Ellie Downie – back in the medal hunt

“Gymnastics is getting so much harder”

Elissa Downie of Great Britain (photo by Sarah Baldwin / Gym Stars)

2 March 2019 – European all-around champion in 2017, Ellie Downie of Great Britain then spent over a year recovering from surgery – twice – on her left ankle. She returned to competition at the 2018 world championships, then became British champion in March. In April she won the all-around silver medal and bronze on vault at the European championships. I talked to her about what it took to make a successful comeback.

“It was a hard time for me,” says Ellie of the long period she spent out of competition. “”It was hard to watch competitions I wasn’t in, so I was itching to get back.”

She is keen to stress that rehabilitation after injury is just as hard work as regular training. “You’re still in the gym, two sessions a day. Even when you’re not on your feet, you can always do bars, bike sessions, cardio. It takes a long time. Everyone thinks ‘Ah, you’re injured, you’re on downtime now’, but it’s definitely not like that. It’s more boring than training, so it does get tedious, and you just know you want to be back.”

Ellie’s first surgery was to remove some bone that was floating in her left ankle after injuring two tendons. But after rehab, she found that she was still struggling with the high level moves. “I couldn’t punch the floor hard enough, or get into the angles that I wanted for my floor tumbles or vault,” she explains. 

Further investigation revealed that her foot had not healed properly and she needed a second surgery to correct it. This was a disappointing setback, but with the support of her older sister (top British gymnast Becky) she found the determination to overcome it.

“We both had injuries at the same time,” says Ellie. “Obviously injury’s the worst thing that can happen, so we just try to keep each other positive and motivated.”

The difficulty levels of elite gymnastics puts a pounding on the body and there are several top gymnasts currently in rehab from surgery, or recently recovered from serious injuries. “I think gymnastics is getting so much harder,” says Ellie. “It’s just getting crazy now.”

Some think this is because the top star, Simone Biles, is so far ahead of the rest of the world in terms of difficulty, that everyone else is trying to keep up with her. Ellie agrees it could be the case.   

“She’s just superhuman, she doesn’t seem to get a lot of injuries, and she’s so strong,” Ellie says. “I think people are trying to keep up with that. She’s super talented, with a really fit little body, and she makes gymnastics look easy.”

James Hall – perseverance pays off

“It’s so exciting to be the top dog”

James Hall of Great Britain (Photo courtesy Glasgow 2018 via Getty Images)

21st March 2019 – Bronze medalist in the last European all-around competition, James is a top prospect for next week’s European championships in Poland. Now 23 years old, he struggled for many years to reach this level and is a perfect example of the saying “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again”. He talked to Gym Stars just before the Superstars of Gymnastics show in London.

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Danusia Francis – putting on a show

“I adore and worship Usain Bolt

Danusia “does a Bolt” at the Superstars of Gymnastics (Photo courtesy Jamie McPhilimey / Matchroom Multi Sport)

19 March 2019 – This Saturday, 24-year-old Danusia, a former British gymnast now representing Jamaica, takes part in the Superstars of Gymnastics show in London. It will suit her very well, having competed for college gymnastics in the USA where they like to entertain the audience. I chatted with her after the 2019 English championships. 

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Amelie Morgan – 2019 English champion

“I’m absolutely over the moon!”

Amelie Morgan of England & Great Britain (photo copyright Sarah Baldwin/Gym Stars)

2nd March 2019 –  In her first year as a senior (she turns 16 in May) Amelie Morgan was delighted to win the English all-around title, which makes her a top prospect for the British championships coming up this weekend. I spoke to her after her win.

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Max Whitlock “we’re looking at the bigger picture”

Max Whitlock of Great Britain after competing in pommel horse qualifications at the 2018 European Championships (Photo courtesy Glasgow 2018 via Getty Images)

12 August 2018 – When Max just missed out on the gold medal to Ireland’s Rhys McClenaghan at the Commonwealth Games in early 2018, it set up the prospect of an exciting re-match between himself and Rhys at the European championships in Glasgow. I spoke to Max both before and after the pommel horse final – where a mistake left him in seventh place.

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The young Turks aiming for glory

10 August 2018 – A surprise newcomer to the top tier of European gymnastics has emerged at the 2018 European championships in Glasgow. Turkey are not a team that have featured highly in gymnastics before, but they outscored some of the more experienced gymnastics nations to finish fifth after qualifications, reaching their first ever European team final. I spoke to gymnast Ahmet Onder and coach Aljaz Pegan (a former Slovenian gymnast) before the team finals.

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Battle of the rings: Eleftherios Petrounias versus Courtney Tulloch

Eleftherios Petrounias of Greece (Photo courtesy Glasgow 2018 via Getty Images)
Courtney Tulloch of Great Britain (Photo courtesy Glasgow 2018 via Getty Images)

“every year I see a new Courtney” (Elefterious)

8th August 2018 – One of the toughest apparatus for male gymnasts is undoubtedly the rings, where they must combine brute strength with poise and artistry. One gymnast reigns supreme here: Olympic, twice world and three times European champion, Eleftherios Petrounias. Aged 27, he is aiming for his fourth consecutive European rings title in Glasgow. However, he faces a strong challenge from 22-year-old Courtney Tulloch. I spoke to them both before the rings final at the 2018 European championships.

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