Team place in sights

Central Leader - - NEWS - By JESS LEE

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 givealit­ cause/rhyth­mic­gym­nast­for­cwg if you can help.

Proud mum: Michelle MacDon­ald was daugh­ter Kelly’s ‘‘num­ber one sup­porter’’.

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