Commonwealth Games 2002
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Gymnastics Wednesday, 5 June, 2002, 16:15 GMT 17:15 UK
English prepare double assault
Craig Heap
Heap is fighting fit after injury setbacks
Along with Australia and Canada, England completes the trio of major powers in Commonwealth Games gymnastics.

Between them, they have won 25 of the 26 gold medals available for the men since the sport debuted at the Games in 1978.

Manchester in 2002 ought to be no exception with Craig Heap and Kanukai Jackson leading the English contingent on home soil.

Both started the sport in similar fashion, being dragged along to training by their parents, both have struggled with the lack of sponsorship which goes hand in hand with gymnastics and both have had enforced breaks on the sidelines through injury.

The 29-year-old Heap was taken to classes by his parents out of simple desperation.

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I felt as if I'd been 12 rounds with Mike Tyson after the first couple of days back in the gym
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Craig Heap

He revealed: "I was a bit of a tearaway as a kid, always jumping over the sofas and racing around the yard. I must have driven my parents mad.

"My sister Nicola used to go to gym classes and one day my mum said: 'Instead of leaping over the furniture, get yourself down to the gym with your sister'.

"I loved it but I was a bit of a nightmare for the coaches at first. I seemed to spend more time facing the wall bars as a punishment instead of climbing up them."

Jackson, now 24 and among the favourites in the all-around and vault and a competent competitor in all six disciplaines, started in similar fashion.

"My parents saw an advert for classes where they could take their kids and see if they would have any future," said Jackson.

"I went and they said I had a bit of talent. I went to more classes and it developed from there."

In fact, both men are now full-time gymnasts, struggling to get by on their grants from Sport England and what little sponsorship they could muster.

But financial shortfalls have been exacerbated by long periods on the sidelines for the two.

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I've got a name now and it's important that I build on that and the ultimate goal is to get a medal at Athens in 2004
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Kanukai Jackson

Heap has been pieced together by various surgeons, undergoing five operations on his left elbow, surgery to both shoulders, calves, shins, an ankle and a wrist.

Jackson, meanwhile, has faced a series of operations to remove loose fragments of bone from his ankle joint and most recently ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament.

Both men look back to full fitness, although Heap confessed it had been difficult to return to full training.

He said: "I felt as if I'd been 12 rounds with Mike Tyson after the first couple of days back in the gym.

"Touch wood everything will be okay this time."

Jackson, who seems the likelier to compete for the top awards, is looking further ahead than his English team-mate.

The 24-year-old added: "I think I'm final material on the pommel, the rings and the vault so my goals beyond the Commonwealth Games are really the World Championships next year.

"I've got a name now and it's important that I build on that and the ultimate goal is to get a medal at Athens in 2004."

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05 Jun 02 | Gymnastics
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