European Gymnastics Championships: Sam Oldham ready for GB return

By David McDaidBBC Olympic sports reporter
Sam Oldham
Sam Oldham won team bronze at the London Olympics in 2012
European Championships BBC coverage
Red Button coverage: Friday, 21 April, 10:55-13:50 BST & 15:25-17:40. Saturday, 22 April, 11:25-14:50
BBC Two: Saturday, 22 April, 13:30-16:30, Monday, 24 April, 10:30-12:00

Sam Oldham believes he has improved as a gymnast before his return to the Great Britain team after a two-year competitive absence.

Oldham, 24, won team bronze at the 2012 London Olympics but missed out on selection for the Rio Olympics in 2016.

He is part of an all-changed GB men's line-up for this week's European Championships in Romania.

"It was incredibly tough missing out on Rio but that probably made me hungrier," Oldham told BBC Sport.

"My priority in this competition is the high bar and, going by my training, I feel my routine is better than it ever has been."

Oldham, who has won three European high bar silver medals, will first compete in Wednesday's qualifying.

He is joined in Cluj by Courtney Tulloch, James Hall and Frank Baines, as well as two first-time inclusions, Joe Fraser and Dom Cunningham.

Fraser, a first-year senior at 18 years old, and Hall, will aim for all-around honours, while the others target individual apparatus.

At 21, the new English champion Hall will make his competitive debut, having been reserve at the Rio Olympics as well as the 2015 World Championships.

"I've been working to actually compete for the last few years and it's great to finally get there," Hall said.

"I want to be noticed and get myself established. This will hopefully give the national coaches a chance to see how I can compete on the big stage."

Downie wants to add to medal haul

Ellie Downie
Ellie Downie is one of three members of the GB women's squad from Rio 2016 competing in Romania

In the women's competition, Ellie Downie, the 2015 European all-around bronze medallist, will again aim to add to her already impressive medal collection.

The 17-year-old is one of three members of the GB women's squad from Rio 2016 competing in Romania, along with her elder sister Becky and Claudia Fragapane.

Alice Kinsella completes the quartet after Georgia-Mae Fenton's late withdrawal.

"I'm getting used to it now and I'm looking forward to it," the younger Downie sister said.

"I'm hoping to make the all-around final and maybe the vault final too.

"A lot of Olympians decide to take a step back [the year after the Games] but me and Claudia are pretty young and after about a month's break I wanted to get back on that stage.

"Becky also saw it as a year of opportunity to get back out there and get more medals."

Fragapane, the 2015 European floor silver medallist, also returns to international competition after her stint on BBC show Strictly Come Dancing.

"It feels really good to be back. I've been training hard and I'm now ready to go," said 19-year-old Fragapane, who will compete on beam and floor.

"I got silver on the floor at the British Championships [in March] but I've made some upgrades since then and I'm hoping they come good in Romania."

Women's qualifying takes place on Thursday, with both sets of all-around finals coming on Friday, while the weekend is devoted to individual apparatus medals.

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