Barry Hearn: The New Face of 21st Century Gymnastics

Barry Hearn

There are many both younger and older involved in the sport of gymnastics who stayed up late to see the end of The World Championship Snooker Final. Those who did would have seen a familiar face during the presentation ceremony. A face now very much part of the furniture, but a face many still associate with snooker, darts, boxing and crown green bowls.

That face belonged to the enigmatic Barry Hearn, mentor of the great Steve Davis and innovator of so many events in sports across the years. It may come as a surprise to some, however, to discover Barry was behind the recent Sky television coverage of The World Cup of Gymnastics. What’s more, he’s also a huge fan, which is great news for every youngster and club member out there.

Promoting The World Cup of Gymnastics

Hearn, renown for jazzing up the coverage of sporting events in order to make them a more exciting product, announced a four-year partnership with Matchroom Sport to promote an annual World Cup of Gymnastics at the O2 Arena in London. The first event was a huge success as you might expect. Why? Because it was shown in its entirety, drawing in a whole new legion of fans.

The first one-day event – featured eight national teams competing in six men’s events and four women’s. What’s more all 18,000 seats available sold out extremely quickly, proving there’s a strong fan base out there much like snooker.

“I cannot believe the number of people who’ve told me they love gymnastics since the Olympics,” he said. “10.8 million watched Max Whitlock win gold on television. I was one of them. The trouble is, in the past, this was a sport that only surfaced every four years. Not anymore. It’s not just about a provincial domestic event, it’s about taking these guys and making them global superstars. Not just once every four years, but every day.”

Bringing Gymnastics To A Wider Audience

It’s already been noted next year’s event will bring with it a few new innovations, in true Barry Hearn style. But the sports traditions will be totally respected. This hasn’t been lost on gymnasts like Rio bronze medal winner Nile Wilson, who said: “When I first started competitions were held in sports halls in front of 50 people, all of whom were the parents of competitors. This is so exciting for the sport. “I’m going to call myself The Wilsonator – That’s got a ring to it.”

Jane Allen, the chief executive of British Gymnastics, added “The number of Britons who participate in gymnastics has grown by 10-15 per cent every year since 2011. When you’re having that sort of growth in your numbers, you feel a real benefit,” she says. “Our clubs are expanding too, and we’ve got better business models out there. They’re not just family clubs, they’re business clubs. They’re attracting investment. We’ve been very fortunate, we’ve got some very good athletes and without them, we wouldn’t have the product. But we’re also represented by 1,500 gymnastics clubs across the country. We haven’t staged a non-Olympic gymnastics event in London since 1975.Our strategy has been for some time to bring this event to London to bring it to the attention of a wider audience.”

Let’s be honest – why shouldn’t gymnastics become a mainstream sport? After all, those competing can do more with their bodies in terms of fitness and flexibility than most footballers. It could be argued they also work much harder at their game.

Viewers at the Olympics, of course, are spellbound by the amazing movement of everyone involved of course. The answer must be, let’s see more of the sport on television and on a regular basis. There’s no better way to bring youngsters into the sport.

Kristian Thomas Named As British Gymnastics Foundation Sporting Ambassador

Kristian Thomas Named As British Gymnastics Foundation Sporting Ambassador

Kristian Thomas is the new ambassador for the British Gymnastics Foundation’s ground-breaking Love to Move programme. The scheme has been designed to help make life-changing differences to those living with dementia.

The likeable two-time Olympian takes up the story:  “I was approached by the British Gymnastics Foundation and straight away I knew it was something I’d like to be involved in. A lot of people know someone with dementia, so I thought it was a great opportunity to give back to the sport that’s helped me so much. I’m really hoping my experience within gymnastics can help people doing the programme to regain some of the functions they thought were lost.” This represents a clear example of how the sport can also benefit people in the community, so it’s not just about medals and glory.

