The start of a new year has many people setting new goals and challenges, but for gymnast Hamish Carter, 2019 will see a bigger change than most. After marking his Commonwealth Games debut back in April with a bronze medal, he is taking a massive leap across the pond to begin a scholarship at the University of Illinois to help him reach his Olympic dream.
While Hamish had always planned to pursue his sporting career abroad at some point in the future, things moved much faster than even he expected.
“I went on a bit of a fact-finding mission as I thought at some point in my career I would like to go to America,” he said. “My old coach, Nick Blanton, was on the American National team when he was a gymnast and he got in contact with a few universities, one of which was Illinois. The Head Coach there, Justin Spring, who was an Olympic medallist at Beijing 2008, came back to me almost immediately and offered a full scholarship.
“I was drawn to Illinois as a few British gymnasts have been there before and I already know one of the boys on the team, Clay Stephens from the Australian National Team, who was at the World Championships last year. I had kept coming across the University of Illinois in my fact-finding, so when it popped up again I decided to go for it and take the scholarship. It all happened really quickly. That was back in November, so for about 7 weeks I was planning and filling out forms to be ready to go out early in the New Year.”
This move comes on the back of a hugely successful 2018. As a gold medallist at the 2015 European Youth Olympic Festival and silver medallist at the 2013 World School Games, Hamish was no stranger to success as a junior gymnast but it was last year that saw him take to the global stage at a senior level. Winning team bronze alongside Daniel Purvis, Frank Baines, Kelvin Cham and David Weir was a huge achievement for the 20 year old, however it wasn’t his only Games highlight:
“The Commonwealth Games was my first major competition, my first experience of the senior gymnastics world and I exceeded my own expectations. I was so happy to do my best gymnastics and by doing that I helped the team win bronze in what was a really tough fight.
“Gold Coast has given me the confidence to push on to the next level, particularly as I missed out on the Europeans in 2016 through injury, so to finally have that experience has given me a massive amount of confidence for the future. I was nervous going in that I was going to waste it or just not do as well as I knew I could, but it was the best month of my life.
“Winning a medal was definitely a highlight, but my best moment of the whole Games was the final night at Scotland House. The celebration of everyone together and all the medals we won as Team Scotland, that is a night I will never forget.”
His plans for the next few years show an ambition to use that experience to progress, along with an eagerness to embrace the opportunities that his American adventure will provide.
“My goals for the next few years are the Olympics in Tokyo 2020, to be part of senior teams and to be considered as one of the top gymnasts in the country. Beyond that, I aim to qualify for as many of the major championships as I can and to compete at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022, especially because I have trained there for the last seven years.
“Leaving my current teammates behind will be sad, however all the boys are supportive and keep telling me how proud they are of me. We will definitely keep in touch. The way I see it is that I am just training in a different gym, it just happens to be at the other side of the world. I have been out to Illinois for a taster session and I know I am going to fit in well to the gym out there and I can see what a great opportunity it is for me.”
“Living on the other side of the world, away from my Mum and Dad and having to cope with things on my own will give me great experience and put me in a position to be independent. That should serve me well in the years to come and in the world of work. I am looking to find my way, to take a lot of life experience away from this. For me this is not just a commitment to sport or to university, I can see I will benefit from it way more than just getting a degree or furthering my gymnastics, it’s about everything that comes with it.“