All-around ambition

By Sam Drury - Follow on Twitter

Last Updated: 22/10/2013, 13:59 GMT

By the time I arrived in Loughborough, Sam Oldham was already well into his morning session, working tirelessly on the pommel horse - an interview with Sky Sports News long since completed.

"It was quite hard, initially, straight afterwards," he admits. "Like I said, I'd really put everything into the all-around, I'd not even contemplated not doing the all-around. So to know I've got to go back and start all over again and I'm not really going to have the chance to do the all around again until the next Europeans which are in about six months' time... "It is difficult to re-motivate yourself but I took a lot of pride from the fact I was there (at the World Championships), doing those difficult routines and everyone was expecting me to do well, but then other factors that came into play with my injuries and stuff. I didn't have much luck leading into that comp so I know that I am there. I just need to keep injury free next time and hopefully, when it comes I'll be going as an all-arounder." With a number of competitions still to come this year, Oldham gets back to his session. The facilities at Loughborough are state of the art and Oldham acknowledges that he couldn't ask for more. Especially as working one on one with his coach, Sergei Sizhanov, he has the gym to himself. That does mean he gets worked extremely hard, in particular when there isn't a competition in the offing. "When I've got competitions coming up and I'm only a few weeks out of competitions, my general training is just my routines," explains Oldham. "So I just have to warm up, do my routines and then if they're good enough I move on to the next apparatus. Whereas if I've not got competitions coming up, I've got to work on all the individual elements out of my routines so it takes a lot longer. "I can spend up to an hour and a half just on one apparatus sometimes. So my training sessions can last four, four and a half hours sometimes, just in one session. Then I come back in and train again. Also I do a lot more strength and conditioning when I'm not leading up to a competition because obviously I don't want to be over fatigued from doing conditioning for routines. So that's why a lot of the time when I'm outside of competition the training's a lot harder and lasts longer." One way to keep himself going is revealed shortly afterwards as a member of staff at the gym walks in and exclaims his surprise at the near-silence in the vast room - "it's never this quiet in here, there's usually music blaring out!" Sure enough, a few minutes later Oldham exits into a store room and seconds later the room is filled with music. "A lot of the time, I'm one on one with my coach," Oldham responds when quizzed on his music. "Sometimes it does get hard to motivate yourself, it's day in, day out so yeah, I definitely rely on my loud music to keep me going and keep me plugging through the sessions to get to the end." Session over, it's time for lunch and being able to relax away from the gym, Oldham tells me, is very important. "It can be difficult but for me, I've learnt from other gymnasts as well, you've got to be able to switch off," he says. "If you don't that's when things start going wrong. You just start over thinking things, your gymnastics suffers because of that." "As soon as I get out of the gym I just switch off. My parents don't even ask me how training was anymore because as soon as I'm out of the gym I'm thinking about other things. I just want to relax and disengage from the gym. I do loads of stuff to take my mind off it; I'm always with my mates, going to the cinema, eating out. I like to play golf when I can but I don't get that much opportunity and obviously I'm a massive football fan so if ever there's a (Manchester) United game on we go to a sports bar to watch it." Other than a, perhaps understandable, reticence to discuss Manchester United and their troubles this season, Oldham talks freely about various aspects of the life of an elite level gymnast both in and out of the gym. His frustration at the way he was prevented from showing his best at the World Championships is clear but it is also evident that he is determined to make up for it in the coming months and years. Glory as an individual all-around gymnast is the goal and Sam Oldham shows both the talent and commitment that will be needed for him to reach it.