gymnastics at all, I loved my club, I loved my community.

Growing up in my gymnastics club gave me the passion for Social Inclusion that I have today. I do what I do so that all people can experience their community with the same level of confidence as a 7 year who thinks they are going to the Olympics. And who knows… one of them might even make it.

Kiri Penter is an Inclusion Consultant at Inclusion Solutions. To get in touch with Kiri, please click here.

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