In the early hours of the morning, while girls her age are rugged up in bed dreaming of distant careers and fleeting ambitions; Saskia Broedelet’s calloused feet are pounding the hard, blue rubber of a gymnastics mat in Brisbane’s southern suburbs.

The rhythmic gymnast spends up to seven hours a day on the punitive surface, her own hopes and dreams balancing on the precise angle of her toes, the craning of her neck or the flick of a ribbon.

The number-one ranked junior in Australia, Saskia demands near-perfection from her bruised joints and curved spine, and regularly achieves it. But in a few months, the 15-year-old will be plunged into the fiercely competitive world of senior gymnastics.

A world where the fight for threadbare funding and limited competition places turns friends into enemies, coaches into obstacles and the human body itself into a burdensome means to an end.

It’s a fight that none of her friends at school can comprehend. But Saskia can’t wait.

“Last year, just before I was supposed to trial for the World Championships, I dislocated my knee,” she says.

Saskia’s voice is bright and girlish, but with a serious undertone that makes you question whether you’re speaking to a teenager or an fully-grown woman; one who happens to say ‘like’ a lot.

“I had to have surgery because I had, like, meniscus damage and a part of the bone had chipped off, which they had to remove,” she continues. “Then I have scoliosis, which is just in the background of everything.

“After surgery it took me nearly three months to get back to training and I’d lost a lot of fitness, so I had to work even harder.

“It’s mentally straining – physical endurance is such a big part of gymnastics – but our mentality is so important. We have to catch everything, we can't drop or flinch.

“We can’t let it get to us.”