If you’re looking for role models in gymnastics, Dominick Cunningham is a great example. The British, Commonwealth, and European medal holder began gymnastics in his home town of Birmingham, where he still trains today. He competed internationally throughout his teens, appearing at both the European and Australian Youth Olympic games, and winning thirteen international medals before the age of 18. Oh, and he also appeared on ITV’s Ninja Warrior in 2019. Pretty impressive!
But that’s not the main reason why I think Dominick Cunningham is a great role model for young gymnasts.
Things haven’t always been easy for Dom. He’s been quite vocal about the bullying he suffered growing up as a boy gymnast, and the effects it had on his mental health. But he didn’t allow the bullies to win; sticking with the sport he loved, and going on to do great things. Today, he is an example to other young boys in gymnastics about the importance of following their dreams.
In an interview with BBC Sport in 2018, Dominick admitted that he used to dread going to primary school because of negative comments from other children, and he’s been vocal about the experience on his social media pages too. Other children would joke that he did a ‘girl’s sport’ and that he was ‘gay,’ to the point that he would dread going into school and would try to hide under a blanket in the car. Unfortunately, that’s something that lots of boy gymnasts can relate too, and ultimately leads many to drop out of the sport altogether.
Dominick’s parents were supportive of their son, encouraging him to ignore the bullies and keep on going to his gymnastics classes. Despite the teasing, Dom did decide to continue with his lessons, and by 2011 he was representing his country at the Commonwealth Youth Games, truly proving his bullies wrong. As an adult, he has become one of the best known male gymnasts in the country, and he now even has his own range of leotards, DC leotards, for boys and girls. You can find a link to browse the collection in my gift guide for boy gymnasts (link opens in new tab).
These days, Dominick Cunningham has a message for young male gymnasts who may be going through a similar situation themselves. He told the BBC, “just remember who you’re doing it for. There’s always negative people out there wanting to put you down but don’t listen to people; listen to yourself” (www.bbc.co.uk, 2018). Wise words indeed.