WITH Bridgwater’s new gymnastics centre up and bouncing, Mercury reporter Kirsty James has caught up with Westonzoyland trampoline star Laura Gallagher.
LAURA graced the padded arena of Bridgwater’s Quayside Trampoline and Gymnastics Club with the finesse you would expect from a professional gymnast.
But the ex-Haygrove School pupil has faced many challenges during her glittering sports career; from injuries and anxiety to a life-altering illness.
Laura rose to prominence after been crowned under-19 world age group champion in 2007 and has not stopped for a breather ever since. She trains for around 20 hours a week, including driving out to Lilleshall and Northampton to train with her squads, and has recently had to give up her job as a learning support assistant at Wells Cathedral School.
She said: “There’s a bit more pressure now I’ve achieved more. But that pressure mainly comes from myself.”
Laura has been unlucky with injuries. She ruptured her ankle in 2013, leaving her unable to train for eight months and giving her just six weeks to get ready for the trials for the World Trampolining Championships in Bulgaria.
"You have to have that desire and commitment and no one can give you that – it’s got to come from you."
“I didn’t think I would get in because I didn’t feel prepared,” said Laura. “Getting injured knocked my confidence and for a while I didn’t feel like an athlete.
“I was limited to what I could do to train but Sue at Quayside really helped me. I worked hard, had a lot of support and came back even stronger.”
Laura proved this by posting a personal best score to help Team GB conquer the world in Sofia, Bulgaria, at the World Championships.
The trio of Gallagher, Emma Smith and Kat Driscoll scored a total of 164.845 points ahead of Canada (159.995) and Belarus (158.450) to take gold, with Laura gaining an individual score of 55.280.
As if battling an injury wasn’t enough, in 2012 Laura was diagnosed with Celiac disease, a disorder that results in damage to the small intestine from foods containing gluten.
She said: “I felt tired all the time and my insides ached. I thought it was the training but it got really bad and it turned out to be Celiac disease.
“It’s been a challenge but I’m used to the diet now. It’s just difficult when I go abroad because I can’t have processed meats and other items. I have to be really careful.”
Laura is also a patron of MIND Taunton and West Somerset and is not a stranger to anxiety. She said: “I had anxiety for ten months after the Junior Championships. It’s really common in sports. MIND deals with anxiety in a way which is similar to techniques used to treat it in sports. I can share advice with other people who have anxiety and it’s very rewarding to help.”
Laura overcame her anxiety by creating a detailed training plan and starting up again from the basics.
With so many challenges it can be tough to be truly dedicated to a sport.
But Laura said: “All athletes get injuries, but they keep trying. For me it’s not about an overall goal, like getting to the Olympics, it’s about having the will to drive towards that feeling of satisfaction. Whatever I achieve I will always want more because I’m chasing the feeling.
“You have to have that desire and commitment and no one can give you that – it’s got to come from you.”
Laura is currently training for the March 2014 trials for the EU Championships and we wish her the best of luck.
Name: Laura Gallagher
Guilty pleasure: Marshmallows
Highlights of 2013: *Getting into Team GB for the World Trampolining Championships *Helping to win gold at the World Championships and gaining a ‘personal best’ *Coming fifth in the Denmark World Cup in October behind two Olympic World Champions.