|2019 European Gymnastics Championships|
|Date: 10-14 April Venue: Szczecin, Poland|
|Coverage: Watch live coverage of all of each of the event finals on BBC Two starting 12 April, as well as on the BBC Sport website and mobile app, with catch-up available through the BBC iPlayer. Full details click here.|
Ever since she burst on to the international scene as a 16-year-old at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, gymnast Claudia Fragapane’s stock had been on the rise.
In 2014 she became the first English woman in 84 years to leave a Commonwealth Games with four golds and then, in 2017, she joined Beth Tweddle in becoming just the second GB woman to claim an individual World Championships medal. In between, she enjoyed a successful stint on Strictly Come Dancing in 2016, finishing fourth with professional dancer AJ Pritchard.
She was expected to add to her medal haul at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, but snapped her Achilles tendon in training a month before the competition began on Australia’s Gold Coast.
It has been a lengthy lay-off for Fragapane, now 21, and one during which she has been tested mentally and emotionally.
However, this week she returns to major competition at the European Championships in Poland.
“There were lots of tears,” she told BBC Sport.
“I struggled for motivation at times and I was very up and down, but as I started to see the results of my rehab it made me more motivated to carry on and show people what I could do, and now I’m back to where I was.”
The quadruple 2014 Commonwealth champion’s injury occurred during floor training in March 2018, just weeks before she was set to compete for England in Australia.
Nearly 14 months on, she joins Ellie Downie, Alice Kinsella and Amelie Morgan as Great Britain’s female representatives at the European Championships in Szczecin from 10 April.
“I’d never had a big injury like that before,” she said.
“I was very emotional but my friends, family and coaches helped me out.”
Fragapane revealed she had nagging doubts about how well she would return from such a serious injury.
“That was always going to be at the back of my mind,” she admitted.
“You do get fit again but to get back to where you were mentally is really difficult.
“It is quite scary to go back to what you were doing and you feel like you don’t really know if you can do it again.”
However, having fought back from injury, Fragapane hopes her improved floor exercise can push her to a medal in Poland.
“Now I’m back doing the same routine as when I won world bronze medal in 2017,” she said.
“I think my start value is actually a little higher because of the extra leaps I’ve added.
“I’m now back to where I want to be so I’d like to make the floor final and then hopefully make it on to the medal podium.
Fatherhood has helped me a lot – Whitlock
In the men’s team, Max Whitlock believes the birth of his first child, Willow, has helped with his approach to his gymnastics.
“I used to waste a lot of nervous energy for days before competitions,” he said.
“But now, because I have Willow and my wife Leah to think about all the time, I don’t think about the competition for the every last minute.
“I think that’s helped me a lot – especially at my stage in my career.
“In the last couple of years, pressure and expectation has ramped up a lot. That’s an amazing position to be in but it’s very tough for an athlete.
“So I feel having Willow as a focus helps with that and has a massively positive effect on me inside the gym as well.”
In Poland, Whitlock will compete in pommel and high bar.
Also in the men’s team are Courtney Tulloch, James Hall, Joe Fraser, James Hall and Brinn Bevan.