Stronger Together | Interview with Jessica and Jennifer Gadirova 

By Ashlee Buhler 

Few athletes know what it’s like to travel the world, reach the pinnacle of their sport, and make history all by the age of 16—let alone with their best friend right by their side every step of the way. However, for Jessica and Jennifer Gadirova, that is simply reality. 

From their debut on the big stage at the inaugural Junior World Championships in 2019 to the Tokyo Olympics just two years later, the Gadirova twins are taking the gymnastics world by storm and making history along the way. 

Contributing three performances each in the team final, the identical duo played a big role in Great Britain’s surprise Olympic bronze medal in Tokyo. Together, they also competed in the All-Around final, where Jessica’s 10th place finish was the best result ever by a British female gymnast in an Olympic All-Around final. Jennifer was not too far behind in 13th. 

Then came the floor final where they captivated viewers with their charming floor choreography and radiant smiles; their love and passion for the sport shining through with every move. Their performances marked the first time in women’s artistic gymnastics that siblings were competing in an Olympic event final together. The moment was the Olympic motto “Faster, Higher, Stronger—Together” personified. 

For the Gadirovas, Tokyo was more than a dream come true. It was a dream shared and lived out together. And it’s only just the beginning of their journey. With so much history made in just one competition, it’s hard to believe they are only 16—but they show no signs of slowing down anytime soon. 

With Tokyo now in the rear-view mirror and Paris 2024 on the horizon, the Gadirovas are pushing forward with full steam. Afterall, there are new goals to achieve, and more history to be made. Together. 

Inside Gymnastics recently spoke with Jessica and Jennifer about their historic first Olympic Games, being able to share those special moments together, and what the future has in store for them!

Plus! Make sure to check out our bonus Instagram feature, “Guess The Gadirova” Here!

Let’s talk Tokyo! The British team made history with the bronze medal in the team final—the first Olympic medal for Great Britain in 93 years. Has that sunk in yet? 

Jennifer: It’s slowly starting to sink it but it’s still so surreal. Like, we just went to the Olympics at age 16, came away with a bronze medal, and now we’re back to reality. But it’s still quite different now because when we go around town and in shops people are like, ‘Oh you guys are the twins! Can we get a photo?’ 

Jessica: A lot of people pass us and congratulate us. Before the Olympics nobody knew who we were and now we’re getting recognized everywhere we go. 

Was the medal a surprise or was that the team’s goal coming in? 

Jennifer: It was a surprise 100%. We didn’t think it would be possible. Our biggest goal was just to go out there and enjoy the competition and that’s what we did! We didn’t hope for a medal at all. There’s the tiniest bit where you’re like, ‘Oh, we would love to win a medal,’ which everyone thinks that, really. But in our minds, we just wanted to enjoy the competition and have our best performances out there. Yes, we did have a mistake on beam, but we just put that to the side and carried on. When we finished bars, that’s when we started to look at the scores and started thinking, ‘Ok it might be possible now.’

From qualifications to the team final, the team jumped from sixth to third. What do you attribute that to?

Jessica: I think in qualifications we knew some of us didn’t have the competition we hoped for and there were just little things we wanted to correct for team finals. We went into training the day after qualifications to fix some of those little things and get our bodies ready and mindset ready. We knew we were just going to give it our all and try our best and no matter what happened, even if things were going downhill, we just wanted to enjoy every moment that came along, and we just tried to support each other. 

Jennifer: I think qualifications is the most nerve-wracking because that determines what competitions you do, so I think that put more pressure on us to do well because we had to make team finals and that’s what we were chosen for this team to do. But once we made it, it’s like, ‘Ok, we’ve done what we’ve been chosen for, now let’s go out there and give our best performance.’ That took some of the pressure off, which I think when we have less pressure, we do our best. 

Walk us through the moment you realize you won the bronze medal!  

Jessica: It was weird watching myself back on the TV, I didn’t even know what the scores were yet, but I remember watching Alice [Kinsella’s] routine because I know how disappointed she was in qualifications with that bar routine. Seeing her hit made me so happy for her! I was jumping up and down for her like, ‘Yes! She did it.’ I was so happy for her. When her score came up and we looked at the leaderboard we kind of knew what Amelie [Morgan] needed to do next but tried not to put the pressure on her and just let her do what she knows how to do—which is no more than in training. When she hit that routine, we had a feeling that we did it, but we had to wait for a few other gymnasts to finish their apparatuses. When it was over, we all just burst into tears. There was excitement, happiness, hugs—the emotions were flying around. 

