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.

Gymnastics: The Year In Review

gymnastics

 

2016 will go down as an unforgettable year for the sport of Gymnastics.

We witnessed multiple medals, the emergence of a sporting superstar and the rise and fall of a pair of celebrity dancers. Here’s our snapshot of a dozen memorable moments – both happy and sad – for the sport.

1. A star is born

Rio’s Super Sunday was quite simply the greatest night in Britain’s gymnastics history, a fleeting few hours which may transform the sport for decades to come. Following a bronze in the all-around, Max Whitlock stepped up for the floor final with an outside chance of gold. When the favourites stumbled or stepped out rather than stepping up you sensed he had a chance. And he was rock steady. His precise tumbling and crowd-pleasing air flair propelled him to top spot. All talk had been of pommel glory but here it was, an hour early, Britain’s first gold in 100 years.

2. Slaying it on the pommel

Little more than an hour after Whitlock had garnered gold Louis Smith prepared for the culmination of eight years of endeavour. Bronze in Beijing, silver in London – could this be his moment? Safe rather than spectacular he pitched it to perfection. Into first place. The only man who could surpass him was Whitlock. And as Smith looked on Max did it in style, a one-two for GB. Whitlock now a double World and Olympic Champion. Atop the podium Whitlock barely betrayed a flicker of emotion while Smith, so near and yet so far, cried tears of disappointment edged with a little relief.

 

3. The fall of Louis Smith

Oh Louis. The former golden boy of British Gymnastics and a nation’s Strictly superhero had a less than stellar year in 2016. A spat with the management and then the infamous video mocking Islam led to a ban from competition. And then there had been the literal fall from grace – on the Pommel in the Team final, a medal slipping from the boys’ grasp. But … he gained redemption through a record-breaking third consecutive Olympic medal and a string of visits to Mosques. Fingers crossed his participation in the winter sports reality show Jump is a success, he deserves a break (of the right kind!)

 

4. The rise of Claudia Fragapane

Claudia’s Strictly journey was quite simply Fab-u-lous! Fragapane and her youthful partner AJ Pritchard stole the hearts of the nation with some show stopping dance routines to end in fourth place. Not merely providing an exhibition of her gymnastic ability but an exquisite blend of rhythm and grace. And perhaps even more importantly a massive confidence boost. “I was just a gymnast who trained and trained,” she said. None of us believed that. But now she sees what we see – a star on the dance and apparatus floor.

claudia fragapane strictly come dancing

5. Hold the Front Page

When a medal appears to come out of the blue it’s all the sweeter. Bryony Page bounced into the nation’s consciousness on August the 12th with an unexpected silver on the trampoline. A surprise for many and a welcome fillip after anticipated medals for the Artistic men’s and women’s teams had failed to materialise. Page set the pace early and was only beaten by Canada’s reigning champion Rosie MacLennan. Her tears of joy and disbelief are one of the enduring images of Rio 2016.

 

6. Junior Joy

The conveyor belt of talent that has catapulted Britain into the highest levels of the gymnastic firmament continued to deliver stars of the future in 2016. At the European Juniors in May and June medals rained down on our young men. Led by triple gold winner Giarnni Regini-Moran, Parallel Bar champion Joe Fraser and double silver for Alice Kinsella there was team glory for the men and silver for the women. Watch out world in Tokyo!

 

7. Tinkler twinkles four years early

In Amy Tinkler we have a star of the future who twinkled four years earlier than expected. A fresh-faced floor specialist who ascended the podium while waiting for her GCSE results. Facing an American skirmish of sommies, stars and stripes she refused to be phased by the likes of Biles and Raisman. Her 14.933, an epic score in an extraordinary contest gaining her a superb bronze to match Beth Tweddle on bars from London 2012. Add another top three placing in the 2016 SPOTY junior awards and it was a year to remember for Tinkler.

 

8. Discovering the Nile

The High Bar, high octane, high flying – for so many the highlight of every Games. After posting a stratospheric score in qualifying Nile Wilson showed no fear in the final. He watched as Fabian Hambuechen laid down a loaded routine then produced a performance of virtuoso releases capped by a landing stickier than treacle. In the end only Hambuechen and America’s Leyva could best him and on the podium his cheeky smile lit up the stadium. There will be high hopes for a repeat in 2017.

