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“It has been my dream from the age of seven or eight and, for me, getting to the Commonwealth Games would mean everything.”

Those are the words of Welsh men’s artistic gymnast Jacob Edwards, who has his sights firmly set on securing a Team Wales place for next year’s Games in Birmingham, which are now a little under 10 months away.

Should he realise his dream, Jacob would be following in the footsteps of older brother Matthew Hennessey, who went to Delhi in 2010.

Jacob, from Wrexham, who turned 18 back in April, trains at Olympus Gymnastics Club under the watchful eyes of his mother, Julie, and father, Paul – who is also a Brevet judge and has officiated at four previous Commonwealth Games.

As a junior, Jacob won multiple Welsh age grade titles, represented Great Britain at U16 and, in March 2019, was crowned British U16 all-around champion, aged 15. Later that same year, he was part of the Wales men’s team who brought home a silver medal from the Northern European Championships in Iceland.

Jacob Edwards was British U16 all-around champion in 2019.

 

The Men’s British Championships in Cardiff earlier this month marked the return of competition after 18 months in hibernation as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It was also Jacob’s first foray into the senior ranks despite still being eligible to compete in the U18 age group for this year’s championships.

His performance on the floor was particularly impressive, scoring 13.766 for sixth place and exceeding the minimum 13.740 floor score to be considered for nomination for Birmingham 2022.

Although hitting the score does not guarantee selection or even nomination for Team Wales, it will certainly stand Jacob in good stead for the next six months.

“It is a huge relief and load off my shoulders to be honest,” he said.

“It’s early days but I’m very glad. I went in to the British obviously with the floor score in mind, knowing that I wanted to get it and could get it but, at the same time, I didn’t want to put that pressure on myself.

“It was a lot of people’s first competition back and I sort of went in with the attitude of everyone’s in the same boat and it’s alright to make mistakes, just have fun and enjoy it.

“And in the end I’ve also come away with what I needed so that was a bonus.”

The fact his first senior British Championships were staged on home soil probably helped, too.

“Yeah 100 per cent,” he continued.

“I was quite happy that it was in Cardiff I can’t lie. It would have been a hell of a lot harder if I’d had to have stepped up first competition in the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool with that crowd and those lights and everything, that would have been very scary.

“So I think doing it in Cardiff, a home setting, and the fact I’d just done a training camp there as well the week before, I think that scenario made it a lot easier mentally for me.”

The past 18 months have felt like a lonely experience at times for Jacob, with the normal training camps and competition schedule off the agenda due to Covid.

“It has been very hard, it has been difficult, but the main thing is that I kept pushing,” Jacob said.

“For me the main thing that has kept me going is that I’ve had a goal in sight and that has really helped.

“Obviously training in a normal year, we would’ve had lots of squad sessions, lots of competitions, lots of different motivation points.

“Coming into this gym for five months on my own from January to May, it’s a big ask for someone to keep going and find motivation everyday, but I like to think I’ve stayed quite positive.”

But with some semblance of normality having returned, the focus for Jacob now shifts towards November’s Northern European Championships, which are also being staged in Cardiff having been cancelled in 2020.

Two years ago, the men’s team of Jacob, Brinn Bevan, Joe Cemlyn-Jones, Josh Cook and Emil Barber bagged silver in the team all-around competition and are hoping to go one better this time.

Jacob, far right, helped the Wales men's team win silver at the 2019 Northern European Championships in Iceland.

 

“I was only 16 at the Northern Europeans in 2019, I was a junior going into that and that was just about the experience,” he said.

“But this time I know I can compete with everyone and improve my mark and that’s what I’m aiming to do, if selected.”

Meanwhile with the likes of Benji Eyre, Theo-Amari Ochana and Harri Morgan also on the Long List and hoping to be in contention, there is real optimism the Welsh men’s team could make a big impact in Birmingham next year.

“For me it would mean everything,” added Jacob.

“From the age of seven or eight, the Commonwealth Games has been my dream with my brother going in 2010.

“And with the team that we could have, it just makes me want it more and more knowing that we have that potential to team medal – and be Wales’ first ever men’s artistic team medal.

“It just drives me more and I really want to be part of that, it means everything to me.”