ACTIVE AGEING: Masters gymnast Laureen Tkacik.
ACTIVE AGEING: Masters gymnast Laureen Tkacik.

On the gymnastics beam to stay active

LAUREEN Tkacik may currently be the only one competing in her age group, but if she had her way this gymnast would be surrounded by other enthusiastic seniors.

"It's a matter of being a participant," Laureen, 69, said. "It sets an example for others who see what I am doing and think they could do that. I think, good honey, come on down."

"When you are the only one in your age group, the rules don't count," she quipped. "They can give you a 2.0 and you still win. That's my attitude now. People who are still supple and able to move freely if their limbs have a full range of motion, they might follow the rules exactly.

"But, if you are the only one in your age group and the rules says you have to do two acrobatic skills in a row, well, at this point in time I can't do that, so I don't do it. Then I substitute something else."

The Caloundra YMCA senior gymnast keeps herself fit by practising her skills every morning that her body allows, and from time to time competing in Masters gymnastics events.

October's Australian Masters Games in Adelaide is on the cards for Laureen, maybe. She is limited by arthritis in her hips.

"It's difficult to train regularly and present enough skill content to make it worth travelling to Adelaide," Laureen said. Sadly it may mean Laureen won't be able to line up against the only other person competing in the Games' women's artistic gymnastics 60-69 age group, Fran Stephens from Perth.

Over the last four years she has competed in the Gladstone Masters Invitational as the only one in her age group. Her apparatus has been uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise.

"I started training again at 65 because a friend of mine was setting up a Masters event in Queensland which she was hoping would become the State event which it did become this year," Laureen said.

While Laureen has been involved in gymnastics since she was five and living in the USA, the former coach believes it is a sport for everyone.

"You have a repertoire of movements you can choose from that are practically unlimited so it keeps you moving," she said.

"The Fitter for Life candidates often say their balance has improved enough now they want to try balancing," she added. "Mind you, you are judicious. You don't put them on a beam that is 1.2m high; you put them on a floor beam. That's the modifications that the sport can allow."