European Championships: Sam Oldham targets Montpellier medal

By David McDaidBBC Olympic sports reporter
Sam Oldham
Oldham needed surgery after dislocating an ankle and rupturing ligaments at the Commonwealth Games
Artistic Gymnastics European Championships
Dates: 15-19 April Venue: Montpellier, France
BBC coverage: Friday, 17 April 13:00-15:00 BST on BBC Two and 17:30-20:15 BST on Red Button. Saturday, 18 April 13:00-15:30 BST on BBC One (14:20 in Scotland). Sunday, 19 April 13:30-16:00 BST on BBC Two.

Sam Oldham wants to challenge for medals in his first international competition since suffering a serious ankle injuryexternal-link at the Commonwealth Games.

The 22-year-old returns to the Great Britain team for this week's European Championships after dislocating an ankle and rupturing ligaments in July.

"It was an incredibly serious injury and I'm so far ahead of where I should be," Oldham told BBC Sport.

"If I make the all-around final I'll be trying to make that podium."

Oldham suffered the injury - which required surgery - while performing a Dragulescu vault routine for Team England.

Oldham's best results have come in the high bar but he believes ankle injury has given him the chance to become a better all rounder.

Fragapane makes it four golds

The lay-off has enabled him to increase his strength work, which resulted in a personal best on rings in November and an improvement in his pommel horse.

"I was incredibly emotional, frustrated, angry. I was in the best shape of my career," he said.

"When I was out I realised how much I missed gymnastics. I hated not being able to do it. It's been a tough eight months. But now I feel I've got a new lease of life."

Oldham will likely be joined in the all-around competition in Montpellier by new British champion Dan Purvis.

But Max Whitlock may opt out of the event as he recovers from the low-grade glandular fever that prevented him from defending his British crown.

The world silver medallist may instead concentrate on individual apparatus such as the pommel, where he and Louis Smith have strong medal chances.

Completing the line-up are Courtney Tulloch, who made the rings final at last year's World Championships, and Kristian Thomas, whose best chance is in the vault.

Max Whitlock
Max Whitlock is expected to be a medal contender in the pommel

In the women's competition, Claudia Fragapane and Amy Tinkler will attempt to reach the all-around finals.

Tinkler, 15, is taking part in her first senior international event, having won senior British and English titles at the first attempt earlier this month.

"I'm really excited. This was one of my goals but I didn't expect it at the minute," said Tinkler.

"I have got a lot more confidence now and I believe in myself a lot more, but I don't have any expectations. I'm just hoping to have a clean competition and enjoy it."

Fragapane was second to Tinkler in both domestic competitions after a successful 2014, when she won four Commonwealth golds and European team silver.

"It was great that Amy came first. She really deserved it as she did a wicked competition," said Fragapane.

"This year I want to make more finals and get in to the medal zone. I feel like if I perform how I have been in training I could have potential to do that."

Becky Downie, on uneven bars, and younger sister Ellie, on vault, won gold medals on the same day in last year's European Championships.

They are together in the senior team for the first time after Ellie, 15, stepped up from the junior ranks.

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