Twenty nineteen has been a year of tragedy and triumph in equal measure for Team England gymnast Dom Cunningham.
A reigning Commonwealth and European champion in 2018, Cunningham is set to star at next year’s Tokyo Olympic Games after securing Great Britain’s qualification at last month’s World Championships.
But Cunningham’s ticket to Tokyo was all but ripped up , saved only by a miraculous comeback from injury sustained just 22 weeks earlier at the European Championships in Poland.
Seeking to qualify for the vault final, having already earned a place in the floor final to defend the title he won 12 months previously, a misjudged landing saw Cunningham hyperextend his right knee causing multiple tears to his LCL, ACL and hamstring ligaments.
“I felt surprisingly positive at the start, it was quite a weird situation. As always you’re in denial about how bad the actual injury is so I went back to the medical team and I was still on it to do the floor final,” said Cunningham.
“I sat with the team and they told me my leg was pretty severe and that I wouldn’t be able to do anything for at least a week – it was on an 18-week programme just to be able to walk again.”
Determined to make a return to competition in time for the World Championships just 22 weeks after his injury, Cunningham began an 18-week rehabilitation programme at the Lilleshall National Sports Centre.
Defying all medical predictions, the 23-year-old’s return to fitness was just as rapid as his ascent onto the global gymnastics scene 12 months prior and months later he was back in full training.
However, it wasn’t just the physical barriers Cunningham had to overcome on his return to international competition.
“My mental state was in quite a lot of stress in a way where, my leg went backwards the wrong way and I’m trying to do the same vault that I injured it on and having to do it in pressured situations.,” explained Cunningham.
“You’re standing at the back of the vault that I broke my leg on twenty weeks ago.”
Overcoming the odds, Cunningham was selected to compete at his second World Championships where not only did he help Great Britain secure an Olympic qualification spot in the men’s team event but had individual success also.
Now injury-free, Cunningham’s ascent towards global stardom and the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games continues.
“We took it on the chin, we bounced back and made it into a positive. We made the World Championships qualifying for the floor and vault final – the only GB gymnast to make two individual finals.”
“Like I say, I’m back on the journey now and I’m not giving up, not that easy anyway.”