Team GB Exclusive: Junior gymnasts reunited in Rio

Team GB Exclusive: Junior gymnasts reunited in Rio

21 July 2016 / 11:23

From the lowest rung of Olympic competition to the highest, four of Team GB’s gymnasts heading to Brazil next month begun their road to Rio in the Netherlands three years ago.

Few will have heard of the European Youth Olympic Festival, but for aspiring athletes it is the first step on the path to Olympic success.

Created in 1991 and originally known as the European Youth Olympic Days, it offers budding sports stars, between the ages of 14 and 18, the chance to compete against the best the continent has to offer, in an environment designed to hint at what a fully-fledged Olympic Games might entail.

In 2013 the Festival was held in Utrecht, with Team GB’s gymnasts among the most successful athletes at the event.

Team GB finished second in the overall medal table and second in the gymnastics medal table, winning five gold, four silver and two bronze medals.

Three years on, four of Team GB’s six medal winners are now off to the big show, the top tier of Olympic competition, Rio 2016.

We caught up with the quartet - Nile Wilson, Ellie Downie, Brinn Bevan and Amy Tinkler - as they came through Kitting Out for Rio and asked them about their journey from fledgling talent to Olympic medal prospects.

Nile Wilson


Wilson stands on the top step of the podium at EYOF 2013

Now a world silver medallist as well as Commonwealth and European champion, Wilson was 17 at the time and returned from Utrecht with four medals in his pocket, three of which were gold.

Wilson also won three golds at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival in the same year, before winning his first senior medal, with double gold at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

“I’ve done a few kitting outs but it’s a bit bigger and better for Rio,” said the 2014 junior European all-around champion.

“It’s special, you train together from a young age and you go through the same process and the same struggles, the same sacrifice, it just feels so much better going alongside close teammates and being really united as a team.

“It’s been a great journey, with lots of ups and downs. Three years ago my eyes weren’t on the Olympics, they were just on EYOF, or the next competition.

“I’ve always wanted to reach the top level, to be world class, I feel fortunate and proud and excited to have done that, and to now be competing amongst the best in the world and be challenging for medals.”

Ellie Downie


Downie wins gold at EYOF 2013

No longer just the sibling of Olympic gymnast Becky, Downie will go to Rio alongside her sister and with a host of medals already stashed at home.

Downie won vault gold and all-around silver in Utrecht and followed that up with a silver and three bronzes at the 2014 Youth Olympics in Nanjing.

Following a successful transition into senior competition, Downie has this year been crowned national vault champion, as well as winning European team, floor and vault silver.

“I’m so, so excited to be going out there and doing my best for the team,” said the 17-year-old.

“It’s so nice to have come up with Amy. Being on the girls’ team I’ve known her since I was about eight.

“To be going to an Olympics with someone that you’ve grown up with throughout your whole career, is pretty special.

“For Nile and Brinn as well then I’ve known them for quite a few years. Seeing how they compete and train, it’s crazy how much they’ve matured in such a little time.”

Brinn Bevan


Bevan on the rings at EYOF 2013

After a double leg-break in November, Bevan’s hopes of making Rio 2016 looked to be in tatters.

But following surgery and a gruelling rehab programme, the 19-year-old from South Essex Gymnastics Club has beaten the odds and is on the plane to Rio.

In Utrecht Bevan won two golds and two silvers but had to wait until 2015 to make his senior debut, helping Britain to team silver at the World Championships.

“That change into seniors is so hard to make, there are different requirements within gymnastics that you have to live up to, and there are a few more moves than you can do – it really helps you mature,” said the 2014 junior European team champion.

“Training alongside Nile, Ellie and Amy, we are a team.

“There is the girl’s and men’s side, but when we come to train under British Gymnastics we are a team, we work together.

“It is inspiring to watch how they have progressed, and it brings my level up to because you are constantly trying to bring your level up to those around you.”

Amy Tinkler


Tinkler helps Great Britain to team bronze at last year's World Championships

From team silver at EYOF to World Championship team bronze just two years later, Tinkler has come a long way since 2013.

Still just 16 years old, Tinkler is the youngest member of Team GB’s gymnastics squad and is still in just her first year of senior competition.

“There are no words to describe how I feel, it’s just an honour to be able to compete for Team GB and represent my country at an Olympic Games,” said the British floor champion.

“It’s great to be going with those three from EYOF, we’ve bonded so much as an overall team over the past few years too.

“The whole team are like second family to us, so it’s amazing to be able to share the experience with them.

“It all seems a bit crazy to be going to Rio, the different countries I’ve been to at just the age of 16, is incredible – it’s mind-blowing how amazing the experience of being a young athlete can be.”

Sportsbeat 2016

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