• London Olympics 2012

Smith pushing his body to the limit for gold

July 4, 2012
Louis Smith is ready for London 2012 © PA Photos

Pommel horse expert Louis Smith was one of 18 Team GB gymnasts who saw their participation at London 2012 confirmed on Wednesday.

The 23-year-old, who claimed a bronze medal in his chosen event at the Olympic Games in Beijing four years ago, is hoping for gold this year - and ready to unleash one of the most difficult routines the discipline has ever seen in order to do so.

With his Olympic dream close to being realised, Smith answers a few questions about what it's like to be on the verge of the biggest sporting event of your life:

How does it feel to be selected for the London 2012 Games?
"It's a tremendous honour, it's what I've been building towards ever since Beijing in 2008 and I just can't wait to get out there now and compete in front of a home crowd.

"When I picked up the Team GB kit earlier today, I had goosebumps. It really hit home to me how close we are to the Games."

Do you think home advantage puts extra pressure on you to perform?
"I see it as a positive. I know I have to be at my absolute best to perfect my routine, but when you meet the British public they are so supportive and willing you to win, it does give you that extra boost. There are such fine margins in gymnastics, the home support could make all the difference between success and failure."

Is there anything you'll take with you to the Olympic Village to bring you luck before you compete?
"I'm not particularly superstitious, so I don't have any lucky items that I always take from one event to the next. But I'll take things that keep me relaxed, like some of my some technology and my reggae music, which I'll listen to before I compete."

Where have you been training ahead of the Games?
"Most of my training has been done in my home club's gym in Huntingdon, where I've been based for about 16 years. But ahead of London 2012, we've also been training together as a team at the national base in Lilleshall about a week at a time."

What is the one sporting aid you can't do without?
"It might seem like a small thing, but chalk is probably one of the most important things we use, besides our gym bag and equipment. When you are hanging on from a high bar or the rings, carrying five times your own bodyweight, you've got to have good grip and you don't want your hands sweating - that's where chalk can really help."

The London 2012 Games has been talked about as a career high for so many British athletes for so long now. But how do you, as an athlete, enjoy those moments?
"I'd say I've had a few highs in my career. You definitely get the most satisfaction when you train for eight weeks, you've put in the hard work, and you get to a competition and do what you're supposed to. You complete the routine clean, and you finish. That's when, as an athlete, you're at your all-time high. When you know you've done your job, and you've won a medal, it makes every second of training worth it."

"I'm really pushing my routine to the maximum ... I probably have the hardest routine in the world at the moment."
- Louis Smith

What can you tell us about the pommel horse routine you're preparing for the Games?
"I'm really pushing my routine to the maximum. I'm not as elegant or as stylish as some of the Chinese and Japanese competitors, so I know I have to do the most difficult routine possible to boost my start score. I probably have the hardest routine in the world at the moment.

"To spend that long on the pommel with that level of difficulty, it's the equivalent of trying to run a marathon - I am pushing my body to the limit. I can only do it once in training a day, because after you do it your arms feel like lead. But that's what we do as athletes, we have to push ourselves to the limit to be the best."

You've been behind the scenes to see the preparation that has gone on to make London 2012 possible. Do you think London will be ready?
"I've certainly been impressed with everything I've seen so far. The Olympic Village looks great, the stadium looks great, and I've even been to some of the less well-known locations - like the London 2012 logistics facility with UPS to see how they organise getting everything from A to B.

"As an athlete, you're so focused on your one event, it is easy to forget how huge the Olympics is - but we are talking about millions and millions of items and equipment. It is amazing to think it is happening here, in the UK, and that it is just a few weeks away."

Louis Smith is a UPS London 2012 Ambassador.

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