As Nile Wilson has recently announced his retirement from gymnastics, I thought it seemed a good time to create a post about this role model for our sport. Wilson is certainly one of Team GB’s most successful male gymnasts, with 12 senior international medals to his name. But he is also a hugely popular personality, with an enormous social media following.
Having collaborated with everyone from strongman Eddie Hall to Youtubers The Rybka Twins, he has brought gymnastics to the attention of many people who would otherwise not have known very much about the sport. With his obvious strength, and impressive skills, I think he has also done a lot to change the perception that gymnastics is ‘just for girls.’ And that, in my opinion, is a legacy to be proud of!
Changing the Game
Nile Wilson has often spoken about his desire to ‘change the game’ in the sport of gymnastics. He showed that he was serious about this when, in late 2019, he opened his own training facility, Nile Wilson Gymnastics, in Rotherham, after taking ownership of the former Rotherham School of Gymnastics. But this was not a simple undertaking, as the centre was ruined by floods shortly after opening. Nile found new premises, and, along with his team of helpers, worked tirelessly to prepare the new venue for reopening. Unfortunately, before they were ready to open their doors, lockdown hit, and so the gym stayed closed.
In July 2020, Nile Wilson Gymnastics was finally able to open its doors. Now, the club is thriving, offering recreational and development sessions to boys and girls throughout the week, as well as holiday training camps which are popular with members and non-members alike. Mr F and Mr S have attended several, and always come out red-faced from exertion, desperate to go again as soon as the next school holidays come around!
Beginning his gymnastics journey in Leeds, Nile soon joined the Yorkshire squad, and eventually represented Great Britain at both junior and senior level. He went on to win Commonwealth and Olympic medals, being the first Brit ever to secure an Olympic medal on high bar. But in more recent years, Nile’s career has been plagued by injury, most recently a bulging disc in his neck. This caused him “excruciating” pain, and played a part in his developing anxiety and depression, about which he has spoken openly. To watch his Youtube documentary, click here.
We first saw Nile compete in person at the 2015 Glasgow World Championships. Taking our seats with a then 4-year-old Mr F, my husband excitedly told me to keep my camera on me, as “that’s Nile Wilson’s family behind us, and he always looks up to find his dad after he finishes a routine.” Sure enough, after every routine, Nile would look up to his dad, and acknowledge him with a raised fist. His dad, Neil, would make the same gesture back to his son. Sitting so close to the Wilson family, and getting to watch the obvious connection between them all, remains one of my favourite memories of that event.
I remember my husband telling me years ago that, in his opinion, this kid from Leeds called Nile Wilson was going to be ‘one to watch’ for the future. In fact, a tiny Nile had just started attending Yorkshire squad training at around the time that my husband was one of the very oldest boys in attendance, so being in and around the same competition circuit meant that he still heard information about how the squad, and its members, were getting on.
I think it’s fair to say that his prediction was correct- Nile certainly was ‘one to watch,’ and he is a gymnast that we, along with many thousands of other people, have absolutely loved watching on his gymnastics journey.
Good luck in the next chapter of your life, Nile!
Nile’s book, Raising the Bar: How Gymnastics Can Change Your Life, is available from Amazon [AD: affiliate link]