'˜I should not have to defend myself on the night I win Olympic silver' - Louis Smith talks about Rio, freedom of the city and new theatre tour
Peterborough's Olympic silver medallist Louis Smith has hit back at suggestions that he did not congratulate Team GB colleague and rival Max Whitlock after he took gold in the pommel horse final.
Louis told the Peterborough Telegraph he was not brought up to behave in that manner and that he had said well done to Whitlock when the cameras were not on him.
The gymnast from Eye, who now lives in Helpston, also said he would be delighted to accept the Freedom of the City after he was nominated for the honour.
Asked about the pommel horse final, he said: “It’s all very silly to be honest. It should not happen to me, having to defend myself on the night of me winning an Olympic silver.
“Me, Max and Max’s coach know what happened. The cameras did not catch me going over to congratulate him.
“I’m not like that, I was not brought up like that, it’s not how I tick. It’s pointless carrying on talking about it.”
Despite the online furore, the four-time Olympic medallist, who now has two silvers and two bronzes, will hold fond memories of another successful Games.
“I’m very happy, very relieved and very proud of what I have done, for how long I’ve been in the sport and what I’ve achieved in the Olympics,” he said.
“I was slightly disappointed at the time that I was not going to get gold, but five-10 minutes passed and the overwhelming feeling was pride.
“You reflect on all the people that have helped you get to where you are. When you’re younger you take that side of things for granted. Now that I’m at the back end of my career you appreciate it more.
“A lot goes into it that people do not see - my training, people that have made sacrifices to get me there. It’s a real team effort.”
Reflecting on his time in Rio, Louis said his highlight was being part of an incredibly successful gymnastics team which brought back seven medals.
“It was just an incredible Games. To be there on the team but there with your friends, to experience that as a competitive gymnast, I was so thankful being part of the gymnastics event,” he said.
Watching Louis’ pommel horse final was not easy for his mum Elaine Petch, though.
“Mum was watching it around a friend’s house. She needed moral support watching me do my thing. I think they are all very proud.”
Team GB was given a big welcome after touching down from Rio on Tuesday, but there was a further surprise for Louis when he made it home and saw a banner reading “Congratulations Louis, Helpston is proud of you!” waiting for him.
“It’s been incredible, travelling home, talking to everyone, messaging and ringing everyone. It’s just been crazy,” said Louis.
“I came home and there’s all these flags and banners on my house. It’s so nice. You do not get a feel for that when you’re in Rio.
“It’s only when you come home that you realise the effect Team GB has.
“I was quite surprised to see the banner, but it was a nice surprise.
“It’s so nice to be back. I loved it out there in Rio and it was better than I expected it to be, but I’ve been away for four, five weeks and it’s nice to come home and switch off.”
The Mayor of Peterborough, Councillor David Sanders, has recommended that Louis be made a freeman of Peterborough, with the city council’s honours set to discuss the matter soon.
Louis said: “That’s awesome, I would gladly accept it.
“Peterborough, you guys have been fantastic. It’s been an absolute pleasure to say I’m from here and represent Peterborough in and out of the gym.
“I’m committed to Peterborough. I think it’s a fantastic place, especially in Helpston.”
Going forward, Louis is waiting to see if the Olympic criteria for the 2020 Games in Tokyo will allow him to be part of the team as a gymnast with one speciality.
If it does, then he will push again to go for gold.
But while he waits to hear, the gym is being put to one side for relaxation, a stag do and a new theatre tour which begins very shortly.
“I’m going on a dancing show for seven weeks doing a tour in theatres around the country. It’s called Keep Dancing. I start rehearsing for that soon,” said the former Strictly Come Dancing winner.
“I’m really looking forward to that. They take some of my favourite dancers from Strictly. I’m doing the salsa and the Viennese Waltz and four to five dances overall.
“It’s tough because they have all been rehearsing while I’ve been in Rio.
“I have no plans to get back in the gym straight away. I want to chill out and spend some time with my friends. It’s been pretty full on this year.”
Rumours of an appearance on the next series of I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! have appeared, but Louis would only say: “People want to speculate and they can speculate. There are things in the pipeline and I have a meeting today.”
The gymnast is also looking to stay active in Peterborough, adding: “I will try and do some school visits. That’s something I really enjoyed doing last time after London 2012. I will try to do my part and inspire the next generation.”