Wilson trains sights on Rio after breakthough summer

Nile Wilson
Nile Wilson
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High-flying Leeds gymnast Nile Wilson admits his breakthrough year in 2014 was “beyond his wildest dreams”.

The Pudsey Grangefield A-level pupil underlined his status as one of the brightest prospects in British gymnastics by winning nine medals across three major championships.

And now he is targeting the Rio Olympics in 2016 after proving to himself and to the sporting world that he belongs on the biggest stage.

“It’s been a year beyond my wildest dreams,” said the 18-year-old Leeds Gymnastics Club member.

His achievements this year have taken even him by surprise.

At the European Junior Championships in Sofia in May, the Pudsey lad won five gold medals.

At the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in July, he won four medals; a gold in the team final alongside household names Louis Smith and Max Whitlock, and then a medal of each colour in the individual events. In the space of one afternoon he won a gold and a silver.

And to cap it all, he then joined the British squad at the world championships in Nanning, China, in October, and nearly helped them rewrite history by winning a medal in the team final, before reaching two further individual finals.

“At the beginning of the year the European Juniors was what I was looking towards,” he said.

“It was great to smash it at the Europeans, and then there wasn’t any expectation after that.

“It was announced that I was in the team which was amazing in itself.

“So to then go to Glasgow and win four medals was unbelievable.

“And then at the start of the year the worlds wasn’t even in the plan, I wasn’t expecting to get in that team, so to get there was great and to be in the all-round and high bar final at my first world championships at 18, was again, just unbelievable.

“Looking back now, I worked really hard, it went better than planned, I’m just absolutely thrilled with it.

“Picking a highlight is hard.

“The pressure was on for that junior Europeans, because I’d done it two years ago and won a silver and everyone was looking at me to win.

“So to get through that was a relief more than anything, and it provided the platform for the seniors.

“I was thrown straight into it, and there were questions about whether I’d handle it with the Commonwealths being such a massive event; all the tv cameras, the multi-event status and the huge crowds of 12,000.”

But he did, and one of the many highs came on Friday, August 1, in Glasgow, when he won silver in the parallel bars in mid-afternoon before returning later in the day to win the horizontal bar Commonwealth title.

“I’d done the whole week, it was hard physically Monday to Friday and by that last day I was tired and sore, but that to me felt normal, because that’s how I train,” he added.

“By Friday I’m usually sore so I just approached it how I normally would and treated the parallel bar and high bar routine how I would do in training.

“That seems to work for me. I just try and get into what I call my ‘happy room’ with me and the apparatus and everything blocked out.”

Wilson’s remarkable year has been tempered by surgery on a right wrist injury that he puts down to “wear and tear”.

It means he has missed a big chunk of winter training and will be playing catch-up to make the British squad for the European Championships in April.

But it is the worlds, back in Glasgow next October, that is the primary aim, as that also counts towards Olympic qualification.

He said: “I’m definitely looking at Rio, but it’s tough because there’s a squad of 20 gymnasts and only five go to the Olympics.

“It’s been a great year for me because I’ve got my name out there and proven I can handle the pressure.

“Beforehand you don’t know how you’re going to handle the big competitions.

“But I can’t rest on what I’ve done.”

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