by Nicola Darling
While most teenage boys are sitting at home playing on the Xbox or PlayStation 4, Sam Mostowfi and his elite band of friends are at the gym learning about discipline and camaraderie. He’s only 13 years old, but already Sam is representing his country at an international level and doing us proud.
Like a growing number of families, Sam’s family moved to Maidstone three years ago so that Sam could attend the prestigious Pegasus Gymnastics Club in Tovil. Even more significantly, Sam’s coach decided to make the move too, and he is now part of the coaching team at Pegasus. But their gamble of moving to Maidstone (and all of Sam’s and his coaches’ hard work) seems to be paying off.
“After a year of joining Pegasus, I joined the big squad which I never would have thought was possible. And normally to take part in an international competition you have to be 15, but I’ve been selected at 13, so I’m one of the youngest participants ever.”
Sam looks back fondly to the first gym he attended in Brighton, and remembers the coaches being fantastic, but the gym sadly lacked the equipment needed for him to really progress. He boasts about the state of the art facilities at the newly-refurbished Pegasus which include a recreation gym, squad gym, free running area, cross fit and dance studios, conference centre and café. “Where we lived in Brighton we used to walk past an old church building every day. I asked my mum what it was and she told me it was a gym. I wanted to join but I was too young and had to wait. I joined as soon as I was old enough and rose up through the ranks to join the boys squad. Now I’m at Pegasus in the GB squad.”
Sam doesn’t agree with the stereotype that gymnastics is only for girls and he wants to encourage other boys his age to get into the sport too. You need a lot of strength to excel in this field, physical and mental – I don’t know many people brave or strong enough to hurl themselves at fast speeds around a pommel horse or swing through the air on the rings the way these kids do, and I take my hat off to them for it. Sam admits that’s one of the greatest draws to the sport, the thrill of it all, and he confesses to being a bit of an adrenaline junkie. “One day when I’m old enough I’d like to try bungee jumping or skydiving.”
He also loves the thrill of learning and perfecting new skills, supported by his team of coaches and spurred on by competing with his squad-mates. One of the most valuable things Sam has learned is the importance of being disciplined, a lesson he carries with him outside the gym to other areas of his life including school. While some sports, allow and perhaps even encourage the spawning of tantrum throwing pre-madonnas, gymnastics instills a sense of self-control and personal discipline. Sam says they have fun in the squad room, but his coaches won’t take any nonsense and this good work ethic seems to have had a big impact on Sam. “If you’re out of line, your coaches will tell you to just get down to work and don’t mess around, so I have the same attitude at school. Other kids at school mess around but at gym we don’t do that.”
Although Sam and his squad-mates have to train six days a week to stay in optimum shape, they still find time to hang out together outside the squad room, be it paintballing or showing off their skills at the Airhop trampoline rooms.“We’re like a massive team; we’re really supportive of one another.” Sam also speaks very highly of his coaches. “They led Courtney Tulloch and James Hall to where they are now, so they’re very experienced.” That’s of course another benefit of being part of Pegasus, being able to train with some great names and getting a glimpse of what it looks like for all your hard work to pay off.
Sam’s sporting hero is a guy called Sam Oldham, a gymnast who represented Great Britain in the 2012 London Olympics. But it’s not just the Silver Olympic Medal that has Sam (Mostowfi) impressed; it’s his overall attitude towards the sport and his character displayed in the face of adversity. “He’s a really motivating person because he’s had a lot of injuries in the past and knew he wasn’t in the best shape because of them, but he pushes through and keeps getting better. He’s had to put a lot of work in – it’s a lot of work to overcome something like that and you have to be very committed.” Sam admits that his own biggest fans at this stage are probably his mum and dad, who he says have been very supportive of his gymnastics career so far, taking him to training every day and cheering for him at competitions. But who knows, in a few years’ time we might be cheering Sam Mostowfi on at the Olympics too – he certainly has the skill and determination required, as well as the support and coaching, to take him all the way.
As well as his rigorous training schedule, Sam has to be careful about what he eats and, like most professional/competitive athletes, Sam gets regular sports massage to help maintain his muscle health and to help him recover from any injuries sustained in the gym. He says he can see the benefits and claims that it really enhances his performance. “I get little niggles sometimes, that cause me pain but I tell Deborah from Restoring Health and she fixes them so I can keep training. She even sees problems and deals with them before they become an issue which is great.” Restoring Health massage several members of the GB squad, and are proud to support the team in whatever way they can.
While he’s only 13 years old, Sam is already competing in up to 10 competitions a year, including the English Open and London Open.
When we asked Sam what the next step is for him in his gymnastics career, his goal was clear: to represent Great Britain in the Olympics one day. But he knows it’s a very selective group and that he’s got a lot of hard work in front of him – he has to keep training, stay in the GB squad, compete in the European Games, compete in the Youth Olympics and then if all goes well, his Olympic dreams will come true. Not a bad dream for a 13 year old!
So let’s all watch this space, and until then I’m sure you’ll join us in wishing Sam all the best in his upcoming competitions! Make sure you check out our FB page nearer the time to find out how Sam does!