Pavel Karnejenko was not even meant to be competing in Birmingham but for half the men’s all-around final he was on course to pull off the most unlikely medal of the entire Commonwealth Games.
After undergoing surgery on his ankle 12 weeks ago, the Scottish gymnast faced a race against time to get to the Games, with the decision to complete across all six apparatus only taken at the last minute.
So understandably, expectations were low, but the Estonian-born 22-year-old ripped up the form book as he led the competition after three of the six rotations.
The ankle issue meant that he was always going to struggle to maintain that advantage, particularly with his floor routine to come, and as he eventually finished fifth, it was a case of what might have been.
He said: “I’ve got mixed emotions. I’m quite happy and pleased I’m doing the all-around. Not long ago I had an ankle injury and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to compete at the Commonwealth Games. I had an operation about 11-12 weeks ago so I was aiming to come back for four pieces and I’ve been able to come back for all-around. But given how close I was today to getting a medal, I’m just a little bit gutted.
“I made a big mistake on the parallel bars which cost me, which is one of my highest-scoring pieces. But it’s made me more hungry to train and now believe in myself more. My floor is not up there where it should be, my start value is quite low because I’m doing a reduced routine because of my ankle. I’m happy, I’m hungry and just a little bit gutted to not get that medal. I’m going to train harder than ever to make sure next time I can secure that medal.”
Karnejenko was not even in the top group of qualifiers for the all-around final, but confounded expectations as he kept pace with the heavy hitters including England pair Jake Jarman and James Hall who claimed gold and silver respectively.
And his efforts are all the more remarkable when you consider that he has not even been able to warm up because of the troublesome right ankle.
He added: “I was quite fatigued after the team final and it was tough because I’m still doing a lot of rehab in my leg. It was a tough day but I loved it and enjoyed it.
“I’ve only started doing floor a few weeks ago and the vault. I’ve not actually been warming up in the back gym, I’ve been leaving it because I need to save my ankle.”
Compatriot Frank Baines, who came out of retirement for these Games, finished in seventh.
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