For her most recent competition, Claudia Fragapane returned from injury to compete for Team England at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, where she became the Commonwealth Games champion after winning Team Gold alongside Ondine Achampong, Georgia-Mae Fenton, Alice Kinsella and Kelly Simm. Claudia made her Commonwealth Games debut in 2014 in Glasgow, becoming champion in the Team, All-Around, Vault and Floor, and she was named the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year. Over the years as a gymnast so far, Claudia has had many successes and competitions, which has included making her Olympic debut at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, competing at the World Championships – winning two Bronze medals, returning from an Achilles injury to compete at both the 2019 British Championships (winning Silver on Floor) and European Championships for Team GB, and last year, at the Koper World Cup, Claudia came away with the Gold medal on Floor. Currently, Claudia is unable to compete due to an injury on her elbow, which will need surgery or injections. Talking with Claudia, she chats about becoming Commonwealth champion with Team England at this year’s Commonwealth Games, winning Gold on Floor at last year’s Koper World Cup and her World Championships success in 2015 and 2017.
Earlier this year, you returned from injury for the Commonwealth Games, winning Team Gold, how did it feel returning to competition and becoming the Commonwealth champion?
It was the best feeling getting back out there again! I’ve had a hard few years of big injuries so wanted to be back on the gymnastics floor and do what I love and to top it all off becoming Commonwealth Team champion was the best feeling ever.
It felt electric, the crowd was unreal and, of course, I felt so nervous but at the same time I enjoyed every second because of everything I’ve been through injury-wise. My teammates were so supportive and we all worked so well together.
How was the experience staying in the Commonwealth village and what did you enjoy most about your time representing England in Birmingham?
The village for me was very different because we stayed at a uni apartment so the experience was very different from the previous village I went to, but it was amazing to see all the different athletes around! It felt like you were in a sports world. For me, the best feeling was finishing my floor routine and the crowd went crazy! I had so many emotions and just cried with happiness, it felt like all the pain I went through in the past just disappeared.
Can you tell us about winning Gold on the Floor at the Koper World Challenge Cup last year?
I’d just come back from a six-month concussion so this was the first competition I entered in and I was so happy with the outcome. I won Gold on Floor and I came back fit so couldn’t be happier.
In 2019, you competed at the British Championships, winning Silver on Floor, and competed with Team GB at the European Championships, what were both competitions like to compete in?
The British is always great to compete in because you get the feel of the big crowd and the atmosphere is incredible. You’re with all the GB team so it’s a great competition to be at.
Europeans was the first international competition I competed at since I erupted my Achilles in 2018. I had nearly a whole year out so it was a massive deal to me to be back on top on Floor. I came first in qualifications at Europeans on Floor with my big tumbles so that was a massive achievement.
What is it like competing at the World Championships, which has seen you win Team Bronze in Glasgow in 2015 and Bronze on Floor in Montreal in 2017?
It’s a lot of pressure because they are amazing gymnasts who I compete against so getting a medal in 2015 and 2017 is a huge success. The team made history in 2015 and my Bronze on Floor in 2017 was a dream to achieve. Not many GB gymnasts have got medals at Worlds, so it was an incredible feeling.
Having had successful competitions in 2016 at the English and British Championships, you were named in Great Britain’s women’s artistic gymnastics team for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, do you remember how you felt finding out you’d been selected for your Olympic debut?
I felt emotional, since starting gymnastics at six years old I’d always wanted to go to the Olympics so my dream was coming to life.
What do you remember most from competing alongside Becky Downie, Ellie Downie, Ruby Harrold and Amy Tinkler at Rio and how was it representing Great Britain at the Games?
The team all coming together and supporting each other because we were one team and wanting to do really well.
You made your Commonwealth Games debut in 2014 at Glasgow, becoming champion in Team, All-Around, Vault and Floor, how was this?
A massive shock, I was only 16 years old and I didn’t think I’d be going into Commonwealth Games in 2014 and achieving four Gold medals. I just wanted to go out there, do my best and enjoy myself.
Do you have any other stand-out highlights from your gymnastics career so far, which has seen you have success at junior and senior level and be named the 2014 BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year?
That whole year in 2014 was a blur but a lovely one. Having my name called out on stage that I won 2014 BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year was an overwhelming experience. I met so many famous people at such a young age.
Were there any gymnasts that inspired you when growing up and how did you get into a gymnastics career?
There was a gymnast called Rhian Pugh who I met at Bristol Hawks when I was six years old. I used to watch her train and wanted to be just like her, she was amazing and I’m lucky enough now to be friends with her. I got into gymnastics because I was driving my parents crazy so they wanted to use up my energy and ever since I stepped into the gym I have loved it.
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?
Stop putting pressure on yourself and comparing yourself to other people, look back at what you have already achieved and remember that every step forward you make from now on is a bonus.
How do you like to spend your time away from gymnastics?
I love going out for food, going for dog walks and spending time with my family.
What are you hoping the upcoming year brings for you and are there any competitions coming up that you are targeting?
I am currently resting my elbow because I need either a surgery on it or injections. At the moment, I haven’t got any competitions for the rest of this year but next year I’m getting myself fit, healthy and seeing what my gymnastics brings to the table. I’m also looking into the future and career-wise would love to own my own gymnastics gym.
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