 

9. Your Numbers Up!

At the beginning of 2016 the UK had approximately 1,400 gymnastics clubs with around 300,000 members. As we approach the end of the year all clubs report an increase in interest and participation. Crucially, they are retaining members for longer and signing up new age groups. Sport England ‘Active People Survey’ (APS) saw a 15,000 increase in weekly gymnastics participation for over 16 year olds to 65,100 in December 2016. At the same time there has been an impressive 100,000 increase in recreational gymnastics members since the 2012 Olympic Games.

Rio Olympics

10. Cashing in on success

In December British Gymnastics announced that the sport has been boosted by an increase in funding for the sport in the run up to the next Olympics. An impressive £16.68 million will be deposited in the coffers for the 2017-2021 Tokyo Olympic Cycle. While some other sports have suffered after missing their targets, the magnificent seven medals won in Rio have ensured Athlete Performance and High Performance programmes in Men’s Artistic Gymnastics, Women’s Artistic Gymnastics and Trampoline will benefit from improved backing.

 

11. A farewell to Fenner

The gymnastics fraternity bid a sad farewell to Mitch Fenner in July, for almost 40 years the voice of sport on the BBC. Before taking up the mic Fenner had coached a number of Britain’s champions of the 1970’s and 80’s and was latterly instrumental in the phenomenal success of the Dutch men’s team. His knowledge and commentating style was much admired by gymnasts and viewers alike. The sport also lost a number of dedicated coaches and officials in 2016, including John Aldridge, the first ever professional doctor for the British Gymnastics team.

 

12. Biles better than the rest

Simone Biles is undoubtedly this year’s international star of gymnastics and shone as one of the faces of the Rio Games. Her four golds in the all-around, floor, vault and team finals brought her haul of global titles to 14. A combination of explosive power, innovative moves and bubbly demeanour brought her worldwide fame. In December, along with a string of other accolades, she was named the BBC’s Overseas Sports Personality of the Year following in the footsteps of all-time greats Olga Korbut and Nadia Comaneci.

We all have our own special memories of 2016 – club achievements, increased numbers, the inspiration of our sporting stars. The team at Gymnastics Club Manager would like to wish everyone continued success and a very Happy and Prosperous 2017!

 

Strictly Come Dancing Images, By the BBC website

Claudia’s Strictly Come Dancing 2016 Journey

claudia fragapane

There was a ten from Len … but then …

Claudia Fragapane’s joyful journey on Strictly Come Dancing 2016 has come to an end. With youthful partner AJ Pritchard she has cha-cha-charmed her way into the hearts of the nation. But sadly on Sunday night Team Pocket Rocket fell at the final hurdle.

However, there is no shame in reaching the last four of Britain’s favourite Reality TV Show. Claudia has wowed with her Waltz, stunned with her Salsa and captivated with her Charleston. And along the way she has gained something even more valuable than the Glitterball Trophy. Confidence.

Doing Something Different

For someone who has stood on the top of the podium around the world and came to public prominence at Glasgow 2014 with a clutch of gold medals, it was a surprise to find that Claudia struggled with self-belief.  But she summed up the gulf between one starring moment in the spotlight and another on BBC’s Strictly Takes Two.

“I’m just a gymnast who has trained and trained for twelve years but now I’ve done something different.”

And that is one of the lessons to learn from Claudia’s Strictly experience. In previous blogs Nick Ruddock has emphasised the need to recognise your gymnasts’ individuality, to never treat them as robots. Learning new levels of difficulty and how to cope with the stresses of competition are skills which you can teach and hone.

In the end though, some gymnasts may get a confidence boost from a bit of lateral thinking.

So if you have the time or resources how about staging a club talent show or an outing planned by the gymnasts themselves? Or a visit to a local care home to do a display for the residents? As Claudia said it’s something different. And it helps gymnasts gain confidence from gaining different responsibilities in new environments.

But for now, it’s time to wave a fond farewell from our Saturday sofas to the wonderful Claudia and AJ.

Seeing them go brought a tear to the eye. In the words of Zoe Ball, it was all … totes emosh…

Claudia and AJ have been an absolute pleasure to watch and a brilliant advert for an often much maligned younger generation. Quite literally Fab-U-Lous.

However, just before you put away your phones you can ‘keep voting’ for gymnasts on the BBC. Max Whitlock is in with a shout of the top three in Sports Personality this Sunday. Tune in from 6.40pm on BBC1 and vote Max!

