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Human to Hero: British gymnastics' rising star follows her idol

updated 7:57 AM EDT, Tue May 1, 2012
Jennifer Pinches is a British gymnast hoping to make her first Olympics appearance this summer. Jennifer Pinches is a British gymnast hoping to make her first Olympics appearance this summer.
High hopes
New heights
Her hero
Russian rival
London calling
Early success
  • British gymnast Jennifer Pinches hoping to reach her first Olympics later this year
  • Pinches became British champion in 2007 when she was just 13-years-old
  • The 17-year-old has been part of the British gymnastics squad since 2010
  • GB came fifth in all-round competition at 2011 World Artistic Gymnastics Champs

(CNN) -- Not every athlete gets to train with their heroes, but Jennifer Pinches is lucky enough to be friends with one of hers.

The 17-year-old is one of the Britain's most promising gymnasts, and she is hoping to line up at her home Olympics this year with Beth Tweddle -- the first competitor from the UK to win a medal at the sport's world championships.

"She's a good mentor to me. It's really good to have that relationship with Beth," Pinches told CNN's Human to Hero series.

Pinches has made a good start in her bid to emulate her hero, having been crowned English junior champion in 2007 before representing Britain at the 2011 World Artistic Gymnastic Championships in Tokyo, Japan.

She says representing her country at London 2012 would be "the biggest honor."

Early days

Human to Hero: Jennifer Pinches

Born in a small town south of Manchester, Pinches' love for gymnastics blossomed at an early age, and she worked her way up to become English champion in 2007 when she was 13.

"I started when I was six years old after seeing some clips on the telly of a gymnast swinging around and really wanted to try it out because I had just quit ballet. So I started it at the gym and carried it on," she says.


Pinches met triple world champion Tweddle at Liverpool Gymnastics Club after family moved north to Cheshire when she was young.

Jennifer Pinches: Fast facts
Event: Gymnastics

Hometown: Royal Tunbridge Wells, England

Age: 17

Honors: English junior champion 2007

Olympic appearances: 0

Daily routine: Up at 7 a.m. bed by 11 p.m. seven hours training

Setbacks: Stress fracture of the foot, broken foot, wrist and finger

How do you relax? Play on the computer, shopping, playing the Ukulele

Favorite food: Dad's homemade macaroni cheese

Motto: You're never a loser until you quit trying

Now aged 27, Tweddle made history for British gymnastics when she won a bronze medal at the 2003 world championships, and repeated that feat two years later. The South Africa-born athlete went to an even higher level when she claimed gold in the discipline at Aarhus in 2006, and then again in Rotterdam in 2010.

"I didn't start gymnastics because of a certain hero but when I was younger I always looked up to Beth," Pinches says.

"And when I moved to this club she was here, so I was a bit starstruck to meet her. But obviously now we're friends and she's a good mentor to me. It's really good to have that relationship with Beth."

Pinches could also line up against another of her contemporaries -- 17-year-old Russian Aliya Mustafina, who won two golds and three silvers in Rotterdam.

"She's incredible. I've met her -- that was an honor," Pinches says.

Favorite apparatus

Pinches trains for seven hours a day on all the disciplines that make up gymnastics, but there is one form of the sport that is her clear favorite.

"I enjoy floor the best because I like the tumble," she says of the discipline in which Tweddle won gold at the world championships in London in 2009.

"You get to have music on and dance with choreography. It's good to perform."

London 2012

If Pinches needed any extra motivation, it comes with the realization that her first Olympics could also be the only one in her lifetime staged on home soil.

She is so determined to make the London Games, she says everything in her life has taken a back seat.

"To get to the Olympics I have to put that full commitment in, especially this year. So I have dropped back on everything else to commit my life to achieving my goal, which is to get to the Olympics," says Pinches, who helped Britain qualify with fifth placing at the worlds in Tokyo last year -- the team's best performance yet.

"The biggest honor is to be representing your country at the Olympic Games, and especially in London as it would be incredible. I would be over the moon if I was chosen the compete there."

How would you define success?

Pinches' best performance at an international meeting so far was a bronze in the floor discipline at a World Cup event in Scotland, but she says medals are not everything.

"Success for me is when I perform to my best potential. So, if I were picked for the Olympic team and complete my routines like I trained them with no major mistakes, that would be ultimate success for me. If medals come from that then so be it."

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