EXCLUSIVE: Louis Smith talks to The Hunts Post about Huntingdon Gym Club, going for gold in Rio and, of course, Strictly...

OLYMPIC medallist Louis Smith has given his full support to a major new fundraising campaign for Huntingdon Gym Club. The Mayfield Road club is hoping to raise �100,000 by March, which will fund the longed-for second hall.

Louis, who is currently wowing audiences and judges alike on the popular BBC show Strictly Come Dancing, told The Hunts Post: “The club has made me who I am today and I owe so much of my success to my club and the coaches there. This is such a worthwhile cause and I am keen to see and train in the new building when it is built.

“As soon as I heard about the campaign I donated and contacted my family and close friends to do the same. Although I love the gym at HGC, I have to say that it has seen better days and is rather cramped and smelly at times! I have been in many wonderful gyms across the country that are much bigger and have better facilities. It is amazing that we have produced so much with what little we have at Huntingdon.”

He added: “My best memories are of my club mates and all the coaches at Huntingdon. It is so much more than a facility. It’s a family, a community, and will always be a very big part of my life.

“I think it is very important that the local community gets behind the campaign to build this new facility. The club has raised the profile of Huntingdon, which is now well known across the country and abroad as being the home to so many fantastic gymnasts. It provides a great service to so many local people and it’s plans to expand and cater for even more can only be a positive thing for the area.”

He said of Strictly: “Everyone on the show is such good fun - that’s been one of the best things about it... Having the opportunity to meet all of these celebs who are all so down to earth. We get on great and it makes the competition friendly which is brilliant.”

Comparing his training for the Olympics to Strictly, Louis said: “They’re both very different. The Olympics were something I’d trained 19 years for so potentially messing up in that obviously means something different to potentially messing up my dance on Strictly. At the same time though, Strictly is frightening in a different way because as opposed to doing something I’ve practised 19 years for, I’m doing something in front of over 11 million people which I’ve had four days to learn!”

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“Strictly has definitely got me working different muscles and both types of training are as difficult as each other in different ways.”

Asked if he has his eye on gold in Rio, Louis said: “It’s a bit early to say. I’m taking a bit of time out with the show and then will look to make decisions beyond that. Rio is a long way away and there are a lot of factors to consider.

“For the moment, all eyes are on Strictly. I have a very competitive personality and I am training hard to perfect my next routine, which I can’t wait for as I’ll be performing it at Wembley Arena on Saturday. Each vote counts and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the local support from Huntingdon.”

Huntingdon Gym Club’s fundraising got off to a great start with a donation of �600, collected by Editor Andy Veale at the recent Hunts Post Huntingdonshire Business Awards.

Paul Hall, Team GB’s gymnastics coach and the man who helped Louis win his three historic Olympic medals, unveiled a new “totaliser” to help chart the club’s progress.

He said: “I have seen everybody here grow up, I have watched them improve and achieve and I am very proud to be a part of this gym, which has produced some of the greatest gymnasts this country has ever seen.”

He described the club as a “wonderful part of Huntingdon” that has provided a focus in so many people’s lives.

He added: “Now, we need to put some pounds together and make the dream of a second hall come true.”

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Planning permission for the �650,000 second hall has been granted and large pledges promised but further fundraising is essential to secure these pledges and get the project off the ground.

The goal is �100,000 and the club hopes to achieve some of this through the website LocalGiving.com where, for a short period of time, every �10 online donation will be topped up with �10 from the LocalGiving.com website https://localgiving.com/charity/huntingdongymclub.

The 2013 Louis Smith calendar is available from the website www.louis-smith-official.com