The Highlights of Claudia and AJ’s Dance Card

The couple topped the standings twice. For their cheeky Charleston in Week 3 and American Smooth in Week 6. Their average score was 33.9 which confirmed their fourth place ranking overall.

Despite going out on the night they performed it, their Rhumba was still judged joint best for this difficult dance for the whole series with a score of 35. They also topped the standings for the Quickstep and Salsa.

Their ‘worst’ dance was the Cha-Cha-Cha in Week 1. After that, they steadily improved week-by-week.

Missed any of Claudia’s dances? You can catch up by visiting the BBC’s Strictly page.

 

Images – BBC website

The Year in Acrobatic Gymnastics

 

As 2016’s competitive season draws to a close we take a look back at another medal-winning year for Britain’s acrobatic gymnastics team. Often overlooked amid the success of the Olympic sports of artistic, rhythmic and trampoline, the acrobatic team have quietly ascended the sport’s elite in recent years.

Strength, agility and teamwork are the keys to successful Acrobatics and Britain’s gymnasts have been beefing up and honing their routines to challenge the sport’s long-time leaders – the likes of Russia and China. Beginning in the early 2000s, they began to rise through the ranks until, in 2010, they topped the world championship medal table for the first ever.

Top of the Table

It was a milestone moment. Where once the Soviets reigned supreme, now it was the Brits who were balancing on top of the heap. 2012 and 2014 saw the team consolidate their place on the podium by finishing runner-up to the Russians. But then at this March’s World Championships in Putian, China they suffered a relative slip. A distant seventh in the medal table with a brace of bronzes.

Let’s not forget though that those two bronzes were still a magnificent achievement. The mixed pair of Lewis Walker and Isabella Montagna exhibited all of the poise, power and elegance that has characterised their propulsion through the junior ranks. The youthful men’s team of Lewis Watts, Conor Sawenko, Charlie Tate and Adam Upcott matched them with a chirpy, cheeky towering tour-de-force of twists and technique.

But at a time when the artistic gymnasts and trampolinists are producing headline-grabbing results is there anything to worry about in Acro?

New Kids On The Acrobatic Gymnastics Block!

First of all, it has to be remembered that gymnastic disciplines are predominantly sports with a short ‘shelf-life’ and so there can often be a high turnover in who hits the heights. So the composition of a team can change overnight simply because of a teenage growth spurt.

Then there are the new kids on the block. Israel, Belgium and North Korea have all muscled in on the action and more countries may follow which adds to the intensity of competition. And then, of course, there is the dominance of Russia. For thirty years the Russians were top dogs until the Brits knocked them off their pedestal. In 2016 they really roared back to life with five golds. It could even have been all six if not for an uncharacteristic tumble in the men’s team final.

So whether 2016 is a transitional year or a reversion to the norm will become evident in the years to come. And in many respects the future does look rosy for Britain. At the World Age Group Championships just prior to the Senior Worlds our junior team nabbed five golds, five silvers and four bronzes from gymnasts aged 11-19.

That Britain has succeeded in Acro under the mainstream media radar has been a magnificent achievement and testament to national and club-level coaches. If you’ve never watched top-level Acro before check out the men’s final from 2016 and watch all the way to the end for the brilliant Brits and the phenomenal Chinese.

Britain’s World Medal Roll Call for 2016

Senior

Mixed Pair – Bronze: Lewis Walker and Isabella Montagna

Men’s Team – Bronze: Lewis Watts, Conor Sawenko, Charlie Tate and Adam Upcott

Age Group

11-16 years

Women’s Balance Final – Gold: Jessica Geldhill and Olivia Proctor

Men’s Balance Group Final – Silver: Max Crawford, Leo Keenan, Jacob Robinson and Daniel Axford

Men’s Balance Final – Silver: Sam Large and Hector Kinghorn

Dynamic Final – Bronze: Jordan Franklin and Ella Hanna Sanz

12-18 years

Women’s Group – Gold: Tabitha Dawson, Scarlett Wright and Kitty Williams

Men’s Group – Gold: Aiden Lim, Bertie Cardillo-Zallo, Alex Papworth and Christian Cox

