Douglas talent Ryan is Hungary for gymnastics success

Douglas talent Ryan is Hungary for gymnastics success

Meg Ryan of Douglas Gymnastics Club, right with her coach Emma Hamill, before taking part in the European Youth Olympics 2017 in Hungary. Picture: David Keane

RIGHT now the name Meg Ryan may not much too many people.

But watch out, this 15-year-old gymnast is going places, and fast!

On Saturday, the Douglas Gymnastics Club member heads to Hungary to represent Ireland at the European Youth Olympics in Hungary.

Along with two other gymnasts, Meg will represent Ireland in the vault, bar, beam and floor disciplines. The other two gymnasts are Emma Slevin and Jane Heffernan, both of whom are from Galway.

As well as gymnastics Ireland will have participants in other sports like swimming, tennis, athletics and judo. These championships take place every two years and this is the first time that Meg has competed at them for her country.

She is currently the national all-around champion – a title she has held for the past four years.

Simply put no-one has been able to match her in the four disciplines when the scores are combined over that time. In the individual disciplines, she is also the reigning beam and vault champion and was second in the bar competition.

Meg Ryan training at Douglas Gymnastics Club ahead of the European Youth Olympics 2017 in Hungary next week. 	Pictures: David Keane
Meg Ryan training at Douglas Gymnastics Club ahead of the European Youth Olympics 2017 in Hungary next week. Pictures: David Keane

And all this for someone who came into the sport almost by accident.

When Meg was five she used to go to the gym to watch her older sister, Hayley, a member of the club then.

Then chairperson of the club, Carol Hamill (RIP), saw this young one doing cartwheels and other 'stunts' and got on to Meg's mum, Celine, to get her to join.

That she did and it wasn't long before her natural talent started to shine through and by the time she was seven Meg was competing in national championships – and winning.

You often get a talented athlete or a dedicated athlete, but getting one that is both naturally talented and as dedicated is rare, but in Meg that is what you have.

Just take her winter training schedule as a small example. On Mondays she trains from 4.30 to 8pm; Tuesdays from 5.30 to 8.30pm; Wednesdays from 3.30 to 8.30pm; Fridays from 5.30 to 8.30pm and on Saturdays from 9am to 3.30pm. Outside of that, she has to go to school and fit in her homework as well.

At least in the summer, she doesn't have school to worry about and Meg is taking it all in her stride. Don't be fooled by the almost constant smile on her face, this teenager is driven and don't be surprised if some day, in the not-too-distant future you will be watching her taking part in the Olympics.

But that's all in the future and for now all Meg's concentration is on Hungary and preparing for the tough competition she faces next week.

“There are a lot of top-class gymnasts taking part in this competition, with countries like England, France, Russia and others going to be really tough to beat,” said Meg.

When asked what motivates her, Meg freely admits that she is very tough on herself in training sessions and wouldn't sleep if she wasn't happy the way one went.

This was obvious as when photographer, David Keane, was taking the pictures to go with this article she was going through part of her routine. At one stage she landed a bit off and the look of disgust on her face said it all.

On this occasion it didn't matter, it was just for a picture, but such is the determination in Meg to get it right she was annoyed with herself when it wasn't 100%.

“If things don't go well in a session I wouldn't be able to sleep that night, I would be going over and over it in my head and trying to figure out what went wrong or what I can improve on. I have to get something out of a session and when I do it's a great feeling.”

But far from being on her own during these sessions, Meg trains with a group of fellow Douglas gymnasts.

“It's always great to train with the other girls and we all encourage each other. They would all be wishing me luck before a competition, but other than that I am just one of the class and we all get on with it together.”

But while the girls are a great support Meg says her family have been a massive support, except for one 'minor' drawback.

“My mum and dad (Celine and Aidan) and my brother and sister (Craig and Hayley) are always great to support and encourage me and without them I wouldn't be where I am today. But I won't let any of them watch me compete. I get nervous before competitions and I would be even more nervous if they were there so I have banned them from watching when I compete.”

Her coach, Emma Hamill, smiles at this and says that this has been the way for some time. Emma is full of praise for Meg.

“I have been coaching Meg now for about 10 years and she is highly motivated and drive and a pleasure to coach.

“Any time you are trying to teach a new skill or routine Meg is always willing to learn and won't rest until she has it perfected. From a very young age that determination has been there, but add in the natural talent and you have a gymnast that was destined to win national titles.

“We are lucky that Mairead Kavanagh is a member of the club and she is one of the top 24 judges in the world of gymnastics so she is a great help when we are looking at new routine etc to see if they are what's required.

“That's a big help to both me and Meg and hopefully she can do really well in Hungary and with a little luck, who knows where she can finish up,” concluded Emma.

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