5 minutes with Olympian Danielle Prince | UQ Sport

They say if you give a girl the right shoes, she can conquer the world. So what happens when you give a girl a ribbon, ball and hoop?

Danielle Prince lives and breathes rhythmic gymnastics. From 5am wake up calls, to six hour training days, this Olympic tumbler is a leap above the rest. First stepping up to the mat at age 11, Danielle is a four-time Australian Senior National Champion, with a Commonwealth Games gold medal to boot. A natural born athlete, she’s a woman reaching for the stars with pointed toes.

We take five with Danielle to stretch our chinwag muscles, and uncover what it takes to reach the pinnacle of a sport.

You’ve been selected as Australian Senior Rhythmic Gymnast of the Year four times over, awarded 21 National Gold Medals, represented Australia eight times at World Cups, and twice at the Pacific Rim Championship, and the list goes on! When did your love of gymnastics start – who took you to your very first class?

My mum took me to my first gymnastics class. She dropped me off for a trial class with the recreational girls and by the time my mum came to pick me up, I was down the other end of the gym working with the junior elite girls. From the moment I walked into the gym and saw the girls training, I knew I was in the right place - it was the sport for me!

What made you decide to pursue a professional career in gymnastics? Was there a moment, or event, that triggered it?

When I first started the sport at age 11, my dream was to go to the Olympics. It wasn’t until I was selected to compete at my first World Championships at age 17 that I realised if I worked hard enough and kept pushing myself, that dream could become a reality.

We can only imagine the morning of a competition would be filled with nerves, adrenalin and excitement. From the minute you wake up to the time you hit the pillow, what does your competition day look like? 

I’m an early riser by nature, so I’ll usually be up and moving by around 7am before heading to breakfast. If the competition schedule permits I will usually fit in a morning training session before competition - just a light session to get my body moving and work out any kinks from the previous day. Once I am back at the hotel, I will rest my legs and take my mind off gymnastics and the upcoming competition - silly reality TV usually does the trick!

Next it’s lunch, and time to get ready. It usually takes me around 2 hours to get ready for competition, doing my hair and makeup while listening to my competition playlist which includes some Beyonce for girl power, Eminem and some old school Queen! Once at the competition arena my warm up routine includes general stretching, ballet and body preparation, before putting on my competition leotard. A competition can run anywhere between 2 - 6 hours. Post competition I will do a warm down and then do anything else I am required to at the venue like drug testing or media commitments. Once I am back at the hotel it’s time for an ice bath and a good nutritious dinner before hitting the pillow. Phew!

In the moments before you step onto the competition mat, what is going through your mind?

The moments before I walk out into the competition arena I aim to be as calm as possible. The floor marshal will lead me to the final warm up area behind the curtain. I visualise myself performing my routine perfectly, catching all of my throws, going through all of my difficulties and hitting my finishing position. With my favourite hand towel and lucky bear close by I take three deep breaths and walk out in to the competition arena.

We’ve heard the stories of athletes wolfing down hamburgers, or digging into the ice cream to let loose after a big competition! What is your post-competition routine?

My answer to this question definitely depends on whether my coach is in ear shot! I tend not to go too crazy post-competition as the season is generally back-to-back but I will definitely be enjoying some chocolate cake post-Olympics!

You have mentioned previously that Rio may be your only chance to go to the Olympics because of your age. What are your plans post-Rio?

Post-Rio I am looking forward to taking a well-deserved holiday! Commonwealth Games in my home state (Gold Coast) is incredibly enticing, but I am waiting to see how my body holds up post-Olympics before making any final decisions regarding 2018. 

Besides gymnastics, what is your favourite thing to do?

As you can imagine I don’t have a whole lot of spare time these days, but when I do manage to get a day off here and there I like to go for coffee with my friends and see my boyfriend. Baking is also a little hobby that helps take my mind off gymnastics, from cakes, to biscuits and all other treats I can’t eat during competition season! 

Don't miss a bound, spin or pivot in Danielle's Rio journey by following her on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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Written for UQ Sport.