Mersey gymnasts are currently the best in the country – and performing in the city this weekend David Prentice report
FOR several celebrated years in the 1980s, Liverpool was the undoubted football capital of England.
On numerous occasions since the Marquess of Queensberry drafted up a rule book, Merseyside has been labelled the fight capital of the country.
But there’s another sport that Liverpool currently excels at – and it’s entirely appropriate that the British Gymnastics Championships will be staged here for the third year in succession.
The women’s team which made up Team GB at last summer’s Olympic Games was effectively the City of Liverpool team – with Beth Tweddle, Hannah Whelan, Rebecca Tunney and Jenni Pinches from the five-strong squad all training out of an impresive facility off Park Road in Toxteth.
The men’s team boasted a more nationwide spectrum – but one of the most significant members was Crosby’s Daniel Purvis who trains at Southport YMCA with another talented protege, Frank Baines.
Tweddle and Purvis both brought home historic bronze medals from London 2012.
And such has been their impact on the sport in recent years they were largely anticpated by fans who follow the sport.
Tweddle, quite simply, is a phenomenon – Great Britain’s most successful gymnast in history.
While Purvis, who claimed bronze medals in the floor event at both the 2010 World and European Championships also won the 2011 World Cup event in Glasgow, and finished last year as the number-one ranked male gymnast in the world.
Beth, having taken time out of the sport to pursue her successful stint on the ice in ITV’s Dancing On Ice series, will be at the Arena this weekend in a supporting capacity only.
But Dan will be out on the apparatus aiming to clinch a fourth successive national title.
He accepts that the competition will be fierce.
Dan said: “Last year’s British Championships was fantastic – taking the title and also individual medals in such a brilliant arena, and hopefully this year I can do the same.
“There’s no doubt the competition is really high and with some juniors moving up to senior level it’s not going to be easy but I’ll be battling all the way.”
British male gymnasts are amongst the very best in the world as demonstrated by the senior and junior teams being crowned European Champions in 2012, along with Team GB boys claiming an historic team bronze and two individual medals in London.
Dan’s Olympic teammates last summer, Sam Oldham and Max Whitlock, will also be in the running for the all-around title, while Kristian Thomas unfortunately suffered injury at the recent French World Cup and will be reviewed by the chief medical officer this week.
Daniel Keatings who just missed out on a Team GB spot last summer will also be out to impress along with several promising first year seniors such as Frank Baines and Courtney Tulloch.
In the women’s event, 2011 champion and London Olympian Hannah Whelan, who recently captured the English title, will be looking to reclaim the overall crown while attention is sure to be on rising 15-year-old star Gabby Jupp in her first major senior event.
Hannah said: “I’m really looking forward to competing again in front of the home crowd and atmosphere which is always great in Liverpool, to have the boys and girls competing together will also really add to the event and be great for the fans.
“It would be great to reclaim my title but I know there are plenty of younger gymnasts coming up who are threats. I feel good though and will definitely be aiming to impress.”