The successes, struggles and Strictly - follow Claudia Fragapane on Insta.
Claudia Fragapane burst onto the scene as an explosive ‘pocket rocket’ gymnast who was victorious on the Vault, phenomenon on the Floor, awesome in the All-Around, oh AND helped England to the team title at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealths.
The then 16-year-old gymnast was the first English woman claim four gold medals at a single Games for 84 years, with swimmer Joyce Cooper the last to achieve that in 1930.
Fragapane became the new star of her sport, which continued to shine in the spotlight generated by record-breaking British success at the London 2012 Olympics.
World medals, an Olympic appearance and dazzling performances on a different type of floor – the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom – would follow, but so would extreme challenges.
Broken bones and torn tendons were serious enough, but a horror concussion last year left her on the brink of retirement.
She fought on and not only did she defy medical expectations by returning to gymnastics, but shocked even herself by playing a key role in another Team England gold medal success in her Commonwealth comeback this summer.
Watch Claudia’s emotional Commonweath comeback…
Q – Before we discuss the challenges you’ve faced and overcome, let’s look back on that incredible Games debut. Did you have any idea how successful you would be at Glasgow 2014 ahead of the event?
“Haha, not at all! I just wanted to go out there and do my best and ended up coming away with four golds, so it was the best feeling ever and I wasn’t expecting it at all.
“It was just a complete shock, I was such a baby, only 16 years old and everything just blew up after that and it was crazy.”
Q – How did you find that transformation in your life and all of a sudden having so many new social media followers and media requests?
Claudia with her Rio 2016 Olympic team-mates - Cred: @claudiafrag
“It was very overwhelming and I wasn’t great with the cameras and being on TV then.
“I was justn complete shock for while and wasn’t that great at all the interviews but I’ve practiced so much now and know what I’m saying, but before I had no clue and it blew up and it was a blur.”
Q – You certainly grew in confidence though and I imagine Strictly Come Dancing played a big part in that too?
“Definitely! I loved doing Strictly and would love to one day go back and do the dancing on tours.
“Strictly was really good because I got to meet new people and everyone’s personalities were so different and I loved listening to everyone. I met some really amazing people, I think that was my favourite things I’ve done outside of gymnastics.
Q – As we mentioned though, you have faced some real challenges in your sport over the last four to five years. Remind people what you’ve been through and overcome. “Ha, yeah there have been a few! I was selected for the 2018 Commonwealth Games and then a few weeks before I snapped my Achilles and had to have an operation and that was nearly a year out which was really hard for me.
“I managed to get back, but my jump power changed after that and I had to adapt. Then I went to more competitions and ended up in the Olympic year having a really bad concussion which took me out for six months.
“Then in October time (last year) I snapped a few of my tendons and fractured my foot at the same time so I was out for a while.
“I had the first operation where I had to have bolts and a plate in my foot and then I had to have it removed again.”
Q – So you really had to fast-track your recovery to return for the Commonwealths this year. You must have been incredibly proud of your comeback, even before the medal success?
“Those three injuries are really different, but mentally they were all really, really hard at the time.
“Yeah, it’s been a quick turnaround to get me to that stage (of competing at Birmingham 2022), but of course I’m really, really proud.
“I have got amazing people around me which have always supported me and if I wanted to stop, tomorrow which will not happen, I know they’d be proud of me.
Q – Tell us then about Birmingham 2022 and what it meant to help the England women to another team title, eight years after your last stood on the podium with the squad.
“With the crowd roaring, it was the best feeling ever!
“I shouldn’t have come back so quickly, I shouldn’t have been there, but I pushed myself and wanted to be there for the team.
“I’ve had such a hard journey, but it just makes it feel so much more special going to competitions (like in Birmingham) because it makes you realise how far you’ve come.”
Q – You’re not ready to stop competing just yet and there’s another Olympics in two years time of course, but what does the future hold for you?
“I put so much pressure on myself and what I want to achieve at certain competitions, but then sometimes now I stop and think about what I’ve already achieved and it is good enough.
“Whatever I do now is just a bonus.
“(Away from gymnastics) I would love to do something like ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here!’ because it’s another experience where you get to meet people.
“I’m also scared of anything that moves so everyone would vote for me (to do trials) which would be horrible, but it’s something I would love to do!”