One of Our Best-Loved Olympic Gymnasts

Kristian of course  is a long-standing member of both the England and Great Britain men’s teams. He was a member of the gold-winning British team in the 2012 European Championships team event, also winning a historic bronze in the same event at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

He won his first global individual medal in the 2013 World Championships, in the form of a vault bronze It was also the first global medal ever won in the vault by a British male gymnast. In 2015 he won his first major international title, gold in the floor exercise at the 2015 European Artistic Gymnastics Championships.

Very popular within the sport, Kristian will be working alongside the Foundation to help raise awareness of the programme, as well as being present at future fund-raising events with a view to helping expand the directive across the UK.

Dementia Sufferers Benefit From Love To Move Programme

Patrick Bonner, British Gymnastics Foundation Manager said: “We chose Kristian as our ambassador for the Love to Move Programme as he has experienced gymnastics at all levels and has a deep understanding of core gymnastics skills and how they are beneficial to people, no matter what their age or background. Kristian is currently doing a sports degree in Strength & Conditioning and as part of this is exploring how people living with dementia can benefit from exercise programmes. I hope that Kristian’s high profile as one of Great Britain’s best-loved Olympians can help raise awareness that gymnastics is more than just a sport and has the power to transform the lives of people most in need.”

It may come as a surprise to some seeing gymnastics linked with such a serious condition, but research carried out by Age UK has produced some exciting results. Experts have discovered ‘a demonstrable benefit in the physical, emotional and cognitive aspects of the 150 older people who have taken part in the scheme so far.

Love to Move has been delivered regularly in two care homes, one day centre and one community group in Cambridgeshire across the last year. Those older people having mild to advanced forms of dementia appear to benefit the most.

As for how he got involved in the sport, Kristian’s parents sent him to a club with the simply aim of improving his co-ordination. “I was always climbing and getting into things that I shouldn’t, so going to gymnastics channelled my energy,” he says.

“I also have a younger sister, Rebecca, and she was into gymnastics too.” The 23-year-old from Wednesfield astounded them, clearly showing a huge flair. The rest, of course, is history. Kristian was thrilled to have been asked to play such an important role, and you can be sure he’ll do a great job. They say gymnastics is for everybody, and few can argue with that statement.

Artistic Excellence From The iPro World Cup Of Gymnastics

Amy Tinkler

Olympian Amy Tinkler from South Durham lifted a well deserved bronze at the 2017 iPro World Cup of Gymnastics in front of an excited crowd in the O2 Arena, London. The finest gymnast to come out of South Durham was greatly encouraged by the supportive home crowd who willed her to another superb medal.

The 2016 Olympic floor exercise bronze medallist and 2015 British all-around champion, performed powerfully across the apparatus through strong routines to record a total of 53.433. Victoria Nguyen from the United States took the silver with a score of 53.832, with Germany’s Tabea Alt claiming gold with an impressive 54.598.

The competition was intense, enthralling and hugely enjoyable for the lively spectators to watch. And of course, it notched up another landmark for the 17-year-old, whose list of credits makes wonderful reading.

A Bronze of Beauty For Amy Tinkler

A naturally thrilled Amy from Bishop Auckland said: “It’s amazing I’m so so happy. I’ve had some problems this year with my calf so coming into this I wasn’t sure what to expect. My performance was better than I thought it would be, I think I fed off the atmosphere of the home crowd. I loved all the support, it was like Rio all over again but even better with it being in Britain. I’ve never heard so many kids shouting “Amy, Amy!” that feels so special and for me, I love the pressure and the buzz of competition so they definitely helped me today.”

Her winning routine began on the vault with  a double twisting yurchenko, before moving onto the bars. A full twisting double back dismount drew great appreciation from both judges and fans. Amy’s difficult  layout on the beam saw her make a grab just to stay on. But as all top class athletes do, her resolve and will to win came shining through.

A strong dismount saved the day earning 12 marks. The big finish wasn’t far away however, as she looked to her favourite piece of apparatus in the final rotation. Lying in 4th, it was a case of changing gear to secure a medal. Her tumbling routine was flawless, the highlights being a full twisting double straight somersault and a double pike finish. Accumulating a further 13.233 marks was the clincher.

