"Storm" in Belgium: Bajan gymnast Kelly ready for World Champs challenge with Olympic berth in mind

By September 29, 2023
Barbadian gymnasts Olivia "Storm" Kelly (left) and Anya Pilgrim share a photo opportunity ahead of a podium training session in Antwerp, Belgium. Barbadian gymnasts Olivia "Storm" Kelly (left) and Anya Pilgrim share a photo opportunity ahead of a podium training session in Antwerp, Belgium.

The stage is set, and Olivia “Storm” Kelly is raring to go with hopes that she will produce something special, on this her second appearance at the FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships.

It is a moment the Barbadian gymnast has worked hard for all season, and as the September 30 to October 8 championships fast approaches, an Olympic Games berth which is among the spoils, is very much weighing on her mind.

Simply put, Kelly has her sight set on becoming the first gymnast to represent the Eastern Caribbean Island at the global multi-sport showpiece, and achieving such a feat would not only be a dream come true but would most certainly propel her budding career to higher heights.

While the expectations may be lofty, they are by no means impossible and given the experience gained from last year's championships, Kelly believes she is well positioned to prove more competitive on this occasion.

But for now, the 17-year-old is basking in the culture and scenery of Antwerp, a port city on Belgium's River Scheldt, almost like a calm before the proverbial storm.

"Belgium is so beautiful. So far, I’ve been able to walk around Antwerp a little to enjoy the scenery and there is just so much to do. The lifestyle here is very admirable and the food and people are incredible.

"I’ve adjusted pretty well to the six-hour time difference and have also been in training which has been going well since I arrived. So I am just making the most of the time before I jump into competition which I am really looking forward to," Kelly told SportsMax.tv from her base in Belgium.

One key component for the American-based Kelly is the fact that she will have compatriot Anya Pilgrim competing alongside her on this occasion, and that has not only added to her excitement, but more importantly, offers a slight boost in confidence.

The American-born Pilgrim, another talented gymnast, was a late call-up for the Championships after a qualified athlete opted not to take up their spot.

"Having Anya here has definitely made me more excited. It’s great to have another athlete/friend with me who is going through the exact same situation I am, as we are both seeking to be the first to gymnast to qualify and, by extension represent Barbados the Olympic Games," Kelly shared.

That said, Kelly pointed out that they have not only fed off each other’s energy building back up strength and endurance, while adding elements to increase their difficulty scores, but most importantly, ensuring they are both mentally and physically ready to rise to the occasion.

"Both of us are doing pretty well mentally and physically and are extremely excited to compete. Since it’s my second time at Worlds, I feel like I really know what I’m doing this time and I’m excited to explore this gorgeous place and compete for Barbados," she noted.

Beyond the excitement –which is understandable for any athlete returning on what is the biggest stage of her career at present –there is a serious side to Kelly, and she is focused on ensuring her performance quality and the details of her routine are on point.

"Making it to the Olympics would mean so much to me. Ever since I started competing in Gymnastics it’s been my long-term goal. For a while I gave up on that dream thinking it was impossible. But now, I’m just so grateful to have even made it this far and have the opportunity to live out my dream," the bubbly athlete ended.

 

Sherdon Cowan

Sherdon Cowan is a five-time award-winning journalist with 10 years' experience covering sports.

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