For this latest interview I speak to Team GB’s youngest Olympic medalist from Rio 2016, Amy Tinkler. After a stellar junior career topped with three junior European medals in 2014, Amy moved into the senior ranks in 2015 and has held her place on the British team ever since.
In her first year as a senior Amy became the 2015 English and British AA Champion, then made the floor final at her first senior European Championships. Part of the history making World Championships team in 2015 to take the bronze medal, Amy of course made history once more in 2016 by being the first British WAG to make an Olympic floor final, and competed absolutely superbly to take the bronze medal.
A power packed gymnast, excelling on floor and vault, a world AA finalist, and one of the steeliest competitors Great Britain has ever produced. Read on for Amy’s thoughts on Rio, her calmness in competition, dealing with injury for the first time, and her hopes for this year and the quad to come:
Hi Amy, and thank you for agreeing to this interview.
1. Going back to last year before Rio, let’s talk line up. How far ahead was the lineup set, did you go to Rio expecting to compete vault, beam, and floor in qualification, and vault and floor in team final? Or were you hoping for an opportunity to go for the AA?
It was set, we all knew what apparatus we were competing on before flying out to rio and we stuck by that plan. Obviously before flying out if I got the opportunity to compete AA I would have been grateful but as the decision was made before hand I wasn’t disappointed I knew I had a job out there, and I went out and did that and I was very pleased with my performance.
2. You performed very well in Rio on the biggest stage of all, can you talk a little about your experience there, what do you attribute your success to, confidence, preparation, self belief?
The whole experience out in Rio was amazing!! The village life, the training, the competitions all of it was incredible and to be able to perform on the biggest stage of all and in front of such a massive crowd was so good! I think a lot of my success, not just in Rio but over the years has been because of my pure love for the sport and the love for competing. I think that is a massive part of it, you aren’t going to perform your best if you don’t love it or enjoy it.
3. With the floor final, you have said that you weren’t necessarily expecting to medal, and were hoping really to hold your qualifying position. Did this make things easier for you in terms of pressure, that you could just go out and perform to your best without expectation?
Yeah, I mean I have never put pressure on myself and my parents and national coaches never have either, so I think that makes it all a lot easier. Like I said, I was buzzing to be in the final and even coming 8th, you’re the 8th best floor worker in the world so any result I would have been happy with. But yeah going out and just enjoying it I definitely think helped me to go out and perform my best.
4.On having medalled, did this change your belief in your own potential and what you may achieve in the future?
Getting the medal definitely made me believe in myself more, it still seems pretty surreal to be honest, but my beliefs are the same, just to go out and enjoy it.
5. You went out to Rio relatively unknown in terms of the whole of team GB, and came back in the spotlight as the youngest to medal. What was this sort of attention like for you, how did you adjust as you tried to settle back into life at home?
To be honest, I loved it! I do the sport 100% because I love it, but if you get the opportunity, your not going to turn the attention down. It was very weird all of the recognition I received, but it was pretty cool!
6. It’s always helpful for young gymnasts coming through to hear from those at the top about pressure and how they learn to deal with it.
You have always seemed to be a very calm confident competitor, and good at dealing with the competition environment successfully. Has it always been this way for you? What would you say to younger gymnasts to help them transfer their success in training to competition?
Yeah, I’ve always been pretty calm in competition, I think it’s purely down to enjoyment, I absolutely love competing, which I think is why I don’t really get nervous, so I’d say just enjoy it!
7. What would you say your strengths are as a gymnast, what are your weaknesses? What do you have to work hardest at? What did you find easy coming through the age group system and junior ranks, and what if anything did you struggle with?
When I was younger I always struggled going through the levels with range and conditioning, at the time, Saturday was my day off gym, and I spent approximately 2 hours every Saturday morning practicing. Also every morning before school I would stretch out. Even now I still struggle with things, bars is not the easiest piece for me so I have to work very hard at that, it’s all about trying to make your weakest your best. However throughout the whole of my career I have always found floor and vault easy, but I still have to work very hard at it.
8. For those at the elite end of age groups/Espoirs etc, how have you managed to keep a healthy balance between a heavy training schedule, squads, competition and school work as you have come up through the British system.
My school, Durham High, have been amazing at supporting me through out my career. I’ve had a lot of free lessons from first starting secondary school, and with in them, private lessons. I split my GCSE’s over 2 years to make it easier for revision purposes leading up to Rio. Also we have support from British Gymnastics, we have a sports lifestyle support system within the team, which helps a lot, I missed Europeans last year due to my exams which was decided between me and my national coaches.
