Nile Wilson, a young Yorkshireman who got into gymnastics because his parents thought it would teach their clumsy five-year-old how to fall, made history at the Rio Olympics last night.
Fifteen years after a mother and father took their accident-prone son to the local gymnastics club, Leeds lad Wilson won Great Britain’s first individual medal in the horizontal bar.
Wilson, 20, won bronze, to take the British gymnastics’ team’s tally to a remarkable seven, after Amy Tinkler – at 16 the youngest member of the nation’s entire Olympic squad – had earlier won a surprise bronze in the women’s floor final.
For Wilson, the two-time Commonwealth Games champion of 2014, this is his finest hour. It also caps an impressive first Olympics for the long-time Leeds Gymnastics Club member, who helped the British team finish fourth in the final and finished eighth behind third-placed Max Whitlock in the all-around competition.
“It is difficult to put into words how I am feeling right now,” said Wilson, whose fall from the top of a toy slide onto a concrete bird bath 15 years ago inadvertently set in motion his journey into British gymnastics history.
“I have loads of emotion and I certainly let it show up there on the podium. Everyone knew it was tears of pride and tears of happiness.
“My family were out there in the stands balling their eyes out and I think that set me off.
“It is a dream come true. It is something you train your whole life for and you dream about wearing these medals around your neck.
“I just went out there and focused on my potential, my gymnastics, my high bar routine and forgot about everything else that was going on around me.
“It wasn’t the best routine I could have done but it was a routine and I’m so happy to have a medal. It is incredible. It is the seventh medal for British gymnastics and it has surpassed all expectations.
“I want to thank the whole nation for getting behind us and supporting Team GB. Watching all these medals from the likes of Max [Whitlock] and obviously Amy [Tinkler] just before me, it was just inspiration after inspiration. I saw them winning medals and started to believe that I could do the same. I hope this inspires more young people to take up the sport.”
Starting third, Wilson scored 15.466 to place second behind Germany’s Fabian Hambuechen, but ahead of reigning champion Epke Zonderland of Holland, who fell.
A succession of athletes in the eight-man final failed to beat Wilson’s score until the final competitor, Danell Leyva of the United States, knocked him down to bronze with a silver-medal winning total of 15.500.
Earlier Tinkler, the youngest member of the 366-strong Team GB delegation, produced a nerveless performance to finish behind American pair Simone Biles and Alexandra Raisman.
The County Durham athlete, who will collect her GCSE results the day she returns from Rio, wept tears of joy after sealing her medal. She said: “It has been incredible – I can’t believe it. I’m in total shock.”