How Brooke's journey to Sydney 2000 inspired a generation of gymnasts

Photos by Simone Alexander

Former Australian Women’s Artistic Gymnast, Brooke Walker vividly recalls the moment she stepped out onto Qudos Bank Arena, formerly the Sydney SuperDome, to be greeted by a roaring home crowd at the 2000 Olympic Games.

For Brooke, this was the pinnacle moment in her gymnastics career, a career where adversity was faced, met head on and ultimately conquered, but each time she proudly put on her Australian leotard, all that was put aside.

At just 6 years of age, Brooke’s gymnastics journey began at Bayside Gymnastics, a club in Melbourne’s south-east suburbs. Based inside the local high school basketball stadium, Bayside Gymnastics Club was not your typical gymnastics club. Equipment was set-up prior to training, then swiftly packed away at the end of each session.

Like many budding gymnasts, Brooke become “very independent at a young age due to the busy training and school schedule”, but despite the hectic nature of juggling school and gymnastics, she never gave up hope of one day representing her country at the highest level.

As Brooke climbed her way through the ranks of international gymnastics, despite the rigorous training regimes, one thing kept her motivated, something that she is forever grateful for – her friends.

Through the long strenuous training sessions, Brooke and her friends would always find a way to have a laugh and remain focused on the task at hand.

Injuries and adversity seem to be common tales of a gymnasts career, and Brooke’s journey was no different. Riddled by back, elbow and knee complaints, Brooke often found herself questioning whether her involvement in the sport was worth all the setbacks or where perhaps, throwing it all away was the best outcome.

Fortunately, gymnastics was able to keep one of its future stars, and Brooke’s decision reaped the ultimate reward. Without the clear support and guidance received from her coaches and club staff, the outcome may have been vastly different, one that would have never seen Brooke on the Floor at the Sydney Olympics.

“My coaches and parents helped me through and I decided that my life was better with gymnastics in it than it was without it.”

The hectic, non-stop nature of Brooke’s childhood and teenage years has now transferred into family life. Married to husband Shane, the pair have three children, who soon could follow in their mum’s footsteps.

A primary school teacher and mum, Brooke now imparts her knowledge onto her children and school students as she inspires the next generation, as she notes that “time management is something that we had to become good at from a young age”, and in times like these, the skills gained through youthful experiences could not be more suitable in coping with the current environment we are in.