The final moment of the final elite routine, Ruby in Rio after hitting her bar routine for the British team one last time in the team final.
As Ruby Harrold heads off to the US to begin the next phase in her life, as an collegiate gymnast competing in the NCAA for Louisiana State University on a gymnastics scholarship, I thought it would be nice to look back at the career of one of Great Britain’s most called upon elites over the last quad.
I love the story of Ruby being the first ever gymnast to join her club The Academy, when as a tiny enthusiastic five year old, she turned up early for their first ever satellite training session at a sports centre in Somerset. The club has grown as Ruby has, and The Academy are now British team champions, with senior and junior national squad members.
As young gymnasts come through the ranks in Great Britain, especially now in the age of social media, there is often intense focus on those at the top of the elite age group path only, and less of an eye on those with the potential to develop into strong seniors which is far more important. As the old adage goes, it doesn’t matter where you start, it’s where you finish, and Ruby is a great example.
In 2007 as a eleven year old, Ruby placed 4th at club grade three. She hadn’t been on the traditional elite path, taking club grades as opposed to compulsory levels, she then entered the British voluntary age group championships at level two in the same year, finishing 16th against the likes of Venus Romaeo, Niamh Ryan, and Rebecca Tunney.
In 2008, Ruby qualified onto the elite path, by finishing second at the Challenge Espoir championships, and scoring enough points to move into the British Espoir ranks the following year. She finished 16th AA with the second highest bars score, but two falls on beam in her first British Espoirs in 2009, then moved into the junior ranks for 2010.
Ruby’s bars from the 2010 British Espoir Championships
In 2010 as a first year junior, Ruby placed 5th AA, taking gold on vault, and bronze on floor at the the English championships, then 4th AA at the Jr British, gold on vault, and 7th on floor. Ruby was rewarded with a place on the 2010 Jr European team, and helped the team to fifth place, with the highest British floor and vault scores, where she did well enough to qualify as reserve for both finals.
Ruby’s floor from the 2010 British junior championships
In her final year as a junior, I believe Ruby may have struggled with injury. She didn’t compete on floor at the the British championships, but she did take the bars silver, and she only competed on bars at the English where she finished ninth.
Ruby’s silver winning routine from the 2011 British championships
2012 was Ruby’s first year as a senior, she placed 4th AA at the English, taking the bronze on floor, then was named to the senior Europeans team, where she competed on vault and bars to help the team finish in fourth place, and made her first major final where she finished in 7th on bars. At the British championships Ruby competed on bars only, and took the bronze, she was then named as a reserve for the 2012 Olympic team.
Ruby’s bars from the 2012 European championships
In five years, from 4th in club grades, to European finalist and Olympic reserve is a huge achievement, and testament to Ruby’s hard work, dedication, and determination. There will be many young gymnasts in the club grade system now who will believe that compulsory age groups aren’t the be all and end all, and that it could be possible for them too.
Ruby’s senior career is more well known, so a recap of her major achievements here, there were of course so many more successes, both at national and international level.
In 2013 Ruby was again selected for the European Championships, she finished eighth AA, at the time the highest AA finish by a British gymnast, she also qualified for the beam final finishing in 6th, and the bars final finishing in eighth. Ruby was also selected for the world championships, and qualified for the bars final where she finished seventh. It was in 2013 that Ruby added the Zuchold-Schleudern to her routine, a skill she is the only international gymnast in the world to have been competing for many many years, made all the harder by the fact it originated when the bars were set far closer together.
Ruby’s floor and vault from the 2013 world championships.
In 2014 Ruby took silver with the British team at the European Championships, and would have qualified for the bars final were it not for the two per country rule. Ruby then took gold with the team at the Commonwealth Games, as well as finishing second AA, and taking the bronze on bars. In the autumn Ruby was again selected for the world championships, finishing eleventh AA, and making her second world bars final finishing in eighth place.
Ruby’s TF beam from Commonwealth Games
TF bars from world championships
In 2015 Ruby was part of the bronze medal winning world championship team. Competing AA in qualification, and on bars in the team final where she did her job brilliantly. Ruby qualified for her third bars final, finishing in seventh place with her highest score yet of 14.766. Her achievements were made all the more remarkable given that she had only been able to start swinging on bars in the summer, having not even been able to raise her arm above her head for the first six months of the year due to injury.
Beam world championships QF
Bars Apparatus final
Ruby was part of the European championship team this year that took the silver medal. She missed the bars final having upgraded her routine for 2016, and having an error in qualification. Ruby would also have competed in the floor final as she finished in the top eight, only prevented from doing so by two of her team mates finishing ahead of her. Her floor was one of the best I have see from her, she was also very strong on vault here having had to build back up to her double twisting Yurchenko through the year, and then hitting it when she needed to.
Ruby of course made it as an Olympian, in her final achievement as an elite, the enthusiastic five year old who had grown with her club The Academy, coached by Liz Kincaid, made it to sport’s biggest stage. As ever she was was reliable for her team, she hit her bars in qualifications and team final, she vaulted strongly in qualification, and hit her floor. She was as ever a strength, a calming presence, a cheerleader, and as well as her gymnastics, this is what the team will miss.
So British gymnastics says goodbye to Ruby, World, European, and Commonwealth medalist, Olympian, team player. I look forward to following her collegiate career, NCAA is all about the team, positivity, and enjoying your sport. LSU couldn’t ask for a better recruit. Geaux Ruby.
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