Same passion, different sport | Olympic gymnast Amy Tinkler competes in her first Cheer Worlds 

By Ashlee Buhler 

It’s the 2022 Cheerleading World Championships. The best All-Star cheerleaders from around the nation have gathered in Orlando, Florida, hoping to end their season with a globe. Positioning themselves on the mat is the squad from Coventry Dynamite Ammunition, one of the best teams from the United Kingdom. Posed front and center is one of their newest members, who also just so happens to be one of the greatest gymnasts the country has ever seen. Her name is Amy Tinkler and the feeling of flipping, flying, and performing on the world stage is one she knows all too well. 

At the age of 14 Tinkler became the British Junior All-Around Champion. Just a year later, she won the same title in the senior division. Then came the 2015 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships, where she helped secure a team bronze—the first World medal in history for the British women. And in 2016, on the sport’s biggest stage, Tinkler became just the second British gymnast to win an Olympic medal when she finished third on the floor exercise behind U.S. stars Simone Biles and Aly Raisman at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Two years after prematurely retiring from gymnastics, citing the abusive culture in the sport, Tinkler has found a new competitive outlet in the world of cheerleading, which has led her back to the world stage once again. Few athletes know what it’s like to compete at the highest level in two different sports, but Tinkler got a taste when she arrived in Orlando for her first Cheer Worlds, just one month after getting started in the sport. At first there were nerves, but then came a wave of calmness. Even though this wasn’t the sport she had dedicated the majority of her life to, the feeling of flipping and performing on the world stage is one she missed. It’s a familiar feeling—one that never gets old. 

In the International Open Senior Small Coed 6 division, Tinkler and her team finished fourth, the highest finish of the non-U.S. teams. She’s already making history herself too; becoming only the second person who can say she has competed at the World Championships for both cheerleading and gymnastics. (Cali Allstar Ranger’s Laney Madsen became the first when she represented Bulgaria at the 2019 World Gymnastics Championships.) 

Refocused and revitalized, Tinkler is lighting up the stage with the same powerful tumbling that helped her win an Olympic bronze medal six years prior, but this time her smile is just a little bit brighter. Among her goals on this new journey is returning to Worlds next season and maybe even representing Team England someday in the future. However, at the very top is perhaps the most important of all; have fun and enjoy the process, every step of the way.

Inside Gym’s sister magazine Inside Cheer caught up with Amy Tinkler to discuss the transition from gymnastics to cheer and hear about her first experience at Cheer Worlds!

When and how did cheerleading come into the picture for you? 

When I retired from gymnastics I knew that I still wanted to compete in a performance sport and knew a few ex-gymnasts who had previously transitioned into cheer. I was talking a lot with them about the differences between the two sports and thought I’d give it a go. I love performing to large crowds and this just seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to have that experience again and use all my knowledge and skills from gymnastics and transfer it into the cheer world!

What has been the biggest challenge with transitioning from gymnastics to cheer? 

I would say the biggest challenge has been learning to fly, however it seems to have come very naturally to me and I have been able to pick it up quite quickly and easily.  The two sports go hand in hand with regards to the tumbling, jumps, body positions and performance. It’s very different having your teammates with you on the floor, I am very used to stepping up onto a podium by myself so that’s definitely different for me. I think it’s nice as you get to share the floor with the people you train with every day and get to enjoy that experience with some of your best friends.

In what ways do you feel being a gymnast has helped with your cheer career? 

I think for me the biggest advantage I have is the fact that floor was always my strongest piece in gymnastics, that’s where I won my Olympic medal! Performing and tumbling has always been the strongest part of my gymnastics career so to move into cheer and be tumbling and performing [it] just comes natural. 

What were you feeling before your first cheer competition? Were you nervous to be competing again, but for a completely different sport? 

I was actually very nervous at my first cheer competition. I had joined Coventry Dynamite Ammunition (one of the best and most known teams in the UK) only two weeks before my first ever cheer competition and did not know what to expect. As soon as I stepped on the floor at my first competition and saw Molly (my coach) standing at the front of the mat I felt instantly more relaxed and enjoyed the whole experience. 

You recently competed at your first Cheer Worlds—what was that experience like?

To be back on a world stage was a dream come true. My gymnastics career ended earlier than I planned so to have that opportunity to do it again was just incredible. It was a very different experience from gymnastics; we all shared a villa in Florida, we trained everyday, mainly in the mornings and then we were free to do what we wanted.  We got to see some of the Disney parks. I was lucky enough to go to Florida as a child on holiday but to go back and experience Magic Kingdom again but this time with your teammates was just as magical. 

What are your future goals with cheer? 

My future goals are to continue to improve and enjoy cheer as much as I have this season with Coventry Dynamite. We are working towards another bid to go back to Worlds next year and who knows — I may even get the opportunity to represent Team England one day also. My biggest plan is to continue to enjoy training and performing as much as I have this season with Ammo.

What would you say in a letter to your younger self? 

If it doesn’t feel right, speak up and don’t do it — sport is about growing as a person and enjoying the journey on the way.  

As a former Olympic gymnast, what are your thoughts on cheerleading receiving full IOC recognition and how that could change the landscape of this sport? 

I think it is amazing that the International Olympic Committee has granted full recognition to the International Cheer Union and cheerleading. I believe cheer is currently an underrated sport and I hope that this gives it the recognition it deserves and a huge step forward to allow cheer to receive greater support and funding! I am super excited that it is another step closer to being able to try out for another Olympic team but in a new and exciting sport!

Photo Credits: John Cheng (2016 Olympic medal podium), Action Moments (Cheer Worlds), and Amy Tinkler

Subscribe to Inside Gymnastics magazine today! Plus! Check out our new App!