Daniel Lee competed at his second Commonwealth Games at this year’s event in Birmingham for Team Jersey, placing 6th after making the All-Around Final. With Australia’s Jesse Moore having to withdraw from the Rings Final due to injury, Daniel was brought in as first reserve, which saw him become the first ever Jersey gymnast to qualify for an individual apparatus final and he was announced as flag bearer for the closing ceremony. Previously, Daniel was a guest at last year’s Northern European Championships, retained his All-Around title at the Island Games and he won the British University Championships in 2019. Later this year, Daniel will be competing in Germany this October and guesting at the Northern European Championships in Finland in November, and as a result of competing at the Commonwealth Games, he has been invited for the upcoming GB World Championships trials. On his return from the Commonwealth Games, we caught up with Daniel about competing in the All-Around and Rings Finals in Birmingham, being the flag bearer for Team Jersey at the closing ceremony and his upcoming competitions.
You’ve recently competed at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, how was the experience opposed to Gold Coast?
Gold Coast was an incredible experience, travelling to the other side of the world to compete, but this Games was even better. I live and train in London so this almost felt like a home games for me. I had lots of family and friends who were able to come and support me and the whole atmosphere in the arena was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Looking into the crowd and seeing Jersey flags and hearing people cheering for me is a memory I’ll cherish forever.
What was it like being part of Team Jersey and staying at the athletes village?
Due to some sports taking place in different locations, Team Jersey was split across different villages. However, the support bubble created within our village was fantastic and we definitely felt the support from the other village too!
You qualified for the All-Around Final, what was it like competing in this event and finishing in 6th place?
I loved every moment of it. My aim was to do six clean routines and do the best I could and then whatever results came I couldn’t be disappointed. I thought maybe I could get a top ten finish, but to hit every routine the way I did and get six PBs was more than I could have asked for.
There were a lot of incredible gymnasts in the competition, people I have looked up to over the years, so to be competing alongside them and finishing up in 6th place was an incredible feeling and a dream come true.
With Jesse Moore from Australia unfortunately having to withdraw from the Rings Final due to injury, how did it feel finding out you’d be competing?
It’s never nice to hear that a gymnast has to withdraw due to injury and your first thought is with them. I found out the morning of the Final and was just excited to have another opportunity to perform in the arena and hear the support of the amazing crowd. By competing in the Rings Final, I became the first ever Jersey gymnast to qualify for an individual apparatus final. It was great experience for me to compete in an event final and I’m looking forward to hopefully more in the future!
What did you enjoy most about being part of Team Jersey at this year’s Commonwealth Games?
You could really feel the support for each other. We were all kept up to date with each other’s upcoming competitions and results and everyone showed an interest in different sports throughout the Games. A lot of the support team and other athletes came to watch my competition and I could really feel their support when I was competing. It made me even more proud to be representing my island!
As the flag bearer at the closing ceremony, what was this like to do?
I felt extremely proud and very honoured to carry the Jersey flag into the closing ceremony and represent every single person on the amazing Jersey team. It was another incredible experience and an awesome way to close off a very successful Games.
How was it competing at the Northern European Championships as a guest last year?
I really enjoyed competing at the Northern Euros last year. It is always an honour to represent my island and, despite being a guest, I had a very good competition and qualified for a number of apparatus finals. It was an invaluable experience in the lead-up to Birmingham 2022.
Can you tell us about some of the other competitions you’ve competed in since the 2018 Commonwealth Games, which has included retaining your All-Around title in the Isle of Man at the Island Games?
Unfortunately, with COVID, a lot of competitions were cancelled so I haven’t had many opportunities. Probably my greatest competition was winning the British University Championships in 2019. The Island Games is always a fun competition, the friendship between the teams is great and I was really pleased to retain my All-Around title.
What would you say are some of your stand-out highlights and memories from your gymnastics career so far?
That’s a difficult one, I have so many! I have been very lucky and had the opportunity to compete all over the world. A few stand-outs for me include becoming 2017 USA Junior Olympic National High Bar champion. Also, my first time representing Jersey at the 2017 Island Games in Gotland, winning six Golds and a Bronze (putting us above Guernsey in the overall medal table!), and of course my selection for Gold Coast 2018 and, most recently, my performance at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games. These are all moments and memories that I will cherish forever!
You have recently graduated from Loughborough University, how was your time there?
It was difficult at times to balance full-time education alongside training and there were periods where I definitely wasn’t able to train as much as I would’ve liked. The build-up to competitions usually clashed with exams or coursework deadlines so it made it much harder. However, this meant I learnt valuable lessons such as how to train efficiently and make the most of my time in the gym.
What is a typical training day for you and how do you prepare for major competitions?
Typically, I drive around one hour to get to gym, I train for four to five hours, and then I drive home again. I also do a couple of days a week coaching the recreational classes. Depending on my training program, I may focus on three or four apparatus in a training session, or I might do all six.
We usually start to build routines a few months before a major competition, starting by combining a few elements, to eventually doing full routines. We also have to consider other factors, such as competition time. For example, in Birmingham my competition warm-up began at 7am, so for a few weeks before, we started to do early training sessions, getting used to waking up and training early in the morning; something I didn’t enjoy!
How do you like to spend your time away from gymnastics?
Whilst at the Games, I enjoyed swapping pins with other countries, trying to collect as many as I could! I also enjoyed chatting to lots of different people from all over the world and making friends for life. When at home, I enjoy relaxing and spending time with my friends and family, going for walks and baking.
Have you been given any advice over the years that has stuck with you and what advice would you give a young gymnast starting out?
Work as hard as you can, listen to your coaches and enjoy your gymnastics! When competing, try not to focus on other gymnasts or scores. Just focus on yourself and what you can control. But most importantly, have fun and try to make the most of all experiences you can get!
Do you have any competitions coming up that you can tell us about or that you are targeting?
Off the back of the Commonwealth Games, I have been invited to attend the GB World Championships trial in September. This is a really exciting opportunity for me. I will also be competing in the German Bundesliga throughout October, and then will be guesting at the Northern European Championships in Finland in November.
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