An Olympic dream became a reality for Danielle Le Ray

Continuing on with Gymnastics Australia’s (GA) 70th anniversary celebrations, GA had the pleasure to chat with Australia’s sole Rhythmic Gymnastics athlete at the 2000 Olympic Games, Danielle ‘Dani’ Le Ray. 

An Olympic dream was all that Le Ray could think about since she was just nine years old.

“I can still remember the night Sydney won the bid to host the Games,” Le Ray said.

“I was nine years old at the time and I waited up till the early hours of the morning to see if the ‘winner was Sydney’.  

“I had this amazing dream that I would be there someday but it was just a dream and I never imagined it would come true.”

To become an Olympian is the ultimate goal for an athlete which meant for Le Ray to achieve her goal she had to spend twelve years working on her craft.

“The sport took me all over the world. I travelled overseas many times to unusual places like Colombia in South America, Egypt, and Laos where I performed in a circus with a baby elephant beside me,” Le Ray remembers. 

“The most important competition of my life and the one that I felt placed the greatest pressure on me to perform well was the 1999 World Championships in Japan.  

“This was the qualifying competition for the Olympics. As the highest placed Australian at this event I was nominated by the International Gymnastics Federation as the sole Australian representative to compete at the Sydney Olympics.  

“The year 2000 was the most exciting and memorable year of my life.  After all the years of sacrifice, I was so proud and honoured to be part of the Australian Olympic team.  

“I had a fantastic time at the games and was extremely happy with my performance over the four routines. Competing in front of a home crowd of thousands of people is something that I will remember for the rest of my life.”

The continued change within rhythmic gymnastics is evident and as founder of Le Ray Gymnastics club in New South Wales and as an elite coach, Le Ray has seen it firsthand.

“We have seen an increased incorporation of dance-like movements in RG over the past few years and in 2019 Gymnastics Australia have introduced a new section of competition called Rhythmic Performance Group," Le Ray said.

“In the current Code of Points, there is an open difficulty score which is really pushing the boundaries with athletes displaying more interesting and intricate apparatus handling than ever seen before, with less focus on the artistry component.  

“Every Olympic cycle the rules change to keep it relevant and engaging for the spectators.  

“I think RG Group is really taking off and becoming a focal point of the sport. Australia has established a group program which may see us field a team in the next Olympic Games!”

Le Ray has stayed as dedicated to coaching as she was to competing as an athlete, with her ‘Le Ray Gymnastics’ winning New South Wales’ Club of the Year award for 11 years running. 

“I love seeing my athletes work hard, focus on their goals and achieve everything they set out to achieve," Le Ray said. 

“As a former athlete, I understand the dedication and sacrifice required to be successful at this level in the sport and through my experience, I know it is something that will change my athletes’ lives forever and something that they will carry with them as they move into the next stage of their lives. 

“My goal is to create a healthier, stronger & more confident female youth of Australia through Gymnastics.”