Claudia Fragapane Takes Us Inside Her Year: Rio, Strictly, Return To Gym

Claudia Fragapane Takes Us Inside Her Year: Rio, Strictly, Return To Gym

Claudia Fragapane was part of Great Britain's 2016 Rio Olympic team and is now looking to punch her ticket to Montreal for the World Championships being held in Montreal from October 2-8.

Sep 20, 2017 by Rebecca Johnson
Claudia Fragapane Takes Us Inside Her Year: Rio, Strictly, Return To Gym
Claudia Fragapane was part of Great Britain's 2016 Rio Olympic team and now, just over one year later, she has punched her ticket to Montreal for the World Championships, held October 2-8.

After competing in Strictly Come Dancing after Rio, Fragapane returned to competition early this year. She took second on floor at the British Championships, first on beam and floor at the English Championships, and then went on to compete at the European Championships. 

This past weekend, at the Paris World Challenge Cup, Fragapane secured the gold on floor as well as bronze on beam. We recently caught up with her to hear about her whirlwind of a year since competing in Rio.

FloGymnastics: First of all, can you reflect back on your Olympic experience a little bit now that we're just over a year out?

Claudia Fragapane: It felt amazing to get picked for the Olympics to start off with, because you work so hard when you're training and to finally get picked to represent Great Britain is a massive honor, and spending months with these amazing gymnasts, and it was just great. Obviously, out there I was so nervous because it's the biggest competition of your life, but then all of us as a team just enjoyed ourselves and we just said we're going to enjoy ourselves like we do in any other competition, and it was a historic result.

Unfortunately, I didn't make the floor final and I missed it by .1, so that was really hard for me, but we did get into the team final, so I was really happy about that because we put all our effort into that. Overall, it was an amazing experience, and me doing that Olympics made me want to go on to the 2020 Olympics.

How has your life changed since your Olympic debut last year?

It was really good because coming out of the Olympics, I had to go home early because I was on Strictly. I had to go back for a few days of interviews and stuff.

When I got back home, loads of people would say, "Congratulations! You were in the Olympics," so it was really nice. Strictly was amazing to be a part of and it was completely different to gymnastics. 

You have to move your body in a different way, and it was really hard. Again, us gymnasts can catch on to things like that and anyone who's a gymnast would go onto Strictly and try their hardest, and it was really a good experience.

What do you think are some of the keys to Great Britain's success in the last couple of years?

I think with us, when we're at our national center, we obviously work as a team -- all these team situations and team exercises and things like that. I think that really helps when you're with those people for a long time and you become really good friends, so when you've got to compete you know what they like. I like to be told certain things before I go on and vice versa. Some people don't like to be spoken to, so there's different things like that. We 'get' each other. 

We just pump each other up and also -- say if we're really struggling one day, we still fight for that routine, so if something goes wrong, for an example, on bars and you miss a move, you're still fighting the whole way through. And I feel like that's what Great Britain does. We always fight for that last tenth.

It's even with the coaches, as well. Everyone agrees with each other, everyone supports it, everyone sticks together. I think that's what helps when you go to International competitions and everything.

Can you talk a little more about what your national camps are like?

Obviously we train at different clubs all around England and we go to these camps. It's nice to catch up with the girls and train with them leading up to big events. We're there for a week at our National camp, and we're home for one day and then we go for a week again, so we bond even more and it's really nice. Even when we're away from our national center, and I'm at home, I'll ring up Ellie sometimes, or have a conversation, so we're always connected and it really helps going up to our national center and training together with a set program. Sometimes we have an individual program by our coaches, or we'll have a program where our national coach sets it for us and says this is what you've got to do in the week, and we get it before we actually get to the camp.

What have you experienced as the biggest changes made in the last five years to the GBR system?

Amanda Redding became national coach in 2013, and before that we had Adrian Stand, so it was completely two different people. Beforehand, I was a junior, and then I was a senior in 2013, and that was when it was Amanda -- that was her first year. To obviously go from Adrian Stand, which he was the head, now to Amanda Redding, I only knew what Amanda's program was like because before her I was a junior. Juniors are worked more by their coaches because it was more like individual competitions, and I didn't get picked for junior Europeans or anything when I was a junior -- only when I was a senior. That's when I really started to improve on all my gymnastics and got picked since 2014.

What are some of the big improvements you made since being a junior and what contributed to them?

