Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Britain's Twiglet Seeks to Break Grip of Chinese Gymnasts ... Aged Just 15; GYMNASTICS

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Britain's Twiglet Seeks to Break Grip of Chinese Gymnasts ... Aged Just 15; GYMNASTICS

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Blunden

THE youngest member of Team GB told how she missed out on years of normal childhood to pursue her Olympic dream.

Rebecca Tunney, 15 nicknamed Twiglet because of her knobbly knees has been described as Britain's secret weapon to break China's grip on women's artistic gymnastics.

But when her friends go to the cinema or knock for her to go out, Tunney has to turn them down because of her strict training regime.

She said: "I got a bit of stick for it at school but now I'm going to the Olympics I'm sure they will be really happy for me. When I get time off I just try and chill and relax my body. It means I don't really get a lot of time with my schoolfriends."

Tunney, the British champion in the all-round competition, is expected to add significant points to Great Britain's total in the team qualification event at North Greenwich Arena on Sunday. She will be part of a group of five across all disciplines: the vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor routine. The gymnast, who tried ballet and swimming before settling on her current sport, won the all-round competition in both Olympic trials. This year she has been juggling GCSE studies and Olympic preparation.

She said: "I was in PE at school when I got the news that I was in the squad I told my teacher I was due a phone call so they understood.

"It's been hard, but this year has not been an important year in school because I don't have to do my GCSEs until next year. My school has been really supportive about my gym and gives me time off to do my things. I'm average at every subject."

At 4ft 9in and 5st 7lb, she is the smallest member of the team. Olympic rules state participants must be 16 in the year of the Games, and Tunney's birthday is on 26 October. The oldest British competitor is dressage rider Richard Davison, 56, who is 5ft 7in tall.

Asked how she felt about giving up much of a girl's normal life to pursue her dreams, she said she would not change a thing: "I feel I missed out but the whole experience has been worth it, I'm just glad it's paid off. I'm not planning on making the London Olympics my last. …

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