Life lessons: Beth Tweddle
The nation rejoiced when gymnast Beth Tweddle won her first Olympic medal at London 2012. We look back at our interview with her in the January/February 2014 issue of Healthy, where she talked about achieving goals, regardless of setbacks.
Beth, you officially retired last summer, which must be a big change of lifestyle. How are you finding it?
I’m busy! I’m trying lots of challenging and fun activities I couldn’t do when I was in training due to fear of injury. It feels like I’m nine years old again. But I miss the competitive side. I still go to the gym to keep fit and healthy.
It took you a famously long time to get that Olympic medal. How did you stay so focused?
Wanting an Olympic medal drove me. [Beth was the first British female gymnast to win an Olympic medal when she won bronze on the uneven bars in London 2012, at the relatively mature age of 27]. But you can’t wait four years to hit your goals, you have to break it down into lots of short-term targets. How that translates now into my everyday life is that I still skate after winning Dancing On Ice [in March 2013] and my current goal is to jump on the ice. I’m also training for a 5K run.
What’s your advice for setting goals?
You can’t control what other people do, so set your own targets. I tell young gymnasts to compete with themselves – so I might say, don’t leave the gym until you can do a double-back somersault.
What’s your biggest disappointment?
Missing out on a medal in the Beijing Olympics in 2008 by 0.25 points. It was just not meant to be my time. But had I got a medal, would I have gone on to London 2012? It made me stronger. Everything happens for a reason.
What makes you happy?
I love being around family and friends – something I couldn’t do much of when I was always training and travelling. They just know who I am and accept me.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Stubborn, determined and bubbly.
How’s your diet – any guilty treats?
I love sweets! But I eat a balanced, healthy diet – a good breakfast of porridge or scrambled eggs, a big lunch and a small dinner. I don’t eat late and I vary my diet.
Does it annoy you that gymnastics hasn’t been as well paid or high profile as other sports?
If I was in it for the fame or fortune, I wouldn’t have stuck at it. I love gymnastics. Being on the bars is the closest you can get to flying. I get recognised more now – people still talk about the London Olympics and where they were when they watched me.
Do you have any regrets?
No. When I was at school, I had to miss parties and social events, which was hard. But I look back and realise I’ve seen the world and done so much.
How did you handle injury setbacks?
Injuries are part of sport. I’ve always had a BUPA policy and immediate physio help. Just 100 days before London 2012 I had a sore knee, and within 48 hours it had been operated on.
What’s your proudest moment?
Getting bronze at London 2012 was a highlight, but my World Artistic Gymnastics Championships wins meant a lot, too [Beth is a triple World Champion, having won on bars in 2006 and 2010, and floor in 2009]. And I’m proud of my company Total Gymnastics, which is for kids from age two. It isn’t competitive, although if we see potential in a child, we send them to a club. I tried many sports, but loved gymnastics – I want to give kids that. When I show them they can win, I feel proud. Self-belief is hard to teach.
What one message would you like to give people?
Be determined – don’t let obstacles get in your way. I’ve had a lot of disappointment, but I didn’t let that stop me.