Expressions of an Athlete

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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[Play your favourite song here. Then read...]

We sit at desks all day.
Watch screens.
Engaged brain – check.
Tweet tweet, lovely new idea blogged over there.
Thinking thinking thinking.
New strategies.
Brain waves.
A gazillion tabs open.
Reading, loving, learning
Time melts like an ice block in the dessert – where does it go?
Lost in space.
Spinning ball.

It’s the best, isn’t it?

What are your toes up to while you’re doing this?
You have no idea.
And that core that engages and stands you tall? The part of your stomach that owns your spirit of powerhouse? Where’s it at?
It isn’t, that’s what.
Can you feel your posture and it’s ouchy slouchly grossness?

Stand up!
And hurry up!
Movement is missing!
Play the music!
Engage your muscles;
The little tiny baby finger on your left hand — point it to the limitless sky! Higher! Taller!
The back muscles that want to expand — bend, flex, swerve.
The beat. Beat it. Bada-bing bada-boom. Beat beat beat. MJ already told you how.
Feel the music.
Surrender up high;
Ground into the flats of your feet.

Don’t stop dancing.
Never stop the dance of life!
Don’t let life run you into your head.
Take charge.
Own your body.
Get out of the device.
Get away from your brain.
Engaged low — way low –
Grounding down, Expanding wide.
Push and pull.
Feeling every inch, every cell in your body from the whisper of a hair to the wiggle of a toe.
Take it to the depth of forever.

Be that god damn glorious body.

Add it unapologetically to that outrageously awesome pixel world you live in.

Its not a trade; it’s Both, And.

Relish your existence in all it’s ways.


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By Amanda Judd

On October 11, 2005 I packed up a bag and headed for the airport. That bag was full of a personal history. I never unpacked that bag, I just stored it, in the locker above the seat on the plane, then dusting up somewhere in a cupboard down in the garage.

The flight departed Baku, Azerbaijan. I boarded and started an adventure.

The adventure was so unfamiliar, it felt like I just woke up.
From a dream.
I was becoming awake.

Since 2005 and since escaping the dream, life has been full of exploring how to be a positive contributor in our world. It started with how can I do less damage to the environment? And at this moment in time it’s how can I contribute more generativity and life to our environment, our communities, and to myself? It’s great. Glorious even! It fills me up and grounds me down. It brings me to this blog, it’s what I do, it’s why I get out of bed each day, it’s my life’s work, my breath, my everything. It’s love.

I haven’t unpacked that bag because I didn’t know why I should. How did my previous “life” contribute to a 10+ world? How did it make the world a better place? I couldn’t reconcile that it did.

I think the life of an athlete has to be a dream for a while. Baku, October 2005 was the Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships, the last time I stepped foot on the gym floor, the 13 year relationship with sport that I walked away from and jumped on a plane to escape. You make a sporting career so incredibly number one for so long that there isn’t a two to follow. It’s become a part of you. So to let it go and say well that was me, it’s impossible. You can’t let yourself go. So instead you say it wasn’t real, it was a dream. Experiences: Pain. Dedication. The hardest work, hours, thousands of hours, 10,000 hours. Mastery. Pleasure. Perseverance. Commitment. Routine. Rhythm. Travel. Compete. Nervous. Hate. Love. Tired. Sweat. Hot summer days. Freezing winter mornings. Energised. Push. Harder. Hardest. The zone. Flow. Better. Bettering. Winning. Going. Moving. Evolving. Expression. Higher. Light. Self. Actualisation. Every inch. Every muscle. Every sound, feeling, touch, sight. White.





Giving it up was like giving myself away. So I had to find a new me. And the me who it turns out I am didn’t acknowledge the me I once was — because my logic could not connect sport with making the world amazing.

“Surely there is a connection! There always is if you look deep enough” I’d feel in myself. But I couldn’t see it or touch it. Competition seemed bad, like the cause of so many problems in the world. Like the fuel of masculine energy running the board rooms we know need more women in them. Flying around the world competing seemed environmentally ridiculous. Sport seemed un-useful and un-important.¬†And I was so positively distracted with exciting projects and fun experiences like founding Lovenotes, going to the UNFCCC, assisting startup social enterprises to invest energy in finding that connection. Or in other words, I had the perfect “authentic” escape from having to question me.

The dream remained a dream until recently. It’s taken me 9 years to loose the fear of opening that Me back up to explore. I’ve been playing hide and seek with it the past year-ish, but only today on this peaceful Saturday did I started unraveling it and start confronting it. I don’t know why today — maybe the coaching I’ve done recently has massaged me ready, maybe it’s the music I was listening to at lunch that rekindled memories of those days, maybe it was the Almudena Cid video I watched last night.

In my mind, unpacking the bag was the manifestation of the reconnection to that part of me. Today I did it, and here is what I found:

The Beauty of the sport of Rhythmic Gymnastics



Self mastery


Women and girls








Team work









In a 10+ world, rhythmic gymnastics definitely exists. Sport exists, perhaps with some refinement of how exactly, but it has a place. And I am so excited to be unraveling and revelling in it all.













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