Ten months after snapping his ankle ligaments in a freak training accident, Nile Wilson is in contention to fill the vacancy at the top of his sport at the World Gymnastics Championships in Montreal.
Wilson will contest a men’s all-around final today which has been thrown wide open by the injury-enforced withdrawal of Japanese great Kohei Uchimura, who has won every gold medal since 2009. The Leeds 21-year-old qualified in eighth place despite acknowledging there is scope for improvement, and believes the pressure is eased after fighting back from an injury many feared would wreck his year.
I’m a much more experienced gymnast now. With the setbacks I’ve had this year, I’m just more grateful that I can reach my first final healthy, and I know I can perform with a bit less pressure because I know how much I’ve been through.Nile Wilson
Wilson said: “Watching Uchimura hobble out of the competition was a strange feeling because he’s been dominating since 2009 and it just reminds you what a brutal sport this is.
“But there’s going to be a new world champion this year and I’m so happy to be in contention after what I’ve been through. I feel like my gymnastics is at a high enough position to challenge.”
Wilson qualified for his first world all-around final in 2014, but was forced to withdraw with a painful wrist injury, handing a reprieve to team-mate Max Whitlock, who went on to win the silver medal.
The following year in Glasgow, Wilson scored an identical mark to Whitlock in qualifying, but was again denied a place in the final by his team-mate on what was effectively a tie-break rule.
Since that setback, Wilson has continued to enhance his status as one of the world’s leading gymnasts, claiming Olympic bronze on the high bar in Rio before his injury setback.
Wilson recalled: “I qualified for the final when I was 18 but my wrist was in too much pain. It still gave me great confidence to know that I belonged there, and I’m a much more experienced gymnast now. With the setbacks I’ve had this year, I’m just more grateful that I can reach my first final healthy, and I know I can perform with a bit less pressure because I know how much I’ve been through.”
Amy Tinkler shrugged off the effects of a heavy cold to put herself in a position to qualify for the women’s all-around final.