sport

Thomas: Smith could quit

Louis Smith is unlikely to return to competitive gymnastics until next year, if at all, according to Olympic team-mate Kristian Thomas.

Smith, who won pommel horse silver and team bronze at London 2012, has taken time out from the sport following the Games to take part and win BBC's Strictly Come Dancing.

While the 23-year-old's appearance on the prime-time talent show has helped boost the profile of gymnastics since the Olympics, the Peterborough-born pommel horse specialist has been out of full-time gym training for six months.

Smith is currently on the dancing show's spin-off tour which runs until midway through February, and due to the gruelling schedule needed to stay at the top level in gymnastics, Thomas does not expect to see the flamboyant performer back in competition until next year if he does choose to return.

"Everybody is different as some people have years and years out of the sport and then come back," said Thomas.

"For me personally, I had a month off after the Olympics and even three months after that I was still struggling with some of my skills and getting back into it.

"If I was to have three or four months off I'm pretty sure it would take me a year to get back to the standard that is required of me to compete at the highest level.

"It will be a bit easier for Louis as he just does the pommel but I'm pretty sure it will take him out for a while.

"If he gets back into it after the Strictly Come Dancing tour, 2013 will be written off and he will try and kick-start from 2014, as I'm pretty sure it will take him the rest of 2013 to build up his muscles and get back all of the little things you don't really see in the gym that sometimes you have to work on, like body tension and landings.

"I'm sure if he does make a comeback it will be 2014 before we see him in a competition again."

Last week, Lisa Mason, who turns 31 next month, announced her comeback to gymnastics 12 years after her retirement as she bids to add to the Commonwealth gold medal she won for England in 1998.

Smith is not the only British gymnast who has taken the chance to explore new opportunities following the Olympics.

Beth Tweddle, who won bronze on the uneven bars at the O2 arena last summer, is currently testing her skills on ITV's Dancing On Ice following a highly successful career which now seems to be drawing to a close after more than a decade at the top.

However Thomas, who will attend the opening of the refurbished Westcroft Leisure Centre in Carshalton on Saturday, turned down the chance to star in a reality TV show as he remains focused on his gymnastics career - targeting both the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next year and the Rio Olympics in 2016.

The Wolverhampton-born gymnast was offered the chance to take part in ITV's "I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!" but turned it down as he has unfinished business at the gym.

"It's not really the right time in my career," Thomas said.

"For Beth and Louis they were thinking of finishing maybe and so for them it's a good opportunity but for me, London was not quite the end of my career. I want to continue definitely for the Commonwealths and more likely for Rio as well.

"It would have meant a massive time out of my competition schedule and training schedule. It is just not the right time to be doing things like that.

"I'm an athlete at the end of the day and my priority is always going to be training and competitions so I think it's best that I keep it that way for the time being.

"It's just too long and too rigorous to try and take on something like that when my number one priority is gymnastics and training ."