From the moment Kelly Middleton laid her eyes on the bright white shoes and sparkly leotards that encompass Sport Aerobics, she knew that she’d found her passion.
But, if there is one thing better than the sparkles and songs, it’s making the Australian team.
After competing throughout her highschool years, Middleton joined Bayside Sport Aerobics where she represented Australia for the first time.
At 41, Middleton thought her Sport Aerobics days were over. Now, 12 years since she last retired her Reeboks, the mum-of-four has another chance at realising her dreams thanks to a new and inclusive competition category.
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The Federation of International Sport Aerobics & Fitness (FISAF) introduced a new category in 2021, dubbed the ‘Masters’ category and specifically designed for competitors aged thirty and over.
“This section [was] a huge drawcard, especially the reduced time limit and limited skills,” Middleton said.
Fast forward to the end of 2022 and Middleton, along with her pairs partner Caroline Carter, is a World Champion.
“It seemed like a crazy dream, but it all seemed to come together so easily,” Middleton said.
“Our training schedules aligned, which doesn’t always happen with other commitments.
“We had chosen music and began skills training – it definitely felt like our comeback was meant to be.”
The pair chose acclaimed mother-daughter duo Justine and Tahnee Bratanavicius to coach their comeback, with Middleton expressing her gratitude for their professionalism, support and ability to get the most out of their athletes.
It didn’t come without its hardships, though – returning to sport is no easy feat, let alone whilst raising a family.
“I schedule my training early in the mornings before work and train after [my kids] go to bed,” she said.
“I don’t want my training to impact anything that they do.”
Her journey had always been one of determination – not having won a National competition until she was 26 years old.
“Being involved in Sport Aerobics has taught me to be committed, give everything one hundred percent, be consistent and don’t let failure get in your way of success,” Middleton said.
This year, she is competing in the Masters International Singles category.
“I left singles (in 2010) without competing in Nationals, it was an unfinished season and I owe it to myself to compete without the pressure that I used to put on myself all those years ago.”
Physiotherapist Jaquelin Bousie told the Guardian that ‘putting systems in place to support mothers to safely return to elite sport is a must to avoid losing exceptional female athletes’ – and Middleton is proof that motherhood is no setback to sporting goals.
Middleton continues to encourage all women to take part in elite sport, especially those who believe that they can’t be successful whilst juggling being a mum.
“Don’t feel guilty about having goals, they don’t have to stop just because you are a mum,” she said.
She has qualified for FISAF Nationals which are set to commence in September and is working hard to be selected to represent Australia once again.