A Trio of British Medal Winners

Amy of course, becomes only the third British woman to win an individual gymnastics medal, following Beth Tweddle’s uneven bars bronze in 2012, and Bryony Paige’s silver trampoline success. At 16, she was actually the youngest member of the British team in Rio, receiving an open bus top welcome on returning to her native north-east.

A brilliant all rounder, she’s perhaps best known as one of our leading artistic gymnasts. In fact, she competed at the 2013 British Artistic Championships. In the All-Around competition this likeable star took second place with a final score of 53.800. She scored 14.050 in the vault, 12.100 on the uneven bars, 13.650 on the balance beam and 14.000 on the floor exercise.

Amy also competed in all four apparatus finals. In the vault final, she amassed 14.100 marks for her first vault, and 13.400 for her second, for an average total of 13.750, giving her the silver. Immensely talented, Amy makes her discipline look completely natural. She has of course, put many hours of hard work in from a very young age. And of course, she still has so much to look forward to in this new cycle.

Britain’s Georgia-Mae Fenton was also due to compete alongside Amy, but sustained an injury in the warm up. British Gymnastics medical staff made a thorough assessment before deciding jointly, it was in her best interests to withdraw from the competition. It’s thought Georgia will make a speedy recovery. As for the almost angelic Amy Tinkler, the success story continues.

Whitlock The Workhorse: Practising Pommel Perfection

Max Whitlock pommel horse

Doing ‘The Whitlock’ could soon be a phrase associated with gymnastics fans across the world. Even if it isn’t, the sport will certainly be enjoying some innovate and powerful new routines on the pommel horse. For five-time Olympic and World gold medallist, Max Whitlock has gone back to the springing board in search of the spectacular.

Taking Time Out

Having withdrawn from competition until September, the Basildon based athlete certainly hasn’t been taking a breather. Far from it. In fact, he’s working hard to produce the most amazing routine possible. He said: “It’s about creating something that shocks people. “There are two I am thinking of now. One would be a big, big move. It would probably change the pommel quite a bit if I can do it, but it’s very dangerous at the same time. If I miss with my hand I will land on my face. So I need to progress it really slowly and make sure it’s right. I want something that has never been performed – nor even imagined – by any of my rivals.  That’s why I wanted to give myself this time away from competition.”

He won both the men’s floor and pommel horse exercises at the 2016 Summer Olympics. With ten medals and three titles in Olympic and world championships, Whitlock is the most successful gymnast in his nation’s history.

Max added: “The floor routine I show on stage will hopefully have four new tumbles out of five. So that’s another big job and I can’t rush it. There are only two G-level skills at the moment on the pommel horse [which means a difficulty value of 0.70], and I am hoping this would be a third. The other one, the dangerous one, might be the first H [or 0.80] on this apparatus. You are only credited with a skill when you pull it off at one of the two biggest events: world championships or an Olympics, but I’d love to have a move named after me.”

Training Media Ban

As you might expect, cameras and mobiles are banned from South Essex Gymnastics Club when he is testing out these new manoeuvres. So many things appear on Youtube these days, he just can’t afford to take any chances. And of course, one slight mishap could result in injury, which is why he’s taking it slowly.

Even bringing into play a soft introduction at a domestic meet could give the game away. Every athlete takes a long hard look at their routine after the Olympics, as it’s all part of the cycle. He added: “I heard of one competition a long time ago where there were four people trying to do a Tkachev on high bar. “It depended on what apparatus you started on, who had the chance to do it first. If the order had been different, we would call the Tkachev by a different name.”

The points code is amended every four years offering a higher or lower value for certain moves. This is to ensure old routines are taken apart and recombined into new shapes. Max Whitlock was the first British man to win a World Gymnastics title, winning a Gold medal on the Pommel and a Silver medal in the Floor competition.

