Inspired by her mum’s favourite song, Gemma Frizelle defied the odds and a major back injury to claim a stunning gold medal at Birmingham 2022 that took even her by surprise.
Competing in her second Commonwealth Games, the 24-year-old became the first Welsh rhythmic gymnast to top the podium in the hoop discipline with her triumph.
Her score of 28.700 saw her finish ahead of Cyprus’ Anna Sokolova and Carmel Kallemaa of Canada, who took silver and bronze with 28.300 and 28.200, respectively.
Frizelle’s routine, set to Luciano Pavarotti’s Nessun Dorma, was made even more remarkable by the fact that a back problem almost meant she was ruled out of the Games.
“I have had a lot of injuries in my career so training hasn’t always been easy. But a few weeks ago, I found out that I had quite a major injury in my back,” she explained.
“I only started bending a few days before the competition which isn’t ideal in gymnastics. I didn’t think I was going to make it here so just to make it here, then make finals, then to this, incredible.
“I’m still injured, but just working through it. My physios have been amazing.
“They wouldn’t let me do anything I wasn’t able to do.”
Frizelle missed out on the medals when she competed at Gold Coast 2018 but she delivered when it mattered in Birmingham, with her post-event interview bringing her mum to tears.
“I’m not surprised as she is a very emotional person,” Frizelle said. “She has been through this journey with me so she knows the struggles I have had to go through."
The Welshwoman also revealed that the decision to use the iconic Nessun Dorma was completely down to her mum, who had long begged for Cardiff-born Frizelle to use it.
“For years and years, since I started competing, every time I’ve got a new routine, she’s begged me to have that as my music,” said Frizelle, who started rhythmic gymnastics aged 12.
“I’ve refused every time but finally I gave in this year. It was a surprise for her as I didn’t tell her until the first competition she came to watch.”
Frizelle said she knew she was in contention for medals after seeing her coach in tears, although the gold medal was beyond her wildest dreams after her rollercoaster build-up.
“Judging by my coach’s reaction I knew it was a good routine as she was crying,” she added. “I knew it was a good score but it was just waiting for everyone else to go.
“It was really nerve-wracking. I didn’t ever expect this. I can’t believe it to be honest.”
Frizelle also competed in the ball final not long after her sensational gold, finishing in eighth position as Carmarthen-born Elizabeth Popova took seventh in the event.
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