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Caedan considers a coaching career

At just 16 years old, Caedan Mcilhatton is already an accomplished gymnast; training, studying, and competing to one day represent Australia at the Olympics.

“I started gymnastics quite young through my local YMCA, and I enjoyed the challenge of training to master skills, and I’ve kept going from there to the high-performance level,” explained Caedan.

As a high-performance gymnast, Caedan has already represented Australia in Austria, the Czech Republic, and Germany, soaking up international experience as he prepares for the World Championships and the 2032 Olympics. 

“I would love to make the 2028 Olympic squad, but Brisbane 2032 is probably more realistic considering my age and where I benchmark myself against international competitors,” he said.

Knowing that a career as a gymnast is short-term, Caedan enrolled in TAFE Queensland’s TAFE at School Program to prepare for life outside the gym by gaining nationally recognised TAFE Queensland qualifications before he finished school.

Studying Certificate II in Sports Coaching (SIS20321), he’s preparing to one day coach the sport he loves through TAFE Queensland’s Academy of Sport program.

TAFE at School allows high school students to gain nationally recognised qualifications before finishing school.

The program fits his high school studies, replacing one senior subject while contributing to their Queensland Certificate of Education (QCE). It’s also flexible enough to fit around his Australian Institute of Sport training schedule.

“There aren't any gymnastics courses quite like this, and it’s a great opportunity to keep doing something I love. It’s more practical than I expected, with the right amount of theory, and I’m currently running coaching sessions with young gymnasts,” he explained.

Based at the Sleeman Sports Complex, home to Gymnastics Queensland, his classroom is the Gymnastics Training Hall, where he rubs shoulders with high-performance athletes and coaches.

Caedan also undertakes regular strength, conditioning and gymnastics-specific training while attending athlete development workshops.

With classes split into theory and practical hands-on delivery, Caedan is learning job-ready skills while receiving accreditation under the Gymnastics Australia framework to coach at a foundation level.

Building his knowledge further is his teacher, Matthew Walker, who brings decades of professional coaching and competing insights to every lesson.

"My teacher is a great mentor, and since he’s coached at regional, state, national and international levels, he brings a lot of beneficial experiences to the class," he continued.

The program provides a unique and immersive study experience, with Caedan learning alongside classmates who are also gymnasts from the region.

“Because it's new and upcoming, my classmates and I collaborate on coaching sessions, and because of them, I'm getting a lot more confident than if I were to run a coaching session,” he explained.

Proficient in vault, still rings, parallel bars, the horizontal bar, floor and pommel, Caedanwas also the youngest Australian competitor at the 2023 Future Cup and Vera Caslavska Olympic Hopes Cup, where he won a gold, two silver and two bronze medals.

Already achieving so much at such a young age, Caedan keeps his options open for when he one day retires from competing.

“I'm still studying in school, but coaching is a logical and natural progression for an athlete. Getting qualified will give me the tools to use my gymnastic skills, knowledge and experience to coach and develop the next generation.”

“I love the sport, and I’m enjoying my course, and I plan to keep doing what I enjoy,” concluded Cardan.