LEEDS gymnast Nile Wilson has an impressive record when it comes to making a quick recovery from injury.
Finishing sixth in the all-around final at last October’s World Championships just eight months after snapping ankle ligaments was impressive enough.
Winning the all-around final at this year’s Commonwealth Games without the full use of his hand was, arguably, better still.
Words worth heeding then when Wilson says he is confident of “smashing” this year’s Europeans and Worlds despite recently encountering a neck problem – all en route to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Wilson’s stock continues to rise with the Yorkshireman managing to better his already-impressive haul from the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Manchester at this year’s extravaganza on the Gold Coast in Australia.
Having secured two golds, one silver and a bronze in Manchester, the 22-year-old collected three golds and two silvers four years on with his victory in the individual all-around final one of his proudest accomplishments yet.
I definitely want to become a world champion and the all around is a big one for me and I’ll be going for the individual title.Nile Wilson
After a recent hand injury, the City Of Leeds Gymnastics Club star had major doubts about even competing in the event until a late change of mind.
In between success at the last two Commonwealths, the former Pudsey Grangefield pupil won the medal for which he is currently most famed for with a bronze in the horizontal bar at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
A better Olympics return is, ultimately, the gymnast’s long-term aim in Tokyo as he looks to follow in the footsteps of Britain’s most decorated gymnast, Max Whitlock, who won two golds and a bronze in Rio – four years after claiming two bronze medals at London 2012.
But, more immediately, Wilson has two major assignments ahead of him this year, events he is confident of excelling in – despite that niggling neck injury.
Wilson picked up the problem training on the parallel bars but his two previous recoveries from injury remain fresh in the mind.
“I have just got to keep reminding myself of what I did before and stay positive and keep moving forward,” Wilson told the YEP.
“It’s challenging when you are in this moment and in a lot of pain and you get the training taken away from you.
“But it’s about mindset really and just focusing on the end goal and I am sure the neck will be absolutely fine and I will be smashing it at the next two majors.
“Along this journey you are going to experience little blips and looking after the body and staying healthy is very important.
“We are doing everything we can to get that sorted so that we can crack on with training and we have still got plenty of time to be ready for the Europeans.”
While the World Championships in Montreal are clearly the sport’s big one as far as 2018 is concerned, Wilson also has a score to settle at the Europeans in August in Glasgow.
“I didn’t compete last year due to my ankle but the year before I became European high bar champion,” said Wilson. “So I am wanting to go there and claim the title back again and, this time, it is about the team too.
“The Europeans is also a team event and we will be going into it to become European champions, definitely.”
Two months later, Wilson is then hoping the world can be his oyster in Canada as he looks to go five places better than last year in the all-around final. He is quietly confident of doing so.
“The worlds will be absolutely massive and we are back into the team events now so we really want to show how dominant we are as a nation,” he added.
“Individually, to become a world champion is also right up there on my list of goals and achievements, so I will be doing everything I can in the all-around event and the high bar to be up there.
“I definitely want to become a world champion and the all-around is a big one for me.
“I have certainly put myself in a position ability-wise and difficulty-wise in my gymnastics to become a world champion.
“These worlds also start the process of qualifying the team for the Olympics so that will be a big thing and then the path and the road to Tokyo is really my main focus.
“It’s a very exciting time.”
Exciting and busy too is Wilson’s activity in promoting gymnastics as an online Vlogger – an activity that continues to go from strength to strength.
Wilson’s own You Tube channel has grown to over 800,000 subscribers, who regularly log on to see him posting different tricks and challenges.
He even managed to create a topical ‘gymnastics meets Love Island’ challenge earlier this week with Jess Shears and Dom Lever from last year’s show battling it out.
Away from the gymnastics and the popular online video posting, Wilson’s personal life is also in a good place.
“My girlfriend is a dancer and cheerleader and does performing and a bit of drama,” he explained.
“It’s perfect and cheerleading has become a bit of a part of my life now.
“We go to a few cheerleading competitions and get a bit of attention there sometimes. It’s good fun.”
Wilson will now hope to be cheered all the way to Tokyo which, while his main focus, doesn’t stop him adopting the approach that there is more to life and happiness than simply winning medals.
“The future is bright but I try not to measure my success and happiness through my gymnastics results and medals that I have won,” said Wilson.
“Obviously it is a huge ambition of mine to become an Olympic champion.
“But I would argue that being successful is being happy and doing something that you love and, for me, I feel that I am inspiring more and more people and helping put the sport out there.
“It really depends on what you deem to be success.
“If it is the gold medals then, certainly, I have big aspirations for that and I want to follow in Max’s footsteps, definitely.
“But I have got a huge plate in front of me which is my life and there are the big parts of it like inspiring people to get into gymnastics, putting the sport out there and being a Vlogger and being the best athlete that I can be and, again, that goes with Olympic medals.
“And then there’s just being Nile, who does what he loves.
“I am a very family-orientated person, so I think it is a big plate full of different sections that makes me happy and successful.”
Assessing the long-term future and how long he envisages competing for, Wilson said: “It’s not something that I think about, I kind of take it all one step at a time.
“The only things that are going to stop me from doing gymnastics are whether my body doesn’t let me or I fall out of love with the sport.
“I don’t see those two factors coming into play any time soon.”