Top UK Gymnast Kristian Thomas Retires

A career built on turning Gymnastics into an art form

Kristian Thomas
As captain of the British Olympic Team in Rio, Kristian Thomas knows a thing or two about gymnastics at the highest level. Now, having won multiple honours in the sport at World Championships, European Championships and both the Olympic and Commonwealth Games, the Wolverhampton born athlete has announced his retirement.

King of Clubs

A graduate of the Earls Gymnastics Club, Kristian is clear proof club owners and organisers can also bask in the glory of success for years to come if they manage young talent correctly. In fact, Kristian led the men’s artistic British team for more than a decade, playing a role in many defining moments in the history of men’s artistic gymnastics in this country.

The New Hardship Grants Ambassador – Beth Tweddle MBE

Helping ensure gymnastics remains open to all

Beth Tweddle

Beth Tweddle MBE was the sort of dedicated gymnast any club owner would have been proud to be associated with. In this sense, it came as no surprise when The British Gymnastics Foundation recently announced the three-time world champion would become an ambassador of their Hardship Grants programme.

Everyday Problems

It was deemed an excellent choice primarily because of her genuine belief that sport is for all. Unfortunately, however, this mantra is easier said than done for a great many people of all ages. Why? The answer to the question lies within two fundamental areas – namely, a personal crisis, or more often than not, financial hardship. You see, even at a basic level, participating in any sport can carry some unavoidable expense for which no-one is directly accountable.

Dancing To Gymnastics Glory

Claudia Fragapane is strictly focussed

Strictly speaking, Claudia Fragapane can demonstrate quite a few eye-catching moves to rival the flexibility of the software.

But as we all know now, of course, this effervescent lady can also produce an impressive turn of foot on the dance floor. In doing so, she’s also proved dancing can seriously help improve gymnastic capabilities, and the whole television experience is making a difference to her own athletic preparations. She said “After Rio, being on Strictly helped me with different dancing techniques which is why I wanted to do the show. It was nice to have a bit of a break and have that time off and to do something different. I loved it and I do feel much fresher now having a bit of a rest. I think my past experiences and strictly have helped me feel less nervous, I don’t feel as much pressure as I know I can do my routines, I just need to perform.”

Claudia of course, came to prominence at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, becoming the first English woman to win four artistic gold medals since 1930. The 19-year-old from Bristol, also helped the British women’s gymnastics team win its first-ever team medal, a bronze, at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships.

The athlete teamed up with A.J. Pritchard in the last series of Strictly, and can be very pleased with reaching the semi-finals before finishing in 4th place overall. Her performances kept the weekly audiences engrossed and did much to promote the sport. Aged 18 at the time, Fragapane was the second youngest celebrity ever to take part.

There’s little doubt the series itself is very competitive, something Claudia is well used to. But sometimes, taking a step or two back and doing something slightly different can really help freshen up the approach to training. It’s naturally easy to be slightly less committed having achieved a goal like Rio, but her dance journey has succeeded in creating a fresh drive as we all look to Tokyo. She explained: “At Europeans back in April, I was really happy with my performance overall. Qualification went well and then when it came to the floor final I stepped out of the area on my double Arabian, so I was a little bit disappointed because I could have medalled there and maybe even clinched gold.”

Claudia then decided to have a short holiday in Portugal simply to chill out and try and build herself back up. Floor fitness isn’t easy to attain, as it involves so much stamina work. She was working hard on her flexibility, and it was important to take a closer look at her floor routine. As the former baby of the British team, she’s picked up so much from the people around her adding: “We decided to change my tumbles around to make it harder for myself, which seems odd but I was just too bouncy! Therefore, we made my double Arabian the third tumble in my routine and the double straight the second.” Claudia recently took part in the World Cup Challenge held in Paris, being reasonably happy with her overall performance.

The whole team then moved on to the Lilleshall National Sports Centre for a full week’s training ahead of leaving for Canada. She said: “It’s great to have the camps before we go, as we get that team bond and we do miss each other when we are away. We are always texting each other to see what everyone is up to. For the worlds, we have been putting a lot of work into not just doing the routines but doing them well. I know I can do them but I want to get good execution too.”

