Gymnast Jack Neill has his sights set on securing a place on the Irish gymnastics team at the 2016 Olympics after clinching a place at Cambridge University.
The 18-year-old, has decided to defer entry into Christ’s College to study engineering in a bid to compete in Rio next summer.
Jack, who has just left Glyn School in Ewell in Surrey, attained an A* in Maths, A* in Further Maths and an A in Physics.
Surrey-based Jack is the current British U18 pommel horse champion, a title previously held by London 2012 Olympic silver medallist Louis Smith.
He represented Ireland at the 2012 and 2014 European Championships, was the 2014 U18 All-Ireland champion, and helped the Irish team win the 2015 Celtic Cup competition in Cardiff.
Despite his experience competing on the big stage, Jack admitted the wait to learn his academic fate had been a difficult one.
“I was very nervous leading up to today, as I’m sure most of my friends were, so it was good to finally be able to collect my results, they were absolutely amazing,” he said.
“The wait I had for a confirmation of my place didn’t help but we got there in the end and I’m really looking forward to studying at Christ’s because it is the best place to study engineering and this is the field I’d love to work in.”
Jack, who began training at Tolworth Gymnastics Club at the age of five, has family roots on both sides of the border, with his father being born in County Down and his maternal grandparents from Dublin.
He has already competed at the 2012 European Championships and 2013 European Youth Olympics, is now turning his attentions to the World Championships in Glasgow later this year.
“With the Olympics taking place next summer, I decided I would defer going to Cambridge until 2016 so I can spend a whole year doing gymnastics and hopefully get some work experience,” he continued.
“There are lots of competitions between now and the Olympics and all my focus is now on making sure I make the Ireland team.
“The next 12 months is going to be huge for me – especially at the end of this year with the World Championships in Glasgow, and the trials to get into the Ireland team sometime in the New Year, and the European Championships as well. I certainly won’t be spending the next year relaxing!”
As for his chosen subject, he added: “I’m very passionate about maths and physics so engineering seemed to be the perfect fit.”
Glyn’s head of sixth form Joe Gale has watched Jack throughout his school career, and says his success is thoroughly deserved – and appreciated by his classmates. “Jack has a great work ethic,” he explained. “I was his biology teacher for two years and saw no sign of the huge amounts of work he was putting in to his gymnastics, as his work was always done on time and to a high standard.”
It was not just the teachers who were unaware of quite how much work he was doing. “Jack’s very humble and many of the other students were unaware of his success until we persuaded him to let us show one of his performance clips in assembly,” Mr Gale explained. “They revelled in the brilliance of one of their own year group and what he could do, and gave him a standing ovation at the end. The whole school is incredibly proud of him and what he’s achieved, and we can’t wait to see more.”
- Jack was part of a Year 13 cohort at Glyn that secured an overall pass rate of 99.7 per cent, with 82 per cent of grades at A* to C and 53 per cent at A* to B.