He became part of the history-making team who became the first British men’s team to win a World Silver medal. As one of the sport’s finest exponents, Max is a great role model.  Alongside his continued gymnastics success, Max is a supporter of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital Charity Redevelopment Appeal and an ambassador for Paul Smith, Adidas, Weston Homes, Nissan and DFS.

UK Gymnastics Championships 2017: Liverpool Leading The Way

UK gymnastics championships 2017

The UK Gymnastics Championships 2017 are a record-breaking success…

Merseyside was celebrating a record breaking event following the success of the 2017 British Gymnastics Championships in Liverpool. It drew the Echo Arena’s largest ever crowd with packed houses on both the Saturday and Sunday.

The crowd certainly weren’t disappointed following a dazzling array of performances from UK elite gymnasts including Joe Fraser from the City of Birmingham, winner of the men’s title, and Olympian Ellie Downie, who lifted the women’s crown.

Head Turning Performances

Ellie featured on our website before the event having told the public her new routine would turn heads, was true to her word. The judge’s heads were turned as well however, after witnessing a superb display of athleticism and artistry.  This included a double twisting double back somersault on the floor.

Youth Olympic Champion Joe, 18,  had spectators agog with a scintillating performance in his high-bar routine. He told the assembled media:  “I’m speechless. It’s unbelievable. It’s not something I came into this competition expecting. I just wanted to try my new elements and see how they were on the stage and see how I could perform them. I started on rings and tried a new strength element. I was quite nervous for that but rings went well. I had a little mistake on parallel bars but I managed to compose myself for the high bar routine. Floor went well, and then pommel, I was nervous because I knew what I could do if it all went to plan. I was nervous, but I managed to say on, so I’m so happy.”

Future Talent Showcased

James Hall from Pegasus and Dominick Cunningham from Birmingham shared a silver to demonstrate what great talent we can look forward to in the future, as cycles evolve. Finishing in 4th was Sam Oldham from Notts, with William Trood and Gabriel Hannah from Loughborough taking the next two places.

In fact, Loughborough was the only university taking part in the competition.  Southport can feel very proud of Frank Baines, who won the floor title, with Courtney Tulloch from Swansea winning the rings.

Highlights from UK Gymnastics Championships 2017…

Returning to the women’s highlights, Maisie Methuen from Phoenix and Alice Kinsella took a joint silver away from the event. Alice won the crowd’s hearts with a stunning beam routine, including a solid free cartwheel layout, with Maisie ever the reliable performer on the vault.

Georgina Mae Fenton from East London was simply sensational on the bars, clearly looking one to watch for the future.  Overall, the championships featured a number of competitions, including the junior women, junior men in both two categories, senior all-around, apparatus finals, senior women, junior women and both men and women disability gymnastics.

Not forgetting the masters finals for the men.

Thanks must go to the people of Liverpool for making everyone feel so welcome, but the last word should stay with Jane Allen, British Gymnastics CEO who said:

“It was another fantastic event and we’re thankful to the wonderful Echo Arena in Liverpool for hosting us once again. Congratulations to everyone who took part and contributed to the event’s success, and we must say a very big thank you to the record crowd who cheered on our British stars and created such a brilliant atmosphere. We enjoyed seeing our Olympians returning to the sport and performing for the crowd and it was particularly exciting to see some of our younger gymnasts doing so well. They rose to the occasion nurtured by their clubs, coaches and our high-performance system which is focused on ensuring sustainable results. It was a fantastic opportunity for the juniors to shine and start to challenge the more established seniors as they begin to return to competition in this next cycle. The journey to Tokyo has now begun.”

All eyes are now firmly fixed on this new cycle, though it seems UK gymnastics is getting stronger with each passing year.

Ellie Downie: Back In A New Routine


Gymnast Ellie Downie

Ellie Downie is bouncing back. As the British Gymnastics Championships get into full swing all eyes will surely be on current Junior European and European Youth Olympic gymnastics vault champion Ellie Downie.

For this extra powerful athlete who specialises in the vault, is ready to reveal a new head turning routine certain to enthral fans of the sport even more.

