Q&A with British gymnast Imogen Cairns

realbuzz catches up with GB gymnast Imogen Cairns

Imogen Cairns was the first British woman ever to qualify for a world vault final. She has had a career plagued by injury but has consistently fought her way back from prolonged lay-offs to fight her way back into contention for both Britain and, more recently,  for England at Delhi 2010 where she clinched gold in both the vault and floor competitions.  

When we caught up with Imogen she was preparing for a busy year and looking to qualify for London 2012. Here’s what she had to say:

Q. You’ve contended with some tough breaks due to injury, has that made you stronger. Physically and mentally and has it made the comeback all the sweeter?

A. Definitely I’ve been in and out of injury my whole career. The first one came when I was about 14, 15 and I’ve just worked through. The older I get the more you want it, the more it’s in you to achieve and I think that every injury has made me stronger and especially my feet I came back stronger than ever because I had a goal I wanted to come back for the Common wealth games. I’d obviously done it before and had a really great time(getting gold at commonwealth in Delhi). It goes to show if you want it go for it.

Q. Does the build up to 2012 put pressure on you as a home athlete or does it inspire you?

A. I think it depends on what kind of person you are, because you can put that pressure on yourself obviously for me not really I keep behind it all keep behind my training every step is a goal for me at the moment I don’t look at the long run. It’s there this is my goal.

Q. With all the injuries you’ve gone through how do you keep bouncing back?

A. Each injury of mine has been very different. A lot of them have been quite a long period of time. Apart from the feet, which was the latest one, I stayed in the gym and just kept up with conditioning because I was able but obviously with my feet I wasn’t actually able to walk so I came out of the gym for six months, so I wasn’t training at all.

I don’t know how I do it really. I think I just didn’t think about it, I was going to retire because my feet were that bad but then going to the gym kept me in the environment of coaching and I just thought If I could do it I’m gonna try then there are no regrets at the end. I think it’s in me it’s in my blood to do it, I’ve done my whole life. It’s not about the skills they are in head its about getting that fitness back and seeing if my feet were going to enable me to do it. I missed it. I thought there was a chance and I wanted it so the hunger kicked in.  

Q. Considering what you've made it through is there any advice you would give to others who may be going through something similar?

A. Just, keep at it if that’s what you want to do you have to decide. If it is the hunger should be in there and so you just stay fit and just stick with it.

Q. How close did you come to quitting?

A. I’m not sure. I sat down and it was just after the Olympics and I was very fit. I was going to retire after the Olympics but I was told that I shouldn’t there were grand prix coming up, I was at my fittest point, why [retire]? So I came back and I was more hungry than ever and was really fit and I was able to put new skills into my routines. I had the fall on one of these grand prix so I thought maybe it just wasn’t meant to be maybe I should retire and finish on a high. But I missed it and after a long period just thought why not?

Q. Are you excited about the home crowd at 2012?

A. Yeah I am very looking forward to that because I speak to all my team mates … and they just said “the London worlds were just brilliant, you’ve never seen anything like it the crowd was roaring” and that is something I’ve never experience which I think I would love … the crowd helps me in competitions and it would mean the world.

Q. Tell us,  how did you got into to gymnastics?

A. It’s funny I still don’t actually know. I used to play squash with my dad when I was really young about 5 or 6 … (laughs). I don’t know why … and a boy that we took back and forth from the class used to do gymnastics and it was in my town. So I said I wanted to go and mum sent me and it was only across from where we lived. The top coaches at the club always look for talent in the club … strength and physique … and I think I just got picked out of few. It went from there really.

Q. As an elite athlete, how do you prepare mentally and physically before you go out to compete?

A. It has changed because I’m a bit older and I know exactly what I’ve got to do. I have to be prepared in the run up to it, just so that in my head I know I can go out and perform with ease and that I know I’ll be able to do it. Then in the couple of days before we have a certain push and the tail back from it. There is a routine to what we go through and before I go out is I listen to music and I keep myself to myself.

I get very nervous, no matter how big or small the competition is I get very nervous all the time. To the point where half the time I feel sick! You bring that upon yourself because you know how well you could do. That is where the nerves come because you want to do well. So I’ll get the ipod in and listen to some pumping music …

Q. What do you listen to?   

A. Everything. Whatever comes on at the time. People say “god you listen to depressing music” but whatever it is it drives me and gets me in the mood.

Q. Is there anything you would say to our users, a lot of whom may be training to run a huge event for the first time?

A. Definitely, but then as long as their training has gone well and they know they can run that distance the nerves shouldn’t be that bad. It’s just the preparation towards that. It’s good to feel nervous, that’s a good thing because it means that you have abit of heart. They should be fine (laughs)!

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