The European champion, Dominick Cunningham tells Shelley Carter he got into gymnastics because his mum thought he might kill himself and how he overcame two falls to win gold the very next day
You might have seen two very strong looking men in gymnastics gear throwing a few moves on top of a barge in the city centre last month. No, you weren’t dreaming. They were top British gymnasts, local lads and great pals, Joe Fraser and Dominick Cunningham all fresh from the European Championships with much to celebrate.
Yes, there were medals to be chuffed about – a gold for Dom after a stunning floor routine and silver for both gymnasts in the men’s team event – but when we caught up with Dom he was almost as excited about the World Cup coming back to Brum next year. Well, almost. He loves a home crowd you see.
ROUSE THE CROWD
At the European Champs in Glasgow, Dom roused the crowd at every stage using their energy to feed off. He even jumped into the crowd and did a bit of flossing with the kids. He enthuses: “I love it. I was jumping around, waving up at the fans. They came to support us and that’s all good.” And when Dom had a wobbly high bar routine in the men’s team event – he fell twice – he felt the crowd get right behind him.
He explains: “It’s the hardest sport in the world and when you make a mistake you can’t dwell on it. The crowd were amazing.” As were his supportive team mates. It takes incredible strength – mental as well as physical – to come back the following day and nail a difficult floor routine to win individual gold, but these guys are tough. Gone are the days when people used to tease Dom about doing a ‘girls sport’. These guys are super strong incredible athletes.
Joe, who we’re not ignoring by the way – he was the subject of our Young, Gifted & Brummie feature earlier in the year – has become a great friend of Dom. They both train at City of Birmingham and spend a lot of time together outside the gym, too. Dom describes him as ‘family’. The GB men’s team has a fantastic spirit. Dom says: “You need a certain chemistry which we have. You also need respect and to learn to adapt to one another. For instance, some of the team like an early night and a couple of us are up ‘til 1am, so we work it out and share rooms based on our preferred preparation.”
Dom’s mum took him to his first gymnastics session to try to channel his energy aged just five, but he says he wasn’t particularly good. He started competitions aged seven and got a bit better, but it wasn’t until he was 13 or 14 that he really began to see serious progression. Not that it’s all been plain sailing since. “There’ve been ups and downs. I’ve had injuries and given blood, sweat and tears literally to get here.”
Dom loves his home town and gives back to local youngsters regularly which is important to him. He inspires kids by going into schools with his medals and visited Birmingham Children’s Hospital after the Commonwealth Games where he ended up back flipping down the ward!
The fact that the World Cup is being hosted in Birmingham in 2019 after the success of last year’s event in the city is a joy for Dom. He says: “To have the World Cup back in Birmingham, and for people to get the chance to see some of the best gymnasts in the world going head-to-head again, is huge for gymnastics in the city. Taking part in this year’s World Cup in front of my home crowd was something I will never forget and it gave me the confidence to go on and perform at the Commonwealth Games and the European Championships.”