When Frank Baines retired at the end of 2019, at the age of only 24, he was sure his career as an elite gymnast was over. 

The stresses and strains on his body over the previous decade and more, during which he had collected Scottish titles as well as three Commonwealth Games medals, had taken its toll. 

But as Birmingham 2022 approached, Baines wondered if he perhaps had one last crack at a Commonwealth Games in him. 

So, after the lockdown restrictions were lifted in 2020, he gingerly ventured back into the gym and within a few weeks, realised the talent that had seen him help Scotland to team medals at both the 2014 and 2018 Games, as well as parallel bars bronze four years ago, was still there. 

And so, he set his sights on making it a hat-trick of Commonwealth Games appearances, a target that he will duly fulfill today, when the team event gets underway. 

“I’d had quite a few injuries which were really not resolving, one in particular in my back which was making it pretty difficult to train which is why I made the decision to retire,” he says. 

“I always felt like I wasn’t quite ready to retire but my body was just struggling too much. 

“I had such a great time at the two previous Commonwealth Games – they were both very different experiences for me but I loved them both.  

“In 2014, I was very much the baby of the team and had a great time and then four years later, I was in quite a different position but I loved that experience too so I felt like I just wanted one last shot at it. 

“Coming back was a decision I had to think hard about. I had to give it a few weeks back training and my body was very, very sore at first – I definitely felt like an old man but after a few weeks back at it, I started to get used to it all again and I knew I could come back.” 

Baines is part of the seven-strong Scottish gymnastics squad, alongside fellow Gold Coast medallists Hamish Carter and David Weir, as well as Pavel Karnejenko, Cameron Lynn, Shannon Archer and rhythmic gymnast Louise Christie. 

He admits that he heads into Birmingham 2022 with slightly lowered expectations in comparison to his previous Commonwealth Games appearances but nevertheless, he will be a significant asset to the team considering his experience. 

Having been part of the Scotland squad which won an historic silver medal in the team event in Glasgow in 2014, backing that up with team bronze four years later, Baines knows exactly what it takes to perform in the ultra-stressful environment that is the Commonwealth Games. 

With a number of the squad making their Games debut in Birmingham, Baines is hopeful he can impart some advice that will ensure they rise to the occasion. 

“For these Games, I’m more taking on a more senior role - things are oriented towards the team competition for me this time around so I’ll do everything I can in the qualification and if I make any individual finals, I’ll take them as they come,” he says. 

“Personally, I still have the same desire to do really good quality gymnastics. I appreciate now that I can’t perform at my absolute maximum every day but I know it’s about doing my best on competition day. 

“It’s nice being the older one - going into a multi-sport environment is so different from anything else and so any advice I can give to the younger ones, I’ll be doing that.  

“Things like being sensible in the food hall – I’ve been there, done that and bought the t-shirt. We might not be a weight category sport but you definitely don’t want a couple of extra kilos sneaking on before you compete. I drank a bit too much Irn Bru at the Glasgow Games so I know you’ve got to be careful.” 

Birmingham will, suggests Baines, be his last as an athlete.  

But he is keen to ensure Birmingham is not his last time as part of Team Scotland. 

He is currently studying physiotherapy at Nottingham University and has an eye on making a fourth appearance at the Commonwealth Games, next time as part of the physio staff. 

The juggling act of preparing for these Games at the same time as studying has not, he admits, always been easy but the prospect of future Commonwealth Games appearances is, he admits, a hugely exciting prospect. 

“It’s definitely been a challenge combining uni and training but I’ve really enjoyed the challenge,” he says.  

“I’m not sure I’ll be at another Games as a gymnast but I have thought about potentially coming back as a physio for the team. That’s assuming I qualify, and Team Scotland will have me. I’d love to be involved again in some capacity in the future – it’s always great being around everyone in the team and so it’d be brilliant to be at another Games after this one.”