You couldn’t help feel for the sister of Olympian and European Champion Becky Downie, as her Rio dream didn’t quite follow the script. But as all inspirational young sportswomen do, she quickly bounced back even more determined to fulfil her lofty ambitions.

Ellie takes up the story: “In Rio my competition didn’t go to plan, I think afterwards I was pretty upset by it so I just took some time off and chilled out. I went out with my friends and just had fun. Then after about a month and having been on holiday, I was ready to get back into the gym and work hard. I’ve actually really enjoyed getting back to full fitness. It was quite amusing watching me and Becky train when we first came back off holiday, as I’d never had more than a week or two off gymnastics. Having a month off on top of just doing what I wanted and not thinking about rest and recovery, was hard. However, I really enjoyed it and I am loving being back now. It’s good to come down and know how hard it is to get back, I think that needed to happen.”

Youth Olympic Gymnastics

Ellie of course landed four medals at the Youth Olympic Games three years ago, before turning senior in 2015. She celebrated the milestone by earning all round bronze medals at both British and European Championships, the first female gymnast ever to win an individual all-around medal in Europe.

One year later she added to her impressive haul by taking another all round bronze and a gold in the vault. More was to come in The World Challenge Cup event in Osijek with a superb performance in all four routines. And then she reinforced her star status claiming silver on both floor and vault, as well as helping the team to silver, at the European Championships in Berne.

From The Bottom To The Top

The Notts club member is a perfect example of how aspiring gymnasts can start at the very bottom, and work their way onto the podium through hard work, determination and a wish to really enjoy the whole sporting experience.

And how has her training been going?

“I have got a couple of new skills for 2017,” she told the media. My new vaults are coming along. We will see how they go but I will probably compete my old ones for the first few competitions. I have a couple of new connections on beam and bars too and I have a new floor routine that I am really excited to compete. It’s very different!”

And of course, the promised routine looks set to be one of the major highlights in the Liverpool Echo Arena.

As for clues she added: “My last routine was a bit different anyway, but this one, you’ll hear the music and you’ll want to look at the floor. It’s very different, often gymnasts use classical music for their floor routines and it is moving away from that a little now but I think mine is an another step even further than that. It’s definitely something the crowd will want to see!”

Ellie is without question a fine example and role model as a former Sky Sport’s Sportswoman of the Month. But she was even more proud to have been crowned’ BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year’, back in 2015.

All of those hours in the gym have helped propel her to the top of the sport, though the ex Nottingham Rushcliffe school pupil has also made many friends along the way. Very much a team player, she still has so much left to achieve.

She said: “I am hoping to be on the World and European teams this year and that’s my aim. I go into every competition with my own goals in my head but I don’t tell people as I think it applies pressure and you should just go in there and only aim to do your best. You don’t aim to win the gold medal, just go in there do your best and whatever comes out of it take the positive with the negatives. All in all, I am just really looking forward to competing this year, it’s the start of a new cycle and it’s going to be a lot of fun!”

All her skills have been quickly re-emerging, and that Rio disappointment has clearly served to make her stronger and better than ever. Ellie Downie is back in the new routine.

Gymnastics Club Manager Joins Nick Ruddock At The 2017 Gymnastics Conference

Nick Ruddock

February 12th, 2017 proved to be an action packed day for those who attended Nick Ruddock’s 2017 Gymnastics Conference. And Gymnastics Club Manager’s very own Dave Evans joined Nick for the day at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry.

Last year’s Physical Preparation Masterclass proved to be a huge success and this year’s conference promised to be even better. Attendees were treated to insights from coaches and experts who have worked with many of the world’s leading gymnasts, athletes and sports teams, including Manchester United FC and Olympic Medalists Max Whitlock and Amy Tinkler.

The conference agenda included useful and valuable information designed to help coaches and gymnasts alike gain results across the short term and beyond, as well as help build that all important competitive edge.

