Leeds gymnast Nile Wilson is refreshed and ready to take on the world again as he nears recovery from the serious ankle injury he sustained in the wake of last year’s Rio Olympic Games.
The 21-year-old grabbed a stunning bronze medal in the high-bar final in Brazil, but shortly after returning home to a hero’s welcome he snapped ligaments during a dismount in training and faced a lengthy period of recuperation.
Now Wilson is on the verge of returning to full training and believes he is ahead of schedule in his quest to mount a serious challenge at the World Championships in Montreal in October.
Wilson, one of five different British gymnastics medallists in Rio, said: “I’m around 18 weeks post-surgery now and the ankle is feeling as strong as it could be.
“The World Championships has always been my goal this year so I haven’t rushed the process, and, as a result, I think I’m ahead of what the experts expected.
“If the injury was going to happen it couldn’t have come at a better time. It’s at the start of a new Olympic cycle and it’s given me the chance to take some time away and focus on some other things in my life.
“In future, people aren’t going to look back and talk about my injuries. I see this as a short kink in the road on my journey towards what I want to achieve.”
Wilson is completing his recovery at the same Leeds Gymnastics Club he first joined at the age of five – and its surge in membership provides a daily reminder of the impact his Rio heroics have had on the sport.
From sparsely populated sports centres a few years ago, Wilson and his fellow elite GB athletes are now household names who regularly compete in front of sold-out arenas.
“When I came home with my medal there were a thousand people here cheering for me and the knowledge I might have inspired some of them to change their lives was brilliant.
“When you start out in a sport you don’t expect to become a role model but I guess it comes with the territory of being an Olympic medallist. As long as I have my family around me to keep my feet on the ground, it can only be a good thing.”
Wilson will have to get used to even more attention if his bold goals both inside and outside his sport are realised.
He covets the ultimate goal of an all-around gold at a major championships, while at the same time launching an online coaching programme, Body Bible, which he hopes will one day make him a millionaire. “The all-around is the biggest thing in our sport and I really want to become established as one of the best in the world,. In Rio, I came eighth in the all-around final which was a great platform for me to build on.
“But I’m also very good at still being a normal lad from Leeds. I might spend a little bit too much time partying sometimes, but finding that balance is important. My injury could be seen as a blessing in disguise. I’ve been able to step away and develop my social media business and I’m in a better place than ever to get things going again.”