GB gymnast Wilson eyes Rio 2016 trip
A lot can change in a year – it’s Nile Wilson mantra as he prepares to fight to the very end for his 2016 Rio Olympics place with Team GB.
The 19-year-old has made his name as one of the top young gymnasts in the UK, winning five gold medals at the European Junior Championships in 2014.
“It’s very exciting to be competing as a senior alongside the best gymnasts in the world”
Now entering his first year as a senior, he told me how he was finding his feet (and hands) in a sport in which Britain is now a major force on the global stage.
Louis Smith paved the way with pommel horse bronze at the 2008 Beijing Games, followed by a silver in the same discipline on home soil at London 2012.
In October, Max Whitlock become Britain’s first-ever gymnastics world champion, winning pommel horse gold in Glasgow, with Smith claiming silver.
Their success has inspired Leeds-born Wilson to aim high, with the Summer Games in Brazil as his target.
“It’s very exciting to be competing as a senior alongside the best gymnasts in the world,” he said. “But it was quite daunting at first, stepping up from the junior ranks.”
Wilson was invited as a young gymnast to attend Carnegie University, which is a centre of excellence centre based in Leeds.
It was clear he had a gift for the sport and from there, his potential was rapidly realised. Soon enough, he turned that potential and growing self-confidence into medals.
“Once I got a few competitions under my belt, it gave me the confidence and belief that I can compete with the big boys,” he said.
“The key for me is staying grounded, which isn’t difficult having a very close family and group of friends”
The defining moment of his young career came in August 2014, when he became a double gold-winning medallist at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow at the tender age of 18.
It was his first major event as a senior, but Wilson said he was determined not to let the pressure get the better of him.
“I focused more on the feelings of pride and excitement rather than the pressure,” he explained.
He stressed the importance of the people close to him in helping to achieve his goals – complacency is evidently not part of his make up.
“The key for me is staying grounded, which isn’t difficult, having a very close family and group of friends,” Wilson added.
Even at the age of 19, the maturity of Wilson is clear for all to see. He feels he belongs in this profession and is already being utilised as an inspiration to up-and-coming gymnasts.
“Having my profile grow is an incredible feeling, especially being consistently told that I inspire the younger generation,” he said.
“With the likes of the experienced Smith and Whitlock to look up to and seek advice from, Wilson can only learn and grow as an athlete”
Yet Wilson knows there is plenty of hard work and dedication ahead as he eyes a seat on the plane to Rio with Team GB.
He talks of his excitement for the year to come, in what could be another milestone phase in his sporting career.
“Preparation [for the Olympics] is fantastic and I’m doing everything in my power to make it onto that team. I am very very excited for the year ahead.”
If he makes it to Rio 2016, Wilson has specific goals in mind. “The targets for Rio, all being well, are to help the team to a medal-winning spot. Also making a couple of individual finals, giving me a fighting chance for medals.”
With the likes of the experienced Smith and Whitlock to look up to and seek advice from, Wilson can only learn and grow as an athlete as he seeks to add to his haul of honours.
Nile Wilson is on Twitter @NileMW