In terms of both her gymnastics exploits and those memorable routines on the dance-floor, it would have to be a 10 from Len.


Conquering Europe is An Art

Britain in great gymnastic shape

The world of artistic gymnastics has taken centre stage recently with a number of events held across Europe.

With World Championship selection imminent, it was so vital for our athletes to perform well. Fans certainly weren’t disappointed as the home grown stars landed medals as valuable as the GymnasticsClubManager software, and equally as life-changing. For starters, Amy Tinkler from South Durham managed to qualify for all four finals at the World Challenge Cup in Hungary. The Olympic bronze medalist also demonstrated an impressive new routine with a fine performance of it to match. Both spectators and judges were suitably impressed in a closely contested  floor final as Amy scored 13.500. The 2015 All Round British Champion picked up the bronze, and the future continues to look bright for the popular North East athlete. Welsh gymnast Latalia Bevan also impressed on her senior début for Great Britain.

London Open Event

Back in Blighty was delighted to see riveting displays of agility from stars Max Whitlock MBE and Nile Wilson at the London Open event. The first winner of five gold medals at the European Junior Gymnastics Championships, Yorkshire born Nile claimed the highly-sought all round title with a score of 84.900. One of the highlights of a great all round performance saw his work on the high bar earn a superb total of 14.850 points. The effervescent Max cruised to a gold medal on the Senior Apparatus, to mark a wonderful return to  competitive action. Earning 15.150 points on the pommel, facilitated a great demonstration of his art. The five time world medallist from Hemel Hempstead fully deserved the plaudits of the crowd. But there was so much more to come from James Hall, who took the floor title with a score of 14.700 points, and also the all important parallel bars with a total of 14.650 marks. And the good news just kept on coming as Birmingham’s Joe Fraser weighed in with top spot on the vault amassing 14.600 points. Then there was master of the rings, Courtney Tulloch from Lewisham, who lifted the all round title with a score of 81.737, in fine style. He was followed by both Jake Harman from Huntingdon Gymnastics Club, who scored 79.469 points, and Euan Cox from Kent scoring 75.835 points. London seemed to be one big celebration of the best in artistic gymnastics which only bodes well for the future of the sport.

Women’s Artistic Gymnastics Championships

And there was a very exciting event taking place in The Netherlands, involving many more of Europe’s finest athletes. This was an invitational event accepted by Charlie Fellows based in Crewe, Alice Kinsella who represented Great Britain at the 2016 European Women’s Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Bern, and west country favourite Phoebe Turner. All three ladies are charismatic in their own right, so the spectators were offered a real treat watching each one of their excellent performances. It was Alice who came out on top of the all round rankings with a score of 51.550. Always a delight to watch in action, Charlie earned 50.800 points with Phoebe landing a satisfying eighth place having scored 47.550, just to show how close winning margins can be at this level. Given all of this, can report Great Britain as being in rude health when it comes to our artistic gymnasts.

A Northern Irish Inspiration

It’s never too late to succeed in Gymnastics.

A 44-year-old dentist from Northern Ireland has proved it’s never too late to succeed in the sport of gymnastics. Giving real hope to those who have kept themselves reasonably fit, and feel they’d like to have that successful competition feeling. Ursula Goode had been attending the Sika club in Coleraine one night a week simply to keep her fitness levels up. The Mother of four saw gymnastics as a hobby, until an eagle eyed coach encouraged her to take everything more seriously.

Ursula, who runs a dental surgery in Coleraine with husband Ben, a triathlete, was then urged by Mary Robinson to enter the British Championships. She said: “I had done recreational gymnastics for a few years in my teens but I never competed at any real level because I had entered into the sport too late. However, when I thought about what Mary said about the British championships, I eventually decided to go for it, though winning medals was never really on my mind.”

Intensive Training

Mary introduced a very intensive training programme and Ursula began to work incredibly hard, and her techniques began to improve and she did start to feel much fitter. She increased the sessions from one to five nights each week as the championships drew closer.

