Gymnast Andreas Toba: Only he feels the pain and doubts

So a gymnast’s body in competition always looks impressive, well-trained, agile, full of strength. Also in the German title fights that started on Thursday. You might think that a body like that has to be bursting with fitness and health. What muscles or ligaments are damaged or are currently causing pain cannot be seen from the performances.

Andreas Toba lists: capsule and ligament torn at the hip, a partial tear in the pectoral muscle, finger dislocated; and that’s just the list since Easter. “I’m physically pretty bad, but it’s been getting better every day since last week,” he says. Andreas Toba is not the type to complain. On the first device, the floor, he has to repeat a simple compulsory element, defending champion Lukas Dauser submits. Toba became German all-around champion in 2016 and 2019, and he has been collecting championship titles on apparatus since 2011. He cannot spontaneously say how many German championships he has already contested: “Numbers are not that important.”

Toba declared a “hero”.

When asked if this is currently a battle between head and body, Toba confirms without hesitation: “But it’s actually always been. Of course it’s the case that you always want more in your head, but your body sometimes intervenes.” And it “definitely doesn’t get easier with the body with increasing age”, but there are other advantages: the routines, the experience, that makes things a lot easier.

Toba will be 32 years old in October. At last year’s European Championships he won his first international individual medal: silver on horizontal bar. No one believed him capable of that, and he himself had not thought it possible. “I’m just grateful that it happened at all,” he says. Toba was always considered the classic all-rounder, when it came to international medals, his name was never mentioned. He sees the silver medal as a “kind of reward” for years of work. Toba is one of the most experienced gymnasts in the current squad: six European Championships, five World Championships, three Olympic Games.


Not on every device with difficulties, on the contrary: Lukas Dauser at the Turn-DM
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Image: dpa

On the second device, the pommel horse, it is Lukas Dauser who has to fight hard. It’s the device that made Toba famous. When his cruciate ligament tore on the floor in the team competition in Rio 2016, he still competed here. He never really understood why he was declared a “hero”, for him it was a matter of course – “for the team”.

In Berlin he shows off his entire routine on the knee rolls. Toba doesn’t think about medals, but from competition to competition, from training session to training session. He completes two a day with his coach Adrian Catanoiu in the performance center in his hometown of Hanover. It’s been like this for many years. His father Marius Toba competed for Romania at the 1988 Olympic Games, went to Hanover in the early 1990s and was on the German Olympic team in 1996 and 2000.

The young Andreas Toba, a good head taller than his father, was always compared to his father and mostly did it himself Olympic Games.” It is currently 3:3 between father and son. “That was very, very important for me,” says the son, “it’s a huge success to be able to draw level with him.” And the internal family competition hasn’t ended for the long-grown son: “I think that’s the biggest Motivation that I have at the moment.” Overtaking dad? “Yes.”

But motivation alone is not enough, many things have to come together and play along, especially the tired body. In Berlin, Toba starts on all six devices. Whether his body can do it by 2024 is unclear. “I believe that with the all-around it will become more and more difficult in the next few years.” Andreas Toba also knows the basic doubts. Phases in which he thinks: Okay, that’s enough. But he’s always had them, and you have to “be able to deal with them”.

His trainer, family and girlfriend help in such situations. He is employed by the main sponsor of his Bundesliga club. It seems as if Andreas Toba is talking about a job that he would continue to do until retirement if his body would let him. The idea that there is even a career end always made him “a little wistful”. “But I think at some point I’m looking forward to the day when I say enough is enough and to what comes after that.” Someday, but not yet, it’s still fun. In the end, favorite Dauser also wins the title, Andreas Toba is sixth.

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