When I was younger, I used to be such a messy gymnast. My coaches, Helen Potter and Rory Weavers, they were really good. They obviously pushed me to be the best that I can, and I never gave up. Even though I was a scruffy gymnast, I still tried my hardest. When you keep trying hard and work hard, hopefully that will get you there. It did, and that's when I started getting picked for teams because my gymnastics just changed completely because I just kept going and going. 

For junior Europeans, obviously there are so many great gymnasts in Great Britain, and it was really hard to get picked for a team. I just barely missed out and I was on reserve for junior Europeans, which was like a huge thing to me when I was younger. I was really upset about that and they said don't worry about it and just keep working hard. 

Then in 2013 I started to improve, but then I got injured, and then came back in 2014 and I was doing really well. That's when I started getting picked for teams and I just still stayed there, which I'm really happy about.

What has been your favorite thing outside of gymnastics that you've done since the Olympics?

I would say Strictly. That was an amazing experience to me because I wanted to go on the show as well, so I could put different Strictly dances into my floor routine It was really nice to actually do something like that, and I've always wanted to do that. I've always loved the show. I just was interested in how they danced, and how they did it, and why they love it so much. And then obviously after Strictly, I took some of those dancing techniques and put them in my new floor dance.

Talk a bit about your new Strictly-inspired floor routine.

When I went to Europeans at the beginning of the year, that's still the floor music that I've got now, and the dance. I've got some Argentine Tango, and I've got some Charleston, so I've got little bits of different ones.

I choreographed it, and then one of my coaches, Helen Potter, she just tweaked few things. Obviously you need a second point of view to see if it looks good, so I needed someone else to help me out on it.

How long was the break you took after Rio and when did you officially get back into gymnastics?

While Strictly was on, I was training still a little bit. I think I had like a few months off, and then while it was actually the show, I was training just a little bit. Straightaway, as soon as Strictly was done -- that was in December -- I think I took a week off at Christmas. Then as soon as that was over, I was like "Helen, I want to do Europeans," and so we just worked for that. I worked so hard to get to Europeans because having all that time off, and it was just amazing just to see how fast you can get back.

How was the comeback for you? How long did it take to get skills back?

It took a while to get all my skills back, but I feel like now that I've done the whole cycle to go to the Olympics, I know what my body and I know what I need to do to get there. I had to eat really well, a good balanced diet, and train really hard. I was in the fitness gym before I was getting all my routines back, and as soon as I was fit enough I could do my moves so easy.

As soon as we started trials for Europeans, I was fine again, and it was really good. I just had those two pieces ready -- floor and beam. It was nice to do something different and do two pieces out of four. As soon as Europeans was over, I said I needed to get back to four pieces, so we worked on that straightaway.

How has your worlds training been going?

It's been really good getting ready for worlds; obviously I'm trying to work on my stamina and getting my routines consistent.

Vault I'm still doing double twisting Yurchenko. Bars I'm doing a new Jaeger into Pak and still toe full directly into double straight. On beam, I'm working on a triple twist dismount and on floor I'm trying to add jumps out of my tumbles for that extra tenth.

I know every single tenth does count because that could make you miss out on the finals. I'm trying to make everything perfect and consistent, and really trying hard on all those individual elements. I'm doing my floor routines, half routines, and I'm doing extended routines. I'm just working on my stamina and everything so when I put my arm up for that routine, it's really easy.

I also saw that you started driving recently. How is that going?

Really, really good. I did a driving show, which will be airing in September (All Star Driving School), so fingers crossed. I did that, and just learning how to drive, for me, I just find it really hard because you're supposed to have fast reactions and things like that, but whenever I get nervous, I speed up and that's just not a good thing.

When I first sat in the car, I had to pump up the seat so much because I'm so small, and have cushions underneath me, and I was like, "This is embarrassing!"

Gymnast probs! Is the show going to be like other people learning to drive, too, kind of thing?

Yes, there will be other people learning. It'll be really good. I'm very excited.

Lastly, talk a little about what you see for yourself after gymnastics. Do you think your parents both owning businesses has made you kind of want to do that, too?

Probably, yeah, because we're a very business family. I've got two older sisters and two younger sisters and the oldest one works for my dad as the manager, and my second oldest sister works for my mom, and then the two little ones will probably go anywhere. Then there's me, the odd one out, that does the gymnastics.

I'm not sure what I will do. I don't know whether to do something completely different -- maybe go into some gymnastics coaching in my own business. I have my own little ones I coach right now -- or do something completely different, but I'm not sure yet. I'll see where life takes me.

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