The Artistic Gymnastics European Championships begin in Sofia this week with the continent’s best competitors going head to head in pursuit of medals.
The women’s competition is already underway, with the team and individual finals taking place this weekend. For the men, however, the action doesn’t start until Thursday for the seniors – the juniors’ competition begins a day earlier - with the finals still more than a week away.
One of those left waiting is Sam Oldham, a member of a strong British team and a Sky Academy Sports Scholar. The Huntington gymnast will be looking to claim his second European senior medal, a year on from picking up the high bar silver in Moscow.
The 21-year-old appears to be finding form at just the right time, winning the all-around competition in his last outing before the championships, in France. That Oldham also recorded his best overall score of the season will have provided him with a further boost as he aims to impact himself on proceedings in Bulgaria.
He wouldn’t be the first Brit to do so in the European Championships. Just last year Oldham’s GB team-mate Max Whitlock won the all-around silver medal and back in 2012 the men won the team gold. Oldham himself was on the Great Britain team that won Olympic bronze later that year.
Whitlock will be hoping to go one better this time around and the reigning British champion is also a key member of the team looking to retain the title won two years ago in Montpellier.
With Whitlock and Oldham being joined in the team by Dan Purvis, Dan Keatings and Kristian Thomas, all of whom have won medals at major championships, GB will be confident of doing just that if they perform to the best of their abilities.
Should GB return with any medal, be it individual or team, it will add to their impressive recent haul that has seen the men’s tally in the championships’ 59-year history rise from just four heading into the 2009 event to the present total of 17.
The contrast in fortune in the past decade to that in the preceding half a century is stark and, despite facing tough opposition from traditional strong gymnastics nations such as Russia and Romania, this British team looks well placed to continue the country’s recent success in Bulgaria and beyond.