For followers of British gymnastics, over the last six years, Teal Grindle will be a familiar name. Part of the incredibly strong young group of five gymnasts who have produced the best ever junior results for GB, Teal looked set to follow her incredible Age Group, Espoir, and first year junior trajectory, though her final junior year, and into the senior ranks for 2016.
We have seen three of those five make their senior debuts in 2015, Amy Tinkler became English and British champion, securing her place on the European team. Ellie Downie made History by winning bronze AA at Europeans, Tyesha Mattis came storming back from injury to take the British titles on her two weakest pieces, and will be a huge AA threat when back on all four. Junior Catherine Lyons took the AA and three apparatus titles at British Championships, and is one of the world’s most anticipated new seniors for 2016.
So what about Teal? Lets go back a bit before catching up with her, Teal is a 2000 baby, so the same year as Catherine, and therefore one of the youngest of this strong generation. She trains at Sapphire School of Gymnastics under coach Steven Price, and along side Gabby Jupp. Her Age Group years were a battle between her and Catherine for the British titles, with them mostly finishing first and second all the way through.:
Level 4 Compulsory 4th
Level 4 Voluntary 1st
Overall British Championships 1st
2010 Level 3 Compulsory 2nd
Level 3 Voluntary 2nd
Overall British Championships 2nd
Level 2 Compulsory 1st
Level 2 Voluntary 1st
Level 2 Overall British Championships 1st
2012 saw Teal enter the British Espoir Championships for the first time, she didn’t have the best AA result for her, finishing 7th behind Catherine, Ellie, Amy, and Tyesha amongst others, but she did come back strongly to take the floor title in such strong company.
Gymnasts spend two years in Espoirs, and in 2013 there were two British Espoir Championships, one at each end of the year, as British Gymnastics wanted to move the competition to be separate from the main British, and to run with the U12 and 14 boys competitions.
At the first Championship in March, Teal was 3rd AA, and took silvers in apparatus finals on vault, bars and floor, then performed beautifully to take the title on beam. In December at the second championships, she took silver in the AA, slivers on vault and floor, and a bronze on bars.
Teal’s biggest achievement of 2013 came at AYOF, where the British team took the silver medal, and Teal took silver overall, then gold on beam with a beautiful routine.
In 2014 Teal began her junior career well. 2nd AA, 3rd on bars and floor, and British champion on beam was a great start as a first year junior. A place on the Junior European team was the reward. The girls made history by winning the silver medal, and Teal qualified to the beam final.Confident reliable beam workers are always going to to make a challenge for places on British teams, teal hit for the team, then for herself again in finals. She finished in 4th place behind AA champion Angelina Melinkova from Russia, Andreea Iridion from Romania who went on to become the senior European Games silver medalist this year, and Tabea Alt from Germany who recently won beam at the 4 way international.
So everything was looking good, Teal was on track to finish 2014 strongly and be selected to contest EYOF, and The International Japan Junior for her final junior year, then join the girls fighting for Rio places in 2016.
Except that’s not what happened, Junior Europeans was the last time we saw Teal compete, and over a year has passed. British Gymnewstics has caught up with Teal to talk about the injury keeping her out of competition, how her recovery is going, and her targets from now on……..
Hi Teal, as one of GB’s most promising juniors, it’s great to catch up with you. Can you start by telling us a little about your career to date? You had such an impressive journey through Age Groups, Espoirs, and as a first year junior, against some of the toughest competition GB has ever produced. Did everything come relatively easy to you as a younger gymnast, did you appreciate how well you were doing at the time?
Thank you! Well as you know it was recently only a year to go to the Olympics which is exciting but also very scary. All those years of training, injuries and tears just for this one moment! It’s hard to see that’s it’s that close when you are injured as you just want to be working to know that you might be able to achieve that goal, at the moment it seems unrealistic to me for that to be my goal, however it has given me a lot of motivation to get everything back and working again!
Everything did not come easy to me, as I was younger and learning big skills for my age, just like now I’m older I learn bigger skills which are hard too. I was obviously very happy about actually being able to train, and being able to show my routines off, and how hard I worked, however training so much at the time you don’t really appreciate it. It’s almost second nature, but when I look back and see how well I’ve done in the past and what I’ve achieved, I was very lucky to be able to do all that injury free, and it makes me want to come back even more.
Tell us about Junior Europeans, the team silver was the best result ever, and you contributed particularly strongly on beam. You also took 4th place in the final behind some very strong competition. How did you feel coming away from the championships?
Junior Europeans was a very bumpy journey, as we were out there for such a long time. Some of my routines were bad some of them were good, we got tired, you have to eat well to make sure you can train and compete to the best of your ability, coming home with team silver is mind blowing. I didn’t get to compete four pieces so it didn’t feel like a proper competition for me, however this meant I could concentrate on bars and beam, but only competing two pieces, I put a lot of pressure on myself. On bars near to the end of my routine, the bars were very slippy and my left hand slipped off the bar, which was an unusual mistake, so I was very disappointed with that and got very upset. However I had to pull my self together for beam as this was a team competition and wasn’t about me! So again I put loads of pressure on myself, but all the hard work payed off and we secured silver. Finals on beam did not go so well, it wasn’t my best routine I had done, I was so confident about it that I wasn’t even nervous, and nerves are good because they make you concentrate more! And it came up with 4th! I was disappointed with myself but at the time it was the best I could do!
