Celebrity interview: Louis Smith

Louis Smith, who has won more Olympic medals than any other British gymnast.
Louis Smith, who has won more Olympic medals than any other British gymnast.
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Louis Smith has won more Olympic medals than any other British gymnast – silver on the pommel horse at the London Olympics, a team bronze and another bronze in Beijing in 2008.

After gaining a legion of fans impressed by his athleticism, he then won even more by dancing to victory on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing.

But away from the limelight, the 23-year-old can sometimes feel lonely and looks forward to finding a girlfriend. He also struggles with being ‘a celebrity’.

“It still feels strange when people come up to me in the street,” he says. “The other day a guy came up, asked to have a picture taken with me, and told me, ‘Well, after all, you’re a celebrity now’.

“I felt like saying: ‘Can you look up the word celebrity in the dictionary? I don’t feel like a celebrity’. I just feel like a guy who did well at the Olympic Games.

“It’s been so fast, going from being no one to someone, that it’s surreal.

“In the space of a few months, I’ve been to Buckingham Palace to be presented with an MBE by the Queen, presented a music award at the Brits, and met some really famous people.”

His autobiography will be published in July, and he’s about to embark on a programme promoting gymnastics to youngsters to foster a new generation of competitors.

The younger of two brothers, he was brought up by his mother, Elaine, after she separated from his Jamaican-born father, Claude.

Aged seven, he was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), went on Ritalin medication for a period, but gymnastics and his obvious talent proved to be his salvation.

“I’m so grateful to my mum. She has been an absolute angel in my life and in my career. She encouraged me to do gymnastics to channel my energy.

“Strictly was the best fun I’ve ever had. It was tough to learn a new skill but it give me a real adrenaline buzz. I’m really missing dancing, and I get quite depressed thinking that it’s probably all over,” he says.

The other woman in his life, apart from his mum, was his one and only girlfriend, Billie Whyatt, 21. The couple split in 2011.

“It was hard, really hard, when we broke up. She was my first love,” he admits. “I guess I’m over the pain and hurt. I’d love to have a new relationship because it can be lonely sometimes when you’re travelling, attending events and staying in hotel rooms, and you end up hugging your pillow. I hate being single, it’s boring and I can’t wait to find someone to settle down with.”