An Interview with Bryony Page
- How did you get involved in Trampoline gymnastics?
My parents are both quite sporty and they wanted me to try out lots of sports and activities to have fun, meet new friends, and benefit from being involved in something outside of school. One of my friends from dance went to a gymnastics class, so I tried out gymnastics as it sounded really fun and I loved it from my very first session! The gymnastics centre where I went also had trampolines and a separate trampoline squad. One of my favourite parts of my gymnastics classes was jumping on the trampolines, and I loved watching the trampoline squad in awe jumping so high and performing amazing somersaults. This inspired me to try out for the trampoline squad so I could have a whole session dedicated to just trampolining and I was selected onto the team!. I climbed up the rope on my first session and I loved it! The gymnastics centre where I went also had trampolines and a separate trampoline squad. Going on the trampolines was one of the rotations during gymnastics classes, and that was my favourite part of training. When the trampoline squad was in training, I would watch them in awe. Seeing them jump so high and do such amazing somersaults inspired me, and I decided to try out for the trampoline squad. I spent a whole session dedicated to just trampolining, and after that I made the team. Before I knew it, I was entered into my first competition and the rest is history!
- Making the World Championship team is exciting! What are your goals in the sport?
It is such an amazing feeling being selected to compete for your country! Once I started competing in trampolining, it became a goal of mine to earn a spot on the Great British National team and wear a GB leotard. I was so happy and emotional when I saw my name for the first time on the team announcement. My main goal was, and still is, to be the best trampoline gymnast I can be. I want to learn new skills and put them in my routine, I want to jump higher, I want my routines to be performed better. I am always striving to be better. When I achieve this in training, then I want to perform in competition! My results focused goals at this moment in time are to medal at a European Championships (I have never won an individual medal at this event), compete in more finals at World Cup and World Championships events and push for a spot on the podium, and I would love to make the Paris Olympic Team and be the first British trampolinist to compete in three Olympics. It would be a dream of mine to break the world record difficulty for women's trampolining and be the first woman to compete a certain skill - but I am quite far away from that at the moment.
- Obviously any athlete who’s achieved what you have in this sport has had to start taking that activity very seriously, very early in life. Can you tell me about that moment when you decided to fully invest yourself in trampoline training?
I'm not sure there was one particular moment that I decided to fully invest in my trampolining training. I've always loved trampolining since my very first trampoline class, and I attended and worked hard in each session following that. When I was in high school, I tried out for the county athletics team and was invited to train with them, but it clashed with a trampolining class, and I didn't want to give that up. So I guess I knew then that trampolining was my priority outside of school and homework.
When I was deciding on a University, I made sure that there was a good trampoline squad and coach in that city, so my choice was highly influenced by trampolining.
Another moment that showed my commitment to trampolining occurred after my first year in college. I arranged to study my courses part-time so I could balance my training and academic loads better and focus more on trampolining. In 2015, I graduated from University and decided to become a full time athlete for the year leading up to the Rio Olympics,
- What does trampoline training look like? Is it similar to artistic gymnastics training? For example how many hours do you train? Are you homeschooled?
My parents were really adamant to keep me in school and I could only miss it if I had to go to a competition or training camp abroad, which didn't happen very often. I trained after school and on weekends when I was younger, to fit in the hours of training. I really wanted to attend a University and experience living away from home while continuing my trampolining training, so when I went to college I was able to start training multiple times a day scheduled around my lectures and study hours. This also enabled me to do more strength training, which really improved my performance.
Fast forward several years later. I'm in my 30's now, and my training looks a lot different than it did ten years ago when I first started my University studies. For example, I have to focus a lot more on my rest and recovery now. I still train two (sometimes three) times a day, but I often train five days a week instead of six to allow my slightly older body to recover. What used to be double trampoline training sessions, have mostly changed to one conditioning/strength training session, and one trampoline session. I have also dedicated more time to sports psychology sessions, which is something I didn't always have access to (or knew much about) when I was growing up.