Alongside Nick, four other guest speakers included Nick Littlehales, Katie Richards, a live Q&A with Olympic Coach Scott Hann, and FIG WTC President Donatella Sacchi.

gymnastics conference 2017

By the time the sell out crowd exited the conference they had been treated to:

  • How performance plateaus can be eliminated with a simple to element strategy.
  • The two key factors that are often overlooked, always little understood, but ultimately make huge steps forward possible.
  • The completely safe shortcuts that accelerate a gymnasts difficulty score.
  • Motivation hacks to keep gymnasts engaged and focused on improving.
  • Explicitly and unequivocally shown what the new Code of Points means for gymnasts, in perfect time for the competition season to begin.
  • How to fast track gymnasts recovery, leaving them more energetic, alert and with an improved mood for training.
  • The tools and strategies needed to keep gymnasts engaged, motivated and pushing their limits.
  • Inspired and motivated to reach their coaching potential.


The highlight of the event however, was surely the prize draw, sponsored by Gymnastics Club Manager! The winner was Alex Suvulau, an Elite Development Coach from Marriotts Gymnastics Club, who took home an iPad Mini.

Want to know more about Gymnastics Club Manager and how our software can help change the way you manage your club? Forever? Click here to discover more.

Word On The Street: The Cool Coach

gymnastics coach

The small town of Alness has rarely, if ever, been in the national spotlight. In the 1990s and early 2000s it gained some renown as a regular winner in the Britain and Scotland in Bloom contests, its streets blossoming annually, hanging baskets and flower beds creating vivid displays. Otherwise, it is just like many other places in the Scottish Highlands, solidly built, low key, but with a strong community ethic.

Recently though it has found fame as being home to one of Britain’s newest sporting role models. A young man whose life has been turned around by gymnastics and who now aims to help others follow in his footsteps.

In 2016, nineteen-year-old Kieran Brown scooped two major coaching awards. The SportScotland ‘Young Person’s Coach of the Year Award’ followed soon after by the prestigious UK Children’s Coach of the Year accolade. The awards covered every sport in the UK and in a year of massive success across the board his achievements were a major boost for gymnastics.

Kieran’s Street Gym Approach

What’s even more impressive is that Kieran has shown by example that you can achieve a lot in a short space of time. How his ‘Street Gym’ approach – a mixture of gymnastics and parkour – can appeal to a new generation of male gymnasts in particular.

Kieran was nominated for the awards by Claire Bath, Fyrish Gymnastics Club’s head coach.

“Kieran is a perfect example of self-belief and commitment. He realises the impact he can make and has reinvigorated our boys’ gymnastic team, going from around 20 boys to now over 50 attending each week. I’m very proud of Kieran and all that he has achieved.

“Without Kieran, we couldn’t run the classes in the gym or in the local schools. His relationship with our younger members is perfect – he is seen as the ‘cool’ coach and someone they can relate to so easily.”

In little more than 18 months, Kieran has gone from a work experience helper at the club to a level 2 coach. He has become integral to the club’s success and taken on a role on the women’s artistic gymnastics programme.

However it is his work engaging with the community of local teenagers which has justifiably gained him national recognition. He knows what it’s like to feel disconnected and bored in a small town with few opportunities. He can identify with the ‘hard to reach’ generation because he is, basically, still one of them.

Achieving Stellar Success

His street gym sessions on Thursday and Saturday evenings are in huge demand. Their success has also led to Kieran delivering similar sessions in local primary and secondary schools. It is in this setting that he really comes into his own, managing to engage with many children who struggle academically and don’t fully participate in school life.

Ultimately he would like to see his ‘Street Gym’ style of gymnastics spread across many other communities. The format is definitely one which can be replicated. But, of course, for it to be successful there has to be another ingredient. Personality.

Because what Kieran’s story highlights – and what is evident up and down the length and breadth of the country – is that engaging with young gymnasts is not just about knowing the moves and perfecting techniques. It’s about breathing life into sport, making it meaningful and accessible.

Kieran Brown is an inspiration. And the encouraging word on the street is that there are many, many coaches like him who inspire and engage every day. Whose personality, drive and commitment are not just providing great sporting opportunities but so much more.

