HAVING toiled for years on mats, bars and assorted other apparatus to elevate himself to the position of Olympic medallist, Dan Purvis confesses to total ignorance over the whereabouts of the bronze treasure he took home from London.
“My dad keeps hiding it,” the Corby-based Scot reveals. “He doesn’t trust me not to lose it. When I want it, I have to ask him to get it for me.”
That small proclivity aside, little else has appeared beyond the reach of the 22-year-old in 2012, with a European title now among his souvenirs and the prospect of more to follow as he seeks individual honours to accompany the team spoils he helped deliver for Great Britain last summer.
It took a while, he says, for his achievement at the Olympic Games to fully sink in. The public’s reaction caught him unawares. “It was really mad at first, especially somewhere like London which is such a big city,” he recalls. “You expect to just blend in. It was weird but also nice, being known for something. We were all talking about it, the whole team, how we were getting recognised even when we were out shopping. I felt like a rock star almost.”
He sought some normality in Spain where the occasional autograph request was still placed in his way. However, it was only a brief respite. The road to Rio 2016 starts here, with his first major challenge since the Games arriving today in Glasgow, where the World Cup will be staged at a capacity-filled Emirates Arena.
Purvis, who won the event two years ago, concedes his ambitions are far from fulfilled. In London, he was in contention in the all-round event but slipped up, literally, on his parallel bars routine and ended up 13th. “From an individual point of view, I didn’t do the best I could have,” he reflects. “But because we got a team medal, I feel more motivated than ever now for Rio.”
He proved a point to himself last weekend in Stuttgart, surpassing a cluster of London medallists to come second in a tune-up competition, enhancing the sport’s current feelgood factor still further. Before Christmas, with the post-London inquests now complete, UK Sport will announce its funding allocations with gymnastics expected to be among the chief beneficiaries after improving on the solitary medal picked up by Louis Smith at the Beijing Games of 2008.
More investment, Purvis believes, would reap dividends. “After Beijing, where Louis got his medal, we were able to get a bit of funding. And that really helped. We’ve got a really good structure now. We exceeded our expectations at London by quite a bit so you hope we’ll get more funding and an even stronger system in place.”
Smith will be looking for high marks from the judges today, but on Strictly Come Dancing’s dance floor rather than in Glasgow. Purvis’ mum Denise, who comes from Dundee, is more of an addicted viewer than her offspring, recording every tango and waltz for posterity. “So I fast forward through it to watch Louis,” he laughs. “He’s doing really well. He’s always been a bit of an entertainer in the gym so it’s really his scene.”
Purvis will not seek such glittering diversions. Gymnastics provides artistry enough. With Glasgow’s soon-to-open Hydro Arena confirmed yesterday as the venue for the world championships in 2015, he has plenty of dances on his card before the next Olympics, the Commonwealth Games included.
If London left him in a temporary daze, his focus is now fully back on achieving performances without flaw. Christmas will be spent concocting new tricks and fresh routines. “I feel like I’m getting back to full fitness. But it was hard, mentally and physically, to come back after a break and motivate myself to work hard.”
The field he faces today, which includes Olympic all-around silver medallist Marcel Nguyen and bronze medallist Danell Lyeva, will differ little to the one he almost conquered in Germany seven days ago. “It was a really short format. Glasgow’s going to be the same. And with a home crowd, and a sell-out, it’s going to be really exciting.”