What started out as a way of keeping Julian Tavares still – has seen him move into the number one position in gymnastics in the country.
The Year 5 student from St Mel’s at Campsie has become the country’s National Gymnastics Champion, taking out the prestigious title at Hisense Arena in Melbourne recently.
The pint-sized athlete competed across six apparatus – floor, pommel, parallel bars, rings, vault and high bars – to claim gold.
A combination of hard work and natural ability enabled Julian to take out the Under 14’s category, something even he didn’t think was possible.
And now, despite his small stature, the 11-year-old athlete says he has some pretty big dreams, to one day compete at the Olympics.
He said his ability to “’just stop, focus and concentrate” – the reason for him taking up the sport in the first place – has started to reap rewards.
“My mum made me do gymnastics when I was about 5 because I was always moving, I just never stopped, I was crazy” he said.
“I had energy to burn so she thought gymnastics would be a good way to teach me to stay still and listen but also use my energy at the same time.
“It took a few years but finally I got the hang of it, I think that’s how I won the national title, I was able to really focus on what I had to do and stay in the zone.
“I am really proud of what I have achieved but my real dream is to compete at the Olympics.”
Julian qualified for the State titles earlier in the year when he took out the Under 13’s category by just 0.1 in a very tight finish.
It was then back to the gym to prepare for the Australian Championships, which saw him train for at least 27 hours a week.
And while he had the support of an army of well-wishers including his classmates, coaching staff from the Australian Academy of Gymnastics, a dance teacher as well as his family, the pocket-rocket just got on with the job, stunning everyone with his success.
Mum Ginette said she never thought “in her wildest dreams” Julian would come away with a gold medal but said he thoroughly deserves all the success due to his hard work and determination.
She said he was identified as having some pretty rare skills at a very young age and has worked very hard to get where he is today.
“I am just so proud of my little guy,” she said.
“He has trained so hard for the past six years and given up a lot so he totally deserves everything that he has achieved.
“At this stage I’d like to follow his dream of competing at the Olympics with him. He knows he has a long road ahead of him but with our support and his determination anything is possible.”
His coach Tim Corey said in the six years he has trained Julian he has seen him mature and show focus beyond his years.
He said he saw something very special in him at a very young age which he has continued to develop.
“He was a bit of a terror when he first came — he couldn’t keep still to save himself,” he smiled.
“But after a couple of years … there’s just no event he doesn’t excel at. His ability to stay focused and get through repetitions helps get him ahead of other kids.
“It’s a hard slog in the sport of gymnastics at the higher levels, as you need to put in so many hours of training and have to sacrifice your time away from normal day-to-day things, but Julian has proven that hard work can pay off.”