Why we should be shouting for Coventry-born gymnast representing Jamaica in Olympics

Coventry-born Danusia Francis is currently in Tokyo ready to compete in gymnastics

Coventry’s own Danusia Francis will be looking to win big in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, but not for Team GB.

A well-known face in the gymnastics world, Danusia cut her teeth at Coventry Olympics Gymnastic Club.

A stand-out athlete, her perfect 10 beam routine has racked up more than 2 million views on YouTube to date.

Danusia was born in Coventry and until the age of nine, trained hard at local gymnastics clubs.

An opportunity for a scholarship meant that Danusia made the difficult decision to leave Coventry, but it was one that got her to Tokyo.

‘I was in great shape and ready to go’

Her mum, Wanda, was a single mum to Danusia and her three siblings and worked tirelessly to ensure her daughter could follow her dreams.

Danusia is half-Jamaican and half-Polish, which has enabled her to represent Jamaica in the Olympics.

Speaking to us from her apartment in Team Jamaica’s complex in the Olympic Village, Danusia painted a rich picture of what it is really like to compete out there.

Danusia training at Coventry Olympics Gymnastic Club with her first ever coach Tex (Image: Photo provided by Danusia Francis)

“The training in the run-up was really good, I was super-prepared and feeling in great shape and ready to go.

“On my last day I did a slight knee injury so that was a bit unfortunate, but because of Covid, everyone else was doing temperatures, girls [that were attending] school had to isolate with the different bubbles, but everyone was really considerate of me and my coach coming out here.”

Danusia trains at Heathrow Gymnastics Club, and had to take three back to back PCR tests in the days up to her flight to Tokyo, and one just before flying.

Even at the height of lockdown, she had to train alone in the gym in order to stick to her gruelling Olympic training schedule.

“It was that atmosphere and team bond that I missed, that mental camaraderie.

“It helped a lot having to strengthen your mental game early on but when everyone came back it was really nice to have everyone back.”

What is a day in her life like? “I wake up pretty late to allow for evening training, I wake up at 9am, do emails and work content, run errands. Training is at 5pm – 9pm on weekdays, I get back and do a bit of recovery (bath or ice-ing, or a massage).”

On days off during the week, Danusia is also a coach, and a stunt woman.

She recently finished filming on a series for Apple TV, but explained they kept her safe and doing low risk stunts to ensure she was okay to compete.

Danusia will be performing her routine in Tokyo this Sunday, and due to Covid regulations will have to fly back immediately afterwards.

Describing what life is like in the Olympics village she said: “[The village] has stunning views, they have done really well, you’ve got giant Olympic rings on one side and a flag walkway.

‘I look at it like wow, am I actually here’

“The two-storey canteen has every single cuisine in the world that you can imagine. For the most part I’ve been going to the Japanese and Asian cuisine, but they’re doing a good job of the pizza too and the salad is amazing!”

She went on: “You also have this Coca-Cola fob and there are drinks machines everywhere… you can get them for free. There’s a village plaza where you can get shops, merchandise store, they have an Asics trainer shop where they give you a pair of free trainers for your recovery.

“We also got freebies when we arrived like the new Samsung Galaxy phone with Olympic rings on it which is so cool.

“There’s also a recreational centre which has a gigantic fitness centre in it which is very impressive, there’s arcade games, massage chairs, origami-making sessions – there’s also a casual dining area where they have Japanese food.

“A lot of the countries including Jamaica have put out a little area in front of the apartment so there’s little deck chairs, seating, and they’re decorated with little flags. All the apartments have amazing views: every morning I look at it, like, wow I am actually here.”

Danusia will be competing in a simple bar routine this Sunday, and regularly shares updates from inside the Olympic village to her 78k Instagram followers.

“There’s a lot of things that make this a unique experience obviously during the pandemic – no one said it would be easy or perfect,” she said.

“If I said to my younger self that you were going to be in the Tokyo 2021 Olympics I think my younger self would be proud and excited – it’s a dream come true.”

Danusia has also got her eyes set on the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are taking place from Friday, July 23 to August 8.