If you’re in the know (and if you’re not, then get a move on), you will know that YGSF TV is opening up its big fat rainbow heart with a series of ‘confessional’ videos, introducing you to some hugely inspirational people who are working in different creative industries. They may be really successful and doing incredible things, but this has not come without facing some serious hurdles. Today, I am super honoured to introduce you to the first of the fabulous bunch, Danusia Francis, animal farmer… ONLY JOKING – the brilliant artistic gymnast and 2012 GB Olympics reserve!!
I had the pleasure of going to visit Danusia at the Heathrow Gymnastics Club, where we had a good old chinwag and discussed what it’s really like to be a competitive gymnast, and then of course I could not leave without giving it a try myself. You can watch the full video and all its comic value above, and read the full interview below. Enjoy!
Let’s begin with a day in the life of Danusia, what does it look like?
Wake up (obviously), with a lie in (v lucky). Eat cereal. Next is gymnastics coaching at Surbiton High School (Danusia also coaches at Twisters, which is a company for after school gym clubs). Then I go to training in the evenings on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays – I also train on Saturdays in the daytime and occasionally on a Sunday.
I end quite late on at 9:15pm so get home at about 10pm. Then it’s time for a snack and straight to bed.
I’m assuming with a day like that, you live in your gym kit?
Pretty much, everyday it’s either sweats or leggings… my jeans are only worn on the weekends.
Now I’m thinking maybe I should become a gymnast so I can live in gym kit and not have to battle with my wardrobe every morning! Tell me about competing….
I’ve competed from the age of six, however took a break for a year and a half and have started to train again as of last September. I’m hoping to compete again next year, but the big goal is the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo!
Do you get nervous or scared when trying something new?
Definitely, the older you get the more you realise the risks. The bar is probably the apparatus I get most nervous about…
I can imagine! Have you ever had any big injuries?
Yeah definitely – it comes with the territory. You can’t just have an injury and decide to quit! I’ve now got used to breaks having broken my foot, ribs and wrist.
Are gymnasts hard-core?
People think that gymnasts have to either be really strong or really flexible – but you need to find the balance (pun intended.) I was more flexible than strong, which is why those sorts of injuries happened…
It must be pretty disheartening when you get an injury…
Yes – one of my injuries made me miss out on the European championship when I was competing for Great Britain and that was when we got our first ever medal. I was so proud watching the team but was sad about not being part of it. It’s so frustrating being selected for the team and then having to take a back seat…
What’s the process in being selected for a team?
Well it is different for me now as I have moved from competing for GB to competing for Jamaica. With team GB, there are definitive procedures – usually trials – but for Jamaica they don’t have the money to fund us, and a lot of us don’t live in Jamaica so it normally depends on what competitions you’ve done…
For the gymnastics scene, Jamaica is an up-and-coming country, so it’s really cool to be part of the future of it as one of the first members. I’m also a huge fan of Usain Bolt, so it’s awesome to be competing in his squad!
You’re a huge supporter of female empowerment in sport – what do you plan to do to encourage this?
There is a skill on the bar which is normally done by men – there’s only a handful of women that can do it, probably max 10. I’m currently focusing on getting that skill top notch to lead the girls and show the world what we can do…
Is there ever any pressure in maintaining a certain physique for gymnastics?
There is, but in my case coaches have only ever focused on weight from a safety perspective – concentrating on the percentage of body fat, as it can be bad for your joints. Our coaches always work with us and we can talk to nutritionists who can give us advice on our diets etc. Pizza is my weakness though, and I definitely do eat it weekly – Papa John’s pepperoni, stuffed crust, and jalapeño is my favourite!
I couldn’t leave without touching on fashion – let’s talk costume design! What’s you go-to when you are competing?
It depends on what I’m competing for – if it’s for my club then I have more choice. The older I’ve got, the more I know my style – I love to stand out but wouldn’t go for anything too crazy. The composition of a leotard is always important – I like a thinner material with a bit of mesh on the arms. My favourite colour combination is black and gold, but when I compete for Jamaica I will be wearing green and gold.
What have been the biggest highs in your career so far?
The highest point was being picked as a reserve for the 2012 Olympics – even though I was a reserve and had a broken wrist it was an incredible experience and I also got to perform as part of Cirque de Soleil before the competitions. I would also say that going to UCLA was a massive high, as it really defined me as a gymnast…
There’s a lot of stuff out there on the reality of social media. What do you think?
Some people are just blessed – but a lot of people put up this façade that they can eat rubbish and still be a size 4, which isn’t realistic or healthy. All the young girls that I train with use Instagram and don’t understand that everyone is different – you know, they may eat rubbish food but they also might work out a lot! I think you’ve got to show the good and the bad!
Danusia is totally on my wavelength, more Rinsta less Finsta!
I had a great time learning about and learning from Danusia (even though I know now i’m definitely not a born gymnast), and can’t wait to follow her journey and hopefully see her at Tokyo 2020…GOOD LUCK DANUSIA!!