One year on from the highs of winning an Olympic medal, Nile Wilson heads to Montreal this weekend seeking a performance that will underline his place among the world’s elite.
The 21-year-old from Leeds clinched a thrilling bronze on the high bar in Rio last summer, but is targeting a strong showing in the blue riband all-around competition at the world championships which get underway on Monday.
And that after a difficult post-Olympic year which saw his preparations for 2017 rocked when he snapped his ankle ligaments in a freak training accident.
But a victory over British gymnastics golden boy Max Whitlock, among others, in the national all-around competition earlier this month has given him the belief that he is back to something like his best as the biggest tournament outside the Olympics dawns.
“I’ve been back in full-time training putting everything into this. I managed to go to the GB trial and win the all-around which was a huge moment in my career as a whole because of what I’ve overcome this year and what I’ve been through,” said the Leeds Gymnastics Club member.
“It was such a proud moment to win that trial and win my place on the team for my third world championships.”
All-around is the pinnacle. If you do all six apparatus to the best of your ability you are the king of gymnastics. Kohei Uchimura has done that for the last decade but to be a good all-around gymnast you have to have really good pieces.Nile Wilson
Wilson will also contest the high bar and the parallel bars over the next few days, but his long-term ambitions are to match or even better the exploits of Whitlock, by proving his prowess as a gymnast in the all-around disipline, which encompasses every piece of apparatus.
To do that, he will one day have to beat Japanese star Kohei Uchimura, who will be targeting his seventh consecutive all-around title in Canada.
“All-round performance is my priority I really want to be established as one of the best all-around performers in the world,” said Wilson.
“In Rio I came eighth which was a huge stepping-stone. I believe I’m better on parallel bars than high bar.
“One of my biggest goals is to get established on parallel bars and those two alone will really boost my all-round scores.
“All-around is the pinnacle. If you do all six apparatus to the best of your ability you are the king of gymnastics. Kohei Uchimura has done that for the last decade but to be a good all-around gymnast you have to have really good pieces.
“If I can put myself in position to bring home medals from every major championships I’m more than happy with that.”
And as if overcoming snapped ankle ligaments wasn’t difficult enough, Wilson has to manage a breathing illness every day that makes his all-around ambitions that little bit tougher to conquer.
“My floor routine is the most challenging – I’ve got severe asthma so I struggle to get as fit as some of the other lads,” he explained.
“I have to take inhalers every day twice a day, so the floor’s probably been the biggest one, even gaining the fitness to do so many tumbles. There’s no point moaning about it I just crack on.”
And Wilson takes that refuasal to accept the negatives into the routines he does – the young Yorkshireman’s mantra being the tougher the better.
“I’m a bit of a risk-taker, I like going for broke,” he said.
“The plan is to hit the best routines I can on that qualification day and I know I’m certainly capable of reaching the final.”
Given the year he has had, any podium place in Montreal will be a major personal accomplishment, as well as validating his status as one of his county’s finest and the world’s best to boot.
It will also help raise his profile in British sport even further, something he has embraced since the heady days of Rio last August.
“You don’t sign on to be a role model but it comes with the territoty if you’re an Olympian,” added Wilson.
“I’m very good at being a normal lad from Leeds – probably too much sometimes with the partying and stuff like that! But I’ve got a great close family keeping my feet on the ground and I believe you need that.
“Professional sport is such a narrow road and if you become too obsessive it can work against you. I’ve been in situations like that before in my career, so finding that balance is most important.
“If I can find that balance I believe I can achieve greatness.”