Blog: Olympic Legacy

Before I look back on my roller coaster of a year, here’s a quick summary of my 2012 medal tally from all competitions:

6 Gold, 3 Silver and 5 Bronze

With the British Team being tipped to achieve so much at the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo – including automatic qualification to the London Olympic Games – it came as a huge shock to everyone when we failed to perform as expected. We finished 10th, leaving us out of the top eight automatic qualification spots for the Olympics.   This result started my 2012 emotional roller coaster.   Following Tokyo we had to take part in the Olympic Test Event at the O2 Arena in London on the 10th January. Not only was it critical that we claimed one of the last four team spots for the Olympics, but we also had to give up any Christmas and New Year celebrations to ensure that we were in peak condition going into the competition. Boy, was it worth it!! We absolutely smashed the competition to claim Team Gold, a massive 8 marks ahead of France, Spain and Italy who also claimed the remaining Olympic spots. Not only did we win the Team Competition but we also claimed 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in the unofficial All Around standings; I, along with Dan Purvis and Kristian Thomas, all scored greater than 89 marks.   What a high, and a great start to the new year with Olympic qualification!!!!!!!!!!!!   I was also now working on some new routines, and next up was the Scottish Championships in Perth on the 18th and 19th February where I decided to only compete on three apparatus – Pommel, Pbars and High Bar – so I could try out my new routines. In the qualifications on the first day I almost had a perfect day, scoring two of my highest ever scores on Pommel (15.9) and Pbars (15.650). My only error was on the High Bar where I missed my new release and catch move (the move is called the Kovac). In the Finals on the second day I couldn’t quite believe my own consistency when I almost completely repeated my first day, scoring 15.833 on Pommel 15.550 on Pbars! But this time I also caught my new release and catch move, only to go and miss my next element – doh!!!!!   What another high: three new routines and three gold medals – c’mon!!!   Next up was the British Team Championships in Leicester on the 18th March where I would be competing for Team Huntingdon, and again testing my new routines. This time unfortunately I missed my Pommel and Hbar routine, but was very pleased with my Pbars where – yet again – I scored a massive 15.6 and helped Team Huntingdon to claim the Silver medal behind South Essex.   All in all not a bad day at the office, but my new high bar routine was becoming a real pain; I could nail it every day in the gym but I needed to transfer the consistency to the competition arena.   The Stuttgart World Cup was next on the 24th and 25th March and again I would be testing my new routines on three apparatus. Yet again I missed my new Hbar routine – by this time, missing the Hbar routine was becoming a real pain. On Pbars I put in a solid performance with only a couple of minor errors, which unfortunately cost me dearly; I scored 15.000 but I also missed out in qualifying for the Pbar final by the smallest of margins: 0.025 tenths to Epke Zonderland. On Pommel I executed a near perfect routine to score 15.500, and also qualified in 1st place for the Pommel final on the second day. On the second day I showed real consistency and executed one of my best routines at an international competition this year to score a massive 15.775, but unfortunately it was only enough for me to claim Silver as the reigning Olympic Champion, Xiao Qin, pipped me at the post to the Gold.   What another high. My Pommel was showing some real consistency, and there was only 8 weeks until the European Championships. Bring it on!   But then, disaster strikes.   On 27th March I was back in my gym in Huntingdon after a much needed day’s rest, only for disaster to strike and bring me crashing down to earth. In the middle of my normal Floor routine I failed to rebound out of one of my tumbles and rolled both of my ankles. It turned out that I’d damaged several ligaments in each foot so the rush was on to get me fit again, not only for the European Championships but also for the Olympic team selection!   What a blow and an unbelievable LOW in my career, especially after only just getting back to my normal competitive self after a long period of recovery from my torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in 2010 :-(

