SOUTHAMPTON’S Kelly Simm may have been out of action since November last year, but she plans to come back with a bang at the British Championships this weekend in Liverpool.
An injury after securing a World Team Bronze medal at the end of 2016 hampered the start of her Olympic season, and despite only just finishing her rehabilitation programme, she feels the pressure is off for this competition.
“There is pressure with any competition, no matter what the size, but it terms of getting results, I don’t feel there is much pressure on me this time round.
“This competition gives me a chance to push on the rest of the season. Me and my coaches are just so happy to be here and it’s a chance to get used to competing in a big arena again.”
Simm admits that the preparation leading up to Saturday’s event has been stressful, and having to withdraw from the World Cup event in Glasgow last month was a difficult decision, but the extra time has been beneficial to her recovery: “It has been tough to get things together for this weekend.
“(By not competing in Glasgow), it has allowed me to have the time to finish my rehabilitation plan properly before building my skills back up again. It will be good to be able to push on after this and get back in the gym.”
The 20-year-old expresses her joy being back at the Echo Arena and how lucky she feels to even be competing: “It’s always nice to compete in Liverpool. The British is always such a special competition and the crowd in the arena create an amazing atmosphere for us all!
Despite not performing her hardest elements this weekend, Simm knows there is more to come from this Olympic season: “It’s my first competition of the year due to the setback, and because of injury, I’m not doing all my difficulty.
“I’m just happy I am able to compete on all four pieces, but I’m excited to get back in the gym next week and work on getting the bigger skills together and consolidate them.”
The World University Champion is no stranger to competition at the highest level, helping the GB squad earn a full women’s team in Rio later this year, and is relishing returning to action with the best Britain has to offer.
“Everyone is looking really good at the start of this year and it depends completely on what happens on the day. Gymnastics is so hard to predict!”
And she is right – the women’s event has been blown wide open in the last few months, and with places in Rio up for grabs, this competition could be their defining moment. The Team GB coaches have some difficult decisions to make in the next couple of months.
16-year-old Amy Tinkler (South Durham) will be looking to retain her all-around British title from 2015 and was the stand-out performer in the British Team event last month in Glasgow, bagging the overall crown, as well as two other trophies for highest scores to add to her growing collection.
Meanwhile, 4ft 5in tumbling powerhouse Claudia Fragapane from Bristol Hawks, will mount a very tough challenge to keep her place for Rio. Frags, known for her energetic and innovative dance, already has four gold commonwealth medals to her name from 2014, and could easily increase her tally this weekend.
The likes of Liverpool’s Rebecca Tunney and Ruby Harrold from The Academy have bundles of experience on the GB team after coming through the junior ranks, and their spot on the plane to Rio is far from secure. Tomorrow’s event could catapult them into the coaches’ minds once more.
And then we also have double trouble in the Downie sisters. Older sibling, Rebecca, is more of a bars and beam specialist in the last few years and showcased her new routines in Glasgow last month, but could push to go for the all-around title to ensure her trip to Brazil.
Whereas, baby sister Elissa is rapidly climbing through the junior ranks and broke into the senior squad at the end of last year, remaining overwhelmingly consistent across all apparatus and has a genuine chance of the overall title on Saturday, as well as a GB spot.
Finally, Southampton Solent student, Kelly, may be coming back from injury, but the selectors certainly can’t rule her out of the Olympics this summer, with world university titles under her belt.
The women’s event is too close to call, and sparks could fly once more with the British elite fighting to become national champion.