“We are here as a support mechanism,” says Steve Page on being a parent to an Olympic medallist.
“The athlete has to have the drive internally. It doesn't matter how good parents think their child is; if they don't want to get there or there isn’t enough skill then they never will.”
Steve and Sarah Page knew very little about trampolining when their daughter Bryony took to the thrill of jumping, twisting and rotating as a nine-year-old. “It meant we could sit back and not be a backseat coach,” admits Steve.
Not that the Pages were sitting back when waiting nervously for six other athletes in the final at Rio 2016 before Bryony, whose previous best result was fourth at the 2010 world championships, became the first British gymnast to win an Olympic medal in trampolining with a career-changing performance.
She's since followed that up in Tokyo with a bronze, making it back-to-back Olympic medals for the trampoline star.
Silver was testament to the Pages early belief that their children should partake in a sport in which they engaged in - and not pushed into. They were enrolled into tennis, dance, ballet and football. “But there was no inherent talent and Bryony would admit that,” adds Steve.
When her family returned to Cheshire from America before her teens, Page started out in “a village where there was a gymnasium in the middle of nowhere”. By all accounts, the local gymnastics club wasn’t that competitive so she switched to trampolining. She was instantly hooked.
“We threw everything at our kids for them to find that one spark,” says Steve, "and it's the drive and the love of it which has got her to where she is today.”
Bryony, though, wasn't a title winner in her youth. “Being on the outside was a massive motivator and to work harder to be in that space,” she readily admits. “I didn't take my natural ability for granted. I just loved spinning, training and pushing myself to the next level. I just wanted to learn the next skill quicker and to do my routines neater.”
The Pages would take Bryony to the gym three to four times per week from the age of 10, for seven years. Mileage was clocked up on weekends taking her to competitions across the UK, from Hull to Gillingham.
“It was always a joy and easy for us as she loved it so much," recalls Steve. "We were purely a support arm. We didn't have to push. Some of the things may have been hurtful what I said but we are an honest family and if you want the truth, that's what happens. We tried to be positive and we don't pussyfoot around anything just because she wants to hear it.”
This may sound like parental pressure but it’s anything but. Take when a teenage Bryony had to overcome ‘lost move syndrome’, a. gymnastics’ term for the yips. Too scared, she says, to take off for a move, Bryony was forced to strip out all her world-class tumbles and start from the basics, reverting to small baby steps and visual techniques to set her back on track.
“We put a brave smile on it but underneath we were crushed as we didn't know if it would end her career,” reveals Steve. “She got back on and said 'I'm not going to let this beat me'. That was tremendous credit to her.” In turn, Bryony says it took “stubbornness and a big support network”, which included her parents’ empathy.
She missed trials for London 2012 following injury but was able to be behind the scenes as part of a Team GB athletes’ programme. Having always relished performing in front of big crowds, she was Rio ready.
“One day every four years when she needed it,” is how Steve describes Bryony’s performance in the women's final. And for Bryony? “I was in the moment and it wasn't an Olympic final. Getting out of the moment, I knew I couldn’t have done any more. It was the best of the best.”
Steve adds: “We had to watch six of the world's best to follow; the chinese, the No 1 Russian. ‘Oh no not fourth!’ But once we realised she came away with a silver … well she didn't lose gold, she won Olympic silver in our minds.”
Trampolining is certainly not for the faint hearted. Athletes build up with jumps before the scoring kicks in, as they reach heights of a double decker bus and measure the same G-forces as an astronaut or a Formula One driver. Then it’s a swing of the arms and take off for routines over 10 jumps and multi twisting shapes.
After two decades of trampolining - 11 years at Abbey Flyers and the world-class coaching of Paul Greaves - the Team GB Tokyo hopeful is still learning her job and never gets bored of the monotony. Her athleticism and aerial pursuits have also seen her dream of one day joining Cirque du Soleil, which advertises in gymnastics’ journals in a bid to recruit the best talent available for their shows, and she will take stock of her career next year.
"I'm not ready to finish trampolining, I love it too much at the moment,” says the 30-year-old, who also has a first-class degree in Biology. “Right now I can't think of a better job and I've got so much more to give."
And Steve’s opinion? “Well, I can tell my friends that my daughter ran off to the circus!”
Steve says on how to raise an Olympian as a parent: "For me, the child dictates what it wants to do and if there is the drive to succeed. As long as the parents are there to support - both positive or negative - then it will only help the child get better. After that it's about surrounding yourself with good people and good coaches and you'll achieve far more. It's rough with the smooth as a parent of an elite athlete. But Bryony’s got to the top with drive, dedication, great people around her and a bit of luck once in a while."