Dominick Cunningham can rightly claim to be a man of many talents.
We are a world-class gymnast but also a gas head, motocross racer, ice skater and stunt apprentice; a hyperactive whirlwind of energy with a mouth that keeps pace with his body.
He also enjoys making crafty money; a Spiderman for hire (in full costume) for children’s parties, a makeover of anything with a half-chassis, and even a designer and supplier of leotards when his gallop was halted during Covid.
He’s the quintessential cheeky guy, posting several videos on his social media of spectacular workout stunts and tricks, like doing handstands on galloping horses and his late grandfather’s walker.
A video of him scoring a basketball shot off a mid-flip went viral on US TV and a photo of him training in stables during lockdown as he struggled to access a gym, has attracted similar attention in Britain.
The latest string to his multi-faceted bow is media work, as an in-house gymnastics presenter particularly live at the recent Commonwealth Games in his home town of Birmingham.
It’s a job usually done by retired athletes, but it’s not done yet.
The 27-year-old won Commonwealth team gold with England in 2018 (and individual bronze on vault) but was not involved this time as he recently switched sides to compete for the Ireland, for which he will make his debut at the European Championships in Munich. tomorrow.
Blockages and injuries saw Cunningham miss out on Olympic selection in Tokyo and struggle to keep up with Britain’s ultra-competitive elite system.
He says he first spoke to Gymnastics Ireland about his eligibility in 2015 and that British Gymnastics’ selection policies and the Whyte review (over allegations of abuse and mismanagement) all contributed to his change.
“It was not healthy for me. I was really struggling. I just don’t want to end my career missing teams or getting injured because I had a good career. I want to enjoy my gymnastics now.
Growing up in a strong Irish community in Birmingham, his roots have always been strong and he played Gaelic football as a youth.
“My dad is all-Irish, he’s from Carlow, his dad was from Carlow and his mum was from Cork. The main thing is for my father, to see him and his family talk about it a little more.
“It brings back good memories. He was always proud of me but now when I say I’m going to Ireland I see his face light up.
Cunningham’s change is not only a big boost for Irish gymnastics – especially as they hope to secure the team’s qualification for the World Championships in Munich – but surely boosts collective training considerably. at the National Gymnastics Center in Abbotstown.
Still, ‘Dom’ stresses that he trains as hard as he plays, as his track record attests. He was European champion on floor in 2018 and only missed bronze on vault at the 2018 World Championships by 0.009.
He trained daily despite his recent media role at the Commonwealth Games.
“I was there from 6:30 a.m. to about 8:30 p.m. and then I had to drive an hour and a half to get to the gym. I was going home at 1 a.m. and starting my day again at 6 a.m. It was tough , it beat me but I had to do it.
Mention that another Birmingham Irish showman, Jack Grealish, also played a bit of GAA and he reflects on how different their sporting lives were.
“You have seen what we are doing. We are breaking bones left, right and center and getting paid for it. I’m not saying their sport is easier, I know how difficult football is.
“But when you see them getting all that money, you’re like, ‘Oh, I’d love to get tackled and roll around a bit’.”
He is extremely serious about becoming a stuntman, already gaining qualifications and experience in drifting (driving), horse riding, boxing and MMA, with scuba diving being next on his list. “essentials”.
But right now competing for Ireland is his focus.
“We’re not doing anything spectacular, just nice clean routines to qualify for the World Championships.
“I have just come back from surgery on both ankles and I want my future to start here.
“Ireland actually have strength and depth of field now. We have nothing to prove but we will prove we are good.