In a little shed in the 'middle of nowhere' in Murringo, gymnastics coach Michelle Robertson wiped away tears as she looked at her empty gym.
It's been a bittersweet time for the 49-year-old and her husband Michael, who have closed-up their country gymnastics club to move onto a new phase in their lives after dedicating 30 years to the sport.
It all started with Michael, who was a gymnast-turned-coach in Sydney when he met Michelle.
"I was 19 when we met, and I got into it because I couldn't get away," said Michelle with a laugh.
A few years later, the couple bought a club in Mt Pritchard and ran Robertson's Gymnastics for more than 15 years in the southwestern Sydney suburb.
"We made it affordable for kids to come," she said.
But with two children and her parents' health declining in rural NSW, a tree change was on the cards. With no jobs, the family took their gymnastics equipment and moved hundreds of kilometres away to a property in Murringo - located 25km from the nearest town.
There, in a little shed, they built up Robertson's Gymnastics '2.0' and gave the club everything they had. When Michael had a heart attack in 2014, he went back to the gym and put his chair in the middle of the floor much to Michelle's dismay.
Often, they were near capacity and welcoming around 100 kids a week. In that time, the couple also welcomed their third child.
"I went back to teaching when my baby was three weeks old - walked up and down with my baby on the boob," Michelle said.
The last two years, filled with pandemic lockdowns, haven't been easy on anyone yet it gave the coaches a chance to stop and reflect. While it was an incredibly tough decision, the pair knew it was time to close the gym.
"We're tired and the uncertainty has been hard, and our littlest boy is six and we want to be more involved in his life," Michelle said. "Lockdown showed me what it's like not to be out every night. It's been a hard thing to give up though. We would like to thank the local community for their support over the years."
Reflecting on her career, the coach said she's most proud of getting country kids to overcome their disadvantages and make it to state championships. She's also proud of all the children who have come through the little gym over the years.
"Gymnastics gives the right strength to kids, it sets them up well for life, it gives them lots of values so they can go on in life and be good people," she said. "They learn resilience. Not to give up. That even if you lose, you're not a loser. That is what I love."
Gymnastics NSW has also thanked Michelle and Michael for their dedication to the sport and all the athletes who have walked through their doors.
"We wish you the best for the next stage in your life."
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