On the Balancing Beam ahead of Rio 2016

August 5, 2016

The Rio Games are here, with the sporting world crammed into Rio’s Olympic village, the IOC will be eager to put the turbulent build up behind them.

The Zika virus, Russian doping scandal and security fears, have all overshadowed the Games.

None of which is conductive to a good medal haul. Jane Allen is the CEO of British Gymnastics and told iSportconnect that she tried to kept her squad isolated from the controversy:

“At any major event, you try and make sure the team is locked down and the noise around the team is kept to a minimum. Dealing with the Zika virus, we had the information early and a strong medical team around the athletes, it really hasn’t been an issue.” 

The Russian doping scandal has rocked the Olympic movement, with the IOC recently criticising WADA, with a number of athletes banned for the games and some IFs only just finalising who will be representing their country.

Allen was one of those who wanted to see Russia take part, so her squad could be put to the test against some of the world’s best Russian gymnasts: 

“The doping issue was huge for us, because if they had gone ahead with the blanket ban for Russia that would’ve had a big impact on Gymnastics as Russia is very strong in men’s and women’s and trampolining, so it would’ve been robbed of one it’s strongest competitors at Rio. Would that  have effected us?  Well it may have made the path a bit easier. Would we have  wanted that? No.”

“Nobody in gymnastics would’ve wanted the Russians banned. All I know is nobody in our sport thought about Russia not being there. I have to say in my 25 years of being in gymnastics the issue of permanence enhancing drugs has not been on the agenda of anything, that’s why we thought it wouldn’t affect gymnastics when the decision went to the IFs.” 


London 2012 was a major success for the British Gymnastics team, with four medals in total. Allen believes it was a pivotal moment for British high performance gymnastics.

“2012 was a big moment for British Gymnastics, we had a breakthrough with Louis Smith getting a medal, which I believe was a glass ceiling moment for the high-performance programme. I had an understanding of what a home games can do for a team as I previously had the same role with the Australian team in Sydney. When I arrived in 2010, it was important that the organisation was prepared for the legacy they could get out of London.”

“We worked hard heading into London to prepare by connecting with our clubs, getting our website better, I used to call it “getting dressed for the party”. We had to be ready with all of those things. We had really strong support heading into London and I have to say none of us expected four medals – we had the talent but we didn’t know where they were at in terms of delivering four medals.” 

“The sport caught the imagination of our members and we’ve had participation growth since 2011 – headed into the Games, we’ve seen increased membership of our clubs and after the Games we had to build up our events and make sure the athletes were promoted and presented on a stage that was worthy of their talents. We put on the British Championships every year, it’s packed out, we’ve got television coverage this year, if someone asked me if we had a legacy from 2012 I would say absolutely.”

A lot has been made of the legacy from London 2012, with Baroness Tessa Jowell claiming the government missed the “once in a lifetime” opportunity to build on the Games success.


But the Gymnastics legacy from 2012 appears to be going strong. Allen continued:

“After the Games we focused on the 2015 World Championships as we had already been awarded them. We took the momentum from the Games and tried more and more things to keep the organisation going strong, we tried to jump on the back of the momentum. We host a World Cup every year, we made our business stronger in all of our facets and we’ve managed to keep it strong headed into Rio.”

And what does Allen expect from Rio? 

“This is the strongest British Gymnatics team that has ever left the shores. The expectation is tempered because we know the sport and how unforgiving it can be. An injury to your key athlete can kill your chances stone dead. The expectation of the team is that it is the most talented that it has ever been, we’re 100% behind them and hopefully they can fulfil their potential.”

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