It’s been almost 18 months since the last major event in the gymnastics calendar took place, but it returns this week with the 2021 Artistic European Championships in Switzerland.
The British team arrived in Basel on Friday evening ahead of podium training before the competition officially starts on Wednesday with women’s qualification.
Having touched down in Switzerland alongside the team, we caught up with British Gymnastics Performance Director, James Thomas, to see how everyone is going so far.
How good is it that gymnastics is back?
“It feels really exciting to be back in competition, even with the Covid protocols, to see gymnasts back out on the world stage and back in the big arenas with other nations is really welcomed. We’re looking forward to seeing everyone competing and the international calendar back on, especially with the Olympic Games so close now.”
How has preparation been for the competition?
“It’s certainly been a challenging year, but we do feel extremely grateful and fortunate that elite sport has benefited from exemptions allowing our gymnasts and coaches to continue training, ensuring their hopes and dreams of getting to these major competitions and Tokyo remain on track.
“Of course, it’s not been easy, we’ve had to learn as everyone has about Covid and how best to defend ourselves and reduce risk which has meant lots of changes to daily behaviours which is always tough. I’ve been hugely impressed by how well our gymnasts and coaches have adapted to change. It shows how resilient they are and we’re really proud of how they’ve taken on the challenges and we’re excited about what they can now deliver.”
How has it been in Switzerland so far?
“The first few days in Switzerland have worked well. The venue is great, our hotel is really nicely situated as close as possible so reduces travel times, the training halls are well set up and podium training is underway. Everyone’s definitely excited. There’s also a sense of anticipation around seeing how other nations have adapted, which we think will make for an exciting competition.
“Obviously, the all-around event is going to be huge in terms of it giving the opportunity to qualify extra Olympic places which is absolutely something we’re looking at, as we want to see as many gymnasts as possible given the chance to compete for Team GB in the summer. We also hope to have medal chances in multiple apparatus events and so the weekend’s competitions are going to be ones to watch.”
Following the competition, what are the plans in lead up to the Olympics?
“We’ll return Monday and then for the men there’s full focus on the final Olympic trial taking place on the 1st May whilst the women have theirs from 7-9th May in Cardiff. The key for us is to maximise the performance opportunities out here whilst staying as safe as we can so when we’re back everyone’s ready to keep firing into the trials.
“We have so many gymnasts showing great performances and that should make selection decisions a really difficult job for us which is how it should be.”
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