Nile Wilson, the Olympic medalist and five-times Commonwealth Games champion, has announced his immediate retirement from competitive gymnastics at the age of 24.
Wilson had been hoping to compete at the postponed Tokyo Games later this year – and add to his bronze medal on the high bar in Rio de Janeiro – but had not competed at an elite competition for almost three years.
He underwent neck and spinal surgery in 2020 and, although he has remained highly visible on social media, where he has 1.43 million YouTube subscribers, the Covid-19 pandemic had also wiped out any competition schedule last year.
Wilson did speak out last year about what he called a “culture of abuse” in British gymnastics but referenced ongoing physical issues in his retirement statement.
“Today I hang up my hand guards and retire from the professional sport of gymnastics,” he wrote. “Gymnastics you are the best sport in the world!
“You’re my first love, my addiction, you set me free, you gave me purpose and you gave me experiences I could not even have dreamed of.
“Unfortunately my body just couldn’t keep up..and that’s okay. It is my time to move on and I can’t wait for the next chapter.”
British Gymnastics launched an independent review following a series of allegations last year and has publicly urged athletes to report allegations of mistreatment.
In a statement on Thursday, the governing body said that Wilson’s “legacy is not only of medals but also of his influence in transforming the perception of the sport; inspiring, entertaining and motivating thousands across the world”.
In an interview with The Telegraph, Wilson previously outlined how he desperately wants to inspire a wider revolution in the sport.
“The sport needs innovation,” he said. “The sport is unique. It’s incredible what we do – no athlete off the street can do what we do – but what it needs is a more mainstream approach where a six-year-old and a 60-year-old can understand what is going on. The rules are complicated. I have got some ideas. That will be my journey.”
He now also has his own Nile Wilson Gymnastics Centre near Rotherham – which runs under the banner ‘Change the Game’ – and he will be bringing out an autobiography this year.
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