“RIGHT now the name Meg Ryan may not mean much to many people. But watch out, this 15-year-old gymnast is going places, and fast!”
That was the intro to a story I wrote about Meg in 2017 and now just a few short years later she is off to the Olympics.
She joins European gold and world bronze medallist Rhys McClenaghan in the Team Ireland squad at Tokyo at the end of the month.
Meg is a member of Douglas Gymnastics Club and will be joined on the plane to Tokyo by her coach, Emma Hamill, who has coached her now for more than 10 years.
Emma’s inclusion as one of the coaches means there are two Douglas GC members boarding the plane.
While it was always expected that Meg would travel, she was first reserve if anyone opted out, she only got official confirmation on Friday, June 2, that she was on her way to Tokyo.
“I’m delighted. It was a long wait for me but it feels amazing to finally get the confirmation,” said Meg, “I’ve worked really hard so I can’t wait to get out there now.
“I have been training now since I was confirmed as first reserve and was always hopeful of getting the call but you never know until you get it.
“I knew when North Korea pulled out that they had a gymnast so the first wait was for them to officially confirm they were not going. Then there was a long wait before I got the call to say I was in, so you are always wondering whether it will come at all.
“But I had to put all that aside over the last few months and train hard and be ready for when I was going to be told I was going. I knew from September 2019 that I was first reserve. So I have been working on my routines and building on them from then so mentally I had a good bit of time to adjust and get myself ready.”
Amongst all this Meg sat her Leaving Cert in the last few weeks and said she had to balance training and study over the last year or so.
“I knew that it was going to be a tough year and it was a concern when I knew the Olympics weren’t going to go ahead last year, because I knew I was doing the Leaving Cert this year.
“I had finished fifth year and that gave me some idea of what this year would be like but sixth year was a new level. We had exams throughout the year in case the Leaving Cert wouldn’t go ahead.
“It was quite difficult to balance and at times I was thinking that I was doing too much study and it was taking from my training or doing too much training and it was taking from my studying.
“I had to put one aside when I was doing the other and I’m glad that’s behind me now and I’m able to focus on my training."
Now an Olympian and this massive achievement from 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. 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.
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.
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.”
Her coach Emma smiles at this and says that this has been the way for some time.
“I’ve known and worked with Meg since she was a very young gymnast,” said the former Gymnastics Ireland Young Coach of the Year.
“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.
“Her work ethic and dedication are a credit to herself, her club and her country. She is a dedicated, hardworking athlete and is deserving of the honour of calling herself an Olympian.”
Meg is a shining example to young gymnasts around the country, but to those at Douglas GC she is extra special. She is an idol for them but her feet are firmly on the ground and always makes time for the younger members of the club.
It’s a dream come true for Meg and one she has even intention of enjoying but there won’t be a more determined competitor than her to give it everything.
Gymnastics Ireland CEO Mr Ciaran Gallagher said: ‘After a very difficult year it is superb to see our gymnasts officially join Team Ireland! Huge congratulations to Meg in booking her place to Tokyo alongside Rhys.”