Former rhythmic gymnastic child prodigy, Carolyn Au-Yong Yim Wah made Malaysia proud when she represented Malaysia in the XVI Commonwealth Games in 1998, which brought her to winning a Gold and Bronze Medal for Malaysia. Close to two decades later, Carolyn has managed to make a name for herself through her undying passion for the sport by forging her way in the rhythmic gymnastics scene where she gained recognition locally and internationally. For aspiring athletes who think that being a sportsperson especially in Malaysia is a short-lived affair, Carolyn is a living proof to defy that very misconception. Read on to get inspired by Carolyn.
1. Hi Carolyn! Tell us more about yourself and Carolyn’s School of Rhythmic Gymnastics (CSRG).
Hello! I’m the Founder and Principal of Carolyn School of Rhythmic Gymnastics (CSRG) which was established in year 2010. Having coached for the past 15 years (since 2003), opening a rhythmic gymnastics school of my own was one of the many goals I had in mind. The school currently has 5 other coaches under my care, teaching 250 over girls aged between 4-17 years old.
Recently, I received the FIG Brevet International Judging Certification/ Badge for both RGI (RG individual) and RGG (RG group). I was also involved in the recent Sea Games hosted in Malaysia, sitting in the panel of Judges.
After retiring as a National Gymnast, I continued my studies like any other teenager would. I enrolled into college, majoring in Advertising and Graphic Designing and graduated from college 3 years after. In the midst of deciding to further my studies overseas, I had a short break. During that time, I was called in to help the KL Rhythmic Gymnastics State team to help assist a foreign coach. I took up the offer and the rest was history.
To be honest, I had no intention of being a coach. It was not the plan, It was never something I though of venturing into. However, after given the opportunity to coach for that period of time, I felt that it was a good place for me, it was something I really enjoyed. Furthermore, I loved being around children. It really helped me realize the passion I had and how I could use my knowledge and be an inspiration to the kids who were interested in pursuing the sport.
2. It has been 2 decades since you won your medal in rhythmic gymnastics at the 1998 Commonwealth Games. Can you tell us how the rhythmic gymnastics landscape has evolved over the years?
Has it been 2 decades already???
Well, Rhythmic Gymnastics has grown and evolved tremendously over the years. And I believe that it all started after the CG 98 team won the gold medal at the games. It sparked a lot of interested towards parents and children, some who never knew this sport existed. It was an eye opener to many.
Currently there are a few number of Rhythmic Gymnastics clubs in Malaysia that provide classes for kids as young as 4 years old. Compared to my time, kids now have a better opportunity in being able to try the sport, whether it is recreational or competitive. Now we have more competitions provided for these children throughout the year and they get the chance to be exposed to be able to understand the sport better.
Many people who do not know the background of this sport think that it is a very easy sport to pick up. Rhythmic Gymnastics is such a precise sport. It is a combination of the dynamics and flexibility of gymnastics, the technical knowledge of ballet, and the self-expression and rhythm of modern dance. You must have the coordination and skill to be able to master this sport and not many have that full package. Talent is not the only thing you need, you must also be extremely hardworking.
Of course the benefits of Rhythmic Gymnastics to girls in their formative years include physical fitness, self-discipline, positive self-esteem, lasting friendships, team skills, fun and a healthy lifestyle that the gymnast will sustain for life. I myself believe that I have gained so much as a person and I am where I am today because of my involvement in this sport.
3. With years of experience coaching kids, how are the millennial kids different from those from back in the days in terms of sportsmanship?
I believe sportsmanship is not build in everyone. However, it can be taught and instilled in ones self. In our school, we build good relationships with both kids and parents. Despite the competitive environment in this sport, we believe that our students must learn how to work as a team and support each other. I believe that with such environment instilled, our kids show good and healthy sportsmanship at a very young age. With a good show of sportsmanship, there is so much positivity which eventually molds a child to be a confident and determined person and perhaps passed on to the next generation. Hence to me, I do not think is a matter of now and then but rather how it’s been shown/ taught.
4. What are the few qualities that you wish to instill among the young kids through CSRG?
Despite the hard work that needs to be invested into this sport (by both coach and gymnast), I believe kids will always be kids. And ‘FUN’ must always be part of the learning process. We strive to ensure that the kids have a good time during training (of course we are strict as well). We find different ways to educate the girls and keep them interested and on their toes, while teaching them proper techniques for the sport. Interest is very important in a child, they must be eager to learn, it is then that they pay attention.
5. If our readers were to tag along with you to work, what can we expect from a typical working day with Carolyn Au-Yong?
I usually head to work in my sports attire (comfortable workout top and bottom). Hair tied up in a ponytail ready to sweat it out with the kids. When I arrive at CSRG, girls will already be there 10-15 mins early to do their stretches before hand. Without fail, my music speakers will be out and music (compilation on my spotify) will be playing in the background. Warmup exercises with the girls will start, continuing with their routines accompanied with music and warming down at the end of classes. I do back to back classes with different groups and levels of girls scheduled for the entire day. It’s tiring but all full-filling at the same time.
6. Who is your all-time inspiration?
I don’t have anyone in particular actually.
7. Aside from coaching, what do you enjoy doing during your leisure time?
I work throughout the week, this includes weekends. Our school is involved in most state and national competitions hence it can be busy all year round. I do however get some time off when the school is not preparing girls for competitions. With time off, I am actually quite happy staying home spending time with loved ones, family and friends. (I recently tied the knot) So it’s nice to just chill with the husband too. =)
8. Is there anything which you’d like to change about the local rhythmic gymnastics scene?
I believe the sport is growing and moving on the right track. We have many amazing, dedicated people behind the Rhythmic Gymnastics scene which ensures that our country evolves in this sport progressively.
9. Where do you see yourself and CSRG in 2 years’ time?
It’s been 8 years and our school has achieved so much, more than I could even imagine. Who would have thought from being a coach, to establishing a rhythmic gymnastics school, and now a qualified FIG judge for the country. Who knows what bigger opportunities lie ahead? But I am looking forward to it. The future is indeed bright! =)
10. Any life mottos?
As Walt Disney quoted, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”
I am glad I took that step to pursue my dreams in establishing CSRG. It was not a walk in the park at the beginning, however it all started off with that little spark of passion in the sport. Year 2018 is our 8th year running and the school is growing by bounds.
11. What are the advises you can offer to parents with aspiring rhythmic gymnastics kids out there?
Support is very important especially from a parent to a child. Encouragement goes a long way. She may or may not have the potential, however with the constant support and encouragement, a child will naturally want to work hard work on her own because she has the determination to succeed.
12. Who should we interview next?
My mom. =) I wouldn’t be where I am today without her constant love and support as a growing child, a national gymnast and now a principal/ coach of CSRG.