Image courtesy of SportScotland

Jennifer Bricker: A Unique Gymnast With An Inspirational Story

Jennifer Brickler

Jennifer Bricker is an American acrobat and aerial performer. As a junior she won tumbling titles in her home state of Ohio, as an adult, she was a featured performer on Britney Spears’ Circus Tour. There must be hundreds, thousands, of gymnasts like her around the world. Right?

But Jennifer is unique.

Because she was born without legs. And she discovered in her teens that the gymnast she had looked up to since she was a child had a much closer connection to her than she could have ever imagined. Her story is both incredible and inspirational.

Growing up in a small town in Illinois, Jennifer Bricker always knew she was different. And not just physically. She had been adopted soon after birth, her new parents – Sharon and Gerald – always very open about the fact that her birth parents were Romanian. She looked different from everyone at school, her brown eyes and radiant smile setting her apart. But she also possessed a gift, for being agile and strong … energetic and fearless.

Motivated by the Magnificent Seven

When the doctors handed Jennifer over to her new parents they suggested that she should be carried around in what amounted to a basket, that walking, movement would be difficult for her. But they refused. Instead, they encouraged her to climb trees and play on the trampoline with her older brothers.

Before long she was walking and running on her hands and bottom and playing basketball with her classmates. But Gymnastics was to become the love of her life.

It was 1996 and a nine-year-old Jennifer was gripped by the Atlanta Olympics. On TV she saw her first Romanians and like many others became gripped by the American women’s team – the ‘Magnificent Seven’ including Kerri Strug and Shannon Miller – and their unexpected gold medal. But one athlete really stood out for her, the diminutive Dominique Moceanu. The elfin star seemed familiar, she felt like there was a connection.

A shock revelation

Watching her spurred Jennifer to enter tumbling competitions. Audiences and fellow competitors were initially shocked – how can this girl with no legs compete? But soon she was competing, on a level playing field, winning honours and by the age of eleven, becoming a state champion. And from there taking a path that made her a renowned performer in aerial acrobatics.

Success came naturally to this positive, energetic youngster. But as she got older she began to ask more about her background. Wanting to know more about her Romanian roots and why her parents had given her up. Her adoptive parents encouraged her to be understanding, to think about what life must have been like for them in a new country, without money or support. And then one day she asked if they knew her name and to her shock, they said ‘Moceanu.’

Suddenly it all made sense. The similarities, the natural strength, the talent. Dominique Moceanu was her sister.

Meeting her idol

Rather than contact her idol directly she asked if she could speak to her birth parents. At the time the Moceanu family were embroiled in a feud, Dominique taking her parents – their parents – to court for mismanagement of her earnings. Jennifer managed to contact them but although they didn’t deny putting her up for adoption they didn’t respond to her after that first phone call.

So she waited. Another four years. And then she decided to contact Dominique direct. She parcelled up pictures of her, documents from her adoption and wrote a letter. But she decided to omit the fact that she had a disability as that might have been too much on top of the shock.

“I almost could not believe it myself, you had been my idol my whole life, and you turned out to be my sister!” she wrote.

Inspirational and emotional

The pair met soon afterward and are now very much part of each other’s lives.  She was even able to meet her birth mother who was able to explain the circumstances of her adoption. Jennifer bears no bitterness, just an apparent joy in the chance to finally connect with her birth family. And a little irony, finding out that Dominique suffered from doubts about her own body image. That she was often bullied for her size and shape at school.

The moving and inspirational story of Jennifer’s gymnastic career and how she, Dominique and their younger sister Christina were reunited is told in her autobiography Everything Is Possible: Finding the Faith and Courage to Follow Your Dreams and also in a recent BBC online feature where you can watch some of her inspirational gymnastic performances.

If you ever feel in need of some inspiration to overcome disability, an injury or even just a bad day at work, it pays to remember the way in which Jennifer Bricker has unequivocally grasped life with both hands.

