Prodigy Jake Jarman ready to take on world’s best gymnasts in Liverpool

During one of the final days of preparation before the preliminary rounds of the World Gymnastics Championships in Liverpool that began on Saturday, Jake Jarman was navigating his routine on the floor exercise when he stepped up to deliver one of the most difficult skills in the sport.

After five quick steps and a round-off, Jarman threw himself into a triple-twisting double back somersault in layout position. Few can manage the tucked version of the skill, but in the laid out position, with the body arrow-straight and even more amplitude required, it is a significantly more difficult.

Jarman made an absurd piece of gymnastics look easy. He stuck it cold, landing with his chest high. Inside the vast M&S Bank Arena, his teammates broke out into applause.

The prodigious skill of Jarman has been one of the worst-kept secrets in British gymnastics in recent years, mainly because of how often he exhibits it to his followers. Jarman’s social media accounts are filled with videos of him pulling off ridiculous skills for fun, including one-armed triple-doubles on a tumbling track. His supreme air-awareness, power and twisting ability have propelled him to the top of his sport.

At 20 years old, it has come together in an incredible breakthrough season. Jarman marked his international arrival by winning four gold medals at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, then he won gold on the vault and a floor bronze at the European Championships in Berlin a few weeks later.

Those are still only regional events. Having been an alternate for the Tokyo Olympics last year, Liverpool will mark his first major global event, a clear test of where Jarman falls among the best gymnasts in the world.

He boasts a floor routine that is packed with difficulty even beyond the triple-double layout, while he possesses two of the most difficult vaults. He clearly has sufficient difficulty on those events to compete for medals at this level.

Against the rest of the world, though, the standards are stratospheric and titles are usually decided in the minute details. All the difficulty in the world cannot help if they give too many tenths away with their form and landings. A gruelling series of competition days await and the best competitors are those who maintain consistency throughout the competition, even as fatigue sets in. “The world stage is another level,” says Jarman.

In a year that has underlined the continued growth of British gymnasts on the competition floor at the Commonwealth Games and European Championships, this world championships will also provide a clear reflection of the team’s progress in relation to the rest of the world.

In the men’s competition, Jarman’s four Commonwealth gold medals were complemented by supreme performances from Joe Fraser, who competed despite a recent foot fracture. Fraser is Britain’s most talented all-around gymnast since Max Whitlock, who has taken a break this season, and like Jarman he backed up his performances in Birmingham, winning the European all-around title.

The women’s team has similarly enjoyed a strong year, following up their historic Olympic team bronze medal in Tokyo with further gains. While Alice Kinsella underlined her growing international pedigree by winning European silver in the all-around, Jessica Gadirova, now a two-time European floor champion, stands as the British women’s best chance for a medal.

While the presence of traditional powers such as China and Japan will make medals difficult to come by in the men’s competition, the past year has seen the women’s field diversify. The USA will begin as the clear favourites in the team competition, but behind them Italy have arrived at the top, winning European team gold ahead of Great Britain.

The most fascinating group will be the Brazil team spearheaded by Rebeca Andrade, who is the best all-around gymnast in the world in the absence of the Simone Biles and Sunisa Lee, the Olympic champion. Andrade is chasing a historic first all-around gold and team medal.

This is a particularly notable season for Britain to host the sport’s premier standalone competition. This year has been marked by the long-awaited publication of the Whyte review, which laid bare the abusive culture at British Gymnastics during a period when Great Britain became a factor on the global stage.

Released in June, the Whyte review revealed countless instances of abuses from those in power. Similar failures are gradually being reported around the world, most recently with more than 500 Canadian gymnasts writing to their sports minister, Pascale St-Onge, through Gymnastics For Change Canada, calling for an urgent independent review into abuse.

They all must be thoroughly investigated for the victims of such abuses around the world and the wellbeing of the new generation who deserve to thrive and live out their dreams under healthy, constructive conditions.