If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to become an Olympic gymnast take a closer look at the highly talented Daniel Purvis. We all hear stories of hard work, discipline and dedication, but sometimes fate can also lend a helping hand.
And it seems for this internationally elite three-time British all-around champion in men’s artistic gymnastics, being a hyperactive child, actually created a catalyst for future glory. Along with most parents of youngsters with an energy overload, Bob and Denise Purvis suddenly had their hands full.
An outlet was needed, and what could be better than a sporting activity to both focus the mind and take care of that excess energy. After all, both were PE teachers.
Finding An Aptitude For Gymnastics
By his own admission, he was hopeless at football and other related activities just didn’t work. One of his teachers suggested visiting a gym, so off they went to Southport YMCA – a converted egg factory.
Within a few visits the coaches were remarking about his strength and ability – and then the penny dropped with Bob as he explains: “From a very early age – probably around two – we would take him to the park to do his monkey climbs on the bars just because he enjoyed that kind of activity and it helped him let off some steam. There was obviously a link between the two. We said: ‘Right, that’s enough for us’. If this is where he needs to be, this is where we’ll make sure he is as regularly as he needs to. By the time he was eight, we had to make sure he had enough fuel in his stomach once home from school and before driving to the gym. It would then be a three-hour training session.”
For Daniel himself, it was a case of finding something he really loved. And It was clear he felt very comfortable in that environment, even though many at that time still thought of gymnastics as a girls sport.
The Burden of Support
He admits to being a shy boy, and gymnastics helped him to develop socially. Mum and Dad would take him to the gym six times each week, and when he had competitions in London they’d drive him there and back.
He learned to drive as an 18-year-old, but by then his parents had already given up so much to support him. Daniel added: “It was a massive burden on them. But at the same time they were so supportive and without them I wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I have achieved. In the early days, there were only a couple of hundred people in different school venues. When we moved to where we are now there were about 450 members. Now we’ve got 1,300.”
The Role of Jeff Brooks
In the most part Olympic gymnasts have been heavily influenced by a quality coach and mentor, and in Daniel’s case, it was Jeff Brooks. He said: “When Dan was a young boy he was very introverted and didn’t have a lot of confidence. Even when I realised how good he could be, it was a long time before he accepted what I was saying could be true. That’s the biggest achievement on my part, I think.
Apart from the long hours and complete discipline, Daniel’s regime has affected life at home. From shopping in the supermarket for perfectly balanced meals the whole family can eat, to rest and relaxation, everything is geared to his performances.
His dad retired early to help support his son explaining: “It has certainly been a massive part of Daniel’s progression in this sport that as a family we have been able to support him and give him all the extra time that he needed. Gymnastics is a sport, of course, where you can’t just go in the back garden or go to the park and run around. It has to be so specific, with specific apparatus.”
It’s true athletes actually do give up so much for a chance of a medal, something fans should really appreciate.
To Become An Olympic Gymnast…
As a Junior in 2006, he came fourth in the team for Great Britain at the Junior European Championships in Greece. Two years later in Lausanne, he helped the British team win the Gold medal and individually won the all-around silver at the Junior European Championships again.
From The Commonwealth Games to The World Championships, amongst his other achievements was a bronze at the 2012 London Olympics in the all-around competition alongside Kristian Thomas, at the North Greenwich arena.
Dan stepped up to the plate with vigour in 2015, performing for Great Britain at the World Gymnastics Championships. His superb and disciplined performances across all six events played a leading role in helping the team qualify for the Rio Olympics.
All involved parties recognise success at the highest level can’t be achieved without an excellent support strategy and a lot of personal sacrifices. Dan now has his own gymnastics club called Dan Purvis gymnastics, based in the Nac Netherton and Dunes, Southport.
Who knows – there could be another star in the making, very much in the Dan Purvis mould.