Longtime readers of this blog are quite familiar with my tendency to invoke data analysis into my articles. Going out of my way to measure anything that can possibly be measured in an attempt to figure out which gymnasts were overlooked and didn’t get the credit they deserved. While doing this in women’s artistic gymnastics (WAG), there are two gymnasts who keep showing up time and time again in my data crunches. Gymnasts who flew under the radar while quietly producing results that went far beyond what most Olympic medalists are capable of.
The first is Eva Bosakova of Czechoslovakia who last competed in the early 1960s and is by no means a modern gymnast. The second gymnast has the distinction of having competing in the “more recent” last 50 years, Beth Tweddle. This article is going to be all about her and provide four reasons why Beth Tweddle is the most under rated gymnasts of the last 50 years. Highlighting all of her accomplishments and some of the things that had gone overlooked.
She recorded 12 points.
In my points ranking Beth Tweddle recorded 12 points which puts her just inside the top-40. While labeling a gymnast as “barely in the top-40” may not sound all that impressive, it is when you consider that only ten or so gymnasts from the past 20 years have hit that threshold. For comparison, Beth is tied with Alicia Sacramone while being just one point behind Shawn Johnson.
Beth Tweddle has six medals at the World Championships and Olympics (Group-1 Level). All of them came in the individual events and three of them were gold. Because she was a British gymnast, it went overlooked just how well Beth was performing relative to gymnasts from the more iconic programs such as Russia, China, Romania and the United States.
Would Beth Tweddle have received more attention had she won those six medals under the Russian flag? Well consider this, in my points system Beth Tweddle has more points than Anna Pavlova, Elena Produnova, Tatiana Nabieva, Angelina Melnikova and Elena Eremina have combined.
As previously mentioned, Beth Tweddle has gold medals in three individual events, an accomplishment that eluded both Aly Raisman and Viktoria Komova. This is not to rag on Komova and Raisman as this is an incredibly rare accomplishment. The Chinese, American, and Russian programs combine for just nine gymnasts* who have ever done it. Ten if you throw in Great Britain and Beth Tweddle.
*Elena Zamolodchikova, Svetlana Khorkina, Aliya Mustafina, Simone Biles, Shannon Miller, Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson, Kim Zmeskal, and Cheng Fei.
She had 12 straight appearances at the World Championships and Olympics
Beth Tweddle was not only a proven winner, she was one of the best examples of longevity in WAG history. Beth Tweddle competed in 12 consecutive competitions at the Group-1 level. This is incredibly difficult to accomplish in WAG. Most gymnasts who are famed for their longevity never went beyond 9 or 10 consecutive appearances. This includes Daniele Hypolito, Lavinia Milosovici, Gina Gogean, Alicia Sacramone, Elena Zamolodchikova, and even Oksana Chusovitina.
It requires extreme durability to go 12 years without an injury preventing a gymnast from appearing in a World Championships or Olympics. Other gymnasts needed to take a hiatus just to give their body time to recuperate in order to continue their careers. Beth Tweddle avoided both of these scenarios.
Because it is a time consuming task to track G1 appearances by gymnast, I don’t have a full set of data to find the total number of gymnasts who have as many consecutive appearances as Beth Tweddle. But out of the 100s of gymnasts I do have this data on, there are only two other examples.
The first is Svetlana Khorkina who appeared in 12 straight competitions over an 11 year period from 1994-2004.* The second is Elisabeth Seitz who is currently at 11 consecutive appearances and is on the verge of tying Beth Tweddle’s mark. Beth Tweddle’s streak at the G1 level is so impressive, there are only three known occasions of it happening in the data I have collected so far.
*Khorkina participated in 12 competitions over the course of 11 years due to the doubled World Championships in 1994, the World Championships being held in an Olympic year in 1996, and the lack of a World Championships in 1998.
And Beth was competitive throughout the entirety of her career rather than being a medal winning gymnast in just one small portion of those 12 years. Her first medal came in 2003 while her last medal came in 2012. Beth Tweddle has medals in three different Olympic quads and built gold medal winning uneven bars routines five years apart.
Beth Tweddle’s career is rather unique in that she never won more than one medal in a single year, but she always made sure to win a medal at least once every three years. This is probably part of the reason Beth Tweddle flew under the radar. She won her medals “slow and steady” which allowed her to quietly rack up an impressive medal haul. Meanwhile most of her contemporaries such as Rebecca Bross crashed onto the scene with an unforgettable performances, only to quickly disappear from the sport after only a short run of success.
She is a Queen of 4th place.