9. You went straight back into the gym after Rio, while the rest of the team remaining in elite took a little down time. Did you feel this was the best choice for you? Did you already have your eye on this year, and what you might hope to achieve?
For me it felt right, I was ready to be back in the gym, I was excited to go, I had came back from an amazing games and was hyped to get ready for the next quad.
10. You have been dealing with a calf injury in the early part of the year, which has held back your competitions plans a little. Was this the first time dealing with a set back like this for you which has actually kept you out of planned competitions? How have you dealt with this new experience?
Yeah, this really was the first time I’ve had a major set back, which was hard, I love gym, and not being able to train and compete to my full potential wasn’t nice! However I now have a great team around me, the EIS staff, national coaches, Physio’s and Scott and Ross got me ready just in time for the IPro World Cup of Gymnastics, which was my main target, we all decided it was best to miss Europeans to make sure I was fully recovered.
11. You went to the American Cup, coming in for Rebecca Tunney. Fully fit you’d have challenged for the title there, but you weren’t back to full strength. You seemed very relaxed, and that you enjoyed the experience nonetheless. Was it quite nice in a way to ease back into competition post Rio with no expectation?
Yeah definitely, coming back from Rio I had a bit of a dip down to relax and ease back into training, so having the chance to ease back into competition also with out expectations was a good way to start the quad.
13. By the London World Cup you looked as though you were coming back to full strength, although I suspect there is more to add in terms of difficulty. How was it out there in front of the huge home crowd?
How happy were you with how you performed in terms of where you are in your recovery, and where you plan to be later in the year?
The iPro World Cup of Gymnastics was absolutely amazing! Competing in the O2 in front of a home crowd was so special. My club South Essex isn’t too far from there so quite a few of the gymnasts from there came to support both me and Brinn which was really nice. I was very happy with my performance at the World Cup, because of my calf injury I actually only started to train two weeks prior to the competition so to walk away with a bronze medal was great, especially with watered down routines.
14. We have just had the European Championships, and perhaps not having followed closely enough what you have been dealing with this year, many were expecting to see you there. This has lead to speculation as to why you weren’t, so can you clarify in your own words?
As a lot of people know I had a calf injury previously, I patched it together and got ready for the IPro World Cup of Gymnastics very quickly, I want to go out to competitions like euros with a chance of medaling now and without full routines, that wouldn’t be possible so I don’t want to go out there just for the sake of competing. Me, Scott and Ross along side national coaches made this decision before the World Cup to get ready for that, then come back down and rest to get ready for world championships.
15. Looking ahead now, what are your aims for this year, have you set yourself particular targets in terms of selection and achievement?
At the minute I’m getting back into training working hard on new skills and cleaning up my routines. Obviously world championships is my current target right now, and hopefully if I get selected I would just like to go out there and enjoy it.
16. In terms of routines, you have come out with a higher tariff bar routine adding your Markelov back, as well as adjusting your beam to the new code, what should we be looking forward to seeing from you on your strongest pieces?
Are you hoping to upgrade anywhere this year?
With the new requirement for a forward salto in a tumble line on floor, do you have something in mind that we haven’t seen yet?
Yes, I do have a few new skills in the bag, as far as the forward tumble, I have a few options I’m playing about with. But you will have to wait and see…. watch this space, as I’ll also be putting out a new floor routine to go with it!!
17. Through this year, and looking over the quad, what does a dream quad look like for you?
Are you hoping to stay at the top as an AA gymnast and push for a team spot in Tokyo?
In between now and then, what do you hope to achieve?
Yeah, I’m hoping to make the teams with an AA spot. For me my targets are just to carry on making teams and perform to my best, I’ll be happy with that.
18. Do you have any plans or ideas for a legacy skill, is there any possibility of ‘The Tinkler’ in the future?
I’m not sure, that would be pretty cool, but it’s not something we have really discussed as yet.
19. Finally, can you put to put into words what gymnastics means to you?
Gymnastics means everything to me, it’s been my life, I started gym when I was 2 and I’ve loved it ever since. I couldn’t really imagine my life with out gym in it to be honest.
I decided to add a new section to interviews, and as long as the gymnast was happy to, add in one fan question. The obvious choice for me this time was Lucy who runs the _amy.tinkler_fan account on Instagram, as she is a huge supporter and fan of Amy.
Do you have any mascots, charms, or items in general that you take to competitions to bring you luck?
No, I never got started with any lucky charms as I don’t like to rely on any one item, as I’ve said I go there to enjoy it and whatever the result I will be happy with that.
A big thank you to Amy for taking the time to do this interview, and huge good luck to her for the rest of the year, and a hopefully a very successful world championships in October.