Interview conducted by Elisa Emanuelli
Jennifer Pinches began gymnastics at age 6. She trained at the City of Liverpool gymnastics club and became a senior in 2010, competing for team GB as an all-arounder in both the 2010 and 2011 World Championships. At the 2012 British Championships, she won silver in the all-around and gold on beam. A strong all-arounder known for her power, she was chosen to represent team GB at the 2012 Olympics. They finished in 6th place as a team, then Jennifer surprised many by announcing her retirement shortly after the Olympics. She hasn’t slowed down one bit in retirement though, with a jam-packed schedule this past year including a trip to Ecuador, school, and staying involved with the sport of gymnastics. Read on to find out what she’s been up to, becoming a fan of the sport, and nerd fighting-
We love listening to your insight and hearing you commentate. Do you have any plans of pursuing that in the future?
Thank you, I would love to! I especially like writing about the things I am interested in, which is why I have a blog (www.jenniferpinches.blogspot.com). I also loved helping Matt Baker during the Olympic Games. I’m not sure what my future career will be. From a young age I have wanted to be a Blue Peter or TV presenter- I feel quite relaxed in front of the camera and it looks like so much fun! I also enjoy acting and writing. I think it might be quite hard to get into the media and/or television business however, so I’m not sure how realistic it is.
We love how excited you still get about the sport of gymnastics and how you seem to have transitioned from athlete to a big fan. Did you always follow gymnastics even while competing, or did you become more of a fan after you retired?
Interestingly, while I was competitive I wasn’t really a fan like I am now. I think because I was training so many hours a day, that when I wasn’t training I just didn’t want to think about gymnastics, so that I had a separate time to relax. Of course I used to admire seeing great gymnasts and competing against them but it’s only since I have retired that I’ve started to love and follow it!
What I didn’t realise before is that gymnastics is a big part of my identity- but with a lack of being in the gym every day I suddenly felt excluded from the ‘gym world’ and missed it more than I expected to. I started to spend my spare time keeping up with gymnastics world news, watching gymnastics videos, and trying to stay involved with the community. I now fully appreciate beautiful gymnastics and feel even luckier to have had the international experiences I have had.
With the pro gymnastics challenge a few weeks ago, have you thought at all about doing any kind of exhibition or professional gymnastics?
I feel so unfit now (in comparison to my Olympic fitness level) that the thought of competing again is a scary, but exciting! The PGC looked SO cool though, I think you should definitely watch this space.
What are some of your favourite memories from the London Olympics? What was it like getting to meet Prime Minister David Cameron and Kate Middleton?
My favourite memory is finishing competing on Floor and Vault in the Team Final. I got personal best scores and was so exhilarated that I had been able to pull off good performances, especially after falling off the Beam in the first rotation.
Besides gymnastics memories I enjoyed meeting many celebrities: Miranda Hart (British comedian), Ronnie Wood (of The Rolling Stones band), Jessie J (music artist), Rowan Atkinson (known for playing Mr Bean), the Prime Minister (who by chance was there to watch Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins win gold with us at Team GB House), Princes Harry and William, and also Kate Middleton who is absolutely lovely and so down-to-earth.
Congratulations on finishing up exams! Can you share with us a little about what you’ve been studying and what else you’ve been up to in the past year?
Thank you- such a weight off my shoulders! I’ve been trying to make it to this position for three years now! I was studying the English Language and Psychology (that doesn’t mean I can read your mind), which are both interesting subjects. I only took two because I was planning on finishing them in 2012, and the idea was to put less stress on me. As it happened I finished them this year instead.
Besides school work my life has been pretty chilled compared to what I have been used to. I’ve been enjoying the freedom and not taken on too many projects but there are a few different bits and bobs I have done. I have visited many schools, gym clubs and competitions presented some awards, I’ve gladly attended the UK Book Tour of ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ by John Green, I’ve helped the BBC a little, I’ve visited the Houses of Parliament and I’ve taken part in a photo shoot for the Barnaby Festival Exhibition to name a few.
Can you tell us a bit about your experience in Ecuador last year? Do you have any plans to do more volunteer work in a foreign country?
Ecuador was incredible. The two month trip was just what I needed after the Olympic Games to avoid the shock of it all being over, and there were so many highlights.
I climbed a mountain, floated down the rapid current of the Amazon River as a monstrous rainstorm began to lighten, and went swimming with giant sea turtles, sharks and sea lions in the clear turquoise water off the coast of the Galapagos Islands.
Not only that but between the moments of paradise, I helped to improve the lives of many others around South America.
Part of our volunteering included teaching and providing people with the opportunity to learn English in remote areas where this would benefit them greatly. We also worked to support endangered marine animals and protect the habitats of the indigenous wildlife along the equator.
All the people I met were good natured, welcoming and grateful. When we finished building a playground for a primary school in Las Tunas, the children put on a show of dancing to thank us. On top of all of that, I even learnt to speak a little Spanish.
A picture went around the web of you flashing the nerdfighter sign at the Olympics. Can you tell us a bit about what was behind that and how you became a nerdfighter?
I did the hand signal meaning ‘Don’t Forget To Be Awesome’ which originates from the ‘nerdfighter’ online community. It is just a positive symbol and shows I am a fan of John Green (bestselling author) and Hank Green (musician). The brothers also are very popular video bloggers on Youtube and have set up many things such as SciShow and CrashCourse education. My friend Tamsin introduced me many years ago and I like it because the group represents good solid values: celebrating your unique qualities, broadening your mind and being interested and enthusiastic about stuff!
Do you have any predictions for the upcoming World Championships?
I will enjoy watching them.
Have you ever been starstruck by any of the athletes you’ve competed or worked with?
Well as I said before I didn’t used to be such a big gymnastics fan and I also don’t tend to get starstruck, although when I was younger every British elite gymnast inspired me, especially Imogen (Cairns) who I looked up to within my own gymnastics club at the time, and Beth (Tweddle). Also, I was super excited to see Shawn Johnson and Nastia Luikin at the Beijing Olympics (from a distance). My favourite gymnast at the moment is Aliya Mustafina.
What’s something your fans would be surprised to know about you?
I used to collect Beanie Babies (‘ty’) and still have around 400.
Favorite Food- Homemade Macoroni Cheese
Favorite Musician/Band- SO VARIED. Newton Faulkner, Michael Jackson, The Feeling, Justin Timberlake, Maroon 5, Beyoncé, Alt J, Train, Green Day, Mumford and Sons, Black Eyed Peas, The Beatles, Take That, Macklemore & Ryan, Ed Sheeran, Disney (!) the list goes on and on ………………………
Dream Job- See Question 1
Favorite Movie- The Lion King
Super Power you wish you had- Teleportation
Favorite skill to perform- Double straight (a.k.a ‘double layout’) off the tumble track.
Dream travel destination- The Bahamas
Favorite gymnast- Aliya Mustafina
Word your teammates would use to describe you- Bubbly
Word your coaches would use to describe you- Powerful
Thank you for the interview, Jennifer! We know you’ll continue to be successful wherever life takes you.