The success of our British gymnasts in Rio was incredible, seven medals across all three disciplines of men’s, women’s and trampoline gymnastics was phenomenal. But this success didn’t happen overnight, it has been years in the making and there are multiple gymnasts, coaches, officials and supporters to thank for their input into Britain’s rise in the sport.
One gymnast who played a big part in helping GB become one of the sport’s power houses is Huntingdon’s Dan Keatings. In 2009, Dan won all-around silver at the World Championships - the first ever world all-around medal for GB - before making history at the 2010 European Championships, winning Britain's first ever gold medal at a major championship by taking the pommel horse title. At the 2013 European Championship Dan reclaimed his pommel horse title and in 2014 went on to take pommel horse gold, all-around and team silver for Scotland at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
After years of dedication to the sport he loves, Dan has decided it’s time to hang up his handguards and retire from elite gymnastics. We caught up with him to find out all about the moment he helped put British Gymnastics on the map and what’s next for the 27-year-old Scot…
What are your memories from 2009?
"I qualified in 4th place with a fall on the pommel so I knew there was a good shout of a medal in the final if I could go six for six clean. I had an awesome competition and remember finishing my high bar dismount smiling as I landed because I knew I had done it."
What was the expectation like back then? Who was in the team? And how were you all feeling?
"It was my first full year as a senior gymnast and had just came second in the all-around at the Europeans in Milan so there was expectation for me to do well and hopefully get a top five finish, but as I was still young I didn't put any pressure on myself and just went out there and enjoyed it. The team was myself, Dan Purvis, Louis Smith, Kristian Thomas, Theo Seager and Yevgen Gryshenko. I shared a room with Kris and he also did well in the all-around coming 6th."
Having the worlds at the O2 how did that add to the pressure?
"Obviously there was a bit more pressure being in front of a home crowd but over my whole career I have performed my best when in front of a home crowd so I find the atmosphere and the extra fans that get behind you gives you that extra boost when out there on the competition floor."
Can you recall your routines?
"Yes all of them! Floor was quite funny actually because I had a mind block leading up to the competition so I couldn't backflip and I had to do all of my double somersaults from a round off so my routine had to be downgraded a little because I couldn't get the power I would have got from a back flip."
What was the reaction like to your all-around silver medal and winning the Longines Award for elegance?
"It was incredible!! Everyone was so supportive and happy for me and because I was the first British man to get an all-around medal at a World Championship. The Longines award was the icing on top of the cake! I had based my gymnastics on being elegant with as little execution deductions as possible and to be recognised for this was awesome."
Looking back, how significant do you think your performance was for British Gymnastics and yourself?
"For myself it gave me the confidence to aim for medals at every event and for British Gymnastics, after Louis got his medal in Beijing, this was the next big thing to happen for British men's gymnastics and it showed we were continuing to grow as a nation and it instilled more belief for the younger generation."
How much have you noticed the progression in particular the depth of talent increase in your time?
"Huge amounts! There is a group of 10-15 boys that are fighting for a place on a five man team and they're all capable of mixing it with the best at major events and I think that's why we are continuously improving as a nation year upon year, whereas when I was younger, one medal at a major championships was huge for GB but now we are aiming for five plus all the time which shows our strength in depth."
You were renowned for your pommel work. On your day how would you rate yourself against Max and Louis?
"On my day I was as good as both of them, my problem was consistency and performing the routine clean over and over again. When I won euros 2010, 2013 and Commonwealth Games 2014 I had to beat one or the other or both of them to win."
You've done a lot for the sport in Scotland, now you've retired do you plan on staying in the sport?
"At the moment I'm having a break but I will always stay involved in some way or another in gymnastics."
What was it like marrying your child hood sweetheart and how has she dealt with your commitments over the years?
"It was awesome! Honestly the best day of my life so far. She has been amazing throughout my whole career dealing with all the highs and all the lows but always been there to celebrate or pick me up."
Any words to your fans and supporters over the years?
"Yes! I want to say a huge thank you for following and supporting me throughout my whole career! Your support has been incredible and I feel sad that I'm finishing but I think my time is now up. My face will still be around and I'm excited to see what heights the younger generation can take British Gymnastics to."