Ursula was a bit worried about the vault section of the routine and wasn’t completely confident with her handspring. Arriving at Lilleshall she was naturally a little apprehensive as the competition began. She was faced with the vault, beams, floor and bars, but once things got underway Ursula just went for it. She added: “I remember telling myself on the run-up that I had to do this well because I would probably never get the chance again. Mary was standing next to the vault just in case something went wrong but in the end I didn’t need her. I didn’t fall off.” This was probably the most testing five hours for her, and even as the time passed the thought of winning never entered her head. It was to be another two and a half hours before things began to happen, but Ursula was happy she’d met the challenge and had really achieved something. She takes up the story: “We were marched into the stadium to hear the results. And after the names of the winners of the silver and bronze medals were read out, I thought ‘oh well, at least I gave it my best shot.’ I knew I hadn’t let myself down.”

The Results Are In

Next came the stuff dreams are made of as the announcer got to the climax of the results. Out came her name as the gold medal winner, and she was left absolutely stunned and understandably emotional. Still pinching herself on the podium British Olympian Bryony Page, who won a silver trampoline medal in Rio last year, presented her with the all important medal. Ursula couldn’t wait to telephone her children Oliver (7), Grace (9), Beth (12) and Lily (14), to tell them their mum was a British Champion.

Ursula was adjudged the best competitor in the over-40s novice section at the championships at the National Sports Centre near Birmingham, the home of British gymnastics. She recently had the opportunity to show her gold medal to Matt Baker, the presenter of the BBC’s One Show during the programme’s visit to Portrush.

As for progress, how about preparing to return to Lilleshall next year to compete in the intermediate level of the British championships? The answer of course has been a resounding yes.

Gymnastics Making A Home In Liverpool

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Record breaking crowds visit Liverpool for the British Gymnastics Championship Series.

The Echo Arena Liverpool is fast becoming one of Europe’s top gymnastics venues following record breaking crowds at the British Gymnastics Championship Series.

More than 5,000 spectators across the four days were thrilled by some very impressive multiple disciplined performances. These included rhythmic, Teamgym, acrobatics, aerobics and the Great Britain Teamgym challenge. An amazing 99 clubs were represented with more than 1500 gymnasts actively taking part in the event.

Even before the weekend was in full swing, a special Gala had been enjoyed by more than 1,000 people on the Friday evening. This celebration of the sport saw 12 clubs performing to the theme of ‘Our Sport: Our World’. Those present witnessed and enjoyed what you might call inquisitive routines and performances away from the norm. A number of individual themes were encompassed including love, social media and travel, leaving everyone enthralled.

A Special Appearance

Star gymnasts Ellie Downie and Claudia Fragapane made a special appearance offering support to the gymnasts. They also spent time signing autographs and talking to some of the spectators. Claudia took part herself at the end of the evening with colleagues from her club Bristol Hawks. And to the delight of the crowd, introduced some moves from Strictly Come Dancing to add panache and extra style to the proceedings.

The sport has never been so popular or as charismatic, with an exciting new generation of gymnasts starting to emerge. It also displayed the strength of gymnastics clubs up and down the country. It should also be remembered 15 Senior Champions were also crowned throughout the series.

But the event also gave fans the chance to get much closer to World Games Gold Medalists including Charlie Tate, Lewis Watts, Adam Upcott and Conor Sawenko, all part of the men’s four from Spelthorne. They even spoke to a fascinated audience about their experiences along the way. But there was so much more to enjoy for both competitors and spectators alike which can only be good for the sport as a whole.

Colourful stalls were scattered around the arena both representing gymnastic links and offering some quality souvenirs. Both Gymshop and Quatro proved extremely popular. And for those who wanted  a little taste of competition themselves, there was the opportunity of taking part in sprints, hula hoop contests and burpees. In fact, possible visitor involvement was emerging at every turn during the weekend.

A Warm Welcome

The famous Merseyside welcome is a big pulling point at the Liverpool Arena, along with the amenities. This was the third year of the Championship series with ticket sales being the best yet. Making sport accessible for all is obviously of paramount importance to the team at Echo Arena.

The venue features accessible toilets and  entrances, as well as accessible drop off points and seating bays. Customers will find lifts in the car park featuring a mirror to make reversing out in a wheelchair easier, along with both visual and audible floor indicators. Parking is not free for Blue Badge holders, but there are 81 disabled spaces available in the adjacent Liverpool Waterfront Car Park. There’s also a convenient drop-off point on the river side of the building.

