Our SA Heroes take on Tokyo

Our South Australian Rhythmic community has helped shape the journeys of two of Australia’s newest Olympians. Emily Abbot (24) and Alannah Mathews (22) are a part of Australia’s historical first ever Rhythmic Gymnastics Group heading to Tokyo. Both Alannah and Emily started gymnastics at Mitcham Rhythmic Gymnastics Club, with Alannah spending 3 years training in Adelaide between the ages of 8 to 11, with her family then relocating out of the state for career opportunities.

Emily continued participating in Rhythmic Gymnastics in South Australia, moving then to Venia GymSports where she said she found inspiration training alongside South Australia’s finest Rhythmic athletes. Emily battled through two hip surgeries and then continued to progress her career at Allegro Rhythmic Gymnastics under the tutelage of esteemed coach Romana Becker. Emily recalls this was a time when she built back her fitness and readiness to compete again. She credits Romana as “the most important person in my journey” with Romana being the “one who kept me strong and didn’t give up on me”. Emily then achieved a significate feat by qualifying for the 2018 Australian National Championship.

It was after Nationals in 2018 that a fateful call from former teammate Alannah, who was now training in Queensland, that changed her life and sporting career forever. Alannah was training with coach Gina Peluso at Premier Gymnastics in Brisbane and mentioned to Emily that there was a spot opening as a member of their Senior Rhythmic Group and additionally that she should try out. Emily recalled that she “was so sure that this is what I wanted to do I packed a small suitcase and only booked my airfare one way.” Emily tried out and successfully made the team, with this team remaining together for over three years, to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Emily recalls that she “wasn’t the most exceptional individual athlete but performing in the team event gave me the opportunity and pathway to achieve my dreams.”

Reaching the Olympic Games in any year is a phenomenal achievement, none more so then the COVID 19 affected Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The team comprising of five women, trains together for 30 hours a week, 6 days of that week with 2 sessions per day, all whilst juggling work, life, relationships, and careers aspirations.

As the team captain Alannah Mathews stated, that it was the initial friendship with Emily when both girls were only 10 years old that led to both women achieving their Olympic dreams together. Alannah also credits the Tokyo bound group’s mutual respect and friendship as a key to keeping the group together and performing well. She stated that being friends with all the women on and off the competition mat made their dynamic successful and fulfilling.

Both athletes also credited current coach Gina Peluso (Premier Gymnastics, Gymnastics Queensland) as having an unwavering vision and belief that the group could make the Olympic Games.

Gymnastics South Australia CEO, Nastashia Buck, said she was incredibly proud of the achievements of both athletes and the Rhythmic gymnastics community in South Australia that helped to shape their Olympic journeys.

“I was beyond thrilled to speak with Emily and Alannah and personally congratulate them on this outstanding achievement. These women are an inspiration to our current athletes and the future generations to come. I was particularly excited by Emily’s desire to move back to South Australia to continue her university degree and once again become involved in the Gymnastics South Australia community. Her motivation to continue to provide pathways for future Rhythmic athletes, to help develop more gymnasts to follow in her footsteps and become part of a Rhythmic Group, is wonderful news and a brilliant example of the fabulous female leaders we have in our sport”.

Congratulations to both Alannah and Emily from everyone in South Australia, we are cheering you on and will be glued to our TV screens to watch you both and the team in action!

Alannah Mathews (pictured Back, Left) & Emily Abbot (pictured Front, Middle)

Emily Abbot - Australian Rhythmic Gymnastics Group Olympian

Alannah Mathews - Mitcham Rhythmic Gymnastics Club