Beth Tweddle's Perfect Weekend

2:41 AM

The Telegraph has a feature on their website where celebrities from all walks of life share their favorite weekends. The 23rd of April edition has an exclusive article written by British Olympian Elizabeth Tweddle!! See below for what Beth wrote!

If I’m not competing, I spend Friday evening chilling out at my home in Liverpool. I won’t finish training until 8pm so a quiet night is in order, particularly as I’ll have to be back in the gym first thing on Saturday morning. Thankfully my flatmate is a coach at my gym so she’s sympathetic about my intensive training routine in the run up to London 2012.
I’m on tenterhooks about the Games as we haven’t had our final trials yet. Whereas the swimmers and cyclists already know whether or not they’ve got a place, I won’t find out until after the final trial at the end of June, a few weeks before the Games. But I’m training for it – hard. My uneven bars routine includes a new dismount that has taken me three years to perfect. It includes two somersaults with two full twists and is the most difficult move I’ve ever attempted.
I finish training at 4pm on Saturday and then, depending on how I’m feeling, will either go to the cinema with my boyfriend, Steve, or I’ll drive over to my parents’ house and have dinner with them. If I haven’t got any competitions on the horizon, I might even go out on the tiles in Liverpool with a bunch of friends. I adore dancing and letting my hair down – and my friends love having a free chauffeur all evening. There’s nothing stopping me from drinking alcohol as a gymnast, but I choose not to.
I train for 30 hours each week, split into two three-hour sessions a day, but Sunday is always a day off. I cherish having an empty day to do normal things such as – I know it sounds boring – washing my clothes and hanging out with my brother and going shopping. I often head to the Cavern Walks Shopping Centre in Liverpool. Sometimes I have commitments such as opening a new gym or visiting a gym club, but it doesn’t feel like work. I run a company called Total Gymnastics which gives children an opportunity to have a go at gymnastics at academies all over the country.
From the age of seven my life has been dominated by gymnastics. It was my parents who got me into it originally – as a means of burning off all the excess energy I had as a child. Gymnastics was one of many sports they tried to get me into, including swimming, ballet and horse riding. But I thought gymnastics was the most fun and once I’d taken part in a competition, I was hooked. 
The sport was very different back then. These days we have National Lottery funding and there are many more competitors out there. When I first started there weren’t really any role models for me to aspire to at an international level. British gymnasts such as Lisa Mason were making finals but they weren’t winning medals. It wasn’t until I was 16 or 17 when I started to realise I could get to the top. I won my first European-level competition and my outlook changed overnight. Suddenly I wanted to put together a routine to win a medal at the Europeans, rather than simply qualify for it. It wasn’t plain sailing: the Eastern European girls weren’t used to having a British girl in the final and did their best to make me feel that I wasn’t meant to be there but in 2003, I won a bronze on the uneven bars at the World Championships – the first British gymnast ever to win a medal at this level.
At the last Olympics in Beijing I finished fourth on the uneven bars. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it was the most disappointing result I’ve ever achieved. Fourth place was so close to a medal yet so far. I resolved to give up gymnastics altogether and went off to Greece for a week. My body was hurting and I figured I’d done what I could with the sport. But after a few days on the beach, my body was twitching to get back into the gym. When I got home I texted my coach to ask what time I was due in for training and that was that.
I know that it’s not normal to flip yourself about but that’s what we train to do. Occasionally I look at the bars and wonder how the heck do I get myself up there and I used to be scared of the beam – it’s a bit mad to backflip along a plank of wood 10cm wide – but thankfully the equipment I compete on isn’t what I train on every day. I work with softer mats and if I’m learning a new skill, I wear a harness band around my waist. By the time I perform a routine in a competition, I will have practised it a thousand times in the gym. My body goes into autopilot; my muscles know exactly what they’re doing.
Still, my parents used to worry about the intense impact the sport puts on my limbs. I’ve suffered more injuries than most. When I was 12 I broke my ankle very badly in a competition. Ever since then I’ve had problems with landings. I’ve had to adapt to what my ankle can cope with, which means I can only land facing forwards. Over the years I must have had about 10 operations – seven on my feet and three on my shoulders – but thankfully I received excellent medical care and the doctors don’t think there will be any long-term damage.
After Beijing I gave up the beam and the vault in order to focus on the floor exercise, the uneven bars and the team event at the London Olympics. My body can’t do the same intensity of training as it could when I was 15 or 16 and my coach, Amanda Reddin, felt that in order to carry on until 2012, I would need to specialise. At 27, I’m relatively old for a gymnast. When I first arrived on the scene there weren’t many people who were older than 20. But these days it’s an accepted fact that you can perform for many more years if you look after your body. It’s not just me flying the flag for the older gymnasts; there are girls on the circuit older than myself.
If I make it to the Olympics, I won’t be wearing a “lucky” leotard. They don’t work: success is down to hard work, not what outfit you’re wearing. People often ask how I can handle wearing a leotard in public. It must be because I’ve been living in one since the age of seven, because I’m naturally quite body-shy. When I was at university I hated wearing a swimming costume in front of my friends. They couldn’t understand how I could be embarrassed about it when I wear a leotard on national television, but it’s a completely different thing. When I’m in the gym, that’s what I wear. When I’m with my friends, I don’t generally hang around in a swimming costume.
On Sunday evening I’ll go out to the cinema or for a meal with Steve. When I was younger I struggled with fluctuating weight, but now I’m older my body has settled in to its natural weight. My friends hate me because I can more or less eat what I like, but I do have to be careful simply because of the impact extra weight has on my performance. If I put on a kilo, it’s akin to 10kg when you add gravity.
I think I could feel rather gloomy as Sunday draws to a close, but thankfully I don’t need to be at the gym until 2pm the following day so I can look forward to an easy start on Monday. Amanda is well aware that training should be fun as well as work, and is determined to keep it that way in the high-pressure weeks leading up to the Olympics. Whatever happens, I have no regrets about going for it. I’ve gone a lot further in gymnastics than I ever thought I would and I will be able to look back on the London Olympics and say “I’m glad I tried for a medal” rather than “I wish I tried”. All I need now is a bit of luck on my side.
In shortHerbal tea or stiff drink?Neither. I’ll have a Diet Coke.
Favourite item of clothing?My socks.
Who is your inspiration?Kelly Holmes and Paula Radcliffe – they’ve had injuries but they still achieve great things.
What is your ultimate dream?To finish my career with an Olympic medal.
Your perfect weekend away?I’d go to the Bahamas or Barbados.
The highest point of your career?Winning the world title at the O2 Arena in 2009.
The lowest point of your career?I had a scary fall at the Europeans in 2002.
What irritates you the most?Mess.
Last supper?Roast dinner.
Beth's favourite things- My family , my boyfriend and my friends
- My pillow – it goes to all my competitions with me, often covered with a GB flag pillow case
- My phone – when I’m away it’s my only form of contact with my friends and family
- South Africa, where I was born
- My bed at home in Liverpool

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