This gymnast from Northern Ireland is going places!
LEGENDARY Irish luck has little to
do with the progress Sarah Beck
has enjoyed in her past four years as
a gymnast. Sarah, who trains at Salto
Gymnastics Centre in Lisburn, Northern
Ireland, says dedication and concentration are the keys to any gymnast’s success.
“If you work hard, you will get better,”
says Sarah, who turns 12 on Jan. 18. “If
you have a bad day, forget about it.
Come back the next day and try harder.”
Sarah’s routines include several top
skills, including a couple of new ones she
plans to compete this season. She
recently mastered a clean double layout
off bars. On beam, she does a flip-flop,
layout, and dismounts with a roundoff,
double tuck. She is training a series of
flip-flop, layout, back tuck. Bars and
beam are Sarah’s best events, but she
says she battles the jitters.
“I always get nervous in a competition,
but I just focus and try to ignore the
judges,” says Sarah, who has an older
sister, a younger sister and a younger
brother. “The crowd can make you nervous, too, but it feels good when they are
Four years ago, Sarah began taking
gymnastics at a recreation center, where
coaches noticed her talent and recommended her to the coaches at Salto. She
has already competed in Amsterdam,
where she liked getting to watch and
speak with gymnasts outside of Northern
Ireland. “Seeing how good other countries are makes you want to work harder,” Sarah says.
On St. Patrick’s Day weekend in 2007,
Salto hosted a dual meet between the
U.S. and Great Britain. This was another
eye-opening adventure for Sarah and her
teammates. “I got to meet a lot of the
Sarah with her coach, Eugenia
Popa, a former Romanian
world team member
“Sarah has the ability
to pick up elements very
quickly,” Popa says.
“That’s what makes
gymnasts and get their autographs,”
notes Sarah, who trains four hours every
day except Thursday.
Such experiences are foreign to
Sarah’s friends from outside the gym.
“They don’t know anything about gymnastics, but they think even the simple
skills are amazing,” she says.
Sarah learned how amazing the top
gymnasts in the world are after watching
the Beijing Olympics on TV last summer.
“I saw how good those gymnasts were,
and how much I need to improve,” she
says. “I especially liked the American
team, because they were really strong.”
Eugenia (“Gina”) Popa, who coaches
Sarah, admires her eagerness to learn.
“She’s quite consistent. She’s better than
she knows,” says Gina, who won team
medals for Romania at the 1989 and
1991 World Championships. “Sarah has
the ability to pick up elements very quickly. That’s what makes her different. She
is motivated. She likes trying to learn
new things and move on.”
With Sarah’s enthusiasm and positive
attitude, she is moving up in the sport.
She says all gymnasts can advance and
enjoy the same kind of satisfaction she
feels. “I want to keep going, and compete in more countries,” Sarah says. “If
you try hard, you can go somewhere.”
IG’s John Crumlish lives in Los Angeles.