Expressions of an Athlete

Posted on by Manda Judd

This post is part of a series on Celebrating, #Glasgow2014, and #Kaleidoscopes.

Manda met with Kelly MacDonald, New Zealand representative in Rhythmic Gymnastics at the XX Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, to understand the essence of what sport means to her.

Buy a Kelly notebook from our online shop, supporting Kelly’s journey and training to #Glasgow2014.


270286-Q1.Digital_Files_by_Email.GA-RG-30MAY14-5249Photo by WinkiPoP Media

Manda: What do you love about Rhythmic Gymnastics?

Kelly: You mesmerise everyone while you do it. What I enjoy about performing is to, for the people that I influence, I like to carry them with me when I do my performance. It’s not so much about doing a perfect routine, it’s about performing, and how everyone sees it.

Manda: What do you feel when you’re performing?

Kelly: I often get swept up by what I’m doing — I sort of get carried away. I don’t actually think about a heck of a lot when I’m doing it but I definitely feel empowered; and I feel… um — like — there’s not one word for it! — I feel like I’m the only person, you know? When I’m performing and the music goes, it’s just me; everyones looking at me but I don’t feel anyone, I don’t see anyone, it’s just me doing my thing.

Manda: Do you feel it contributes positivity to your life?

Kelly: Yes! Absolutely! It gives me a huge outlet. A huge, different part of myself that I never thought I’d see before. You know? This is again very difficult to explain. If I had never come back to gymnastics, I wouldn’t have found a very sort of… I feel like I unlocked a bit of myself by the way that I love performing, and sharing what I can do with everyone. What I want to do most in this world is capture people, and share big things with them. I feel by what I’m doing, by performing and giving them that little moment, I’m giving back to people — that I don’t even really know — but I feel need to give to them. I need to share my gift — or whatever the hell it is. It feels pretty good.

Manda: Tell us about the quote on the limited edition Kelly notebook: “And nothing else matters”

Kelly: Nothing Else Matters — obviously; my ball [routine] music. When [my coach] Marnie first played me that song, I had heard of Metallica and I had heard the song and different versions of it, but I had never really got into it the way that I did. And for me it was a turning point because I came back to gymnastics to get to this big goal and I left everything behind, I left my studies, I put everything on the line, sacrificed everything and I said to myself “this is exactly what I want. And nothing else matters.” So I put 100% — 150% — no 500% of myself (!) [laughs...] into this goal [of competing in the Commonwealth Games], and just killed myself for ages and ages, and went into the gym day-in day-out, just repeating to myself “and nothing else matters” this is what I wanna do, and if I don’t achieve it that’s ok but at least I know I’ve tried. And nothing else matters. Marnie picked a good song!

Manda: What has rhythmic gymnastics taught you? What does sport teach the world?

Kelly: Gymnastics and sport has taught me discipline, time management, what it means to be part of a team, dedication, commitment — all these things you need to learn somehow but you don’t know how until you’re part of a team or have that kind of dedication. It’s given me many opportunities that I never thought I’d have. It taught me to take everything as it comes and enjoy everything while you can. For people it teaches them a different part of themselves; that they can reach their potential, or their destiny, dreams, whatever. If they’re part of a team and they share that big experience with someone it really changes someones perspective on other things. The whole thing about sport is to push your limits and boundaries; to test yourself so it gives you an inner confidence you never knew you have.

Manda: Tell as about some of these opportunities

Kelly: A huge amount of travel… [laughs] Which I love! To represent New Zealand, which I also love. Given me an opportunity to live my dream. It’s just so many opportunities! It’s hard to explain because it’s given me so much! And I can’t think about how I’m ever gonna give back! How am I gonna do that!? It’s given me so much perspective on life. Values. Everything. Not just the superficial stuff like uniforms and things. It’s what it’s given me — Me.

Manda: What do you want to create through your sporting career?

Kelly: I would like to be remembered as someone who didn’t give up regardless of whatever, and I want to be — well I know that with rhythmic gymnastics there’s not really any medal opportunity really, but I want to be that gymnast that everyone remembers because she changed something along the way, and she changed the way Rhythmic Gymnastics is looked at in New Zealand. You know? I feel with what I’ve overcome so far, I don’t actually realise how much of a big deal it was and how much I’ve achieved — because I just kept going, but all the people who come up to me and say “you’ve really inspired me” and this kind of stuff; it doesn’t really make sense because I’m just doing what I was born to do. I couldn’t have stopped even if I tried! So I just want to be the gymnast everyone remembers, not for what I did or what I overcame, but because I stopped the New Zealand gymnastics world, and made them look instead of at scores, I gave them a journey to come on. Stop the scores, and being so technical. And create a moment where you’re just mesmerised.

Manda: Do you think of Rhythmic Gymnastics as an art?

Kelly: Yes! Absolutely! It’s a big creating process. It’s that fine line between a dance and a sport. But then it’s got so much more! And it creates so much more than what you’re actually doing. When you think of a top gymnast, when you’re watching her, you get mesmerised, and you’re thinking of all these different things, and i’s not about the scores and what she does — it’s about what you see and what you perceive of it.

Manda: Lastly, is there anything further you would like to share with the world?

Kelly: Thank you for buying my notebook! And just thanks. Many thanks.

Purchase a limited edition Kelly notebook online here.

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