Interest in the next big event here, the Trampoline, Tumbling and DMT British Championships is already very positive. Once again the venue is expected to be a great place to be from the 23rd to the 24th of September. It seems obvious Liverpool is becoming  a firm favourite with competitors and gymnastics fans from across the UK.

Acrobatic Gymnastics: Walker And Williams Winning Wonderfully in Wroclaw

Walker And Williams Winning Wonderfully in Wroclaw

The wonderful World Games in Wroclaw, Poland, saw the acrobatic gymnastics of both Lewis Walker and Kitty Williams lift a brilliant bronze medal. In this most specialist skill, the charismatic mixed pairing performed superbly to make the podium, landing just behind Russia and Belarus.

Getting to the final was an achievement in itself given the standard of competition. But then the dynamic duo scored an impressive 28.810 points impressing both spectators and judges along the way.

Lewis said: “It feels amazing, it’s our first major championships as a pair and we just wanted to do all our hard work and commitment justice. We feel like we’ve gone out there and shown everyone what we can do and how amazing our sport is so we’re both very proud.”

Acrobatic Gymnastics Draws The Crowds

Understandably this can be a nerve-racking experience at the best of times, but being first to compete in qualifying in front of a sizeable crowd in the amazing Centennial Hall, can’t have been easy. Lewis went on to say: “We were very focused in qualifying on making sure both our routines were clean,” added 16-year-old Kitty. In the final, there was no pressure or expectation, once we completed our first balance move I think we knew it was going well.”

Just to make matters a little tenser, the pair then had to sit out quite a long wait as the trampoline competition got under way. They completed their balance routine scoring 28.170 giving them a total of 55.350, and a clear margin over the USA to qualify 4th and make the final.

Overcoming Adversity To Become World Champion

Kitty’s proudest moment was becoming age-group World Champion 2016 in China, and she loves her discipline. Soaring through the air is a great feeling for the Croydon based athlete who loves being part of a team.

But she admits to having really bad eyesight and having to wear contact lenses when she trains and competes. This in itself is proof to all youngsters, you can overcome any minor problems if you really want too. Mind you, both athletes have four-hour training sessions each day, not only to perfect routines, but to aid conditioning.

The discipline needed to become successful in this dynamic area is huge.

Poland’s Biggest Sporting Event

More than 3,000 athletes, from 31 sports and 111 countries, were taking part in the biggest sporting event ever staged in Poland. This fantastic extravaganza is a multi-sport event staged every four years by the International World Games Association under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee. Founded in 1981 and very much the ‘Olympics for non-Olympic sport’, they provide a gateway to Olympic inclusion.

Acrobatic gymnastics is the competitive field where partnerships of gymnasts work together and perform figures consisting of acrobatic moves, dance and tumbling, set to music. There are three types of performances; a ‘balance’ routine where the focus is on strength, poise and flexibility. A ‘dynamic’ routine including throwing, somersaults and catches, and a ‘combined’ routine including elements from both balance and dynamic gymnastics.

It’s governed and regulated by the International Federation of Gymnastics (FIG). At international level, there are four FIG categories of competition defined by age; 11-16, 12-18, 13-19, and 15+ (Senior).

The fascinating thing about this discipline is in each partnership, the gymnasts’ different sizes and abilities will be balanced to complement each other in order to undertake the complex moves. Some will mainly carry out supporting and pitching roles, known as bases, they are then balanced with smaller gymnasts who become the ‘tops’.

There’s not much doubt both Lewis Walker and Kitty Williams are both tops when it comes to representing Great Britain.

Gymnastics Academy Coach Helen Reddy Wins Double Award

Gymnastics Academy Coach Helen Reddy Wins Double Award

Helen Reddy from Ivybridge Community College has been named as  Devon Sports Coach of the Year and received The Outstanding Contribution Award at a recent awards ceremony. Known to many as a ‘super woman teacher’, she’s managed to create not just a forward thinking gymnastics academy, but also the most successful school gymnastics team in the UK.