- What is the biggest obstacle you have overcome in the sport? How?
I have overcome several major obstacles in the sport. One of the biggest challenges I have overcome is having mental blocks. In my late teens, I started to make weird mistakes in skills and lose where I was in the air, but I was normally able to find myself in the skill before landing, and then save it. However, one day this happened at a competition and I couldn't find where I was in the air and I didn't know what happened. I landed a bit awkwardly on the mat, and then the same thing happened again on my second attempt. It was really scary and I started to fear certain skills and doubted my trampoline abilities. Everything started to crumble from that moment on, and subsequently each training session became more and more difficult. Before I knew it, I couldn't even take off for a barani, which is a fundamental skill in trampolining,
Before my mental blocks, I was doing triple somersaults and multiple twisting doubles, so it was very confusing and frustrating why I couldn't do them anymore. I had so much fear going into every training session, and every time I wouldn't take off for skills (which was most of the time) I felt like a failure. It was demoralizing and really difficult to deal with emotionally. I lost my ability to do the thing I loved most! It was a real struggle and took several years to build back all my skills and then perform them at competitions again. It took my coach and I many years of time, patience, stubbornness and determination to overcome this problem, especially since I had to relearn all of my skills. It felt like for every two steps forward that I took, I took one step backwards as I progressed. This experience helped me become much more mentally resilient and it taught me a lot about life and perseverance.
In addition to the mental blocks, one of the toughest times I've gone through took place a few years leading up to the Rio Olympics. In 2015, I started feeling severe pain when I was training and a scan on my leg revealed severe bony stress injury. I had to be put into a boot, take time off the trampoline to let it heal, go through a rehab process and build back my routines in time for the British Championships later that year, a qualifying event for the World Championships, which was the start of the Olympic qualifying process. I managed to get back up to the routine standard just in time, and actually ended up winning the British Championships. That win was followed up with a fifth place finish at the World Championships, which met the Olympic standard qualifying score to be considered for the Rio Olympics.
As exciting as this was, sadly, between this and the Olympic selection decision in July 2016, I was grieving the deaths of a couple friends and my uncle. I found it extremely difficult to cope with these losses without the support of my friends and family since I was training away from home for the Olympic selection events. At the time, I was one of the top three female trampolinists brought in to train full time at Lilleshall, the home of British Gymnastics and the National Training Centre for the GB trampoline program. As you can imagine, the environment was very intense since there were three of us training to be selected for the Olympic team where there were only two spots.
Dealing with the stress of living away from home while trying to earn a spot on the Olympic team combined with grieving the loss of my loved ones, and struggling to perform in competitions at the start of 2016 left me questioning whether or not I could continue to pursue my Olympic dreams. Going into training camps and giving everything I had left me feeling emotionally, physically and psychologically drained, and then the thought of not making the Olympic team was devastating. I had a long conversation with my personal coach and my sports psychologist, and they both said they would support me no matter what.
After much deliberation, I decided it wasn't a case of “Was I still going to train and try to make the Olympic team?,” but more a question of “How was I going to continue pursuing my dream of making the Olympic team in a healthy way,” because I didn't want to stop trying. I changed a few things in my training, reached out for further support, and mainly changed my approach to training, focusing on living each day by my top ten values. To accomplish this goal, I made sure I was learning from each experience, each challenge and finding joy in everyday moments. Shifting my perspective from outcome driven to process focused was life changing. I ended up not just coping in the intense training environment, but thriving in it! I also promised myself that even if I didn't make the Olympic team, I would still put everything I had into my training in order to achieve my potential with my routine just for myself to experience that feeling of performing to the best of my ability, and this gave me a sense of pride and purpose.
The intrinsic motivation and dedication to live each day following my values and focusing on my journey instead of the outcome, are things that I have continued to implement in my life on a daily basis. These values have helped me overcome more obstacles since the Rio Olympics, such as injuries and difficulties with my mental health.
