The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Across the sea with Amelia Knight as she returns for a fifth year

Jacoby Banks-Hull
Rising fifth-year Amelia Knight strikes a pose as she dismounts the uneven bars during a gymnastics meet against Minnesota on Feb. 18.

From Bristol, United Kingdom to Champaign-Urbana, senior Amelia Knight’s gymnastics career has taken many ups and downs while it spanned across continents. Being placed into the sport at age two, Knight notes how she originally found her calling in gymnastics. 

“My family put me in and my best friend when I was younger,” Knight explained. “We were both pretty crazy and we needed to get out of the house.” 

While that marked Knight’s entry into the sport, she began to compete at a higher level just a few short years later. This eventually translated into Knight climbing up the levels as she spent more time perfecting her skills. 

“I think four or five, my coach actually thought I was really cute,” Knight furthered. “Picked me for this little baby mini squad, and then I had my first competition at five.”

Knight also depicted how her sport and schooling came about in the U.K., noting the differences between both countries and how her upbringing influenced how she practiced and balanced her schoolwork simultaneously.

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“You’re either going to be a recreational gymnast where you do it a couple times a week just for fun or you kind of go to the competitive, elite side,” Knight said. “Around eight years old is when I started coming out of school for gym and then I got moved to the elite squad.” 

The earlier part of her schooling and time in the sport was spent between the school and the gym. As she grew older and began competing more and more, her time in school dwindled and her time in the gym increased. 

“I was probably about 13-14. I started doing mornings before school and then afternoons as well,” Knight mentioned. “I progressed up to like 30 to 40 hours a week as I got older.”

With her gymnastics career being almost a full-time job at 40 hours of training a week, Knight shed light on the sacrifices she had to make and the accommodations that came along to enable a balance of both aspects of her life. Other girls from her school all went to the same gymnastics club so they were able to walk 25 minutes to the gym, then to school, then back to the gym. 

As for her family support, despite their sacrificed time, Knight notes that her mother and father were able to support her in different ways. Her father used his experience as a member of the Great Britain cycling team to bond with her over their athletic careers.

“In terms of recovery and just being an athlete, eating well, sleeping well, he was definitely a huge supporter and understood all of the sacrifices that were made over the years,” Knight said. “My dad will kind of just say how it is as an athlete. He knows the journey and how it goes.” 

Her father provides athlete-to-athlete support, which Knight says she still relies on to this dayOn the other side, her mother provides a friendlier side of comfort. 

“Mum was more of a ‘Sweetie, it’s okay, much more tender, loving care,” Knight shared. “I was able to have that time outside of the gym where we could talk about other things going on in life and school or relationships, or we’d go and do fun things together.”

With all of the support in numerous aspects of her life, Knight was able to handle such rigorous academic and athletic responsibilities. However, there was a time where she needed to turn her attention away from the gym, so she could get back to the academic standard she had always maintained in her life. 

It came to the point where Knight eventually thought about quitting the sport altogether. In the U.K., an athlete can either continue down the elite path of competing and training, or they can only do the sport recreationally while attending university. At this point in her life, Knight had only thought about going down the elite path. 

Past teammates of Knight’s had come to America, where they were given the opportunity to attend a university and continue their athletic careers. While watching their journeys, Knight began to consider going down the same path to start a new chapter of her life in the United States and bring back her love of the sport. 

“I got recruited by a few places and then kind of narrowed my decision down, and I think that kind of fueled me back up again … giving me something to look forward to,” Knight said. “Coming to the U.S. gave me that best-of-both-worlds where I could still do gym and focus on my academics at the same time.”

Knight struggled to adjust initially during a difficult transition to Illinois where she was quarantined and had no working phone or credit/debit card when she first arrived. However, as she grew accustomed to the new environment with support from friends and family, Knight’s athletic career as an Illini also blossomed. 

“Having a whole team behind you that’s all working towards the same goal (pushes the) need to succeed,” Knight said when asked more about the environment of being on a gymnastics team. “Everyone is so encouraging because everyone was in a similar boat.”

As for what comes next for Knight, she shared that she will be coming back for a fifth year on the Illinois women’s gymnastics squad. She was content with her individual and team efforts this past season and wants to continue the momentum.

“We were losing a lot of people after this year, and I think I definitely wanted to come back,” Knight noted. “Get on board the incoming freshman just to help mitigate.”

Amelia Knight has always been a trailblazer, with her incredible journey across the Atlantic in order to find the best of both worlds to balance her academic career and her athletic career. Her journey began as a toddler and has now expanded all the way to her 20s with a fifth year in collegiate gymnastics where she will represent the Illini one more time.


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