Emily Topps – STARS Interview

Crikey! When did you first start?
I started doing baton-twirling when I was 10 but I’ve been doing gymnastics since the age of 4. I first started Baton-twirling with a few locals girls back at home where we formed a team before I was “poached” to join another team in Cheltenham. Now my current team is based in Basingstoke, where I train with the England coach every weekend.

Is there a maximum age limit?
The maximum age for a World or European competition is 35. Once youÂ’re 18 you go in the senior section, whilst the other two are the Juvenile section which is for contestants younger than 13, and the Junior section for until youÂ’re old enough to compete in the Seniors. I would say that the peak age for a baton-twirling gymnast would be around 23/24.

How much training do you do each week?
I train for about 14 hours every weekend plus an hour each day during the week, which is an hour of stretching to maintain my flexibility, but on the weekends we meet up as a team. On Saturday IÂ’ll train individually with my coach, and then on a Sunday we train as a team practising our synchronised team events.

Are there many different categories?
For the team events there are three, Duet which has two people doing synchronised twirling, then the Team Twirl which is the same but with 8 people and lastly the Twirling Corpse which will have 12 of us synchronised doing normally a themed performance, for example last year when we performed we did one based on reality TV.

On the individual front there is Solo which is with one baton, Solo Two which is the same but with two batons, and Dance Solo which is less about the baton and more dance orientated. My main event is one called X-Strutting, which is more about flexibility and balance so more gymnastic based. ItÂ’s my most successful event, IÂ’m currently ranked 3rd in Europe. In the Dance solo IÂ’m ranked 1st nationally as with X-Strutting and Solo baton.

What events do you have coming up?
Next month IÂ’ve got the National Championships and England selection in the October half term for which IÂ’ll have to take some time off Uni. Then next year there are the World Championships in Belgium, in which hopefully IÂ’ll be representing England in Solo One, X-Strutting, Dance Solo, plus the Duet and both of the bigger teams, so IÂ’ll be very busy and working hard!

How does the Royal Holloway STARS programme help you?
STARS is a massive help for me as the University provides free gym membership and use of the gym facilities if I need to practice, plus they give us £750 which goes towards costumes, travel, and to enter competitions in Europe and around the World. Without this I would really struggle because we have no other funding whatsoever from any organisation.

What is the immediate future of the sport?
Obviously some funding would be a start! At the moment there is a petition on Facebook (Baton Twirling Should Be An Olympic Sport) and the Internet, of which the aim is to try and get our sport included in the Olympics in 2012. For it to happen an agreement would have to be reached between the International Olympic Committee and the National Baton Twirling Association though right now IÂ’m not sure whether this will happen but I hope it will!

Is baton-twirling a good spectator sport?
Yes I think itÂ’s really exciting to watch, it can be tense due to the risk of dropping the baton, and in the larger team events it can get quite dangerous. But at the same time, much like the other forms of gymnastics it is very graceful to watch. I certainly think that it is good enough to be included as an Olympic spectacle, and if the petition is successful IÂ’d be 23 by the time the London games happen so till young enough to compete.

And what about your immediate hopes for the future?
My short-term goal is to be reselected for England and IÂ’d really want to be team captain. ItÂ’s a position which is voted for by the members of the team, but I donÂ’t know if IÂ’m old or mature enough yet! Nevertheless, itÂ’s something that I really feel I could be successful at and I would be really proud to lead us in Belgium.

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