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.

You recently became all-around British champion for the first time – how long have you been trying for that title? 
For as long as I can remember. When I was a youngster and competing at the British championships [junior levels] I was not even making the top ten – I was coming 20th, 21st. Seeing all my friends getting medals, making finals here and there, was hard. My team mate Courtney [Tulloch, of Pegasus Gym Club in Kent] won the all-around junior British championships [in 2010, aged 14], and it was difficult for me not being where I wanted to be. Now, it’s so exciting to be the top dog. 

You competed through all the junior age groups before turning senior – when did you start improving your position?
I cracked in to the top ten when I was about 13 or 14, and since then I’ve been battling with third and fourth place. I started picking up a few medals around the age of 17, and I came sixth in my first senior championships. I’ve got a bronze and a silver since then, so it’s nice to get the top spot now.

What motivated you to keep going through all those early disappointments? 
As a youngster, it was hard to keep the faith and carry on, and to realise that it’s entirely possible it could happen. It’s so easy to lose heart and think, ‘you know what, this isn’t worth it’, but as long as you stay true to yourself, and think, ‘this is what I want to do, I’m going to work my hardest’, then even if my best is third or fourth, I’m okay with that, because I’ve given it my all and left no stone unturned.

What has been the highlight of your gymnastics career so far?
The last world championships [Doha, in 2018]. Coming eighth all-around in the world – that was astounding. In terms of experience, the Commonwealth Games – being in that village environment. It’s sort of a taste of the Olympics, so it was incredible. 

Eeek – what’s on the other side? James goofs around at the Superstars of Gymnastics show. (Photo courtesy Jamie McPhilimey/Matchroom Multi Sport)

Have you had any serious injuries?
When I was a youngster I hurt both my ankles all the time. They suffered a lot from impact – trying to keep up with the other guys. Last year, I was struggling around the time of the Commonwealth Games. When I did backwards tumbling on floor, I’d get shooting pains all down my leg. I didn’t know it then, but I had a bulged disc in my back. 

And yet you won the silver all-around at the Commonwealth Games – how did you manage?
It was a tough battle. But you want to keep going, you want to be the best version of yourself.

Do you get much chance to relax and go on holiday?
At the moment I like to focus on my career. It takes up a lot of time. A lot of people say ‘oh I bet you want to go on holiday’. Yes, I like to have the odd break, but to be honest, I love being at home. We’re away so much, it’s nice to spend time with your family. It’s nice to have the home comforts, having to get up and load the dishwasher – just the little things! 

What are your living arrangements?
I’ve got my own house in Maidstone [Kent]. I’ve been there for almost a year. It’s been really nice to own my own space – I’m quite lucky in that respect. I saved up, been smart with my money, and my parents helped me out a little bit. You get these opportunities, and you put it towards something that’s going to last you the rest of your life.

James is part of the British team heading to the European championships in Szczecin, Poland, which start on 10th April.

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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Angelina Melnikova (Russia)

“I really love social media”

4th August 2018 – The last European team competition was held two years ago, and the women’s team title was won by Russia. Only one member of that team returned to join the 2018 team in Glasgow – 18-year-old Olympian, Angelina Melnikova. Now a senior member of the Russian team, I spoke to her the day before competition started at the 2018 European championships.

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