August 2, 2018 by Mike Madden

The Olympian Next Door

This article first appeared in the High Peak Review.

It has been a lot busier than normal at my neighbour’s house recently. A few years ago I had the privilege to interview British Gymnastic Champion Jenni Pinches, and as it was only a short walk next door it was quite an easy assignment. Jenni talked about her career in gymnastics, her arduous training regime, and her ambition to perform at the Olympics. She has held this ambition for many years, in fact in 2004 she was recorded on film stating exactly that. Eight years later, on July 4th 2012, she took a huge leap towards achieving her dream when she was selected to represent Team GB at the forthcoming London Olympics.

Since that date there has been a constant stream of family, friends and wellwishers calling at her door, but Jenni herself has not been around much, as her pre competition training schedule is already well under way. She did, however, have an Olympic send off party in Whaley Bridge, and I managed to catch up with her to see how her Olympic dream was progressing.

First of all she admitted that she had not exactly stuck to the rules concerning the announcement. “After the British Championships we were told that we would receive a call during a two hour time period, and that was to tell us whether or not we had been selected. I received the call with the good news, and I was sworn to secrecy until the official announcement, but I did have to tell one or two people and then I swore them to secrecy.” After many years of competing at the highest level, Jenni was still not confident of selection, as she explained. “I had not done too well this year, so I though I might make Reserve, but then I had a good British Championships taking gold in the beam and silver all-round.” The team of five gymnasts bring a great deal of experience, but they will not be on their own. The Reserves will also be there, training and supporting the “first team”, but that can bring its own problems. When I asked Jenni what she would have done if she had not been selected she was quite clear about it. “Hopefully I would have been a Reserve so I would have still been around the squad, training and being a part of it so that I would be ready. I might have been hoping that I still got my chance in the unfortunate event that an injury occurred, but only in the nicest possible way!”

As if she is not already busy enough, she was also nominated to carry the Olympic torch as the relay passed through Derbyshire, but thankfully she was overlooked as she would have found it difficult to fit it into her already hectic schedule. “I have been trying to follow the torch relay, and I know that some of my friends and family went to see it in Buxton, but I have just been too busy”.

Of course, performing in the Olympics is a fantastic achievement for any athlete, but surely being on home soil would make it even more special? Jenni had a different view. “When I first heard that it was going to be in London I was quite disappointed, because I wanted it to be somewhere more exotic, but then I thought how fantastic it will be. The support will be unbelievable, as it has been already, and I won’t have to worry about my luggage allowance on overseas flights as I always have so much stuff to take with me.”

Jenni is part of a team, and all of the gymnasts will compete in all of the disciplines; floor, vault, beam and bars. Qualification takes place on 29th July, and hopefully this will take them through to the finals on 31st July. Apart from one day off to pack, her life will be a demanding combination of training, resting and more training until the competition starts. She has her own page on the Team GB Olympics website,

and you can also follow her on Twitter @jempin515.