- Favourite skills?
I love the feeling of 3/4 front somersault (crash/swan dive)! I began my competition with this skill, from full height and it feels like effortless flying! Another favourite skill is full in half out piked (double front somersault with full twist in first and half twist in second somersault) for a completely different reason. It was the hardest skill for me to get back after 'losing' all my skills. I compete this skill in my routine and it reminds me of my strength and ability to overcome obstacles. It is a favourite skill because of how it makes me feel emotionally, not just because it is fun to perform!
- Do you have a role model in the sport? Someone who inspired you?
Irina Karaveava, from Russia, is one of, if not the most decorated trampolinist of all time. She won our first Olympic Gold medal in Sydney, she has won multiple World and European Championship titles and holds records for a number of World Cup wins and medals too. She retired when she was 37 where she continued to make World Championships finals, so not only was she extremely successful, but she also had fantastic longevity. In addition to her inspirational career, she also inspired me with her personality. She is humble and is very respectful of her fellow competitors and our sport. She once received the gold medal at a World Championships in the individual event, but later noticed the scores were calculated wrong. The rules state that after the competition ends, after the medal ceremony, that results shall stand. But she returned her medal as she said she wanted the rightful winner to be given the World Champion Title and gold medal. I am in awe of her beautiful trampolining and strength of character.
- What advice would you give to younger athletes who might want to get into trampolining? Are there resources available for them to learn more?
Definitely find your local club and get involved! Having coaches and teammates to guide you to improve as a trampolinist is the best and safest way to engage in the sport. It's also the most fun! I have lifelong friends from my first trampoline squad over twenty years ago and more from every part of my journey. I have loved feeling part of a team and the trampoline community just as much as I love trampolining itself.
- What’s your favourite memory in the sport?
I have so many to choose from! But I think my favourite memory has to be the feeling of performing my finals routine at the Rio Olympics. It was the best routine I could have hoped to perform, and I just loved the feeling of the routine going so smoothly and finishing the routine with so much height. I felt so many emotions once I finished that routine and presented to the judges. When it finally started to sink in what I had just accomplished (performing the best routine of my life at the most perfect moment - the Olympic Finals!), especially after all those years of struggle, the achievement meant so much more to me than I could have ever imagined. All of my hard work, perseverance, staying true to my values, and not giving up during the really difficult times lead me to this beautiful moment and I am so grateful I got to experience it with everyone who supported me along the way. Winning an Olympic Silver medal was mind-blowingly overwhelming and the memory is so vibrant. I will cherish it forever.
- Where is the favourite place that you’ve visited for trampolining?
I love Japan! I have been fortunate enough to visit Japan many times through trampolining for training camps, World Cups, World Championships, and of course an Olympic Games. The Japanese citizens are so respectful, the food is delicious, the venues have been incredible and the places I have visited have all been beautiful.
- What do you like about Quatro?
Quatro designs and creates beautiful leotards, and with each collection released there is always enough variation to cater to gymnasts’ different preferences. The leotards are comfortable, durable and I love training and competing in them. They boost my confidence and I want my trampolining to shine as much as the leotard sparkles.
I felt immediately welcomed into the Quatro family when I became an ambassador and I have really enjoyed designing leotards with them. It has been so special to see my sketches and ideas come to life, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to wear them at competitions. It has also been exciting to see my leotard designs being made into a collection (BryonyxQuatro) and seeing them offered on leotard rails at Quatro stalls and online on the Quatro Website for other gymnasts to get and wear if they like them - which I hope they do, of course! It's really awesome to see people wear the leotards I've put my heart into and worked on with Quatro.
Another reason I love Quatro is because the company has helped both raise money and spread awareness for certain charities and organizations, such as NSPCC during lockdown and, more recently, Brown Girls Do Gymnastics. During lockdown, it was also really nice to see the community come together (virtually) and do fun things like the workout sessions led by Quatro ambassadors to keep us all active and engaged and lift our spirits up during that time.