Back in October 2017, Lara Thornton from Senior Squad 1 and head coach Becky Hoskins arrived at Surrey Sports Park to compete at the Challenge Cup – a competition that gives gymnasts who have made their way up the out of age competition system a chance to qualify to the British Championships. Lara has been dreaming of competing at the British since she was very small, so this competition was a huge opportunity for her. Lara held her nerve to have the competition of her life, and achieved the qualification score!
Fast forward to March, and the day was finally here. After a tricky preparation combining rehabbing from injury and simultaneously upgrading her routines, it was finally time to walk out into the Echo Arena and present to the judges at her first piece – bars.
Bars is Lara’s specialist event, where she gained a silver medal at the Challenge Cup last October competing in the Espoir age category. So here at the British Championships, now a junior, she would once again be looking to impress. Having added the valuable stoop circle, her first D valued skill in her routine, her goals were to hit her handstands and get through the routine cleanly. She more than achieved this goal, showing off some beautiful lines,
and turns performed right on top of the bar in handstand for minimal deductions. Achieving a fantastic score of 11.150 Lara qualified in 10th place, as second reserve for the bar final two days later.
Lara had a great rest of her competition, barring an unfortunate fall on her flic layout on beam. She showed a beautiful artistic floor routine and a clean pike tsukahara vault, to come 27th all around in the junior age category. Becky showed her experience as a coach, making key decisions at the last minute to maximise Lara’s scores, such as opting for a slightly less complicated second tumble in order to keep her floor score as clean as possible.
We at Phoenix are all so proud of Lara and Becky, what fantastic ambassadors for the club at the highest level of competition, and an inspiration to the younger gymnasts. We sat down with Lara to get her thoughts after the competition.
How did you find your first experience of the British?
It was very nerve wracking, but really enjoyable. It is actually one of my favourite competitions I have done.
Were you nervous about anything going in?
Yes! I was nervous about competing in front of a big crowd. I also hadn’t competed my stoop on bars before which is the hardest move in my routine now.
Did anything surprise you?
I thought competing in a big arena would feel really different, but once I got into the swing of my routines it felt like any other competition.
How do you feel now it’s all over?
Relieved! But also very proud of myself. I am excited to get back into the gym and work on some upgrades to my routines, like adding to my acro series on beam.
What are your goals for the future?
I would like to compete at the British again! I would like to get a release and catch into my bar routine as that’s the next big step, and compete it next year!
Was there anyone there who particularly inspired you?
India Sale really inspires me, she is a coach at our gym and a senior gymnast at Heathrow and she was very calm and chilled out at the competition – I want to get to that point! Kelly Simm is also an inspiration to me as she came through the challenge route like I have done, and won the senior all around title even though she wasn’t the favourite going in.