WILLIAMSON: Couldn't be happier to be part of the gymnastics world
Gymnastics Australia concludes its 70th Anniversary, 7 Gymsports in 7 weeks celebrations with Acrobatic Gymnast Sharon Williamson.
Williamson began Acrobatic Gymnastics when she was nine years old at Oyster Bay Primary school while also attending classes in Ballet, Jazz, Tap and Women’s Artistic Gymnastics with Mrs Pamela Ryan.
It wasn’t until she was in High School that she switched her focus solely to Acrobatics.
“As we became more aware of the Acrobatic community, a group of us entered Young Talent Time kind of like Australia’s Got Talent," Williamson said.
“I was 16 years old and one of the eldest in the group. We made the grand final 2 years in a row and it was an amazing experience for all of us, and a great opportunity to display our sport on national television.”
In the years since Young Talent Time, Williamson continued to train in Acrobatics under the coaching of Mrs Ryan and Peter Fann.
“Peter trained at the Canton Institute of Sports Acrobatics in China and gave us a huge insight into the sport," Williamson said.
“He began teaching us skills we couldn’t have even dreamed of.
“Peter invited 6 of us to travel to China in December of 1987 to train with his coaches for 3 weeks. Here we saw skills and routines that where just unbelievable.”
Upon returning to Australia, Williamson had to put her upcoming marriage on hold so that she could focus on training for the World Championships.
“My Acro pairs partner Kellie Salter was 11 and I was 22 which made school and work life hard to balance.
“We trained and competed on wooden floors, if we were lucky we would have one or two small scatter mats for our tumbles or big landings.
“In October we competed at a Private School in Hunters Hill in front of a panel of judges. This was the “qualifying process” for Worlds.
“We left for the World Championships held in Belgium in November of 1988. We competed clean routines and placed 8th in the world. This was a huge achievement for both Kellie, myself, Mrs Ryan and Australian Acrobatics.
“Being the first ever Australians to compete at this level of competition the pressure was immense, not only physically but emotionally as well.
“Kellie was only young so I needed to be strong and continue to be a good role model and support system for her.
“Competing at the World Championships was my career highlight and it made me incredibly proud to be selected as Australia’s first acrobatic group to represent the country.
“It was a great opportunity to show the world that Australia is coming.”
Since competing, Williamson has stayed involved within gymnastics and has been able to experience the development of the sport.
“Gymnastics has come a very long way since I was competing. Skills like triple somersaults were unheard of back then and now we see them regularly," Williamson said.
“I can only imagine how the skill level and technique will rise in the next 10 years.
“Australian Acrobatics has come such a long way now on the International stage and I can only hope that there will be just as much growth and improvement for the coming generations of acrobats.
“Let’s hope we see Acrobatics Gymnastics in the Olympics.”
Williamson retired from gymnastics after the 1988 World Championships and made the move across to the north coast of New South Wales and now successfully runs her own gymnastics club.
“When my daughter was two years old I found a local gymnastics club to enroll her in their KinderGym class," Williamson said.
“After a while, I ended up coaching both Women’s Artistic and Acrobatics at the club and I was head coach of the Acrobatics program for 12 years.
“Now, I run my own gymnastics club, Alstonville Gymnastics Academy and couldn’t be happier to be part of the gymnastics world.
“It makes me incredibly proud to see my gymnasts grow not only in their sport but in their confidence levels and friendships and how the discipline and appreciation of this sport helps them in their everyday lives.”