Milly Richards' column on her experiences of being involved in elite sport

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Milly Richards studies A levels in Sociology, Criminology, Philosophy and Ethics and Dance at Abbeygate Sixth Form College in Bury St Edmunds. Here Milly describes her experiences of being involved in elite sport – and the consequences of how hard it is when injury crushes your dreams.

I always thought that the hardest part of being a gymnast would be the day I decided to retire – turns out – the hardest part is looking back and thinking what could have been had it not been for a series of injuries that I suffered.

That unfortunately is elite sport – and many other people’s dreams will have been cut short because of a set of circumstances that are somewhat beyond their control.

As an athlete, if your body lets you down, there is not much you can do.

Of course you know the threat of injury is always over your head.

However, no one can prepare you for the utter heartbreak you feel when your body does not allow you to do the one thing that your heart beats for. Sadly that’s what happened to me. And that’s why I had to stop competing in gymnastics.

I guess when you are in the moment of your sport, it’s impossible to reflect on what is happening to you and how you are feeling emotionally.

Now – as retirement sets in, I’m able to reflect and think about the great things that my short career as a gymnast gave me.

Of course part of me looks back on my time doing the sport with a bit of sadness.

I sometimes reflect on feelings of frustration in terms of the moments I may have missed out with friends both inside and outside of school.

I also suppose that there is an element of grief that I can no longer compete at that level again.

But there is a great sense of pride when thinking about the first time I got into the England squad for example.

It was hard and it was tough and the hours I had to put in to get that opportunity were endless – but it was worthwhile because of the lifelong memories I now have.

I also remember with fondness the buzz you felt at competitions.

And the bond you create with the people who you train with is like no other.

As I said before, gymnastics is now a thing of the past for me.

But whilst being involved in this sport, I developed a love for dance and this is something I’ve been able to maintain by studying an A level in this subject at Abbeygate Sixth Form College in Bury.

Dance is an art where I can express myself and I would have never found this love if it wasn’t for gymnastics.

So overall it’s been good and bad.

On the upside, I’ll always have my memories. On the downside, I will always have a feeling of loss and unfulfilled dreams.

But – like others who have had to give up their ambitions because of injury – it’s OK to feel a sense of loss – just try and focus on the positives as much as you can and create new ambitions and realise different dreams – that would be my advice.

I’ve certainly got new dreams and ambitions when it comes to dance.

If you can relate to my experiences and you are struggling to come to terms with things – then reach out to support networks.

Ultimately though - be proud of yourself – and your achievements - no one can take them away from you.