Gymnastics: Start on four apparatus: “Hero de Janeiro” Toba makes a comeback

Andreas Toba sets off on a new adventure on the shores of the world's largest lake.

Gymnastics: Start on four apparatus: “Hero de Janeiro” Toba makes a comeback

Andreas Toba sets off on a new adventure on the shores of the world's largest lake. After a forced break of around five months due to a knee injury, Nestor of the German gymnastics team is making his comeback at the World Cup in Azerbaijan's capital Baku on the Caspian Sea. His goal: Paris, Olympia 4.0.

"The Olympic Games are the greatest thing you can achieve as a gymnast, and the fourth one would be a dream for me that would finally come true. That means so much to an athlete because you just do everything for this moment," he said 33-year-old Hanoverians from the German Press Agency.

On September 27th last year, the fulfillment of his dream suddenly became very far away. In the final training before the team competition at the World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, Toba sustained an initially unspecified knee injury during a series of acrobatics on the floor. The result: Of all things, he was condemned to watch the team all-around competition, which was crucial for Olympic qualification. The later detailed examination revealed a partial tear of the cruciate ligament in the right knee. "The scars that are left on the soul are not visible from the outside and right now, in probably the most difficult situation of my life, there is little light on the horizon, the only positive thing right now is that the injury is not worse," he wrote on Instagram at the time.

Toba, the knee and a bad year

The finding was devastating for the gymnast in body and soul - for several reasons. He, the personification of team spirit, could not help his team qualify for Paris. As a dedicated supervisor who cheered on, prepared equipment and provided advice and support, he was still part of the team around parallel bars world champion Lukas Dauser, who mastered the Olympic qualification as sixth place at the World Championships. "The way he shouted at us through the exercises is unbelievable. He is the most important man. Emotionally it is extremely important that Andy was here and also in the interior," said Olympic silver medalist Dauser.

The fact that Toba's right knee failed again brought back memories of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. There he tore his cruciate ligament in that same joint and also during a floor exercise. Afterwards, he still did gymnastics on the pommel horse in the team competition to secure the team result. For this he was celebrated as the “Hero de Janeiro”.

And last but not least, the recent knee injury was the unpleasant end to a year 2023 that was not well-meaning for Andreas Toba. In June he dislocated his left shoulder, but only three weeks later he won the German championship title on the horizontal bar in pain. “Just when I had just managed to get my performance back, the thing with my knee happened. That was bitter and that takes a toll in the long run,” he admitted in an interview with “Bild am Sonntag”. "Overall it was just a really, really nasty and difficult year for me."

Motivation from the environment and hope for stability

Physically, Toba is on the rise. "My physical condition is getting better every day and I'm getting fitter," he reported. And the European Championship runner-up on the horizontal bar in 2021 also overcame his self-doubt with the help of those around him. It was also very rough at times. His family, friends, teammates and, above all, his coach Adrian Catanoiu helped him "by constantly motivating me, being there for me, and when I'm having a low point, kicking me in the butt."

In Baku, the 33-year-old will initially be competing on four apparatus in qualifying for the finals from Thursday: pommel horse, rings, parallel bars and horizontal bar. He skips the floor and jumping exercises that are particularly stressful for the knees. "I'm currently trying to fine-tune my exercises and make some changes. That's why my goal is to do the exercises as well as possible and to gain a certain stability so that I can improve from competition to competition," said Toba .