When she was seven years old, Georgia-Mae Fenton watched Russian-American gymnast Nastia Liukin sweep the all-around gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
For a girl who was already obsessed with doing handstands and cartwheels, it was a source of inspiration. She credits Liukin’s star turn as the reason she became a gymnast.
Today, Fenton has her own collection of medals – including her 2018 Commonwealth Games gold for the uneven (or asymmetric) bars and silver with Team England. Between intensive training sessions, she has also become an inspiration to others, giving school talks and interviews. She acknowledges that it’s a great time to be a female athlete, noting the “tidal wave of incredibly talented, strong women across all sports”.
A platform for positive change
“As an athlete it’s been incredible to compete alongside the likes of Simone Biles and, as a fan, it’s amazing to watch stars such as Serena Williams [tennis] and Megan Rapinoe [football] not only compete at the highest level, but also stand for something beyond sport,” she says. “For me, this is the most exciting thing. Being a female sporting superstar is no longer just about winning, but about using your platform for positive change.”
For Fenton, now 19, that means continually aiming to be the best version of herself – a message that she believes applies not just to sport, but to all areas of life. It’s why she embraced the opportunity to be part of Agent Provocateur’s spring/summer 2020 campaign celebrating women “strong in body and mind”. It features four leading female sports stars wearing the company’s products while performing their discipline. Fenton was happy to swap her leotard for Agent Provocateur swimwear for a session on the bars, saying that it felt “super comfortable” and “looked great”.
“Fashion and clothing brands can have a huge impact on empowering individuals. As such, it’s important to showcase all sizes, races and kinds of beauty,” she says. “Every woman should feel empowered; we are all beautiful, strong and able to achieve great things.”
That all rings true for Agent Provocateur’s creative director Sarah Shotton, who says the brand has always been “about many types of women – their strength, power and being in control. We are here to make women feel great about themselves and confident about their bodies.”
At the same time, there’s no doubt that athletes like Fenton take body confidence to another level. She’s learnt how to push her body to its limits through years of hard work and dedication, all the while understanding when to keep going and when to step back.
You really have to watch her performances in slow motion to see the extraordinary skills she has accomplished – in particular the technique that’s named after her, taking her into an elite group of gymnasts with eponymous moves that includes Biles, Mary Lou Retton, Olga Korbut and her childhood idol Liukin.
Fenton first performed the Derwael-Fenton move at the 2017 Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Canada – as did Nina Derwael of Belgium, hence the shared name. It’s a powerful technique that involves crossing hands as they catch and release the high bar while twisting in mid-air.
Now the move is in the gymnastics code of points, so others can replicate it and be awarded points for it in their routines – something that Fenton describes as an “honour”.
Striving for more
But she doesn’t just test herself on the bars. One of her “lifetime goals” came when she managed to perform a “double twisting Yurchenko” on the vault. “My body isn’t your typical power gymnast’s body,” she says, “so it’s really hard for me to perform this move. I never thought I would do it and I’m so proud to say I did.”
Persistence and dedication have paid off. Fenton has powered her way into the international sporting elite. And despite all the hours she spends in the gym, she still describes it as her “happy place”.
“I take a lot of joy from doing my sport, so the gym is often where I’m enjoying myself the most and where I’m most comfortable,” she says. “What motivates me to keep pushing is knowing what I’m capable of. When I look back on my career, I want to make sure I left nothing on the table.”
Celebrating the extraordinary potential of the female body, Agent Provocateur’s #WePlaytoWin campaign highlights four elite sportswomen competing in the brand’s sensual and powerful SS20 designs. For details of the lingerie featured above, and all other collections, visit agentprovocateur.com.