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Page last updated at 06:04 GMT, Tuesday, 12 June 2007 07:04 UK

Tweddle plans retirement routine

By Phil Harlow

At an age when many young people are taking their first faltering steps on the career ladder, Beth Tweddle is preparing for retirement.

Beth Tweddle
Gymnastics can't be my entire life

Beth Tweddle

Tweddle's days as a world class gymnast are numbered at just 22 years old, and she is well aware of the need to plan for the future.

After becoming Britain's first ever world champion gymnast last year, Tweddle plans to quit the sport in 2009 and return to university, before embarking on a second career as a physiotherapist.

"I'm looking at competing at the Beijing Olympics next year, and then the World Championships in London in 2009 will hopefully be the perfect way to retire," Tweddle told BBC Sport.

"Everything I do now revolves around gymnastics, but my sport is quite a short career so by 2009 I should be able to live the normal student life."

The idea of Tweddle stumbling out of her local Ritzy's at 2am, alcopop in hand, and taking a traffic cone home with her is difficult to tally with the graceful athlete who is already Britain's most successful gymnast of all time.

And Tweddle, who finished third in the BBC Sport Personality of the Year voting in 2006, admitted she was unlikely to conform to the student stereotype once her glittering gymnastics career is over.

"I think I'll get bored to be honest. If I have a week off training my mum gets annoyed with me because I'm so restless," she said.


"I might take up swimming just to keep myself fit. To go from several hours of training a day to nothing would be too much, and hopefully I won't be like those old footballers who let themselves go!"

Tweddle has already had several years of juggling academic demands with her gymnastics career, having recently completed her sports science degree at Liverpool John Moores University.

"I've just finished my finals but I don't find out my results until July so it's fingers crossed," she said.

"My coursework was pretty good, but I was away so much that the exams were hard. I actually flew home from a competition the same day as some of my exams."

Beth Tweddle
Tweddle won world championship gold on the uneven bars last year

Tweddle intends to start her course in physiotherapy in September next year after the university approached her with the offer of a scholarship.

And she has no regrets about the sacrifices she has had to make to get to the pinnacle of her sport.

"I wouldn't say I've missed out on my youth," she said.

"My coach realises that gymnastics can't be my entire life. When I was training for the 2004 Olympics I found it really hard with no school and only gymnastics in my life.

"You have to switch off otherwise you don't refresh yourself and you go back in the gym drained.

"Shopping with my friends is my big way of relaxing and I also like going to the cinema and going out on the town with my friends."

Tweddle's major focus for the next year is, of course, on the Beijing Olympics, where she will be one of the favourites.

"Gold is what I'll be going for in Beijing - but so will everybody else," she said.

Beth Tweddle
Monday: 1300-2000
Tuesday: 1630-2030
Wednesday: 1300-2000
Thursday: 0930-1330 (easy session)
Friday: 1300-2000
Saturday: 0930-1630
Sunday: day off
(leading up to a major championship)

"All I can do is go out and perform my routines to the best of my ability and if that happens and it's only good enough for fourth then there's nothing I can do about it."

The punishing training regime is one of the reasons for the short shelf life of a gymnast, with Tweddle routinely putting in nearly 40 hours a week in the run-up to a major event.

"It's all based in the gymnastics hall, basically doing routine after routine after routine until you perfect them," she said.

"We don't really do weights - it's not much good to me to be able to bench-press huge amounts - but we do sport-specific conditioning and occasional light weights. It's more about lifting my own body weight."

The 2012 London Olympics will come too late for Tweddle as a competitor, but she would like to play some kind of role within Team GB.

"I'll be a spectator in 2012 - hopefully I'll be involved somehow, but no-one's approached me with anything as yet," she said.

"I might have just finished university again by then, so maybe I could go along as work experience!"

see also
Tweddle targets 2009 retirement
11 Dec 06 |  Gymnastics
Sports Personality contenders
04 Dec 06 |  Sports Personality
Super Tweddle wins landmark gold
20 Oct 06 |  Gymnastics
Photos: Tweddle wins historic gold
21 Oct 06 |  Other sport...
Injury forces Tweddle to pull out
15 Mar 06 |  Commonwealth Games

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