Coming home from junior euros I had many fabulous memories I will never forget, but as everyone was so emotional I just burst into tears after beam as I knew I could have done a better beam, and Hannah was there to cheer me up. From this day I still want to go back and show everyone I can do a better beam.. Hopefully I will get another chance!
Can you tell us about your beam work, you have put in several excellent performances in pressure situations, which many gymnasts struggle to do. What would you say is the key to your confidence and stability on this piece?
Well many people say they are scared of this piece, which is ok but if you are going to convince yourself that your scared of a long, soft, and padded thing that you stand on, then the beam will be having the performance out there not you. For every piece you have to put work into, but beam is the one piece you can not get upset on, your emotions will take over and it makes it even worse! In competition you will know if your ready or not from your nerves as soon as you touch that beam, but it’s only just another beam routine, to add to the 10000 you have already done!
So as far as gymnastics fans are aware, you returned from Junior Europeans as one of GB’s most exciting prospects, and haven’t been seen in competition since. Can you describe your training and progress after the competition, and how far along you got before you were injured?
How did it the injury happen, and when? Did you realise immediately the severity, and how long you would be out of action? Did you need to go in for surgery, and how long were you out of the gym?
I progressed before my Injury to just trying some new moves and playing around on bars with release and catches, so new moves here and there but I had some competitions coming up so was doing routines for this competition. And then my shoulder flared up. We went and saw the best shoulder specialist in town with an MRI scan I previously had, he explained how I had cysts that needed to be removed, cartilage damage, and a labrel tear which needed to be sewn up, so soon after that, I had surgery, I have been rehabilitating and just getting back since then!
Before I had shoulder surgery I had a back problem for 21 weeks that I was just getting back from so had to go through this again. Even being in a sling I still went to the gym to do exercises and conditioning! It’s very hard to understand that you are actually injured and not able to do what matters most in your life, and it does make you sad and annoyed but this only makes you stronger!
Having been out for a long time, what difficulties have you faced when you were ready to start reintroducing some skills? Have you had to deal with growth spurts, and all the difficulties and adjustments that brings, as well as your rehab?
My main struggle at the moment is bars, I have grown over 5cm since the last time I went on bars, so Giants are a struggle for me! But hopefully I can adjust soon!
How important has the support of your club, your coach, and team mate Gabby Jupp (who is also working her way back from her second serious injury) been in keeping you focused on rehabilitation?
My coach has taken me to and from Lilleshall for many check ups and the physio team there have been very supportive so thank you to them!
I can’t even explain how supportive Gabby has been to me! As we have both been injured we have worked together and when one of us is feeling down we help each other because we understand how it is to be like this and to be injured! Me and Gabby have a very tight relationship, we make each other laugh when it’s appropriate and we also push each other! I couldn’t thank her enough for being there for me!
Can you tell us where you are on your road to recovery now? A shoulder is such a difficult injury, which pieces are you able to train, and how are you doing on them in terms of getting your skills back, adding new skills?
I’ve got back on beam, as beam is mainly with no hands! But we have decided to put in a free cartwheel layout instead of flicks for now! Bars, it’s all basic moves for now, instead of tumble I’m better off on fast track as there isn’t as much impact through my shoulder! And vault, we have a sprung portable vaulting top which many gymnasts find useful! And I have started to vault off that!
Do you have a time you are aiming to be back, are you hoping to be ready for 2016 English then British? What are your goals for next year?
I have been told it won’t be a year until I get back! But for a gymnast I find we always get back quicker! My aim is British next year! However I will still be competing even if this means one piece or straight backs on floor!
You were named to national squad at the beginning of the year, have you been attending squads at Lilleshall as you’ve recovered? Have the other British girls who have been through similar situations been a real source of help and support to you?
I’ve basically been living at Lilleshall, which I love! I love training at Lilleshall as many other gymnasts are there and it’s a lovely atmosphere, we are all a team, so if someone is struggling we will help them! And there are gymnasts who have been getting back from injuries such as Ellie Downie, Catherine Lyons, Tyesha Mattis and Ruby Harold! I have been spending a lot of time with them and we have bonded and we are very close but we can also help each other through are injuries!
Finally, what would you say to younger gymnasts that are facing a lengthy time away from the gym due to injury to help them deal with the recovery process and maintain the belief that they can return to the sport?
Everyone gets injuries, even high standard gymnasts, even Beckie Downie. Gymnastics will be a roller coaster ride for everyone. Ups and downs. You can never maintain at a high level for ever, your body sometimes needs a rest! And what will be will be, you can’t give up on an injury, otherwise that’s giving up on gymnastics, stay strong and work hard on getting back to gymnastics! Just remember that you can’t stay at the bottom of your roller coaster forever, you will always fly back up at some point!
A huge thank you to Teal for taking the time to update us on her progress. Her attitude to her recovery reflects the attitude that has got her so far as a gymnast. With her drive and commitment, I’m sure we shall see Teal back stronger than ever, and I for one shall be cheering this talented young gymnast all the way.