Welsh gymnast Brinn Bevan is made of strong stuff. Having fought back from an awful double leg break to make the Rio Olympics in 2016, he’s not going to let a bit of illness and injury stop him from going to next year’s Games in Tokyo, as he tells Callum Ellis.
Welsh gymnast Brinn Bevan is bidding for a seat on the plane to Tokyo next year after Great Britain guaranteed themselves a place in the men’s team event at the 2020 Olympic Games.
The GB men secured their spot at this month’s World Championships in Germany, where they finished fifth.
Bevan missed out on selection for that team after illness and injuries disrupted his plans. But having narrowly been beaten to a medal when he made the last Olympics in Rio de Janiero in 2016, he is determined to win back his GB spot.
Bevan, who qualifies for Wales through his late father Glynn, announced he had switched allegiances to Wales from England on St David’s Day earlier this year. He is one of a number of Welsh gymnastics hopefuls with dreams of making the Olympics in Japan.
Joe Cemlyn-Jones, Josh Cook, Emil Barber and Jacob Edwards were all teammates of Bevan’s at the Northern European Gymnastics Championships, held in Iceland in September, where the Wales men took silver behind Norway.
Wales women went one better and took gold and their hopes of making the GB breakthrough for next year rest with Emily Thomas, Jea Maracha, Poppy Stickler, Holly Jones and Mia Evans.
#tbt #throwbackThursday pic
“When you hit rock bottom, remember this. While you are struggling, rock bottom can also be a great foundation on which to build on and on which to grow.”
The only way left to go is up ⬆️⬆️⬆️ pic.twitter.com/Dp6lUNQMCE
— Brinn Bevan OLY (@brinnbevan) October 17, 2019
A member of South Essex Gym Club in Basildon, Bevan was two years old when he was introduced to the sport – and 17 years later, he made his Olympics debut at Rio.
“I was a hyperactive child and very mischievous,” says Bevan, now 22.
“I was running up the walls, jumping off the sofas and breaking the furniture all around my house. My mum had enough of it so she put me into a gym class, initially to waste a bit of energy but I ended up really liking the sport.
“It turned out I had a bit of a natural talent for it which the coach at the time recognised – and they recommended that I started at a proper gymnastics class, not just an introductory one.”
He progressed so well he went on to help the British team to a fourth place finish at Rio 2016, narrowly missing out on a medal.
But Bevan’s hopes of competing in Brazil were, initially, left in huge doubt after he broke the tibia and fibula in his left leg in November 2015.
“Coming off the back of the World Championships in 2015, I was part of a team that made history as we got our first ever medal in gymnastics in Glasgow,” he adds.
“I was so excited coming back and had a competition about two or three weeks after the World Championships which was one of our national competitions.
“It was in the warm up. I went slightly wonky on the vault and missed the mat and landed on the concrete with my tibia and fibula snapping.
“I didn’t understand what had happened initially and went to stand up and could feel a lot of pain in my leg – but I didn’t realise what I had done. My coach pushed me back down to the floor. I didn’t realise what impact that would have on my life over the next year.
“I didn’t think about how it would affect me until I got to the hospital. I was discussing the best way to move forward with the doctors and they decided to operate, so I had two pins put into my tibia and the fibula was left to heal by itself.”
Despite the devastating setback, missing out on a place at Rio simply wasn’t an option for Bevan.
It was a promise to his dad Glynn – who lost his battle with cancer in 2009 – that kept him going through the difficult period.
“The nurses came up to me and said, ‘it’s probably going to take a year for you to get walking properly again’, and I didn’t want to accept it at the time.
“I wasn’t prepared to accept that fate and I hadn’t trained for 18 or 19 years of my life to just throw it away because of one small injury.
“The day after my operation I was straight back in the gym but obviously I couldn’t train properly, so I just tried to keep fit.
“I was trying to keep myself strong and moving. When I wasn’t training, I was in bed with my foot elevated to make sure that the swelling was going down. It was a difficult time.
“There were points when I did doubt myself. But I was motivated because I lost my dad to cancer.
“On his death bed, I made a promise to him that I would get myself to an Olympic Games – and I would do my absolute best to get a gold medal.
“To me, promises are everything and I wasn’t prepared to break that promise. That’s what got me through that difficult time.”
Bevan concedes it was frustrating missing out on a place on the podium in 2016 but he will be hoping for second bite of the cherry if he can secure a place at Tokyo.
“It’s vital that I’m doing everything I can to be in the best shape that I can be in preparation for the Olympics next year.
“Since Rio I haven’t had the best run and I’ve had a lot of bad luck with injuries and illnesses.
“It’s about making sure I’m healthy in my body and mind. I’m training as hard as I ever have and when I step foot in that gym six days a week, I give absolutely 100 per cent and I know my body is in the best condition that it can be.
“It’s just the case of pulling off my performances in the qualifications and the trials next year for the team section. I’ve got to make sure that it happens.”
The International Gymnastics Federation approved a new format to reduce the size of Olympic gymnastics teams from five athletes to four at Tokyo, which means competition for places on the plane to the Japanese capital is more intense than ever.
But if willpower and determination are some of the qualities required to make the grade, then Brinn Bevan will not be found wanting.