Five things that shaped gymnast Courtney Tulloch

This Black History Month, we are catching up with Team GB athletes to find out about the prized possessions which have influenced their journeys to where they are today.

Artistic gymnast and rings expert Courtney Tulloch is up next. From his own personal LEGO figurine to his first British Gymnastics leotard, he delved into the personal items and memories that influenced him as black man and athlete.

The 28-year-old is no stranger to the spotlight, having written his name into the gymnastics history books on several occasions.

Tulloch became the first British man and first black man to win a world medal on the rings at the 2022 World Gymnastics Championships in Liverpool and is hoping his sporting career can now inspire the next generation of gymnasts coming through.

Here are the mementoes that shaped Courtney Tulloch.

The first British leotard

Tulloch's earliest gymnastics memory is as strong as it could possibly be.

The gymnast met former British international Kanukai Jackson in a car park after watching a gymnastics competition aged seven. It's a moment he cites as pivotal in inspiring his own sporting career.

"I was about seven years old when I met a gymnast called Kanukai Jackson and I watched him compete in East London," he said.

"I was amazed at what he was able to do on the rings and vault and I remember thinking 'I want to be just like that'.

"At the time, I didn't see a lot of black men competing in gymnastics, so to see him made me really feel like I could relate to him."

Just a couple of years later, Tulloch was pulling on his own British leotard for the very first time.

Called up to represent his country as a junior in the very arena he had watched Jackson compete, the gymnast had to wear size 3-4 size trousers because he was so small.

Every time he looks at the outfit, it's a reminder of just how far he has come.

"I was given all the kit but they couldn't find a pair of longs that actually fit me and eventually I was given a size three to four," he said.

"This is so special to me because I didn't realise understand the gravity of it at that time but the sacrifices I made at that time really paid off.

"I don't think I'd be able to still fit into this now - I was such a small eight-year-old!"

Courtney Tulloch by LEGO

Tulloch made his Commonwealth Games debut on the Gold Coast in 2018, winning gold in the men's rings and team event as well as silver on the vault.

To celebrate his success, he had 100 LEGO versions of himself made for family, friends and fans to remember the moment with him and now hopes to make his own Team GB LEGO one day.

"It's such a brilliant and cool way to keep that memory and some of my fans do have them," he said.

"I hope they're looking after them.

"It is so cool because you don't often see a load of black LEGO and it's something different and something I'm really proud of."

The 'lucky charm' turtle

No matter where he is in the world, Tulloch revealed that he will always have one thing on him: his turtle.

A memento from his mother to remind him to trust the process and to trust in himself, 'Turtle' is a very well travelled toy and has been with Tulloch at every world and European championship, even when his mum can't be.

"My mum gave this to me many years ago and I wouldn't be here without her and the sacrifices she's made," he said.

"It makes me think about that and it also reminds me to trust the process, things take time but if you stick to what you believe in, you'll be okay.

"My mum was a single parent with four boys, and she made sure I never missed a day of training.

"To do that and look after us, she is an incredible person and I'm so grateful that I have her by my side and supporting me."

The World Championship bronze medal

Tulloch made history as he became the first British man and the first black man to win a world medal on the rings at the 2022 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships.

From being inspired by his hero at seven years old to inspiring thousands of young gymnasts himself, Tulloch's story came full circle in Liverpool in a moment he will never forget.

"It was a very proud moment," he said.

"When I set my goals, I didn't write down that I wanted to be the first black man to win a world medal in the rings, but I know that it means so much to younger athletes and black gymnasts growing up.

"Seeing someone like me create history, I hope it inspires them.

"It doesn't even have to be in gymnastics, whether it's just in something they enjoy doing."

The Tulloch I and Tulloch II

Tulloch first wrote his name into gymnastics history with not just one, but two of his own skills on rings.

The first person in the world to complete the now aptly named Tulloch I and Tulloch II in competition, his surname will live forever in the artistic gymnastics Code of Points.

And to see his creativity and name recognised in such a prestigious way has brought immense joy to the gymnast who now hopes to make his Olympic debut at Paris 2024.

"These skills are special to me because my surname has gone down in history in the gymnastics Code of Points forever," he said.

"I'd like to think it can inspire younger gymnasts and young black gymnasts not just to participate in gymnastics but to be creative and to think outside the box.

"Let's change the game."

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