Leeds’ teenage gymnastics star Nile Wilson is hoping to beat off fierce competition and get to the Brazil Olympics. Lee Sobot reports.
THE success of Nile Wilson’s 2014 was typified by the presentation of his first Commonwealth Games gold medal.
The Leeds teenager was presented with his prize by student medal bearer Sophie Brewster and seven months later she’s his long-term girlfriend.
In total the year brought Wilson nine international medals, selection for the World Championships and of course, love. On the eve of next Thursday’s Leeds Sports Awards, it means this year will have to go some to better 2014.
Yet making the team for October’s World Championships would be another major milestone as Wilson aims to book a ticket to the Rio Olympics by overcoming serious injury for the first time in his young career.
Wilson’s 2014 was the stuff of dreams with the City Of Leeds Gymnastics Club ace winning an amazing five gold medals at the Junior Europeans in Sofia in May. Representation for the English gymnastics team at the Glasgow Commonwealths followed with Wilson waltzing off with two golds, a silver and a bronze, not to mention a new girlfriend who he first laid eyes on when being awarded his first medal. Even then the Pudsey star’s amazing year was not finished with Wilson called into the senior GB team for the first time for last October’s World Championships in China where he made an individual final and helped his team to a best ever fourth-placed finish.
The one I really want is the Olympics. To get there would just be a dream.
Yet the teenager’s year ended with him tearing cartilage in his wrist with the Yorkshireman requiring surgery in October and only returning to initial training in January. Wilson now has just six weeks until what would have been the year’s first big target, the European Championships in Montpellier which begin on April 13. Those Championships are now on the back burner.
Instead, it is at this June’s inaugural European Games in Azerbaijan where the Leeds ace hopes to signal his return before aiming to form part of Great Britain’s World Championships team bidding for Glasgow glory in October.
Wilson knows if he is to fulfil his dreams of competing at the 2016 Olympics then he needs to be back with the GB seniors in Scotland.
And there is no hiding the young Yorkshireman’s determination with Wilson confident of bouncing back better than ever after injury – and desperate to book a ticket to Rio. Wilson told the YEP: “Last year was the biggest and best year for me to get my name out there and get on the world stage.
“I’m so proud of what I achieved last year and I worked really, really hard for it.
“But this year is just as important, if not more so for me because I am recovering from a serious injury.
“I think it was at the World Championships where I did it – I had surgery soon after and I am still on the road to recovery.
“The thing with cartilage is it takes a long, long time to heal and I probably would have been so so much better just breaking my arm or doing bone damage.
“But you are going to have to deal with setbacks and it just gives me even more determination and drive to get on them teams again.
“Really, the injury it couldn’t really have come at better time in terms of the Olympics.
“If it would have come a year later than I’d have really been struggling but I think I’m in a good place now and I’m pretty confident I can get back and prove myself again and get in a good physical state to get to Rio.
“My first main target is the European Games and I’m going to try and get on that team and go there and prove myself and prove that I’ve not lost it and that I have made lots of gains coming from last year. Then the big one is obviously is in Glasgow – the World Championships in October – and that’s qualification for the team for Rio. If I want to go to Rio then I really need to be on that team and performing there.”
There can be no denying just what a place on that plane would mean to Wilson who first spoke to the YEP as a quiet 15-year-old back in February 2011.
“The one I really want is the Olympics,” he said back then, and little has changed since only Wilson is closer than ever to realising that goal.
“To get there would just be unbelievable,” said the 19-year-old.
“My whole dream, what I pursue in my gymnastics career, is to get to the Olympics.
“It would be a dream come true and I could say well and truly that I had done my very best and worked my very hardest to get to that point and I think I could soak it up and enjoy every minute of it.
“There’s about 20 of us battling it out for those five places and it’s tough competition but I think after last year, proving that I can handle the pressure on the world stage and only recently moving from juniors at 18 years old, I think I have a big advantage there.
“As long as I can physically prove myself and keep putting results out then I have definitely got a massive chance.”
The Leeds ace certainly did everything in his power to advertise his claims in 2014 and the magnitude of his gymnastics achievements even made the once shy Pudsey Grangefield pupil a mini- sporting celebrity with regular appearances on the TV. He even ended the year with a Blue Peter badge.
“The Blue Peter badge is much better than anything else,” laughed Wilson. “It’s my proudest achievement!”
Another proud achievement was being named Young Sportsman Of The Year at last year’s Leeds Sports Awards and 12 months on Wilson says he is “honoured and privileged” to be up for the main prize in 2015. And another marker of the teenager’s 2015 success will be by his side.
Wilson must have thought he’d won the lottery as it is when taking away two golds, a silver and a bronze from last July’s Commonwealths yet he wasn’t finished there.
Seven months after being presented with his first gold by medal bearer Sophie, the two are an item with the 19-year-old University of Strathclyde student travelling down to Yorkshire this weekend and joining her man at Thursday’s awards.
Explaining how love blossomed at the Commonwealths, Wilson beamed: “Sophie did all the medals and the first time I saw her was when she handed out the team gold and then I just got talking to her.
“I can’t remember what happened after that but one thing led to another. The Commonwealths certainly changed my life – for a number of reasons.”