Tyesha Mattis is grinning from ear to ear. Embracing a handful of stuffed yellow kangaroos – little commemorative Australian gifts given during the medal ceremonies, the talented young Brit has managed to win enough medals to give souvenir stuffed toys out to her mother, each of her sisters and one, of course, for her coach.
Not only is her souvenir shopping finished, so has her domination of the AYOF gymnastics competition. Mattis has just won the all around competition, as well as earning medals on vault, bars and floor.
“I’m feeling very happy with myself!” Tyesha grins.
And so she should be.
Mattis, who had impressed during the team competition on Friday with her multiple releases on bars and her impressive tumbling on floor, took it even further on Sunday for the all around competition. The powerful gymnast showed improved form, bars upgrades, great confidence and, to top it off, a surprise double twisting Yurchenko. It was the only DTY competed during the event contested between gymnasts born in 1998 and 2000, and it was enough to easily usurp the field for the all around gold. The vault was a last minute decision.
“I was only going to do a single, but I decided to do my double because it’s better.”
Despite placing her hands dangerously close to the far edge of the vaulting table, Mattis delivered the vault easily, showing her extraordinary power by achieving an astonishing distance from the horse many senior elites would envy.
Although the DTY was the skill of the day in terms of surprises, it is uneven bars where Mattis really shines, showing off a range of skills, including a Tkatchev, Pak, Geinger and Shaposhnikova transition. Here, and on beam, she performs with the confidence of a collegiate gymnast, aired with the skill level of an elite. Bars are also the event where she feels most comfortable.
“I think I am best on bars and I really like doing it- it’s fun!”
Lorraine Atkinson coaches Mattis at East London Gymnastics Club. Their relatonship goes back a long way, with Atkinson having coached Mattis’s mother, also a gymnast, who trialled for the Commonwealth Games during her career. Atkinson can’t sing her young charge’s praises highly enough.
“I have never known someone to work as hard as her. She’s such a hard worker. But mentally she is very strong as well.”
This is not Mattis’s first international success, having placed second in the all around competition at the Liberec meet in the Czech Republic last year behind Hungary’s great promise, Noemi Makra. In fact, she has been known for training high level skills for quite some time despite not being able to perform them at the Espoir levels.
The gymnastics competition held as part of the Australian Youth Olympic Festival, between China, Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain seemed to prove, yet again, that Great Britain is a gymnastics nation on the rise.
In the post-Olympic year, the future looks bright for the gymnastics members of Team GB. And going on the performances of all four gymnasts at this meet, Tyesha Mattis, Teal Grindle, Amy Tinkler and Catherine Lyons, these young women will feature heavily in the none-too-distant future. While Mattis emerged the victor at this meet, all of these girls proved to be highly talented young athletes with a lot to give to the sport. Between the four we saw an impressive display of gymnastics that showed originality, elegance and not just difficulty- but a mastery of their difficulty.
Like all the athletes at AYOF whose events were cancelled during the extreme heat Sydney (46c/133f), the memories of the weather will be something she will take with her. What will she be telling folk back home about Australia?
“That it’s REALLY hot and there’s nice people here and it’s just really good to be here!”
Mattis, whose gymnastics blends a similar style of power and joyful personality, cites Olympic all around champion, Gabrielle Douglas as her idol.
“She’s really good and you can see in her face that she wants it and she just tries so hard.”
Let’s hope after this win, this emerging talent goes into the rest of a year where she competes at English and British Championships and has hopes to secure a place in the European Youth Olympic Festival team as hungry as her brilliant young idol. With her skills and confident, positive gymnastics, this hunger will serve her well.
Article: Brigid McCarthy
Photo: Nadia Boyce
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