Mary’s Masters Story 

Figure 1 - Left to right, Mary Marsh, Vera Blake, and Margaret Robertson from Balance Brisbane.

Earlier in the year, we were blown away by the display of talent at the Masters competition that took place at the State Club Championships in Caloundra. Upon meeting Mary Marsh from Balance Brisbane, we knew we wanted to share her story and how she found love for gymnastics later in life.  

“I started gymnastics in June 2021 when I was 68. I saw an advert in a local seniors’ magazine with a photo of women of similar age swinging on rings, and the caption ‘Just because you’re older it doesn’t mean you can’t have fun’. I’ve always been fairly active, and enjoy walking and gardening but have found other gyms and exercise programs I’ve tried quite boring. This advert appealed to me and I went along to my first class really not knowing what to expect.

The gymnastics equipment in the centre re-awoke the child in me. It was like supervised playtime in a magical wonderland with swings and bars and beams and all sorts of other bouncy and balance toys. I felt like I was back in the school playground with like-minded playmates who were all embracing the fun possibilities for regaining some of the strength, balance, and skills that we’d lost over time. I found out later that I was one of the youngest in the class, with the majority being in their 70s! We had a wonderfully encouraging and affirming coach who always made us feel very special. A couple of weeks later I saw the excitement of three of my classmates competing in the 2021 Masters Gymnastics State Championships, and I promised myself that the following year I would be amongst them. Thus began my joyful gymnastics journey!

Attending twice weekly, my strength, fitness and balance all started to improve, but without the sense of drudgery and boredom that had usually accompanied such classes. Under careful supervision I was gradually able to try new (old) skills such as handstands and cartwheels, rollovers on bars and jumps off the vault! Ten years ago I’d been diagnosed with the condition ‘benign vestibular vertigo’ which causes slight but frequent fuzzy-headedness especially when doing things that involve head movement such as working around the kitchen or crossing the road. I’ve tried various unsuccessful treatments, and in the end learnt to live with it. But an additional unexpected benefit of my improved strength and balance was that I was now feeling more confident and safer in everyday activities, both at home and around the neighbourhood. It’s unlikely that I’ll ever master the gymnastics balance beam, in fact I fell off three times (it was only at floor height) and came last in the recent competition, but hey, so what? I couldn’t have done it at all a year ago and it was still fun!

As an older person I feel I’m constantly bombarded by ‘good advice’, through magazine articles, TV programs and advertisements, on how I need to look after myself. I should watch my diet, keep active and continue to exercise my brain by trying new things. Gymnastics is not for everyone. It may not be for you. But then again, it just might? My advice is, give it a go!”

A huge thank you to Mary for sharing her wonderful story with us. If you liked hearing from her, stay tuned for when we share other Masters athletes stories and their love for the sport! 

To find out more about our Masters program and how you can participate, please contact Julie McNaught at [email protected].