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Never give up, Tweddle tells Coopers pupils

PUBLISHED: 12:00 25 November 2016

Coopers pupil Sam Mileham receives his Potential for Olympic success award from Beth Tweddle

Coopers pupil Sam Mileham receives his Potential for Olympic success award from Beth Tweddle

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Olympic bronze medalist speaks at school's awards night

Olympic bronze medallist Beth Tweddle had a clear message for pupils at Coopers Coborn’s 2016 sports awards evening – never give up.

The Great Britain gymnast, who won three world and six European titles before fulfilling her dreams by making the podium at the London 2012 Games, spoke passionately about her career and told the Upminster School’s young sportsmen and women to always believe in themselves.

“With hard work and determination you can achieve,” she said. “Don’t give up. Those who tell you that you should are usually jealous. Sport will teach you life skills and is much more than medals.”

Tweddle revealed how she had hated gymnastics when she first started, aged seven, after trying ballet, horse-riding, swimming and hockey, but “never looked back” when she realised it was her space and her territory.

But after enjoying early success, she was given a huge wake-up call at her first national finals when finishing “down in 35th place”.

Tweddle’s parents chose to move her to another club, an hour away from home rather than just 20 minutes, and she added: “It was the best decision they ever made. It scared the life out of me at first, I didn’t think I was good enough, but I was second in the country a year later.”

A European bronze medalist at the age of 17, Tweddle went to her first Olympics in 2004, but just missed out on a final place in ninth.

Four years later, she went to the Beijing Games, but finished fourth, just 0.025 points behind the bronze medalist.

“I hated gymnastics after that and went on holiday,” she added.

“But I realised I couldn’t give up on my dream and set some short-term goals leading up to London 2012.

“It was a hard journey as I had an injury and needed surgery with only 100 days to go, but the buzz and adrenalin when I went out at the O2 Arena was unbelievable. I had 35 seconds to prove myself after 20 years.”

Tweddle performed the best routine she could on the high bars that day and found herself in bronze medal position with one gymnast left to compete.

The only problem was, it was the defending Olympian champion Gabrielle Douglas. “But she made a small error and I could see my team-mates celebrating in the crowd,” said Tweddle.

“I felt 10 feet tall. It was a huge weight off my shoulders, but also for my coach and parents.”

Making an Olympic podium was a case of mission accomplished for Tweddle, who named Kelly Holmes and Paula Radcliffe as her sporting idols for the way they both battled back from injury.

“They made me believe,” she added. “I was quite stubborn. I didn’t want to retire without an Olympic medal. London 2012 was special, but so was my Commonwealth Games gold in 2002. I was only 17 and it was in Manchester, the closest I was going to get to competing on home turf.”

Spending time away from home and keeping up with studies were the biggest challenges, according to Tweddle, when asked about competing in elite sport. But at the end of an inspiring evening, planned and presented by Games captains Hannah Binning, Zack Killoran, Liam Batty, Ben Davis, Annabelle Hostler, Lauren Mitchell, Morgan Cooper and Olivia Martin, which also included special performances by Jacob Fortune and Teerna Mukherjee, Ollie Ward, as well as the boys’ and girls’ gymnastics teams, they did not seem like insurmountable challenges.

N Phoebe Menear was the first-ever recipient of the Tom Wilson Inspirational senior hockey player of the year prize at the Coopers Coborn sports awards evening.

Former Coopers pupil Wilson tragically died in December 2015 after a freak accident during hockey training and sister Pippa, a Games Captain like her brother during her own time at the Upminster school, presented the new award in his memory.

Siblings Charlotte and Will Marshall won the Sports Personality and Junior Sports Personality awards for their tremendous achievements and attitude towards sporting life at Cooper, while hurdler Mayowa Osunsami took the Exceptional performer of the year prize.

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