Beam Queen’s ‘third coming’ in time for Paris Games

Murray Wenzel |

Retired for three years, gymnast Emma Nedov is back in the mix for an Olympic debut.
Retired for three years, gymnast Emma Nedov is back in the mix for an Olympic debut.

When Emma Nedov fled Azerbaijan during a gymnastics World Cup event to beat Australia’s pandemic border closure it crushed hopes of an Olympic debut and sent her into retirement for a second time.

Nedov, dubbed the ‘Beam Queen’ after her 2019 World Cup gold, spent the next three years being “a big girl” – working as a sports nutritionist, YMCA board member and gymnastics equipment brand co-founder.

She had already retired briefly in 2017 after tearing her achilles tendon, only to be quickly lured back by her love of the sport.

That love stirred again late last year, when the 28-year-old made a tentative return to training “for fun”.

Just six months after coming out of retirement for the second time, Nedov stamped her comeback with a fourth place in the all-around Australian Championships and gold at the Oceania Continental Championships.

Those performances could be enough to earn her a ticket to next month’s Paris Games.

Emma Nedov.
Emma Nedov is in the frame for the Paris Games barely six months after coming out of retirement. (Jason O’BRIEN/AAP PHOTOS)

Australia’s all-around team is set to be named on Tuesday, with injuries to spearhead Georgia Godwin (achilles) and 2022 Commonwealth Games silver medallist Romi Brown (knee) opening the door for the previously luckless Nedov.

In Azerbaijan, Nedov had been on the wrong side of the Olympic selection cut after preliminaries and flew home to Australia before she had the chance to improve her position in the final.

“I was 24, had no real life experience, needed a job, needed money and wanted to move out of my parents’ house and be a big girl,” Nedov said of her decision to retire in 2020.

“I’d achieved a lot of success … so I was like, ‘Alright, look, maybe the Olympics isn’t for me’.”

Australia last qualified a women’s team for the Olympics all-around event in 2012, with Godwin’s injury a blow for a team that’s still aiming for a top-eight finish in Paris.

“Just missing (qualification) in 2016 was devastating, weird and it was surprising to watch the mood from then up until 2020,” Nedov said.

“There was just this expectation for us not to qualify a team.

“As soon as the girls qualified last year it was like this spark just came back into the sport.

“I said, ‘Alright, let’s give it six-to-eight weeks and see if it’s even possible for me to be a gymnast again’.

“I had done no exercise, other than dabbling a little bit with kung fu.

“If you saw me, I didn’t look like an athlete. At all.

“Within about five weeks my coach and I looked at each other and we said, ‘Hey, I think I can do this’.”

After taking gymnastics for granted as a teen, Emma Nedov wants to enjoy her return to the sport. (Jason O’BRIEN/AAP PHOTOS)

Nedov is determined to make a positive impact in her ‘third coming’, regardless of whether she’s selected for the Games.

“And to enjoy it and to really love the sport that I spent so long excited to get out of,” she said.

“I really took it for granted; being 16 and running around the world competing.

“I can’t tell you that much about those experiences because they weren’t super-duper memorable, which is insane.”