Despite her experience, it was a battle for Pinches to make the Olympic team for the home Games in London- as it was for all the gymnasts. In the run-up to the Olympic selection process it became evident that Great Britain was enjoying depth at the top of the elite levels like never before. Aside from Beth Tweddle and possibly Hannah Whelan, no one’s places on the Olympic team seemed sure- from the outside, anyway. There were team stalwarts like Pinches, Cairns and Francis, comeback gymnasts like Becky Downie, and rising stars like Rebecca Tunney and Ruby Harrold all vying for a coveted spot on the five-member team.
Despite having already been on several World and Europeans teams Pinches by no means rested on the laurels of her former experiences. The series of domestic meets that also played a part in the selection process saw a Pinches who was not only fit and ready, but who had made some great improvements over the past year across the events. She had a solid DTY and her beam and floor were looking very strong and capable of attracting high scores. An Olympic position was looking more and more secure.
Pinches started 2012 by winning the AA title at the English Championships. She then competed beam and floor for the GBR team at the European Championships. Then she followed this up with helping her club, Liverpool win the British Club championships and then placed second AA at the British Championships, a crucial, final selection meet for the home Games.
And when the announcement finally came, Pinches was part of that Olympic team. She would once again represent Great Britain on the world stage. There, she competed all around in the qualifications, and three events in finals. She had a fall on beam, but contributed terrific scores on floor and vault (DTY) for the team.
At that point, however, many did not know that the Olympic competition would be her last. After the excitement of London passed, Pinches made an out-of-the-blue announcement via Twitter that she was finished with elite gymnastics and was off to South America to do volunteer work.
TCG talked to Jenni about her career, her future, about making the immense decision to say goodbye to the sport.
You have always seemed like a gymnast who has struck a healthy balance between focus on your gym, your education and the rest of your life. Do you think this made the decision to retire easier?
Thank you, yes definitely.
I see my life as a whole I guess…
I retired because I reached my goal and achieved what I wanted to achieve. I am completely satisfied with that, and will cherish my memories of the Olympic Games forever. I went out on the biggest high possible in a sporting career, with my last two scores being personal bests too, rather than gradually being replaced by the upcoming talent of the future. So I made the decision to quit while I was ahead, and finish my career with the ultimate highlight: end with a firework, not a slow fade out.
Fortunately for me, it wasn’t too difficult to cope with the next stage of my life, having retired, because by living a balanced life, I had planned ahead for the point after my gym career came to what I considered to be the right point for it to end.
I did this by ensuring I had options. I didn’t know how I would feel at the end of my career. Would I want to be a coach? Or would I be sick of gymnastics and want to leave it behind me? I knew I would be faced with a choice of what to do next, as every ex-elite gymnast is.
So I made sure I had control over what I could do, I left many doors open, to enable me the luxury of choice!
How? Outside of my training, my dad always made sure I had a good education to fall back on- which would comfort me and allow me a different career if I was horribly injured when young, and couldn’t follow through my gymnastics dream, or if I managed to achieve my dream and then wanted to do something completely different for a career and open a new chapter in my life. I also found interests in other things, in my spare time, allowing myself to try out a few other potential talents, such as acting and music, so I have the possibility of pursuing a new goal elsewhere- if I want to.
Now, I don’t have to remain following gymnastics, but I can choose to be part of such an amazing, exciting, beautiful sport- and do anything else I wish to pursue as well!
Everyone knows that it’s more fun doing something, when you do it because you want to, not because you have to anyway!
So now I can really enjoy following gymnastics as a interest, not solely a continuance of what I have always done and therefore must always do.
I am stubborn, and believe I can do anything I set my mind to, not exclusive to gymnastics, but in every part of life.
This interview continues in Part Two. Go HERE.
Interview: Brigid McCarthy