BEN Goodall has had quite a journey, writes JAMES ROBERTS.

Last month the Harwell tumbler finished eighth in the 17-21 age group at the World Age Group Championships in Sofia.

But just 18 months ago the 19-year-old struggled to bend backwards due to a training injury of his own making.

He said: “I was trying to learn a new skill, but I used the wrong technique too many times and that took a toll on my back.

“I remember one session when I realised I couldn’t bend backwards anymore without pain, but I thought I’d walk it off.

“A couple of days later it was still bad – that’s when I realised it wasn’t getting better quickly and I started to get worried.”

Goodall was advised to give himself time to recover and did not train for six months.

It was hugely frustrating for the teenager, coming months after finishing fifth in the 17-18 age group at the 2015 World Championships.

He said: “Initially I was annoyed as I wanted to get back into it.

“There was a period when I was still injured and thinking ‘what am I doing this for, do I actually want to go back?’.

“The doubts were episodic, so there was never a time when I thought ‘I’ve had enough’.

“But I didn’t get back to where I was in December 2015 until January of this year.”

This makes Goodall’s achievements in 2017 even more impressive.

Silver medals in both the British and English Championships were followed by gold for Great Britain in the Loulé Cup in Portugal.

They helped earn a place on the shortlist in the junior sportsman of the year category at the 2017 Oxfordshire Sports Awards, which are held in January.

But whatever the outcome, Goodall sees the nomination as vindication for his hard work over the past 12 months.

He said: “To drop to zero and build back up to something that can be recognised at an awards evening like this makes it more special.”

The teenager is in his second year of a full-time chiropractor course at AECC University College, Bournemouth.

While at university, he trains at the Olga club in Poole – along with trampolinists Bryony Page and Nathan Bailey, who finished second and ninth for Great Britain at the Rio Olympics.

Goodall said: “Nathan Bailey came back from Rio with the Olympic Rings tattooed on his back and there was a lot of excitement around that.

“When I came back after the British Championships, he congratulated me on my performance, which was a boost.”

With sporting excellence up close, it is natural for Goodall to aspire to the level of Page and Bailey.

Now he has competed with the best in his age group, the tumbler is keen to set his sights even higher.

He said: “The ultimate aim would probably be to make a World Championship as a senior gymnast, that seems like the pinnacle.

“If you can be on a senior team at a World Championship, that puts you at the top of the top.”