Interview: Louis Smith MBE

22 January 2013

The Olympic medallist and ‘Strictly’ star spoke to Nick Butler about titles, training, and TV…

Born in nearby Peterborough, Louis’ journey to Olympic stardom began at the Huntingdon Gymnastics club. 17 years later, in Beijing, he became the first male British gymnast to win an Olympic medal for a century, before winning two more in London (along with an equally impressive victory in Strictly Come Dancing) TCS probed deeper…

How amazing was it competing in London 2012? Was your result a disappointment?

London 2012 was like nothing I’ve ever experienced and I doubt I’ll ever experience something like that again. Competing in front of a home crowd at the Olympics is a once in a lifetime experience! I set out to do the best routine of my life and I achieved it so I have to be satisfied.

The team medal in particular seemed a great surprise. What would you attribute Britain’s recent rise in Gymnastics to?

The team medal wasn’t expected but the belief we had as a group made it possible. Success breeds success, and we now have a real belief that we can continue to achieve great things in the sport in this country.

Did you always want to be a gymnast? How has your passion affected other aspects of your life?

My mum took me to a variety of sports but from a young age it was gymnastics that captured my attention and which I really wanted to progress in. I had to sacrifice a lot of things in my social life, and I also didn’t do A-Levels as I wanted to focus on the sport.

How hard is the training required to be get to the level of an Olympic medallist?

The training is full on. On any given day we usually do about 6 hours and we do five and a half days per week amounting to a total of about 32 hours per week. Yet if you have the desire, ambition and talent to take things to that level, then anyone could do it and achieve great things.

How much did you enjoy the Strictly Come Dancing experience?

It was brilliant…. The training was harder than Gymnastics as everything was a new challenge. I never expected to win – I just went out every week with the aim of doing my best.

How proud were you to be awarded an MBE in this year’s Honours list?

It was one of my proudest moments. It’s a proud moment to represent your country so to be honoured in this way is just so humbling.

Have you enjoyed all of the media attention you’ve received since your Olympic success. Has it changed your lifestyle?

It is definitely different to the normal life of a gymnast! I feel more prepared for it than I was in 2008 – you just have to embrace every opportunity. I spend a lot of my time in London now with commercial commitments so I love being back home in Cambridgeshire whenever I can.

What about the future?

In terms of Gymnastics, I have to get back in the gym and see if the bug’s still there, but I’m very content with what I’ve achieved in a 19-year career in the sport. I’d like to be involved in fashion… designing my own clothing range maybe and I want to continue dancing but we’ll see what the next stage in life brings.