EARLS gymnast Dominick Cunningham says watching Kristian Thomas claim London 2012 bronze has spurred him on to win his own Olympic medal.
The 17-year-old has trained with Thomas for eight years and admits he was proud to see him standing on the podium earlier this month.
Thomas helped GB men's gymnastics team clinch a bronze and Cunningham, who won three gold medals at last year’s Youth Commonwealth Games, cannot wait to ask his friend what it feels like being an Olympic medallist.
He said: “I am very proud of him, but I was just as proud when he made the team to get to the Olympics, let alone win a medal.
“Kristian has given me a lot of tips and advice on how to get a certain score over the years and I have learnt quite a bit from him.
“We are good friends so seeing him win an Olympic medal has definitely been very inspirational. Just knowing that I have an Olympic medallist to ask questions and get advice from is great.
“He could have made the team years ago and we were just waiting for that type of performance to come out. I hope I can replicate his success at the Rio 2016 or 2020 Games.
“In his mind he thought he could come in the top five or top three but you don't really go out there thinking you are going to come back with a medal.
“You don’t know what could happen on the day. You could fall off, like Sam Oldham did on the high bar which made it pretty tense.”
Cunningham believes the future looks bright for Team GB and after returning in January from a six-month back injury, where he received treatment for a hairline and two stress fractures, he is determined to make amends for missing the European Artistic Gymnastics Championships.
He added: “It was difficult being injured for so long but I’m glad I’m back but I was a bit annoyed I wasn’t selected to go to the Europeans because I was beating people who went.
“But it was a close call and I guess my health came first. “I have got the 2013 Australian Youth Olympics next January and I hope to do well.Kristian and British gymnastics in general have shown they can definitely compete with the best in the world now. The younger gymnasts are learning newer and newer skills from the older generations and we are improving all the time.
“There are a lot more training centres around the country and we now have access to British coaches of the highest standard.
“Hopefully we can finish in the top three again at Rio 2016 I will be part of that.”
Lloyds TSB Local Heroes, in partnership with SportsAid, provides support and funding to 346 of Britain’s most talented developing athletes on their journey to London 2012 and beyond. Since 2008, the programme has supported 1,000 athletes. Follow future stars at facebook.com/lloydstsblocalheroes