Hanging in there at age 23

ON THE WAY TO A WIN: Australian gymnast Olivia Vivian competes on the uneven bars at last year’s Australian Gymnastics Championships in Sydney.
ON THE WAY TO A WIN: Australian gymnast Olivia Vivian competes on the uneven bars at last year’s Australian Gymnastics Championships in Sydney. TRACEY NEARMYAAP

OLIVIA Vivian is the veteran of the Australian gymnastics team at just 23, but in a sport dominated by flexible teenagers the Perth-based uneven-bars specialist is not going anywhere soon.

She hopes the Australian Gymnastics Championships, which start in Sydney on Sunday, will be the start of a journey into the history books.

Vivian plans to become the first Australian to medal in her discipline at the world championships, which will be held in Belgium from September 30 to October 6.

Gymnastics fans in Sydney will get a glimpse of one of the audacious moves she plans to pull off in Antwerp.

The move is called a "shap half", and perfect execution may mean the difference between a medal or not at the world titles.

"It's in my routine now - before I did it separately," she said.

"It's really difficult, but my coach (Josh Fabian) is always up for helping me learn new moves. The ultimate goal is gold at the world championships, but I'd love a podium finish."

Vivian said studying at Oregon University in the US after the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, where she finished 20th in her favourite event, had rekindled her passion for the sport after seriously considering retirement.

"After Beijing I was exhausted," she said.

"I thought I'd just do four years of college to help wean me off the sport.

"But the gymnastics program was incredible and my experience over there taught me to love performing again. I had no idea it would be that good."

Vivian had to endure more hardship in February, though, when her 64-year-old father, Craig, lost his battle with a melanoma.

"It happened on Valentines Day, so it's a day I'll never forget," Vivian said.

"But the gymnastics work has kept me distracted, and going through that has only added fuel to the fire."

As well as the world championships, Vivian, an Australian team reserve at last year's London Olympics, is targeting the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, which may be her last major event.

Topics:  gymnastics world championships

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