Claudia Fragapane makes long awaited return to podium in Birmingham

by 24britishtvJuly 31, 2022, 4 p.m. 18
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Claudia Fragapane has certainly taken the long road back to the podium but now she's got there again she admits that race could be nearly run.

In Glasgow eight years ago, she became the first Englishwoman in 84 years to win four gold medals at the Commonwealth Games.

This was followed by a world medal and a sequinned bid for the Glitterball with an appearance on Strictly Come Dancing.

But gymnastics is a sport based on the premise of what comes up must come down and those soaring highs were soon followed by crushing lows.

She announced she was quitting the sport, aged just 18, after failing to make the final at the Rio Olympics.

Fragapane returned but then suffered a series of career-threatening injuries, missing the defence of her Commonwealth titles in 2018 with an achilles injury and suffering a serious concussion in training that ended her bid for last year's Tokyo Olympics.

All of which meant her victory as part of England's women's gymnastics team, alongside Kelly Simm, Georgia-Mae Fenton, Alice Kinsella and Ondine Achampong, had extra significance.

Simm and Fragapane are close friends and when they tearfully embraced as the final results were confirmed, you knew the significance of the moment.

Simm is a reserve for next month's European Championships in Munich while Fragapane hasn’t given up hope on the Worlds in Liverpool, though that selection process will be fiercely competitive.

"It’s hard to let go but we can definitely say this is our last Commonwealth Games," said Fragapane.

"I was very emotional, crying all the time. I haven’t competed in a team competition since 2016 so it’s been quite a few years. I’ve had so many major injuries so to actually get back and just say I've done it again in a team is exciting. We just wanted to go out there, enjoy it and soak it all in.

"It’s been really, really hard. I actually shouldn’t be here. I pushed myself to be here. I didn’t do my major floor and beam routines but I just wanted to be here with the team and experience it all. It was a very hard journey, I’ve had a few operations.

"We’ll see how it goes, because I’ve got to be careful with this fragile body now."

England's men claimed their team title by a thumping margin 24 hours earlier but this tussle between England and Australia went right to the wire.

Ahead into the final rotation, with Australia's gymnasts on the floor and England's on the vault, the hosts were ahead by just 0.05 points.

However, Kinsella - who comes from just down the road in Sutton Coldfield - and Achampong nailed their efforts to spark scenes of celebration in the England team.

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