Image Credit: British Gymnastics
As she prepares to compete at her 11th World Championships, there are no signs that Kat Driscoll will be giving up trampolining anytime soon.
Described by team-mate and The 52 writer Laura Gallagher as a legend of the sport, come January 2020 Driscoll will be heading into her third decade of competing on the international stage.
She has achieved plenty of success during that time too – two World Championship gold medals, three European titles, a stint as world number one and becoming the first GB trampolinist to appear at two consecutive Olympics.
The Chatham-born athlete was also the first British woman to jump in an Olympic final in 2016, having agonisingly missed out during London 2012. She finished fifth in Rio, while team-mate Bryony Page secured a memorable silver medal, Britain’s first ever Olympic trampolining medal.
As Tokyo 2020 draws nearer many athletes will be thinking about their future post-Games; some will already have it in their heads that they will be retiring.
Not Driscoll though. She isn’t intending on going anywhere.
“I’ve always loved trampolining and I’ve always said that as long as I wake up in the morning and feel I can go in and achieve something, I’ll keep going,” she told Gallagher in an exclusive interview for SportSpiel.
“Obviously there are days where you hurt, you feel tired and it’s a struggle; I don’t mean those days. It’s if there was a prolonged period of time where I wasn’t enjoying myself, didn’t feel like I was achieving anything or there wasn’t anything to smile about – that would be time to call it quits.
“My motivation just comes from trying to make the seven-year-old me proud of the journey she’s been on. I still love what I do and I think ‘why stop if I still love it’? There’s still things to achieve.”
— SportSpiel (@SportSpielPod) November 24, 2019
Rewind seven years ago though and she was in a much different headspace.
By the end of 2012, Driscoll was a European gold medallist, a two-time World Championship runner-up, had been ranked world number one in both the individual and synchro listings and was a three-time British individual champion.
She’d also just missed out on reaching the Olympic final in London, finishing ninth in front of a packed home crowd.
Reflecting on this, Driscoll thought she perhaps had gone as far as she could.
However that year she was also introduced to Tracy Whittaker for the first time, a key part of the British Gymnastics World Class Programme who would go on to be named as the Head National Coach for Trampoline in 2017.
“I didn’t start working with Tracy, our national coach, until 2012 and at that point I was content with being done; I didn’t think I could do much more,” the former HSBC employee recalled.
“But she opened my eyes to believe that there’s more out there.
“Your career is not really defined by one competition. It’s defined by all the little things that got you to where you are and the person that you become at the end of it.
“That’s what I’ve learned in later life – it isn’t about the medals, it isn’t about all the achievements. Once you stop people forget that anyway but they don’t forget the person that you are or the person you become.”
This philosophy has transformed Driscoll’s career and under Whittaker’s tutorship she has gone on to win at least 16 more medals across all competitions, including both her World titles in 2013.
Meet the 2019 Senior British Trampoline Champions! 🏆🏆
— British Gymnastics (@BritGymnastics) September 28, 2019
Whittaker’s influence has not just impacted on Driscoll’s performances either; it’s also made her want to take up coaching once her competitive days are over, a role she was ‘adamant I was never going to do’ earlier in her career.
“There’s something about the way in which Tracy approached me, my career, my story. I never realised how much of an effect a coach can have on a person rather than an athlete,” she explained.
“She has helped me develop as a person and made my life so much better. If I can do that for one person in a way she’s done that for me I would be more than happy.
This week’s World Championships in Tokyo could see Great Britain secure places at next year’s Olympic competition, which will be held in the same venue. If she qualifies next year it will be a third Olympic appearance for Driscoll, something no British trampolinist has achieved before.
And despite making history by reaching the final in Rio last time out, her most treasured memory will always be being introduced to the crowd for the first time at London 2012.
“I remember the cheer, it was unreal, “ she said.
“When you initially march out that’s fine as you see it as a cheer for the competition, not necessarily just for you. But after I was introduced to the crowd I remember turning back round and, I can’t remember who I was standing next to, but she was smiling at me like she’d just got how mad that was.
“Tracy also said she didn’t know how I completed my routine because when I walked up to the trampoline and they announced my name, she bent down to pick up the mat and nearly couldn’t get back up because the roar was that loud. She said it overtook her body.
“For our sport to have a venue like we did [the O2 Arena], to have that many people watching [16,000]; that was important.
“The more people see the sport the more people understand what we do and don’t think we’re just flipping around on a garden trampoline and it’s really easy!”
so proud of this team – lets do this 💪🏻🇬🇧 https://t.co/x1yHZbgupj
— 🦁Kat•Driscoll 🦁 (@driscoll86) November 15, 2019
Kat will be competing alongside her team-mates Gallagher, Page and Izzy Songhurst at the 2019 Trampoline, Tumbling & DMT World Championships between 28 November – 1 December. You can follow the event live on the BBC Sport website and BBC Red Button.