If ever there was a superb example of how to get youngsters more involved in this exciting sport, this was it. Having built up and run the Ivybridge Gymnastics Academy at ICC, Helen has supervised a squad that has won more national titles than any other UK school in the past two years.

Devon gymnastics Are In Very Good Hands

To add to her teaching and Academy commitments, this incredibly hard working, high-performance coach also uses her expertise at nearby Honiton Gymnastics Club. As a former national gymnast of some repute, and now a level five British coach, she’s vastly experienced in the sport.

And now she’s using all the knowledge accrued across more than 30 years to help the next generation of gymnasts.

Helen has constructed a sustainable coaching structure enabling students to take their first steps as young gymnastic leaders. The innovative scheme has been endorsed by British Gymnastics, selecting Ivybridge Community College as one of only a handful of apprentice hubs in the UK.

Recognition Of Her Commitment

The Outstanding Contribution award was selected by judges from people short-listed in all categories. It recognises an individual or organisation that has gone above and beyond the call of duty to develop sport in the county.

Sandy Park, home of Exeter Chiefs rugby club, provided the venue for the ceremony, in the presence of the guest speaker and Olympic gold medal rower James Cracknell. The aim was to celebrate the best of community sport in Devon.

Helen said: “I honestly didn’t think I was in with a chance, so I was stunned when they read out my name. It’s a real honour to be welcomed to collect an award in front of so many of your peers, so when they announced the second award I was even more astounded.

A Gymnastics Academy 15 Years In The Making

Helen began her PE teaching career at ICC in 2002 and has held the role of Head of Year, Director of Sport and Head of Performing arts. She began building gymnastics at the school by focusing on starting young boys’ gymnastics. It was a case of slowly moving forward into other areas before the Academy took shape.

This amazing lady is responsible for the development of more than 300 students at primary and secondary level, and she even comes up with the ideas and directs the performing art show at the college, involving 500 pupils. She believes this link is important, as such mass participation can help identify those who have a real gymnastic talent.

The overall aim isn’t about finding an elite gymnast, but encouraging pupils of all abilities to at least attend one of the extra-curricular clubs for a short while. And to top it all, Helen also organises the UK’s biggest annual acrobatic development competition in Honiton every year.

Recent achievements have included coaching and choreographing routines for British champion teams at junior and senior levels. Helen added: “I’m surrounded by a team of dedicated coaches, helpers and supporters who make it possible for me to put successful procedures in place. I couldn’t do any of this without their continued support.”

The award organisers, as well as those around her, see this passionate coach as someone who really does make a difference to young people in terms of helping offer valuable life skills. And who knows, she could be bringing on the next star gymnast.

Liz Slater, leisure partnership manager at Plymouth City Council who nominated Helen for the awards, said: “In my 25 years of involvement in Devon sport rarely have I witnessed a teacher and coach who has such a high level of passion, enthusiasm and a will to make a difference to young people.”

The Devon Sports 20th Anniversary Awards were organised by Active Devon in Association with The Exeter Foundation and Exeter College.

Team Gym At The British Gymnastics Championship Series 2017

Team Gym At The British Gymnastics Championship Series 2017

The Liverpool Echo Arena will be packed to the rafters at the end of this month enjoying an amazing four days of the 2017 British Gymnastics Championship Series. ‘Team Gym’ is the name of the game, amid fervent support from friends, family and spectators.

It’s a genuinely exciting concept where the action just keeps coming, as the teams battle it out in some pretty incredible disciplines. The Floor event will see between six and twelve gymnasts performing to instrumental music on a non-sprung area of 14 and 18 metres.

Team Gym Presents The Fabulous and Charismatic

Involving both men and women, each member of the team must take part in the fabulous floor programme using expressive presentation in a number of gymnastic elements. You’ll see charismatic choreography, meticulous in its planning and using linked movements, synchronisation and excellent teamwork.

Each routine should have two pirouettes, two balance-power elements, two jumps-leaps and one combination of two elements. Female teams are asked to include body waves, while the men should incorporate swing-type movement, lifts or throws.

Promoting Whole Body Gymnastics

The idea is to involve whole body gymnastics in the process, and it’s simply great to watch. With apparatus in mind, The Trampet sees the teams performing their best somersaults, with a section of individual programmes incorporating the vault table.

