When he arrived in Singapore in August 2010 to participate in the first Youth Olympic Games, 17-year-old Sam Oldham was coming off the back of a triple gold medal-winning performance (horizontal bar, individual all-around and team all-around) at the European Junior Championships in Birmingham (GBR). The British gymnast maintained the momentum in the Asian city-state, qualifying in second position for the individual all-around competition, a placing that opened the gates to the finals of four other events for him.
During the all-around final, he was lying in second spot and on course to win a silver medal, when he fell from the horizontal bar and ended up fifth. Brushing off that setback, he went on to take silver on the pommel horse, missing out on the gold by 0.25 points, before collecting 14.375 points to emerge victorious from the very event that had previously caused him such trouble, the horizontal bar.
In 2011, Oldham suffered a collar bone injury that prevented him from taking part in the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships and put his chances of appearing at the 2012 Olympic Games in jeopardy. However he overcame this setback to obtain a place in the British squad, becoming its youngest member at just 19.
On 30 July 2012, Oldham, accompanied by team-mates Daniel Purvis, Louis Smith, Kristian Thomas and Max Whitlock, claimed a bronze – Great Britain’s first gymnastics medal in 100 years – in the men’s team all-around event in London’s North Greenwich Arena.
The young Englishman’s own contribution, the team’s highest parallel bars score, was crucial. “It’s incredible!” he said. “We’ve worked so hard, and the support I’ve had from the staff, my mum, my dad, all of our families, the fans, my coach and our sponsors has just been amazing.”
For a short while, the watching world was under the impression that Great Britain had actually won the silver medal behind the triumphant Chinese team, but an appeal by Japan relating to Kohei Uchimura’s performance on the pommel horse saw the judges increase the Asian athlete’s score by 0.7 points, which proved sufficient for his country to leapfrog the host nation into second place. “We’re still the third best team in men’s artistic gymnastics, which is totally incredible. I hope that this feat can inspire young gymnasts,” said Oldham.
The Nottinghamshire native’s career has since gone from strength to strength, as demonstrated by his strong displays at the 2014 European Championships in Sofia (BUL), where he picked up two silver medals, in the team all-around and the horizontal bar.
Oldham personifies the rebirth of British gymnastics, and his success in Singapore undoubtedly laid the foundations for his future sporting accomplishments.