Former Olympian and national champion Val Norris-Buffham reflects on his Hall of Fame career
Decades of contributions to Australian gymnastics have left Val Norris-Buffham with a double sense of reward and gratitude – despite a long wait for the official presentation of one of his greatest honours.
It’s been a long 18 months since Norris-Buffham was first named a member of the Gymnastics Australia Hall of Fame, but she has finally been officially inducted into the hall.
She received the recognition earlier this year at a ceremony in Joondalup, and was officially presented with the honor by Fiona Wood.
Norris-Buffham’s career can be divided into two parts – the first part is his excellent competitive career, which culminated in two Olympic appearances, in Tokyo in 1964 and again in Mexico in 1968, as well as four national titles in the all-around competition.
In 1966, she competed in the inaugural Women’s Gymnastics World Championships in Dortmund, Germany, and was the only Western Australian to be selected for the event.
Part two is Norris-Buffham’s post-competition career, which she dedicated to coaching the next generation, starting her own gym, Olympic Fun & Fitness in Jandakot.
She has coached many national and national athletes, as well as Olympians such as Brooke Gysen, who competed in Barcelona in 1992.
Norris-Buffham said the sport has changed significantly since she competed, particularly the age of elite competitors.
“A lot has changed even now and it’s only getting more intense, and the kids are also starting younger; I never started until I was 15,” she said.
“Even when I did, there were older students in other countries, and I never retired until I was 26.
“I could have moved on to the next phase, but I thought I was getting to the stage where I had done so much, so I tried to give back to the sport which is really my life since I was two years old.
While the Olympics and national titles were among his highlights, Norris-Buffham said seeing his former pupils – one of whom was 10-year-old Cameron Bancroft on his pre-professional cricket day – achieve great things never failed to remind her how lucky she was.
“When I was doing it, it was just a way of life and I’m probably realizing what I’ve achieved and what I’ve done,” she said.
“To see so many students that I’ve had and what they’re doing, because they’re all out there at the top, carrying on with the work, is fantastic.
“I’ve always wanted to do fitness with the kids and have fun and enjoy it, but just to see young people come through and go their own way and do other things and excel, it was great to see these students .”