It was time to pick myself up. I had been here before after suffering two major injuries already in my career, and now with a top class medical team behind me I knew that with the right amount of effort and determination I would still be challenging for a spot on the Olympic Team.   Six weeks passed by and I made huge steps towards recovery. But the European Team selection was due, and I unfortunately had some difficult decisions to make; I eventually came to an agreement with the British Gymnastics Technical Director to forfeit my selection for the European Championships and to focus on my readiness for the Olympic Team selection. This was another huge blow to me as, yet again, I was being denied an opportunity to defend my 2010 European Pommel Horse Gold due to injury. The Team selected put in an awesome performance to claim British Gymnastics first ever European Team Gold, after narrowly missing it in 2010. Awesome result boys!!!!   A week later I finally found myself back in competition at the Maribor Grand Prix. The pressure was now on to regain the consistency I showed prior to my injury, and again I would be competing on three apparatus: Pommel, Pbars and Hbar. As with all injuries it is not just about the recovery, but also how to maintain my fitness while being incapacitated. I believe I was lacking some fitness. This, coupled with the added pressure to show consistency, really had an impact on my performance and unfortunately I fell on both my Pommel and Pbar routines. My only consolation was that I had decided to revert back to my normal Hbar routine where I put in a solid routine, allowing me to qualify for my first ever Hbar Grand Prix final : In the final itself a couple of errors cost me, but I still managed to finish 5th. My emotions were all over the place that weekend as I had the disappointment of my Pommel and Pbars, but also the exhilaration of qualifying for my first Hbar final.   The following weekend – 9th and 10th June – I was back in competition at the Ghent Grand Prix and again, with the added pressure of showing consistency, I was really nervous. Again, I would only be competing on the same three apparatus: Pommel, Pbars and Hbar. In the qualifications and for the first time in the year, I was starting to show some consistency on Hbar as I had decided to continue with my old routine. But this time I narrowly missed out on the final, finishing in 9th place. On Pbars unfortunately I missed one of my new skills which downgraded my start value so I eventually scored 14.250. However I did have some better fortune on the Pommel, scoring 15.275 which placed me in third but, more importantly, I was back in the finals. In the final itself I put in an awesome routine but, for some unknown reason, the judges were being really harsh that weekend and only scored me 15.375. But it was still enough to claim Silver!! My emotions that weekend were up and down again, with a great result on Pommel and Hbar but I was really disappointed with missing my skill on Pbars. I now only had one more competition to prove my readiness for Olympic selection: The British Championships in two weeks’ time.   The British Championships arrived before I knew it, but I was fit and ready. In the All Around competition I put in an awesome display to score above 90.00 points for the first time in the year, claiming Bronze behind Dan Purvis and Sam Oldham. In the same competition my awesome Pbar routine saw me claim the British title and Gold with 15.550. This, coupled with another solid routine on the Pommel, also saw me claim another Bronze with a score of 15.450. The British Masters competition on the second day allowed all age groups to compete against each other to claim the Masters title on each apparatus and, after a very good day previously, I found myself in all the finals (with the exception of the Vault). Yet again I put in another solid performance to claim Gold on Pbars with a massive 15.700, Bronze on Hbar, a very respectable 4th on floor (especially considering my recent injury), and 6th on Rings. Unfortunately a major error on the Pommel cost me a medal and placed me in 6th.   What a high. Three months after my injury I was finally showing some real consistency, with only one major error over two competitions – yee ha!!! And, with the Olympic team being announced the following morning, it could not have come at a better time.   Unfortunately my high was very short-lived as I found out the next morning that I had only made the reserve spot on the Olympic team. After fighting so hard to get back in time for selection, I was now back on my emotional roller coaster. Obviously I was very disappointed, but I was also really pleased for those selected as we are all really good mates. Boy did they perform!!! As we all know now, they created history with a team Bronze and Silver, and also a Bronze on Pommel – WELL DONE LADS!!!   After a much needed break I was finally back in competition at the start of December in Stuttgart, competing in a team competition for GB. The first competition back is always the hardest and, with a few errors, the Team showed some real spirit to grab a Team Bronze behind Japan and Russia.   I have now started planning for the new Olympic cycle and hopefully I will remain injury-free, so here’s looking forward to 2013 with the European and World Championships, and to the Commonwealth games in Glasgow in 2014.   My roller coaster year has finally finished on a high; on December 25th I proposed to my girlfriend Stephanie and she said YES!!!!!!!!!!!!

Happy New Year,

Dan