Paige James ('PJ')

How old were you when you first started gymnastics? 

I was six years of age when I first started gym at Jednorog Gymnastics.

What was your favourite part about doing gymnastics?

I loved performing a series of tumbles as part of my floor routine, in fact performing on the floor in general. The floor was by far my favourite apparatus. I enjoyed the sense of flying through the air and learning new skills. The other enjoyable aspect of gymnastics outside of actually performing was the friendships that I made.

What Gymsport did you do?

I did Women’s Artistic Gymnastics.

How long did you do gymnastics for?

All up around 12 years. I started at WAIS in 2008, moving through the various international levels, including Junior and Senior International.

What sport did you take up after gymnastics?

I’m currently transitioning into Pole Vault. I retired from gymnastics in July 2016, had a month or two down time and then completed a series of trials for pole vaulting in September 2016. I got through the trial period and was asked to come back and I’m still here today so I must be doing something right! It’s all starting from scratch though, once again I’m considered a Junior developing athlete, lots to learn.

What did you find the biggest thing to adjust to when changing sports?

Learning new skills and correcting technique for an entirely new sport. For instance, I had to correct my running style, become more upright to gain more speed to assist in my approach to the mat. There is also a bigger focus on the cardio aspect, for instance, a lot more running. The training encompasses a broader array of athletics skills such as jumping, sprint work, strength and conditioning and also yoga. The hours of training aren’t as intense, at least at this stage of my development. I even get to sleep in most mornings as opposed to 5am wake ups each morning. I’m developing new relationships including with my coach and learning to take greater responsibility for my program.

What do you like most about your current sport?

I love how there are so many different components to Pole Vault. To the outsider you might just think that we jump but really we train in a lot of different sports such as triple jump, long jump, sprints, high jump and even gymnastics!! It’s all the things I actually enjoy but never got an opportunity to try whilst competing as an elite gymnast.

Who is your sport idol and why?

I have spent a lot of time with Cathy Freeman as she was my mentor, and I greatly admire what she did in her sport.  I also admire Michael Walters (Son Son) from the Fremantle Dockers. After hearing his story about how he really struggled to maintain his training but eventually got there, really inspired me as this is something I have struggled with at various times. With gymnastics it was sometimes difficult to maintain enthusiasm, particularly after a run of injuries.

What is your biggest accomplishment in your sport?

Receiving the Sports Australia Hall Of Fame scholarship and representing my country. I was 12 years old when I first represented Australia (I was the first ever Women’s Artistic Gymnastics Indigenous female to represent my country).

One question you get asked too often?

So you’re Aboriginal right?!

How did gymnastics help you at your current sport?

Gymnastics has given me so many skills that are essential to pole vault, like having aerial awareness and upper body strength. I have a lot to learn as far as refining the technical attributes of the sport, but my physical attributes are probably advanced as a result of my gymnastics background.

If you could be any animal in the world, what animal would you be and why?

A panther I think, black, majestic, and strong.