Latalia Bevan: Commonwealth Games silver medallist gymnast retires aged 19

Commonwealth Games silver medallist Latalia Bevan has retired from elite gymnastics competition.

The 19-year-old from Merthyr Tydfil won Wales' first gymnastics medal at the Gold Coast 2018 Games in Australia when she took silver in the floor exercise behind home favourite Alexandra Eade.

But an Achilles injury after the Games and difficulties amid the coronavirus lockdown prompted Bevan's decision.

"It was after the first lockdown, I felt it was time to finish," she said.

"I'd managed to get back and gone to Florida and that was the only competition I'd done since the Commonwealths after my operation - and then Covid happened and there were no competitions.

"It was frustrating and it all got to me a bit to be honest; I just thought I'd rather put my energy into my coaching.

"It was really tough after being out so long because if you're not competing and producing it's quite hard to stay at the top.

"It was a really hard decision, but I felt that I'd reached my peak."

The Wales and Great Britain star started out in the sport aged six and starred at the 2014 Northern European Gymnastics Championships in Denmark where she won on the beam.

The following year at the same competition in Limerick in Ireland, St Tydfils Gymnastics Club's Bevan won gold medals in the individual all-round, team all-round, beam and floor events.

Alexandra Eade of Australia who won gold, Latalia Bevan of Wales who won silver and Shaman Olsen of Canada who won bronze in the Women's Floor Exercise Final on Day Five of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games 2018
Latalia Bevan (L) took in the women's floor exercise silver at the 2018 Commonwealth Games

She won the all-around title at the UK School Games in 2015 and 2016. She also took silver on bars at the 2016 Junior Commonwealth Championships in Namibia, and helped Wales to team gold.

More success on beam, silver this time, followed at the British Championships in 2017, while she took the Welsh all-around title before heading to the 2018 Commonwealths.

That performance in Australia looked to be the springboard for more success on the big stage, but it ultimately proved to be her swansong. An operation on her Achilles meant a long spell on the sidelines.

Bevan returned at the beginning of 2020 in time for a training camp and competition in the USA, but her comeback was halted again in March, this time by the Covid-19 outbreak.

"I'll miss the challenge of it all and just competing with all my friends and seeing what I'm capable of doing and just performing," she added.

"I love to perform, and it's really strange that it's all finished."

Bevan, who turns 20 on Tuesday, plans to stay involved in the sport and is already a qualified women's level one coach.

Currently on a gap year, she plans to enrol to study physiotherapy at university in 2022.

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