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Wednesday, 5 June, 2002, 16:07 GMT 17:07 UK

Hoping to recapture the cutting edge

By Matt Majendie
BBC Sport Online

Winning a gold medal can cause people to do irrational things

In Simon Hutcheon's case, he gave up gymnastics altogether and took to cutting people's hair.

After winning gold in the vault at the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, he packed up his equipment and accepted a job as a stylist at Carlton Hair in Johannesburg, and has flourished in his new career.

He explained his volte face as a then 21-year-old with arguably his best performances ahead of him against the world's best.

He told BBC Sport Online: "I decided to retire because I wanted to do something with my life and needed to get some money sorted out.

"I started hairdressing - it was something that I kind of fell into. A friend of mine did it and I went to work with him. Now I really enjoy it."

"Before I even started I was jumping up and down on my parents' bed and they thought they might as well send me to gym classes"
Simon Hutcheon

Despite bringing an end to his vaulting days after 1998 and moving into his new profession, the lure of the sport proved too much.

And once more the 25-year-old will be boarding a plane to Manchester this summer to defend his title.

He revealed: "One day I just decided to come back and give it another go. Since then I have been working solely towards the Commonwealth Games."

Now he mixes his two passions, cutting people's hair by day and hitting the vault and the floor, the other event he will be competing in at the Games, at night and at weekends.

The break from the sport has provided the necessary tonic for Hutcheon.

"Before I retired I wasn't enjoying the training anymore but that's not the case now," he said.

In fact, he admits that he has an even greater zest for the sport than he did as an enthusiastic five-year-old.

"I don't really know who the people to watch out for are, except for Kanukai Jackson, who is supposed to be awesome"

That career was first shaped by bouncing up and down on his parents' bed.

He added: "So my parents thought they might as well send me to gym classes. I loved it straight away and was a natural athlete."

Since then the career path has gone as planned and perhaps even surpassed expectations.

First the national call-up at the age of 19 and then the Games themselves where he ended the Australian, Canadian and English stranglehold over gymnastic gold.

A broken foot last July has been the only obstacle to his progress, although injury and ability are not his major concerns.

"I literally haven't been in competition at all and I don't know how I'll fare," he confessed.

"And I don't really know who the people to watch out for are, except for Kanukai Jackson (of England), who is supposed to be awesome on the vault."

Funding outburst

Lacklustre television coverage at home is the major reason for his lack of information, which is only exceeded in terms of meagreness by Government funding and sponsorship.

"The main reason I gave up was the lack of funding," he continued.

"It's always an uphill battle to get funding and sponsorship which you need as there are a lot of costs in travelling, equipment and general training."

Thankfully for Hutcheon and South African gymnastics, his family have met the majority of his costs.

And he feels there is one way to repay them.

He concluded: "If I do get a medal it would be fantastic for me, my family and for South Africa as a whole."

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