Kelsey Titmarsh represented Canada at the Summer 2012 London Olympics. Photo : Charles Vanegas

An Olympic balancing act

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By Shannon Baldwin

Three years of intense competitive training has led to this point. A loud voice comes over the speakers, welcoming Canada to the floor as Kelsey Titmarsh walks through the narrow archway into the roaring Wembley Arena.

Titmarsh was representing Canada in group rhythmic gymnastics at the London 2012 Summer Games before starting her first year at Ryerson.

She said that it was a weird feeling to go straight from competing at the Olympics to starting university.

But after taking a year off school to focus on training she was ready to retire and leave that part of her life in the past so she could focus on the social aspect of life.

“You can’t go out or hang out with friends and experience what first-year is like when you’re competitively training 40 hours a week,” Titmarsh said.

“I didn’t see the point in devoting my time [to training for group-rhythmic gymnastics] when I’ve already competed in everything I possibly can.” However, the second-year fashion design student wasn’t able to stay away from rhythmic gymnastics entirely.

After getting back from the Olympics, she contacted her former coach, Tatiana Kastenkava, and began training for the individual category.

She now trains only a few times a week but it suits her ever-growing social lifestyle, balancing fun and competition.

In July, she represented Ryerson for individual rhythmic gymnastics at the Universiade Games in Kazan, Russia

– the world’s second-largest sporting event that pulls in more than 10,000 university athletes from almost 200 countries.

She automatically qualified for the Universiade given her strong recent performances at the national level.

Titmarsh said that she loves training with Kastenkava because they’re both creative and work well together

– something much different from the hierarchical dynamic between coach and athlete that she had been dealing with leading up to the Olympics.

Titmarsh and her teammates spent a year training and preparing after beating teams USA and Brazil at the World Championships in Montpellier, France, to qualify for the 2012 Summer Olympics.

She and her teammates trained in Spain for a month and then competed at the World Cup. She then went back to Spain for another month before competing at the World Championships.

“It’s such a small tight-knit sport that these competitions become even more important because you have to show consistency,” Titmarsh said.

“The judges at the Olympics are from countries that aren’t represented but have seen you compete at every World Cup.” As the Olympics drew nearer, Titmarsh’s coaches made the women focus even harder on the sport. They

trained from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. with one hour for lunch and more than two hours on non-traditional ballet training when they weren’t practicing their routines.

The women weren’t even allowed to go to London until five days before the Olympics were over because of how much their coaches wanted them to focus on their training.

“[My teammates and I] were all upset that we missed the opening ceremony.

I remember sitting on my hotel bed, watching it on the TV and crying,” Titmarsh said.

But eventually they did get to go to the Olympics and meet other athletes in the Athletes’ Village, which Titmarsh says is “the greatest place on earth.”

“I would compete just to go to an Athletes’ Village because you get to meet people you relate to so much,”she said.

But competing isn’t on the top of Titmarsh’s priorities anymore. While she does do individual rhythmic gymnastics and admits that she misses groups since “that’s [her] love of the sport,” Titmarsh said she doesn’t want to become a “lifer.” Instead, she wants to focus on working towards her degree, but still use her past to help her design athletic clothing like the leotards she wore at the Olympics.

“I’m always going to be involved with the sport but I don’t want to be a coach,” said Titmarsh. “I [just] want to inspire [younger gymnasts].”

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