Men’s Pair – Gold: Callum Portugal-Walker and Kieran Blower

Women’s Pair – Silver: Marlena Kroliczek and Harriet Cowperthwaite

Mixed Pair – Bronze: Santiago Dubov and Georgia Hewison

13-19 years

Women’s Group – Gold: Kristie Harrington, Sofie Lincoln and Gabrielle Evans

Men’s Group – Silver: Nathan Brady, Ryan Dury, Michael Gill and Finnian Gavin

Women’s Pair – Silver: Amelia Battensby and Dove Strachan-Wills

Mixed Pair – Bronze: Vada Finniear and Kenedi Cross

Men’s Pair – Bronze: Marcus Flint and Harry Hole

Gymnasts Set Sights On Award Season

Team GB gymnasts

Tis the season …

Relax, it’s not quite Christmas yet! Tis the season for awards. And many of our gymnasts and their coaches are in prime position to bag a bundle in the weeks to come. On Thursday 8th December the winners of the Sunday Times Sportswomen of the year (SWOTY) awards will be announced and two members of the gymnastics community are in the running.

June Vying for Community Award

June Adams has been coaching gymnasts for more than 40 years at Ecco Gymnastics Club in Sheffield. She was nominated by one of her gymnast’s mums, Rachel McQueen, who describes June as ‘proper Yorkshire’ – “She doesn’t tolerate messing around. She doesn’t dish out praise easily. But when she does praise them, then the girls know they are doing well.”

The SWOTY Community Award recognises individuals who have actively engaged with different groups of women within their community through sport. June is the perfect example. Her first gym

class was in a school with chairs and plank of woods for apparatus. Over four decades facilities and classes have moved on considerably. Many of the girls June coached are now young women who coach the next generation. And there have been many Yorkshire champions among them.

Accolades for Amy?

Also on the Sunday Times shortlist is the effervescent Amy Tinkler, fresh from her Olympic floor bronze and in contention to be Young Sportswoman of the Year. Her fellow contenders are Olympic silver medal winning swimmer Siobhan-Marie O’Connor, rally driving sensation Catie Munnings and the inspirational Ellie Robinson, a Paralympic swimming gold medal winner from Rio.

Amy well deserves her place in the final four and it’s a fair bet that within a few weeks we may see her also in the running for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) junior award as well. If she does make the list and then claims the title it will represent an unprecedented ‘three-peat’ for Britain’s junior female gymnasts.

Claudia Fragapane started the ball rolling in 2014 thanks to her magnificent four-gold haul from Glasgow 2014 and then in Belfast last year Ellie Downie followed in her footsteps. Nominations for

the award have now closed but it’s likely that Tinkler will be in with a chance when the ceremony is broadcast live from the Genting Arena, Birmingham, on Sunday, 18 December.

Whitlock for the Win?

Which, of course, brings us to Max Whitlock. Recently our double Olympic champion has scooped the Radio 1 Teen Award for best Sports Star and is up for a wide range of awards including the inaugural ’Great Britain’s Choice Award’. After being shortlisted for the BBC’s SPOTY award in 2014 and 2015 – famously flaring on a piano last year – his place on the final list is all but assured.

But what are his chances in what has been a stellar year for British sport? Can he surpass Beth Tweddle’s best result for a gymnast – third – in 2006?

In any other year winning double gold – and possessing an engaging public persona – would surely secure a spot in the top three. But look at the competition. He’s up against Mo Farah, winner of the double-double at successive Olympics, Cycling’s uber golden couple the Kennys, F1 champion Lewis Hamilton, Triathlon’s Alistair Brownlee and swimming sensation Adam Peaty plus the Paralympic legends of Peacock and Cockcroft et al. We really have so much to celebrate as a sporting nation.

But above them all stands Andy Murray. And after winning SPOTY in 2015 and revisiting Wimbledon and Olympic glory he is now official World Number 1. Surely it’s game, set and match to the popular Scot. So will it be service as usual?

Outsiders can win – 2016 has definitely proved that! – and if Max has the backing of enough fans there may be a surprise on the cards. Not long ago darts legend Phil Taylor almost upset the odds so it is possible but unlikely. So a top three for Max would be superb, a triumph for Tinkler tremendous. But whatever happens in award season let’s celebrate our sporting stars and their coaches and a year of memorable medal moments.

The shortlists for BBC Sports Personality of the Year will be revealed soon.