Jennifer: We’re very happy we beat our qualifications score. That’s what we wanted as well, to do better than qualifications, but seeing that number three on the board, it was so special. 

How did you celebrate once you got back home? 

Jessica: Our club Aylesbury Gymnastic Academy did a little celebration, we had a few nights out and celebrations with our family, a few holidays, and just tried to enjoy being back home. 

You both seemed to really enjoy meeting some of the other gymnasts in Tokyo and taking pictures with them. Who are some of the people you met that you really look up to? 

Jennifer: Definitely Simone because when the Olympics were in 2020, we weren’t as much in the limelight for the Olympic team, so we were like, ‘Oh we’ll never get to compete against Simone or see her because by the time we get to the next Olympics she’ll probably be retired.’ But then a year later, getting selected for this Olympics it’s like, ‘Wow, we actually get to compete against Simone.’ We really look up to her and she’s such a big inspiration to all the young gymnasts. It’s basically just as much of a dream come true as going to the Olympics. Some people’s dream is just to see their idol, let alone compete against them! So that was pretty special. 

Jessica: But I think all the other gymnasts like Sunisa Lee, Angelina Melnikova, Rebeca Andrade, Vanessa Ferrari and all the other gymnasts from the U.S. team… with us we really didn’t do the whole Olympic cycle, but they’ve all done it and really built up to the Olympics so they’re a true inspiration of hard work and really shined on that stage. 

What is the plan moving forward? Are you back in the gym training? 

Jessica: We are back in the gym and just working on getting our bodies back and trying to work on technique that we might not have been very happy with at the Olympics—even though it was such an amazing experience. We’re just working on ourselves and our technique and getting more upgrades so the next competition we do we can be more up in the rankings. 

Jennifer: We’re just trying to use the time wisely and improve and be better than we were! 

Is the World Championships later this year on your radar? 

Jennifer: Before the Olympics it was a goal but after the Olympics, we think it might not happen just because of how soon it is. We want to slowly build back up and not rush because we did have a few aches and pains during the Olympics. We don’t want to rush for Worlds and make them worse so we’re just putting that to the side and recovering to be better. 

Do either of you have plans to do college gymnastics in the future? 

Jessica: We’ve definitely had recommendations, but I think we’re going to stick with our home country and keep our gymnastics alive here and do many other competitions. 

Jennifer: It would be such a fun thing to do, and we see loads of videos and it’s so cool, but I think because of how good we are we’re going to stick with Elite gymnastics in the UK. 

One of the questions on a lot of people’s minds is how to tell you two apart. Any tips or tricks for fans?

Jennifer: People say we have different shaped faces, and our eyebrows are shaped differently. The main thing we tell people is that Jess has a little freckle on her forehead, and I don’t, so that’s what we tell people for how they can tell us apart. 

Jessica: A lot of people say we have different smiles, too! 

How close is your relationship? Are there days when you get annoyed of each other or do you like doing everything together?

Jennifer: We do bicker here and there and get on each other’s nerves but most of the time [pauses and looks at Jessica] 

Jessica: We’re besties! 

You two have had quite the journey together from competing in the All-Around and floor finals together in Tokyo to winning an Olympic bronze medal for your country. How much does it mean to you to be able to share these moments together? 

Jennifer: It’s such an amazing thing because not a lot of people have siblings who go to such a high-level competition with them, so we feel so grateful to have each other, let alone being twins! We’ve done everything together; we’ve been together 24/7 since birth and we’re so close. I’m so happy I get to share this very special moment with her because sometimes coming back from big competitions it’s hard to explain and you wouldn’t tell them everything or show them everything. I think being there in real life…

Jessica: …it’s different from videos or photos! You’ve always been with each other your whole lives and you’ve worked toward the same goal together so just having that opportunity is amazing.

Photos by Ricardo Bufolin for Inside Gymnastics

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