By Hannah Blackwell
“It definitely feels different in real life than watching it on telly!”
Those were the words of Wales’ rising star gymnast Ruby Evans after impressing on her major championship debut.
The 16-year-old from Cardiff became the first Welsh gymnast to compete at a senior Artistic World Championships for 17 years – since before she was born.
Likewise, Wales has not had a women’s artistic gymnast compete for GB at an Olympic Games for 27 years, but now Evans is well placed to end that barren spell by earning selection for Paris next year.
Having qualified in a superb second, Evans and her Great Britain teammates – Jessica Gadirova, Ondine Achampong, Alice Kinsella and Georgia-Mae Fenton – ultimately had to settle for sixth place in Wednesday night’s women’s team final at the Artistic World Championships in Antwerp, after putting a total score of 161.864 on the board.
Simone Biles inspired USA (167.729) to a record seventh consecutive title ahead of Brazil (165.530) who secured silver and with it an historic first World team medal and France (164.064), who took bronze – their first World team medal for 63 years.
But the stylish and mature performance of Cardiff 16-year-old Evans – who competed on vault and floor – was a major positive for Great Britain.
Evans wasthe first senior Welsh women’s artistic gymnast to compete at the Worlds since 2006 but, if her performance is anything to go by, she showed that she belongs on the big stage.
“It was an amazing experience to be out here with all these experience gymnasts,” said told the BBC afterwards.
“Obviously things didn’t go exactly the way I wanted but I had a fun experience.”
Asked what she learned from the experience, Evans replied: “That it definitely feels different in real life than watching it on telly!
“Obviously it’s loud here, it’s the biggest competition I’ve ever done and, yeah, it was shock.”
Evans added: “It feels great being from Wales as not a lot of us from Wales get to experience this.”
It has already been quite some journey so far for Evans.
She’s gone from talented emerging young gymnast with Cardiff Olympic Gymnastics Club to an elite star taking on the world.
🤩What a team final!🤩
To our GB gymnasts, you did yourselves and your country proud.
Shout out to our rookie Ruby Evans for a fantastic world final debut 🎉
— British Gymnastics (@BritGymnastics) October 5, 2023
She now trains under the watchful eye of the national coaches at Sport Wales National Centre.
Welsh head national women’s coach Tracey Skirton-Davies – who was with Evans out in Antwerp – said: “I was thrilled for Ruby to be on the field with so many great athletes; I am sure the feeling will stay with her forever.
“Ruby started with us as an eight-year-old having experienced gymnastics at a leisure centre and a club.
“I commend all those who have been part of her journey.”
In what is still only her debut year as a senior women’s artistic gymnast, it’s been a memorable 2023 for Evans. Her achievements include turning 16 and passing her GCSEs with flying colours from Ysgol Gyfun Plasmawr.
Back in March she was crowned British senior vault champion while a month earlier bagged silver on vault and bronze on the floor on her senior debut for Great Britian at the World Cup series event in Germany.