THE last couple of months have been somewhat of a whirlwind for Douglas Gymnastics star, Meg Ryan.
Meg sat her Leaving Cert in June, like thousands of others but, while she was trying to study, she also had the task of training to represent Ireland at the Olympics in Tokyo.
Many would have understood if the Leaving Cert didn’t quite go to plan but, when you are a competitor of the standard of Meg, it was no great surprise when she got maximum points and is now studying pharmacy at University College Cork.
However, it’s for her exploits as a gymnast that Meg is being honoured as one of the autumn quarterly winners of The awards.
She was the first female gymnast that came through the Gymnastics Ireland Pathway system to represent Ireland at the Olympics and the first from Cork to ever do so. That pathway started for Meg when she was eight years old and has led to many highlights on her way to representing Ireland at Tokyo.
She was the first gymnast to secure a World Cup podium finish for Ireland at the 2019 World Challenge Cup in Turkey, winning silver on uneven bars. She is a multiple gold medallist at national level, won the ‘Rising Star’ award at the 2017 Gymnastics Ireland National Awards, and was the Irish flag bearer at the European Youth Olympics 2017.
Ellis O’Reilly did represent Ireland at Rio, but she is based in England and only competed in the green for a short number of years. She qualified to represent Ireland through the parent rule and was on the international team from 2014 to 2017 and is now retired.
At the Olympics, there were more than 70 competing in her class, with the top 24 qualifying for the finals themselves.
At the end of her qualifying competition at Tokyo, Meg was in 25th place — so close to making the finals at the Games.
Reflecting on her time in Tokyo, Meg said: “To officially be an Olympian is just amazing, it’s surreal.
“It was an amazing experience, just looking around and taking it all in. I knew that, no matter what happens, I was just going to try and enjoy it, and be happy with the fact that this is the Olympics and I am an Olympian.
“I definitely had some nerves at the start. I think beam is always a shaky one to start on anyway.
“I got into it though and, after that, I tried to put it behind me and focus on the rest. I think I did a good job with that and I was happy with the rest of the performance.
“I was really happy with floor, I added a few small bits and pieces — a few new leaps and a spin. They all went well.
“I had a slight step out, but I think overall I was happy with floor, and I got a good floor score. When I’m comparing it with my last competition, I think I was happy with the score.
“I was also happy with my vault, as that is something that I didn’t get to compete on at the Europeans [due to an injury].
“It was my first time competing in a long time, so I was happy with that and bars as well.
“It really was a dream come true to be competing at Tokyo and to look around the village and see all the top athletes from all sorts of sports was amazing.
“While I didn’t get to compete, one of the highlights for me was to watch the gymnastics finals, to see competitors I might follow on Instagram competing.
“To have shared an arena with some of them was unreal, and I have many amazing memories that I will never forget.
“It was great that my coach, Emma Hamill, was able to travel as well, as she didn’t get the chance to travel to some of the other events I was competing in. She was a huge part of my journey to get to Tokyo, so to be able to share that experience with her was great.
“The day we got to do podium training [when you are in the actual arena rather than a practice one] is a day we both will never forget, and then actually competing there as well are days you dream about.
“The whole experience was just something you will never forget and hopefully I will get the chance to represent Ireland at many more events,” said Meg.
For now, she is settling into college but is still working hard at the gymnastics club, trying to upgrade her skills to introduce them into her routines, with the ultimate aim of having them perfected for the European championships late in 2022.