Not yet 23 years old, the young Australian Heath Thorpe, recently crowned Australian All Around Champion, talks about himself.
In a world that wants us to be perfect, flawless, winning, it is a young gymnast who still has a long way to go in terms of historical achievements, but who is already changing the history of this sport.
Born and raised in Sydney where he trains every day, Heath Thorpe is a rising star in international gymnastics and we interviewed him for you. From artistic leaps, to his relationship with social media, from queer representation in sport, to the Olympic dream. Here’s what he told us.
You are very present on social media, how do you live this aspect of your career?
I realised a few years ago that because gymnastics is underfunded in Australia, I was going to have to figure out another way to make an income while still being able to train. For me, social media now provides that income. It obviously comes with it's pressures and cons but at the end of the day I am very grateful that it provides me the freedom to train, compete and travel with less financial stress!
We often see your routines and D-notes on twitter, to date what would you consider your top apparatus?
Vault is my highest scoring with my yurchenko 2.5. However, I do not have a competitive second vault. So I would consider floor and high bar my best. Both are pushing a 6.0 difficulty and 8.0+ execution. Because of this I know that these 2 events are where my opportunities are going to lie over the next Olympic cycle.
Pushing myself harder each and every day pic.twitter.com/0SPyuNBlWS— Heath Thorpe (@thorpeheath) May 29, 2023
You are known to most for your floor artistic elements, do you see this as a hallmark?
It is definitely my hallmark. I love the fact that when people see me walking to the floor, they stop what they are doing and watch. No matter the routine outcome, good or bad, it leaves an impact and message for those watching and I think that is pretty amazing!
I have read that many young gymnasts, following your example, have decided to add artistic elements to their routines, how does this make you feel?
It affirms the idea that everything I have sacrificed and fought for has been worth it. Knowing that I am helping younger athletes feel more comfortable in the sport and their expression means the world to me. I am ready to see where the next generation leads the sport.
In 2022, you requested the federation to include leaps in the men’s scoring code (already present in the women’s) but were denied. Considering that many gymnasts are now adding them, do you think their decision might change in the future?
I do think there will be a change. From the conversations I have heard, it seems that there is going to be something implemented very soon. But code of points aside, I believe you are going to see more athletes challenging the norms and sport, which in my opinion, is only beneficial. Change is needed.
You have always been very open about your sexuality, to this day you are a role model not only for gymnasts, but for members of the LGBTQIA+ community around the world. Did you have a personal role model when you were young or would you have wanted one?
It is pretty surreal to be a role model for the community not just in gymnastics but the general population around the world too! I just try to speak from my own experiences and then also uplift others experiences and hope people resonate with it. I sure did. Tom Daley (ed. British multiple world and Olympic champion diver) was always my role model when I was younger. It was so incredibly brave for him to live authentically on the world stage at such a young age. He really was a trailblazer for queer representation in sport and I am so thankful for athletes such as himself who paved the way for my generation (even though we are only 6 years apart haha).
You’ve said you’ve often tried to become Australian AA champion, it’s been a while now, can you believe it? How does it make you feel?
It has taken far too many attempts... and pommel has always been the apparatus that stopped me from achieving it! To finally put 6 routines together on the day and be crowned Australia's best All-Around gymnast is a wonderful feeling. It was a moment that celebrated not just my hard work but also my entire support team including coaches, family, medical staff etc.
You helped Australia qualify for the World Championship in Antwerp, what is the big goal for this competition? Both personal and as a team.
We have agreed that a team qualification to Paris 2024 is unlikely for Australian MAG... which means we have shifted the focus to maximising individual qualification. For myself, this means qualifying to Paris via All-Around which we believe will require roughly an 80.0. I know I am capable of this score but it will need to be a near perfect day for me. So right now we are focusing on solidifying smart and high execution scoring routines.
As far as your career is concerned, on the other hand, what is the goal you set for yourself that once achieved will make you say ‘I made it’?
I believe the Olympics has always been that moment where I can sit back and be content with my career. However, I have also begun to step away from that notion that the Olympics determines your value as an athlete. I know that I have and will leave a lasting impact on this sport no matter how the rest of my career plays out, and that in itself is really special to me -this tells me that I have already made it.
We would like to thank Heath once again for this valuable interview and for taking the time to talk to us. We wish him the best of luck for the future and look forward to enjoying his fantastic exercises at the World Championships.