Combining sporting success with educational achievement is no mean feat, especially for an elite athlete, but it seems Kelly Simm has got the balance just right.
It has been a whirlwind year for the Whiteley-based gymnast, who has managed to excel both in her studies and her gymnastics – becoming British vault champion, a Commonwealth gold medallist and achieving an A grade in A-Level PE.
Simm, who is going to Southampton Solent University to study sport science this month, is also working towards a fitness level 3 qualification at Itchen Sports College.
She has been juggling studying and training since she was nine years old so she clearly has the right formula to succeed in both.
Simm has been on the fringes of the national artistic gymnastics squad for the past 18 months but has really stepped up her performances in the last year.
She trained as hard as anybody and earned a deserved call-up to the five-strong England team for the Commonwealth Games.
Simm, Rebecca Downie, Claudia Fragapane, Ruby Harrold and Hannah Whelan held off Australia to win the team gold.
It was a perfect debut for the 19-year-old, who still can’t quite believe she has a gold medal to her name.
She said: ‘It doesn’t even sound real. It sounds crazy when you say that.
‘It was only a few weeks ago, so I guess it’s just starting to sink in.
‘To have achieved that on my first Commonwealths is amazing.
‘I also made the vault final, which I was really happy about and I performed the best two vaults on the day that I could – unfortunately it wasn’t quite in the medals this time.
‘I just have to work on the execution and tidy it up a little bit and hopefully next time it will be enough.’
Simm’s success at the highest level is largely down to her beginnings at Dynamo School of Gymnastics in Hamble.
She took up the sport when she was just six years old and under the tutelage of husband-and-wife duo Keith and Debbie Richardson, Simm’s career has blossomed.
And she is quick to praise her home club for the support they have given her.
She follows in the footsteps of many other top gymnasts from Dynamo who have succeeded on the international stage, including club-mate and training partner Laura Edwards who was part of England’s silver medal-winning team at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
‘I started when I was six years old and they’ve taught me everything I know,’ she said.
‘They’ve been in the gym with me day in day out, they’ve been abroad with me and given me so many experiences.
‘I owe them everything.’
The club are clearly proud of ‘their’ girl and gave her a hero’s welcome when she returned from Glasgow.
She said: ‘I came straight from the airport and they gave me a massive hug and they were really excited and even now they’re so excited.
‘We’re all really close.
‘Even though I’ve been to the Commonwealths, they just see me as one of them, so it’s nice.
‘I still think of myself as the little one but I’m not anymore.
‘I train with the younger kids and I try and help them as best I can because I know how hard it is.
‘It’s really nice to see them look up to me.’
Speaking about her early days, Simm said: ‘We used to have this little blue vault and my mum said it took me ages to get over it.
‘All the other girls were flipping over it but I could never do it because I was really small – it took me a while.
‘The coaches would take us over and put us in the positions and then you’d have a go.
‘Even now it’s scary trying new skills because you never know how it’s going to turn out.
‘I’ve learnt to trust my coaches and you just have to try it.’
The year 2014 could hardly have gone better for the former Henry Court pupil, who also won the British vault title, and she could have more accolades to her name with the World Championships coming up in China in October.
However, it is not a given that she will be in the squad, and with fierce competition for places, she has to go through a rigorous trials process.
One of those trials takes place at the women’s artistic British team championships this weekend in Stoke.
‘I’ve never been to a World Championships before but I know the standard is so good, so just to get there would be amazing,’ said Simm.
‘Just making the team is hard enough in itself so once you make a competition it’s really good and makes you feel really successful.
‘My aim is to go steady, help the team and do good routines and see where that takes me.
‘Just to compete against the Americans, Russians and Chinese would be amazing.
Coach Debbie Richardson added: ‘Kelly’s well aware of what it takes to get to the top.
‘I think she’s capable of world medals. She’s got a perfect body, it’s very strong and can handle a heavy training schedule.
‘She’s an all-rounder which is quite unusual.’