Exclusive: Gymnastics twins Jess and Jen Gadirova talk Simone Biles, new floor routines for 2022 and being best friends

Ahead of the European Championships in artistic gymnastics taking place in Munich, Germany, from Thursday (11 August) Olympics.com spoke to the British siblings about being Bond girls, how to tell them apart and who's best at driving.

By Jo Gunston
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

When artistic gymnastic twins Jess and Jen Gadirova went through the rite of passage known to many 17 year old’s in the UK – passing their driving test – their experience was a little different.

“When we were at the test centre, one of the examiners recognised us because of our achievements at the Olympic Games, and she did ask if we could have a picture, so that was really cool,” Jess told Olympics.com in an exclusive interview alongside Jen ahead of the multi-sport European Championships taking place in Munich, Germany starting Thursday (11 August).

The achievement to which Jess refers is the team bronze medal won by Great Britain in artistic gymnastic at Tokyo 2020 (in 2021), coming in behind silver medallists USA and gold medallists, ROC. It was Britain’s first medal in the women's gymnastics team event for 93 years; the men had claimed the nation's first Olympic team medal for a century, in front of a raucous home crowd at London 2012.

In Japan, alongside Alice Kinsella and Amelie Morgan, the quartet just pipped Italy to the final place on the podium in joyful scenes.

“We were just both in disbelief to see that score pop up and it’s such a dream come true,” said Jess. “I think most people have that as a goal and I think for it to actually to become reality is just... it was so mind-blowing and just the first thing I could just think of is just look at my sister because we were both in this journey together and we both succeeded in what we wanted.”

“I just didn't know what to do,” said Jen. “I wanted to look at everyone and smile and give everyone a hug and just share this great moment with everyone.”

READ MORE: How to watch women’s artistic gymnastics from Munich – Preview, schedule and stars competing

Twin sets

When Olympics.com previously spoke to the twins ahead of Tokyo 2020, Jess mentioned that she was so in awe of gymnastics legend Simone Biles, she wasn’t sure she’d be able to say anything to the four-time Olympic gold and 19-time world championship medallist. So did they get to speak to the GOAT?

“Yes,” said Jess who was warming up for the final when she was approached by the American. “I was just waiting for my turn and Simone Biles did actually approach me with her coaches, and she was asking, ‘So how do I tell the difference between you two, and what are the little things that you can see between one another?’ And I think I told her, I have this and Jen has that. (Biles said) ‘I think I can tell the difference between you two, but just knowing which name goes with who, I just get confused with’."

So how do you tell the difference between you two?

“I have a little freckle in the middle of my forehead but from far away it's like, 'How am I supposed to see that? I can't see it!',” laughed Jess. “So I think from what other people say, our faces are slightly different shaped or we smile a little bit different or our eyebrows are slightly different, but it's hard for me to tell when I'm just looking at her all the time.”

“I think the more you know us, the more you can pick out the difference within us,” said Jen.

Interestingly, Italy, who are again likely to be up against GB in terms of making the podium at the Europeans, also have twins in their squad. So can the Gadirova’s tell the difference between Alice and Asia D’Amato?

“I think at the beginning I was struggling,” said Jess, “but I think I’ve picked it up quite well now.”

“I can tell that they're different,” said Jen. “It's just now knowing what name is with which face, basically.”

Welcome to our world!

Alice and Asia D'Amato Italy artistic gymnastics
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Bond girls

Following their Olympic success, the twosome enjoyed some celebratory moments such as being invited to the James Bond premiere for No Time To Die.

“We're always in the gym training in our leotards or other fitness clothes so being able to put a dress on and dress up, and look pretty, just felt very nice,” said Jen.

The pair are big Marvel film fans. If they had to pick a super-power, Jen would pick time travel or invisibility, whereas Jess would go for flying.

"I know you kind of fly in gymnastics," she said, "but imagine flying even higher, and you never touch the ground again."

Right now though, it’s back to having their feet firmly on the ground as they prepare for the Europeans and home World Championships in Liverpool in October.

Making a splash

Jess burst onto the international scene at last year’s European Championships in Basel, Switzerland winning a medal of each colour. She won bronze in the all-around, silver on vault and was so busy waving at the camera after her floor routine she didn’t realise she’d won gold.

