Local Olympian Louis Smith is on a legacy tour of schools and ESP’s Mikey Clarke caught up with him in Peterborough…
I first met Louis Smith soon after the Eye gymnast won Bronze at the Beijing Olympics back in 2008. Louis came across as a very down-to-earth 19 year-old who was taking the sudden fame in his stride.
I was given the opportunity to meet the local celeb again today as he spoke to the students of Jack Hunt School. However, since our last interview he’s won Silver at the London Olympics, went on to win Strictly, and appeared in numerous television shows. I wondered whether I’d be meeting the same laidback Louis as I met many years ago.
Fans of Louis Smith will be pleased to know he hasn’t changed a bit.
Jack Hunt was one of the many venues the Strictly star will be taking the ‘Louis Smith School Tour’ over the next few weeks. The tour will last for one month and during this time he’ll be travelling around the UK visiting different schools with the aim to inspire, educate and encourage the children in sport as well as life in general.
Many pupils are about to start their exams, for some this will be GCSE’s and A-Levels. I wondered how Louis himself managed to find the time to train as a gymnast, whilst doing exams. “It wasn’t easy at all,” Louis explained. “I was training six days a week whilst also doing school work. My homework was often late in. I think the teachers thought I didn’t care, but I was actually just trying to balance so many things.”
Training six days a week whilst balancing a school and social life sounds exhausting, but Louis described it as – “Completely worth it. I could’ve given up so many times. There were injuries, blood, sweat, and an operation but I kept on going – mainly because my mum had dedicated so much time to me. I didn’t want to let her down.”
Louis did Great Britain extremely proud, taking home a Bronze medal. There must have been a lot of pressure performing so close to home? “It was a great opportunity,” Louis told me. “There was a lot of pressure yes, but it was a great feeling having friends and family there. The whole country really got behind the Olympics and made it a very special thing to be part of.”
Louis’s sudden popularity from the Olympics led to him starring in Strictly Come Dancing. “It felt so good winning Strictly, particularly after coming second at the Olympics. I’m so used to being in a leotard, the lycra and sequins didn’t faze me.”
Louis Still lives in Peterborough, and despite the fame, the gymnast explained –
“It doesn’t feel any different walking around town. People ask for photos and autographs and that’s very flattering, but I don’t feel like a celebrity.”
Finally, you may be as surprised as I am to hear Louis say – “I’ll definitely be at the 2016 Rio Olympics, but I’m not sure whether I’ll be there as an athlete, or watching in the audience. I’m at the point in my life where I can try a few different things. If I commit to the Olympics then the training will take up a lot of my time. I’m just not sure yet…”
It was then the students turn to ask the questions. From listening to the pupils of Jack Hunt School talking to Louis, I discovered:
1) Louis is single, but sorry girls; it would seem he has his eyes on Corrie babe Michelle Keegan.
2) Louis DOES in fact eat at Subways, as his advert would suggest. However he doesn’t go for the healthy option, and instead prefers a toasted Chicken and Bacon sub.
3) Louis was very well behaved when he was younger. He didn’t give into peer-pressure whilst being at school. This is perhaps the secret to his success.
All in all I found Louis to be a great role-model to the youngsters. Other schools that are part of the ‘Louis Smith School Tour’ have a lot to look forward to. He was interesting, funny and gave plenty of time afterwards to have photos with the students. He even allowed them to touch the Silver medal.
I too was allowed to hold the medal, and very kindly allowed him to hold my ‘Perkins Great Eastern Fun Run’ medal in return. I think I know who got the better deal!
Photos: Chris Brudenell for ESP Magazine