By Steve Carpenter 19/04 Updated: 24/04 12:01
A GYMNAST from Wyken who left home at 18 to achieve her dream of competing at an Olympics has qualified for London 2012 this summer.
Rachel Smith is not living the life of your average teenager from Coventry.
The 19-year-old is captain of the Great Britain Rhythmic Gymnastic squad which made history earlier this year by becoming the first British group to qualify for the Olympics.
She will lead the six-strong team into competition after making it through a qualifying event held at the O2 Arena in January.
The former Caludon Castle pupil is eagerly anticipating competing at an Olympics on home soil and is hoping her story could encourage more youngsters to take up the sport.
"I am thrilled to be competing this year," Rachel told the Observer.
"People keep asking us if we think we can achieve Gold but I think we have to be realistic.
"The size of the Olympics will put more pressure on our performance but I think the fact we will be performing on home soil in front of home support will relax us.
"We are the first team to compete at this level so we are hoping to beat our previous scores, move higher up in the rankings and enjoy the occasion.
"A lot of people don't know much about rhythmic gymnastics so it would be good for us to raise its profile around schools across the country."
Rhythmic gymnastic is similar to gymnastics, but involves participants using a rope, ball or ribbon to the sound of music.
Rachel has been involved in the sport since the tender age of six and made the decision to move to Bath last July with her team mates to train on a full-time basis.
"It was difficult for me to move away from home but I had experienced being away at training camps and competitions so I think that helped," she said.
"It was the right decision because we have all improved since we started training full-time and now all the hard work over the past year is paying off."
The move has certainly paid off for Rachel whose life has been turned upside down following the squad's Olympic qualification which has thrust her into the media spotlight.
That was highlighted when the rhythmic gymnastic team were invited along to the premiere of Wrath of the Titans where she met a long list of A-list celebrities including Liam Neeson.
But Rachel is taking her new-found celebrity status in her stride.
"We were invited along to the premiere which came as a surprise.
"The red carpet experience was amazing. I could get used to that sort of lifestyle.
"But we now have to prepare two routines so between now and the Olympics we will be trying to drill them and just make sure we are all well prepared."
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