Backing helps a tumbling talent to floor rivals

Gymnast Shanice Davidson

For 16-year-old Great Britain gymnast Shanice Davidson, sport is very much a family affair. The talented tumbler has never competed without grandad Billy watching from the sidelines and from the age of six he’s been her biggest fan…and most reliable taxi driver.

“My grandad drives me to and from the gym five times a week and I also coach so he takes me there too,” said the St Roberts Newminster sixth former. “He really enjoys his gymnastics which is just as well – he’s been watching me non-stop for the last 10 years! He’s not missed one competition.”

If the support of grandparents Billy and Sheila has allowed Davidson to achieve her sporting goals then juggling world class tumbling with an A-Level education has become an increasingly tough challenge. And that’s where TASS comes into play.

“I’ve always had problems with my foot but I fell at the British Championships in 2015 and things started to get worse,” added Davidson. “I had the surgery just before I became a TASS athlete but the financial support they’ve been able to offer during my recovery has been invaluable. Physiotherapy is extremely expensive when you’re a student and to have that cost covered makes a huge difference.”

TASS – backed by Sport England – was established to assist elite athletes keen to combine their studies with top class sport. Supported by Olympic champion triple jumper Jonathan Edwards, the organisation continues to play a key role in nurturing the country’s medal winners of the future.

“Three of my friends were on TASS before me so I’d heard about the support and advice they offer,” added Davidson. “I attended a TASS open day and applied to join the scheme.

“There’s a lifestyle coach who helps me manage my school work and everything else – that support allows me to focus on what I need to do to get the very best out my gymnastics.

“My TASS centre is Durham University and I love the place. It feels great to be part of the set-up there.

“I’m studying A Levels in physical education, psychology ad RE this year with a view to possibly becoming a PE teacher somewhere down the line. Being part of TASS and visiting Durham University just makes me more certain that I want to combine my sport with studies in the future.”

Davidson has just returned to training following her foot surgery and has one eye on competing at the 2018 Youth Olympics – with tumbling set to feature for the first time.

“I started off 2016 competing for GB in the European Championships in Valladolid, Spain. There were training camps at Lilleshall and we had the British Championships in Liverpool. There were more training camps towards the end of the year but surgery cut my season short.

“Now I’m ready to get back into the competitive environment. I just love tumbling.

“It was one of my heroes – Lucie Colebeck – who described it as the 100m sprint of gymnastics. It’s fast, dynamic and exciting. It’s supposed to be part of the 2018 Youth Olympics and everyone associated with the sport is hoping that’s the case.”