Gymnast Daniel Keatings focused on world stage return

By Jon WilkinsonBBC Northampton

After joy at gold and silver medals at European and World Championships was tempered by a year-long injury, Corby's Daniel Keatings is visibily relieved to be back in the gym and training towards the 2012 London Olympics.

"There were hard times during the injury," the 2009 world all-around silver medallist told BBC Radio Northampton. "It has been two steps forward and one back.

"I know that it's getting closer and closer so I just try my hardest in the gym.

"The Olympics are going to be crazy. You can't imagine what it's going to be like."

In May 2010, a scan revealed that Keatings had damaged his anterior cruciate ligament in a training routine fall just days after taking gold on the pommel horse and silver in the team event at Europe's top competition in Birmingham.

The 21-year-old had to watch Huntingdon Olympic Gymnastics Club colleague Louis Smith take pommel horse silver at the Worlds in Rotterdam last October, and the European Championships in Berlin last April also came too soon.

More than a year after his fall, Keatings returned to competitive action at July's Japan Cup, finishing eighth overall in the all-around.

"It's the same in any sport - if you're achieving at the highest level then there's going to be added pressure to keep repeating those achievements," he said.

"You have to keep calm, focused and do what you've always done."

Keatings' immediate focus is the 2011 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships. The priority for Great Britain is for the team to finish in the top eight.

Doing so would allow them to take a full quota of five gymnasts to the 2012 Olympics.

And given that the team qualified in fourth and came seventh in the Rotterdam final without Keatings, hopes are high that Great Britain will be well represented come next year's Games.

Once they are there, it will take a significant effort to beat Japan's Kohei Uchimura.

The 22-year-old took all-around gold at the 2009 and 2010 World Championships and also won silver at 2008 Olympics.

With the Worlds on home soil in October, Uchimura is expected to shine once again.

"He's amazing. Everyone wants to catch him," says Keatings.

"I've had a year out and he's been training away - he's still going strong."

But Keatings has been at the heart of a Great British charge in world gymnastics, and at the peak of his powers, would be the man to rival the Japanese star.

"Having won a [world] silver medal, there is a bit of added pressure but hopefully I can go back there and do it again," he said.

"I'm lucky enough that I came back a year before the Olympics, so I've got a good run up into it.

"Fingers crossed that I won't get injured again."

Daniel Keatings is one of BBC Radio Northampton's three featured athletes as part of 'Olympic Dreams' in the build-up to London 2012.