British Gymnastics in 2017: The Year Ahead

british gymnastics

Farewell 2016. Quite simply the best year in British gymnastics memory has now been consigned to history. So what can we expect from 2017, the year of the Rooster? Plenty to crow about hopefully! Here’s a look at some of the highlights in store.

Maximum exposure – the Whitlock effect

You get engaged, win double Olympic gold and are awarded an MBE – could 2016 have been any better for Max Whitlock? The pressure will be on our pitch-perfect pommel champion to produce similarly impressive results this year but commentators and fans need to be realistic. 2017 will be a transitional year for many of our best, a year to regroup after the successes of Rio.

But in Whitlock we have a performer who is never content to merely rest on his laurels. So don’t be surprised to witness similar levels of skill and tenacity from our champion. But if the unthinkable happens and he stumbles, give him a break, he’s only human.

One guaranteed feature of 2017 is a continuation of the Whitlock effect. There will be more international gymnastics on your Gogglebox and a continued rise in participation at all levels of club activity. And don’t miss out on the chance to buff up on all things Max – the weekly Whitlock Workout launches soon!

Young guns go for it

The first major event of 2017 will be the British Artistic Gymnastics Championships at Liverpool’s Echo Arena between 24th and 26th March. The stakes are high for our elite team – this will be the first opportunity to impress the selectors for places on the plane to the Worlds in October.

After setting the highest of benchmarks in Rio it will be interesting to see where they go next. Will we see routines packed with even higher levels of difficulty or will they opt to have a relative breather? The majority of the class of 2016 will be in attendance but nipping at their heels could be a host of youngsters including Junior Euro standouts Giarnni Regini-Moran and Alice Kinsella.

British gymnastics on the world stage

Perhaps the biggest date in the national gymnastics calendar will be April the 8th when the Gymnastics World Cup comes to the O2 Arena in London. The stage set for a top-level contest in front of up to 20,000 spectators and millions of viewers on Sky Sports.

The competition will focus on nine men and nine women vying for respective all-around titles. The nations attending are the United States, Russia, China, Japan, Germany, the Ukraine, Netherlands, Brazil and hosts Great Britain. In a few weeks each country will nominate one athlete per event (two for the Brits) and they are likely to include many World and Olympic champions.

The event will also feature a special exhibition by high-flying Olympic silver medallist Bryony Page who will showcase a spectacular routine on the trampoline.

Champions set to be crowned

The championship season follows hot on the heels of the World Cup. First up will be a trip to Transylvania in Romania for the Artistic European Championships in Cluj-Napoca from the 19th to the 23rd of April. Then the Rhythmic Gymnasts follow suit when the Euros convene in Budapest from the 19th to the 21st of May.

The trampolining, tumbling, DMT, aerobics and acro teams join the action from 20th July when the World Games for non-Olympic sports kick off in Wroclaw, Poland. Closely followed by one of the sport’s headline events for 2017 – the World Gym for Life Challenge, debuting in Vestfold, Norway from 26th July.

Global gold on offer

The first of the global Championships for Olympic Sports – the Rhythmic Worlds – graces the stage in Pesaro in Italy from the 31st of August to 3rd September while the aerobic team also head to Italy to challenge their European opponents in Ancona from the 22nd of September.

Our be-medalled artistic gymnasts then head across the pond for the Worlds from the 2nd to the 8th of October in Montreal, Canada, their eyes firmly set on building on Rio success. Then their Acro counterparts aim to top the podium in Euro Champs in Rzeszow, Poland from 19th– 22nd October.

Rounding off the year, Bryony Page looks destined to lead our team of trampoline, tumbling and DMT gymnasts to Sofia, Bulgaria for the Worlds from 9th – 12th November.

2017 could be the year that lays a golden egg for a clutch of our international gymnasts while promising to be another period of impressive growth for clubs. A very Happy and Prosperous New Year from Gymnastics Club Manager!

A comprehensive listing of gymnastics events in Britain is available on the British Gymnastics website.