There are three different rounds with six gymnasts in each, but in the first round, everyone must perform the same element with a controlled landing all important. You’ll see lots of twisting double somersaults, quite dramatic in their execution.

Tumbling Teams Take Their Turns

For those who love their tumbles, this is the competition for you as Teams perform a tumbling series on a 15-metre track with what they call good ‘streaming’ – consecutive tumbles quite close to each other.

The result is a fast, exciting and dynamic section of the competition. As you might expect the evenness of the streaming is crucial. There are three rounds in this section all performed to music.

In every series, there must be three differing acrobatic elements. Again, all members of the team must perform the same series for the first round. This gets particularly interesting because you may be allowed between 6 and 12 gymnasts on the floor at one time – but you only need to put six forward for each tumble pass.

The mixed teams must include three boys and three girls. Here, the judge will be looking out for a really good flow to the tumbles and a perfect finish on the landing area. The gymnasts aren’t expected to stand still at the end of their run but must show control as they move out the way for the next tumbler.

All in all, it makes for an enthralling competition, highly recommended for those who have never been to a big gymnastics event.

So remember – from 27 – 30 July you will be treated to an incredible feast of gymnastics with multiple disciplines and age groups uniting under one roof competing for prestigious British titles.

Here’s the event schedule:

Thursday 27 and Friday 28 July – Aerobic Gymnastics British Championships.

Friday 28, Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 July – Rhythmic Gymnastics and Acrobatic Gymnastics British Championships. Sharing the floor over three days.

Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 July – TeamGym British Championships and GB Gym for Life Challenge

Friday 28 July – British Gymnastics Gala Evening

Introducing The New Gymnastics Form That’s Engaging Teenage Girls

New gymnastics form TeamGym

New research has confirmed ‘TeamGym’ gymnastics and ‘MY CLUB’ are proving a hit with teenage girls. In a week when a separate report has revealed how difficult it is to get youngsters exercising, this is music to the ears for the creators of this new gymnastics form.

These new concepts are also providing an added attraction for those girls wanting to get involved in gymnastics, but preferring to be eased gently into the more technical aspects of the sport. And let’s be honest, all youngsters should be given the opportunity of enhancing their lives through a sport of their own choosing.

Women In Sport Study

The study was undertaken by Women in Sport in partnership with British Gymnastics. It found by introducing a team ethic and a more relaxed style of coaching, those involved enjoyed the activity even more. Individuals can still enjoy gymnastics without competing, so the scheme really does cater for everyone in this sense.

The aim is to take skills from other types of gymnastics and add a team element – this means everyone works together to both learn and perform more flexible routines. This involves the tumbling track, trampette and floor, eliminating apparatus like the beam and uneven bars. In fact, many girls of this age said they’d prefer to leave those items out.

Taking away the many hours of work and discipline was also very appealing, enabling the girls to fit the sport fully into their lives and still enjoy benefits both physically and socially.

An Exciting New Gymnastics Form

MY CLUB itself is becoming a huge success, giving gymnasts total control over each session they undertake. They can pick up the skills they want to learn in their own time, and create excellent displays along the way.

One of the great things about the concept is the fact girls can choose to take part alongside friends and choose exactly which apparatus to use. It seems a lot of youngsters welcome the opportunity of developing skills they can show off to friends and family, so it’s no surprise to also discover they felt it made them proud of their bodies, and becoming very active actually seemed easier. Those teenagers interviewed said it felt better than leading a sedentary lifestyle.

Funded by Sport England, the project has completely engaged Women in Sport who feel it resonates deeply with girls. It’s all part of the plan to offer greater diversity and meeting the requirements of the all important Equality Standard in Sport.

Everyone agrees gymnastics has always welcomed youngsters keen to learn more, but this new approach is quickly winning friends up and down the UK. The fact is, this new gymnastics form is proving a great way to engage girls in a sport as teenagers but in a way that best suits them. It’s another hugely successful initiative with full credit going to British Gymnastics.

You can discover more about taking part in MY CLUB or TeamGym by visiting  

Or, if you’re a club and you’d like to find out more about MY CLUB and TeamGym or if you would like to access the case study, please contact