Ondine Achampong

📷 : Sam Mellish / Team England

At her most recent international competition, Ondine Achampong became the Silver medallist on the Balance Beam at the European Championships in Munich, which also saw her win Silver in the Team event as part of Great Britain. Making her Commonwealth Games debut this summer in Birmingham, Ondine qualified for three apparatus finals where she won a Silver medal in the All-Around and on the Floor, and came 4th in the Uneven Bars. Ondine became the Commonwealth champion alongside Georgia-Mae Fenton, Claudia Fragapane, Alice Kinsella and Kelly Simm, when England won Gold in the Team competition. For her first competition since the pandemic started, Ondine competed at the 2021 British Championships, and at this year’s competition, she won Silver in the All-Around, and her senior career started at the Melbourne World Cup in 2020, winning Silver in the Balance Beam final. During her time as a junior, Ondine competed at numerous competitions including the European Championships in 2018, winning Team Bronze, and in 2019, at the European Youth Olympic Festival, she won Team Bronze, All-Around Silver and Balance Beam Gold. After the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, Ondine is set to join the University of California, Berkeley, and she currently trains at Aylesbury Gymnastics Academy with fellow Team GB gymnasts Jessica and Jennifer Gadirova. Recently, we found out from Ondine about competing at this year’s European Championships in Munich, winning two individual Silver medals and becoming champion with Team England at her Commonwealth Games debut in Birmingham and training at Aylesbury Gymnastics Academy.

How was it competing at this year’s European Championships in Munich for Team GB and winning Team Silver?

It was incredible! Coming off the back of the Commonwealth Games where Team England did so well, and then to come to Munich and win a Team Silver just over a week later was really amazing.

You qualified for the Balance Beam final, coming away with the Silver medal, how did this feel?

I can’t quite believe it, especially as it was my first senior Europeans. I went into it with no expectation of myself as I had qualified in 6th, and to just be in a European Beam final was amazing in itself, but to come away with a Silver medal was even better.

What did you enjoy most about your time competing in Munich and how different did you find the experience to when you competed in the European Championships as a junior gymnast in 2018?

I enjoyed competing with my friends the most. This is definitely one of the best experiences I’ve had at any competition because the general vibe between us, in and out of training and during competition, was so fun. I would say that Junior Europeans in 2018 was exactly the same because I had so much fun with my friends on the junior team, but there were definitely some extra nerves competing this time around.

You represented Team England at your debut Commonwealth Games this year in Birmingham, how did it feel finding out you’d been selected for the team and how did you prepare for the Games?

It was so cool finding out I’d been selected, especially as it was my first senior major international. We had prep camp up at our National Sports Centre for a couple of weeks and had a lot of prep competitions so that all the coaches and gymnasts could practice working as a team.

What was it like winning Team Gold alongside your English teammates Georgia-Mae Fenton, Claudia Fragapane, Alice Kinsella and Kelly Simm and how was it competing at a major international multi-sport event in front of a home crowd?

It was incredible to win Gold in front of a home crowd alongside my teammates. The support from a home crowd definitely helps on apparatus like Floor and Vault where you need all the hype you can get to get through a routine. But, on Beam and Bars where focus is key, that’s where it was very different to other competitions because you have to try and block all the noise out.

Having made three apparatus finals, you won Silver in the All-Around and Floor, and came 4th in the Uneven Bars, how was it competing in the finals and how did you stay focused during the competitions?

I love competing in finals but they were definitely hard at the Commonwealth Games because it was three consecutive days straight after the Team final so I took it one apparatus at a time but it was a learning experience as that’s what major competitions come with.

How was the experience attending the opening ceremony and staying in the Commonwealth village?

Unfortunately, we didn’t go to the opening ceremony because we had training early the next morning, but we did set up deck chairs in front of a huge screen so that we could watch it live. Staying in the Commonwealth village was a really great experience especially as we got to see a lot of the different countries, exchange pin badges and speak to athletes from different sports.

Can you tell us about competing at the British Championships earlier this year and in 2021?

