The top rhythmic gymnast and Team England ambassador, Mimi Cesar has her sights set on competing at a home Commonwealth Games in 2022
After competing at the Commonwealth Games last year on Australia’s Gold Coast, Mimi thought it might be time to hang up her ribbons aged just 24 which is ‘old’ in gymnastics terms. However, getting involved in the successful Birmingham 2022 bid has whet her appetite for making the team and competing on home turf.
Despite training in Brum at GMAC alongside fellow Young, Gifted and Brummie subjects, Dom Cunningham and Joe Fraser, Mimi has never competed in Birmingham. Mimi explains: “Rhythmic gymnastics is always held at the Echo Arena in Liverpool for some reason, so it would be amazing to make it to Birmingham 2022.”
Despite success in multiple disciplines beginning with gold in the Junior British Championships in 2010, it wasn’t obvious when Mimi was small that she would be shining on the rhythmic gymnastics stage – even her parents were surprised. She says she was so uncoordinated as an infant that she only crawled backwards, never forwards!
Having started going to Tumble Tots classes aged two years and loving it, Mimi began recreational gymnastics. When Beth Tweddle’s breakthrough onto the world stage began in earnest, Mimi dreamed of being like her. She recalls: “I said to my coach, ‘I want to be an Olympic gymnast,’ and she told me I’d never be good enough!” Charming.
Then when Mimi saw a girl performing rhythmic gymnastics at a competition she was absolutely blown away. She says: “I just thought ‘wow’ and I switched to rhythmic gymnastics straight away. I was terrible at first and my co-ordination was awful, but I worked really hard.”
Rhythmic gymnastics combines the sport element requiring incredible strength and flexibility with artistic flair. Competitors perform on the floor to music with skilful use of equipment such as ribbons, a ball, hoop or club. Mimi says her strength has always been her expression and she was talent-spotted aged just 13 and took part in a successful squad trial. She has been competing at a high level ever since.
I wonder what is it about the sport that she loves so much? Mimi explains: “I just find it mesmerising. It’s so visual and every routine is different and I love performing. I always listen to the audience in the few seconds between finishing a routine and the applause starting. If there’s absolute silence I know it went well and it’s the best feeling in the world.”
Rhythmic gymnastics is self-funded, so before the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Mimi was training 35 hours a week while working part time as a PE teacher. But she says: “It was completely worth it.” Even at school Mimi had a strong work ethic. When teachers offered her homework extensions because they knew she was training intensively, she refused, choosing to stay up late and get the work in on time.
Now at the ripe old age of 24 faced with potential retirement from the sport after 2022, Mimi’s pleased to have had to work. She explains: “Gymnastics is a young person’s sport, so it’s good to get some work behind me.” Mimi’s also planning to launch her own business – sport related naturally – so watch this space.
There are youngsters who have moved up from the junior squad to seniors and Mimi feels like the mummy of the group. She says: “It’s nice to be able to share my experience and guide them through.” Mimi’s doing everything she can on the health and well-being front in order to be in tip-top shape for selection for Birmingham 2022. That’s the aim. “Provided I get there, the home games in 2022 will be my last competition. I always go into a competition to make the podium, so that would be my aim.” Good luck Mimi!