When she did register what she'd done, her automatic reaction looked like it was to turn to her twin to celebrate but Jen wasn't there having pulled out of the squad due to injury. The pair were soon on the phone to each other.

Jen told Olympics.com last year, "Seeing her score come up and it just saying ''1', I was just like, I had no words. I was so shocked and so happy. And then I was like on the phone, and then to hear them scream and shout in happiness just made me burst into tears.”

Jen had her own breakout moment at her senior debut at the American Cup in Wisconsin in 2020. She placed fourth (with a fall) behind 2017 all-around world champion Morgan Hurd, and the now 2021 all-around world bronze medallist Kayla DiCello, and Japan’s Hatakeda Hitomi, and achieved the highest score on floor exercise (13.700) and vault (14.566) while she was at it.

Both the Gadirova’s are known for their expressive floor routines with super difficult tumbles so gymnastics fans will be pleased to know that the duo are working on new floor routines, which they hope to have ready for the worlds.

“I'm very excited to do another European championships,” said Jess. “My first one was quite an incredible one to compete in so I'm just excited to go back out there.”

The pair are also looking forward to the addition of the junior championships taking place alongside the senior event and point to Abi Martin, Ruby Evans, Evie Flage-Donovan, Tegan Wilcock and Grace Davies as ones to watch for Great Britain.

“Thinking about it, we're not actually that much older than the juniors, which is kind of crazy but I'm excited for them to perform,” said Jess.

Olga Korbut wows crowd

The European Championships entails team, individual all-around and apparatus finals and takes place at the Olympiahalle, the same place a Soviet gymnast by the name of Olga Korbut transformed the sport into what we see today by adding more acrobatic moves to a sport that was then solely based on elegance and artistry.

Korbut was the first to add a somersault on beam, to gasps from the crowd, and also introduced a move now called the Korbut flip, a back flip to roll down onto the beam. Gymnasts still perform variations of this move today. So had the twins heard of the Russian?

“Not really,” admitted Jess. “But when you said that she competed the first Korbut, and even a tuck back, I was thinking I do have a Korbut in my routine and to think she was the one who started doing it and then how it's just evolved and I think it's crazy how much gymnastics has changed.”

“Not too long ago I saw a post where it said gymnastics is the hardest sport in the world,” said Jen, “and it's very nice to see. It gives everyone a perspective of how hard our sport actually is and then makes them realise this is a tough sport and it's not easy. So I feel like it gives us more credit for what we're doing.”

Competitive nature

When asked if they have any individual interests away from each other, there’s a pause. A long pause.

“That is a very hard question because we're together like 24-7 and we don't really like to do things without one another,” said Jess. “It's nice to have our separate times but she's my best friend, she's with me all the time, so I don't like to do things without her. But I do think alone time is important for everyone, but we're kind of like one so we're together.”

That may be so, but when asked who is the best driver, their competitive edge borne of their sport reveals itself.

“I like to think I am,” said Jess. “I think we are quite good and I think we are quite the same in driving but on the test I had five (errors) and she had two, so it gives her the crown.”

Jess rolled her eyes and Jen gave a satisfied sigh, before they turned to each other and giggled.

The women's artistic gymnastics at the multi-sport European Championships starts on Thursday 11 August and finishes Sunday 14 August. The men's edition goes from Thursday 18 August to Sunday 21 August.
READ MORE: How to watch women’s artistic gymnastics from Munich – Preview, schedule and stars competing

European Championships – Artistic Gymnastics schedule

Women’s senior competition

Thurs 11 August
10am (CEST) Individual all-around final

Sat 13 August
2pm (CEST) Team final

Sun 14 August
2.30pm (CEST) Individual apparatus finals – vault, bars, beam and floor

Women’s junior competition

Fri 12 August
12.20pm (CEST) Team competition and individual all-around final

Sun 14
10am (CEST) Individual apparatus finals – vault, bars, beam and floor

Men’s senior competition

Thurs 18 Aug
10am (CEST) Individual all-around final

Sat 20 Aug
2.45pm (CEST) Team final

Sun 21 Aug
1.45pm (CEST) Individual apparatus finals – floor, pommel horse, rings, vault parallel bars, high bar

Men’s junior competition

Fri 19 Aug
10am (CEST) Team final and individual all-around final

Sun 21 Aug
9.45am (CEST) Individual apparatus finals – floor, pommel horse, rings, vault parallel bars, high bar

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