2022 Sports Journalism The Locker Room

Gymnast Jesse Moore strapped in for the long haul

Jesse Moore standing with an Australian flag outstretched

Commonwealth Games gymnast Jesse Moore sits awkwardly on the Zoom call, his upper body  wrapped in a brace that looks like a strait jacket to support his shoulder after surgery.

The mechanism was specifically built to hold Moore’s shoulder horizontal to his body. It’s wrapped tightly around his chest and while it will help his shoulder eventually return to full strength, he says it’s uncomfortable and a reminder of the constant pain.

Moore admits that the severity of the injury, and the slow and monotonous routine of rehabilitation has made him question his involvement in the sport.

“It’s a bit hard at the moment. This is probably the longest break I’ve had off training for pretty much my whole career and it’s just a bit odd doing nothing,” Moore said.

In such a physically demanding sport, adversity is not something new for the 19-year-old.

Moore says his persistence and success is due, in large part, to humble origins inspired by his parents growing up in Adelaide. This is the story they told their young son about how he became so immersed in gymnastics

“Apparently, I could somehow do the splits when I was around five or six, and obviously just had a bunch of energy.

“They sent me into kinder gym first, which is the pathway of going into elite gymnastics. Most people start in the gym and then stick with it.

“From the get-go, I thought it was fun doing the flips. But within the first few years or so I fell in love because in those first few years, you don’t really compete too much. You just go in and have fun.”

Those in the sport were quick to identify Moore’s potential. He was talent-identified and drafted into the AIS program. Along the way, he won four consecutive Australian junior ‘all-around’ age titles and earlier this year, realised his potential by winning the men’s all-around national title while still a teenager.

Considered too young to be selected for the Tokyo Olympics last year, there was no way selectors could ignore his claims for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022.

Moore said being the youngest member on the team had plenty of upsides.

“I feel like obviously, all international experience is good experience. And there was a couple of the guys who have previously gone to a Commonwealth Games and learning off their experiences, their stories, it does help especially with the nerves and what to expect.

“It’s really good having those guys in that team that can provide me with their past experiences to then set me up for these type of competitions.”

Moore wasn’t overawed by the occasion which he describes as a “changing of the guard” for the Australian gymnastics team.

He was a member of the men’s team that finished fourth overall. He was sixth on the pommel horse and qualified fourth in the heats of the all-around competition before a shoulder injury forced his withdrawal.

“Obviously, it was really hard. I guess what kind of made it easier was that during the warm-up for that competition, I wasn’t really able to do much at all. So, it was already in the back of my mind that I might not be able to get through this.

“There were a couple of the other guys in the Australian team who could replace my spot. So, it was easier to know that I gave them the opportunity and then obviously, Tyson (Bull) went on to win the silver medal, so it was definitely worth it.

“I don’t really like dwelling on setbacks. With all the support I get from back home, and with all my friends, it’s definitely a lot easier to look to the positives and look forward to getting back into things.”      

After the Commonwealth Games, Moore was placed on a six-month rehabilitation program which included surgery on his shoulder.

He hopes the frustration of being strapped up for such a long period will pay off. Qualifying for the Paris Olympics will take place next year and the challenge will be to recover all the momentum he had built up before injuring his shoulder.

Long term, there is the allure of competing in a home Olympics at Brisbane in 2032. Although it’s a decade away, Moore says it’s a realistic goal because male gymnasts often come into their prime in their 20s.

“That’d be so surreal. It has been one of my goals since starting this sport, since knowing that I wanted to do this professionally.”

Moore says studying physiotherapy at the University of Canberra will also help with longevity in the sport as he learns more about how his body can cope with the rigours of training and competition.

“I obviously want to keep on going to 2032 because that’s the home Olympics. My whole life has been in sport…and I don’t really want to leave that.

“It’s a way, not only to stay inside this community, but to give back to other athletes and just help them through their careers.”