Remember when I talked about how Beth Tweddle’s medal count is insanely impressive? Here is the freaky part, Beth Tweddle’s final medal count could have been significantly higher. Beth Tweddle is second on the list of gymnasts who have the most 4th place finishes in WAG history. With five career 4th place finishes, she has almost as many 4th place finishes as she has career medals. Just imagine where Beth Tweddle would be on my points list if she was able to add to her 12-point career total.
Not only does the significance of Tweddle’s 4th place finishes bolster the case that her point total is even better than it looks, it also makes her longevity look even better as well. Remember when I said Tweddle never went more than three years without winning a medal? She never went more than a one year without finishing 4th or better. This includes recording a “4th or better” in every Group-1 level competition from 2002 to 2010. There were only two occasions in which Beth Tweddle competed in a major competition and failed to achieve at least a 4th place finish. The first occasion occurred at the very start of her career, the second occasion occurred towards the very end of her career.
She Broke the Shannon Miller exception.
In the last three sections I’ve highlighted Beth Tweddle for her ability to win medals, her consistency, and also her longevity. Now I’m going to add a fourth dimension, her status as a pioneer and trailblazer for the gymnasts of Western Europe.
Back in August I wrote an article called “The Shannon Miller Exception” where I highlighted that from the 1930s to the early 2000s, every gymnast with 10+ points in my points system had come from Eastern Europe. Shannon Miller was the only exception to that trend.
It was during the 2005-2008 Olympic quad that the Shannon Miller Exception ceased to exist after gymnasts from North America, Asia, and Western Europe were able to regularly hit the 10+ point threshold. Gymnasts such as Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson did it for North America, Cheng Fei did it for Asia, and Beth Tweddle did it for Western Europe.
But among this particular generation of gymnasts, Beth Tweddle was the oldest and the only one who came of age in an era where Eastern Europe still ruled WAG. Whereas modern gymnasts now rise to fame as novice prospects on the Internet, back in Tweddle’s day she first gained recognition in print magazines all the way back in 1995.
Beth Tweddle was part of an age group where it was believed that the very best gymnasts came from places other than Western Europe. Due to the success of Western Europe in the 2017-2021 quad, it is easy to forget that up until the 1980s it was unheard of for Western European WAGs to qualify to an Event Finals. And during the 1990s Western Europe won only an occasional medal at the Group-1 level. But that was before Beth Tweddle came along and changed that notion.
To demonstrate just how extreme the shift in WAG’s power balance was during Tweddle’s era, look no further than the 2001 World Championships which was Tweddle’s senior debut in Group-1 competition. It was a coup for Eastern Europe as every gold medal went to either Andreea Raducan or Svetlana Khorkina.
That was the era of WAG that Beth Tweddle entered. The era she exited featured the likes of McKayla Maroney, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman and an American program that was now an unstoppable power. Few gymnasts ever experienced such an extreme shift in the power balance of the sport. Even fewer gymnasts were personally part of it and fueled that change.
Beth Tweddle helped raise the profile of Western Europe and while it is important to acknowledge the contributions of other gymnasts such as Vanessa Ferrari, it is also important to note that Tweddle was the tip of the spear. Her 2001 debut and status as a 12-point gymnast places Beth Tweddle as the gymnast who emerged at the exact moment Western Europe was going to join the likes of China and the United States.
Beth Tweddle wasn’t just the trail blazer for British gymnasts like Amy Tinkler, Ellie Downie, and Becky Downie. But also gymnasts from her immediate region such as Sanne Wevers, Nina Derwael, and Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos. Ever since Beth Tweddle first appeared Western Europe has become stronger and stronger. It was a trend that continued even after Tweddle’s retirement.
Tweddle ended her career in a way that was truly befitting of a legend, she won an Olympic medal on home soil. When Beth Tweddle first joined the ranks of the British WAG, the program had frequently failed to qualify to a Team Finals. Beth Tweddle left British WAG in such a strong position that just three years after she stopped competing, Great Britain became the first country from Western Europe to win a team medal in 65 years, and the first to do it in a fully attended competition in 87 years.
Beth watched it happen while sitting in the broadcast booth as a member of the media and not as a gymnast standing on the competition floor. But that moment was as much Tweddle’s as it was the gymnasts who had actually won. It was the shining moment for the program Beth Tweddle had built up. Winning medals is becoming a regular occurrence for British gymnastics. But the current generation of British gymnasts have their work cut out for them if they want to go down as the greatest gymnast in British history. Beth Tweddle set the bar high.