The British Championships in 2021 was my first competition since the pandemic so it was definitely nerve-racking but it was great to be competing again after a hard year. The 2022 British this year was my first Senior British in Liverpool and it went really well as I came 2nd All-Around but it was also a good competition for my club because gymnasts from Aylesbury Gymnastics Academy came 1st, 2nd and 3rd.

How was it transitioning from a junior gymnast to a senior and, with a successful junior career, what are some of your favourite memories from your time competing at junior level?

Some of my favourite memories of competing at junior level were from the European Youth Olympic Festival in 2019. I’d gone with Annie Young and Halle Hilton, who I’d spent most of my gymnastics career competing with and all of our families had come out to Azerbaijan to watch. We had a lot of fun in the village and made lots of friends within our sport and from other sports.

It was definitely hard transitioning from a junior to a senior especially as it was during the pandemic. My first senior competition was the World Cup in Melbourne in 2020 and it went really well as I came home with a Silver medal in the Beam final but then at my second, a World Cup in Baku, we got sent home after qualifications due to COVID-19 (that was the last time I’d compete in a senior competition until May 2021 at a World Cup in Bulgaria). Then, at the time when everyone was able to start training again after lockdown for the upcoming Olympic trials, I found out I had stress fractures on both sides of my spine and couldn’t train. This made it even more difficult as I had to build back my routines during the trial period.

What do you remember most from competing for Team GB and Team England for the first time?

All the support that I got from everyone. At the Commonwealth Games, in Team final, my coaches Josh, Molly and a few others from my club had come to watch with the Gadirova twins. I remember being able to hear Jen and Jess Gadirova screaming for me during every routine even over the huge crowd in Birmingham! I didn’t have my personal coaches with me during Commonwealths so the support I got from the other coaches, Brett and Michelle, really helped as well.

📷 : Emily Chan

Can you say about some of your other stand-out highlights from being a gymnast over the years?

I would say some of my other stand-out highlights in gymnastics would be Junior Europeans in 2018 because it was one of the first big international competitions I had competed in and we came away with a Team Bronze, which was really exciting. The European Youth Olympic Festival in 2019 was also another highlight because I came away with Team Bronze, All-Around Silver and Beam Gold.

Where does your love of gymnastics come from and how did you start?

When I was younger, I had a lot of energy, so I was put into swimming, ballet, and gymnastics. I stopped swimming when I was quite young but carried on with ballet and gymnastics until I was about seven years old, when I had to choose between the two because both needed a lot of time put into them. I chose gymnastics because I found it so much more exciting, and I could train for more hours as there was a lot more to learn with four apparatuses.

What is a typical training day for you at Aylesbury Gymnastics Academy and how does it change in the lead-up to major competitions?

I train five days a week and about 30 hours a week. Some days we have short four-and-a-half-hour sessions and then other days we have longer nine-hour sessions where we have a break in between. This stays the same throughout the year but when it gets closer to major competitions we spend more time up at Lilleshall National Sports Centre where we’ll train more as a team and do prep comps.

Did you have any favourite gymnasts to watch when growing up and have you been given any advice throughout your time as a gymnast so far?

I’ve always loved Aliya Mustafina because her gymnastics is incredible, but I also love the way that she’s so focused and calm during competition. At the moment I really like Jordan Chiles and the way she can balance the focus when performing with the fun in-between.

A lot of the advice I’ve been given throughout my time as a gymnast is to work hard in training and to just be “normal” in competition “nothing more, nothing less” because what I’ve been doing in training is already enough.

We understand you’ll be attending the University of California, Berkeley, was there anything that inspired you to attend after the Paris 2024 Olympic Games and what are you looking forward to for joining?

I’m super excited to be a Cal Bear because of the bond that they have as a team. I was really drawn to Cal because I know how great it is to have such an amazing team around you, and I’ve realised that especially from my recent competitions, so to continue that as well as an education from a great school is really exciting.

Do you have any upcoming competitions that you can tell us about or that you are targeting?

At the moment, my target is the World Championships at the end of the year in Liverpool, so I have some trials that I’m working towards to be able to make the team.

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