In 2008 Olivia Vivian was selected to the Australian team for the Beijing Olympics on the strength of one routine- her bars set. Her strong, clean 6.6 bars was just what team Australia needed to fill a hole in the team repertoire that mostly comprised gymnasts who were strong on the leg events. And Vivian, a strong reliable bars performer was just the person to fill that role. Not only was Vivian a great athletic addition to the team, she was also a breathe of entertaining fresh air, amusing Australians with her pre-Olympic blog, relating her training tales and her experiences in Beijing to the nation.
Upon achieving that Olympic dream, Vivian departed swiftly for the USA to begin her collegiate gymnastics career with the Oregon State University team, where she would further her reputation as a key bars worker, taking Pac 10 and Regional titles and regularly earning high scores on that event. She would also represent the team on floor and beam later in her college career.
Like many of the comeback queens, Vivian’s appearance at the Australian National Championships was quite a surprise for Aussie fans. More of a suprise was the fact that she easily took the National bars title on Sunday evening, surprising herself and those around her. It seems she’s still got ‘it’ on her favorite event. According to Vivian, it was her college experience that convinced her she still had more gymnastics in her.
“College was fantastic and really just kind of re-sparked my love of gymnastics, so it was kind of hard after senior night, thinking of Nationals (NCAA Nationals) being my last competition over there and so I called up Martine (WAIS coach) over here and said, ‘hey, like, can I come back?’- just to compete one last time.”
It was a quick comeback, and even Vivian wasn’t expecting much, particularly considering the very short time she had to prepare for the meet.
“Two weeks ago I got back here and then had to adjust to FIG settings on the bars. I did a control ( a test where you have to do a full routine) and I fell like three or four times! And I think, you know, everyone didn’t really expect THIS out of it. I mean, I came in and I just worked hard all week and the coaches have been great and it’s awesome, really awesome”
Watching Vivian on the competition floor last week was a thoroughly enjoyable thing. A consummate team leader and cheerleader, she is everywhere at once, cheering on the girls who are ostensibly her opponents, cracking jokes, dancing, laughing, but always approaching her routines with seriousness and vigour. Learning to enjoy the moment seems to have been part of her college experience. According to Vivian, this is not all she learned.
“I learned a much higher piked Jaeger, thanks to my coach John Carney! College is a different atmosphere. College is like the dream for most girls there, so I learned how to celebrate gymnastics and use gymnastics as a reward for all the hard work you have done before and just you know, let it all out on the floor. So I really learned a lot gymnastically.”
While going to Nationals this year was about ‘one last time’, it seems Vivian is having a hard time letting go of the sport. Will she continue after this, or is it time to move onto other things?
“You know, you’ve always gotta get on with things, but I just have such a love for the bars and my body felt great and I felt healthy and so we will see what happens after this. You know I still love performing and I have a passion for the Olympics ever since going to Beijing, so maybe even a job within the Olympic committee or Cirque Du Soleil will be amazing. I just love performing!”
And we love watching her perform!
Photos: Nadia Boyce
Article: Brigid McCarthy