“It’s so exciting to be the top dog”
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.
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.