Team place in sights
IT LOOKS like Kelly MacDonald could make it to the Commonwealth Games but her strongest supporter won’t be there.
The rhythmic gymnast’s mother Michelle died last month – just two weeks before the national qualifiers – after a long battle with cancer.
The second day of the national trial was held on Mother’s Day. MacDonald was determined to make her mum proud and managed to get first and second placings.
‘‘It was tough, it’s still really tough. That trial on Mother’s Day was awful but it really helps to know that she really wanted this for me and that’s keeping me going,’’ she says.
‘‘Mum and I, we made this dream when I was 10 or 11. It’s been a long time coming.’’
MacDonald is one of six athletes vying for three places on the New Zealand Commonwealth team.
Her mum was a fashion designer and created the 20-year-old’s intricate costumes.
‘‘What’s getting me through this is gymnastics – it’s a huge emotional outlet for me.’’
But there’s more to the young athlete’s story.
She was diagnosed with epilepsy in January after suffering a seizure while in the United States for a competition. It was so severe she completely dislocated her jaw.
She was prescribed medication but is choosing not to take it because it was affecting her ability to perform.
‘‘I try not to think about it because it hasn’t been a problem so far and it’s not inhibiting my training now.’’
MacDonald took a break from the sport in 2012 and went to university in Dunedin.
‘‘I did a whole year down there to figure out what I wanted to do but then watched the Olympics and I was like: ‘What am I doing? I should be doing gymnastics’,’’ she says.
Her mother’s diagnosis came while she was down south. MacDonald returned to the family home to be close to her mum and focus on training.
‘‘People thought there was no way I could come back to gymnastics in a year like that – they said it was too hard. But I wasn’t going to take no for an answer,’’ she says.
‘‘My mum has been my number one supporter this whole time – I was so lucky.’’
MacDonald trained upwards of 40 hours a week for that first year to get back on form.
Rhythmic gymnasts must perform a high intensity routine with a club, hoop, ball or ribbon for 11⁄ minutes.
‘‘Those last 30 seconds at the end are so tough - it’s pretty much like sprinting for a minute and a half.’’
Coach Marnie Sterner has been coaching MacDonald for 10 years and says there is no question she’ll make it to the games.
‘‘She’s always been a very talented girl. For her it’s going to be a mental game,’’ she says.
‘‘Trying to control emotions is hard - it’s hard for any athlete, let alone what she’s going through.’’
MacDonald must travel to Australia for one final trial before the New Zealand team is announced in June.
She is fundraising to help cover the costs of travel and equipment.
Big dream: Kelly MacDonald is one of six rhythmic gymnasts vying for three places on the New Zealand Commonwealth Games team despite just having lost her mum to cancer and being diagnosed with epilepsy.
Go to givealittle.co.nz/ cause/rhythmicgymnastforcwg if you can help.
Proud mum: Michelle MacDonald was daughter Kelly’s ‘‘number one supporter’’.