Gymnastics is in my blood. I'm addicted, says Beth Tweddle

Gymnastics has come on in leaps and bounds since Russian elfin Olga Korbut stunned the world 38 years ago, demonstrating how thin the line is between sport and showbiz. Never more so than last Saturday when its theatrical potential was captured by a 13-strong group of acrobats from Spelthorne in Surrey who won ITV's Britain's Got Talent with a performance that was, well, spellbinding.

Those who considered it more for circus rings than Olympic rings would face a stiff argument from Britain's queen of orthodox gymnastics, Beth Tweddle MBE, who, like Simon Cowell and Co, gives the souped-up version of her art a definite Yes. "It's great to have another area of gymnastics to raise the profile of the sport," she says. "It is a mixture of sport and theatre but the way they showcase it is easier on the eye. I could do three flips and turn around the bar but it doesn't look as impressive. It is a sport because acrobatic gymnastics is recognised as such by our federation. True, it is not an Olympic discipline but if it continues to attract as much attention in the next few years, then who knows?"

Arguably the greatest British sporting achievement of the year so far has been the success of the nation's gymnasts in the European Artistic Championships in Birmingham recently, where Britain amassed an unprecedented total of 15 medals including eight golds. So what has happened to make Britain potential world-beaters, overtaking the once-prolific Russians and Romanians? Could gymnastics be the new cycling?

Tweddle, the best gymnast Britain has ever produced, who came away with two individual golds and a team silver, puts it down to "a new belief, particularly among the younger gymnasts, hard work, the right coaching and Lottery funding".

The 25-year-old "Tweds" has become the sport's talisman having made her international debut in 2001 and winning Commonwealth, European and two world titles. "A lot of people have asked me 'why do you keep going?' " she says. "The motivation is still there and I have one dream: to win a medal in 2012. Any colour will do. I am very hopeful about our chances in the Olympics because there is great strength in depth, particularly among the women."

Gymnastics has a new look, and female competitors have a new shape. Amanda Kirby, the most successful club coach in the country, explains that there is more emphasis on strength and athleticism. The sport hasn't changed, neither have the skills, but the training workload has. The time when young gymnasts were all skin and bone has passed. Now you need all-round fitness and a bit more muscle. Kirby, who has coached Tweddle since 1997, says: "The great thing about Beth is her mental strength. She is not exceptionally talented physically but she works tremendously hard. Her determination and dedication are phenomenal."

Dedication is certainly the name of her game. The line between perfection and pain is as delicately balanced as a pair of feet on the beam, and she has had to bounce back after a number of injuries which have seen her undergo three shoulder operations and half a dozen on her ankles.

Born in Johannesburg of British parents, she was a useful sprinter and long jumper before gymnastics took over her sporting life. "From the time I was little I was always upside down on sofas, hanging from banisters and climbing trees with my brother. I was never into dolls. But I never had posters of gymnasts on my wall, just one of Michael Owen as my family are big Liverpool supporters. The first Olympics I remember watching were in 1992 but all I was bothered about was Linford Christie."

Since becoming world champion, life has changed. She receives dozens of requests for personal appearances, which are handled by an agent. "But my training always gets priority. If I was doing this for fame or money I would have retired a long time ago."

However, she says she is beginning to make enough now to think about some sort of business future. She already has a company called Total Gymnastics which takes the sport into schools and helps run a couple of academies in Liverpool, helping to keep youngsters hanging around on bars rather than in them. "It gives kids a chance to do gymnastics on their doorstep. I leave the business side to someone else because I am not a nine-to-five sort of person. I am addicted to gymnastics. It is in my blood."

She says the gradual emergence of gymnastics as a major sport stems from the appointment of the national coach, Romanian Adrian Stan, in 1992. "It has taken time for the results to come through but he changed the way we trained and instilled in us belief that you can go to championships and come away with medals."

Tweddle will be 27 by the time 2012 comes around but believes she will be fit and still flexible enough to get on the podium. "A lot will depend how clever I am with my training and with the physios. This is a sport where you can either achieve perfection or end up on your face."

After next month's British Championships, Tweddle will defend her floor title at the worlds in Rotterdam in October. Victory there surely will put her in pole position to be Sportswoman of the Year – if she isn't already. Spelbound may have centre stage for the moment but in 2012 British hopes will be swinging on the real star. She's simply the Beth.

Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
The John Peel Lecture has previously been given by Pete Townshend of The Who, Billy Bragg and Charlotte Church
musicGodfather of punk will speak on 'free music in a capitalist society'
News
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
News
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments