HELENA Stiles might have returned from the Australian Youth Olympic Festival empty handed but the Altrincham rhythmic gymnast insists her trip was far from a wasted one.
The 14-year-old Loreto Grammar School pupil was in action at the State Sports Centre in Sydney’s Olympic Park last week as part of Britain’s 120-strong team for the Festival.
But Helena was unable to head home with one of Britain’s 66 medals as alongside Tiola Gleeson, Tyler Brumitt and Lauren Brash she finished fifth in the group all-around event.
However Helena is adamant that what her adventure Down Under lacked in silverware, it more than made up for in experience.
“The Australian Youth Olympic Festival was a really great experience as it was my first international for Great Britain and I loved every minute of it,” she said.
“It was quite nerve racking when I first went out there because I was competing in front of a big crowd and in the same venue as the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
“But once I relaxed I enjoyed it more. Once I got my first piece out of the way I was able to relax and it was a really nice atmosphere.
“My hoop was my best routine and I am happy, especially for that, and I can take a lot of positives away from that particular piece.
“The atmosphere was amazing and seeing all the other elite gymnasts I learnt a lot and hopefully this is just the start of these sorts of competitions for me.”
With the festival seeing 1,700 athletes from 30 countries competing across 17 different sports it was the first taste of an Olympic atmosphere for Helena.
She added: “Even though I didn’t get a medal in Australia the whole experience was fantastic and one I will never forget,” she added.
“Seeing all the different sports and the people that do them, and staying in an athlete’s village with a British team was all great and an experience I hope I get to do again and quickly.”
The British Olympic Association prepares and leads British athletes at the summer, winter and youth Olympic Games. It works in partnership with sport National Governing Bodies to enhance Olympic success and is responsible for championing the Olympic values. www.olympics.