Huntingdon Gym Club puts expansion on hold

FRUSTRATED bosses at Huntingdon Gymnastics Club say they have put their �4.5million expansion plans on hold to focus on their members in the run up to next year’s Olympic Games.

The club, which has produced the country’s most successful gymnasts, was disappointed not to be shortlisted as a pre Games training camp, despite being home to Daniel Keatings, Louis Smith, Marissa King and a host of up and coming names, as well as Great Britain coach Paul Hall.

A new reception hall and offices were opened in January last year, and the club had wanted to go on to build a new gym comprising an elite gymnasts’ room and coaches’ room.

Though it was awarded some cash by not-for-profit company Cambridgeshire Horizons for the first part of the project, the club has struggled to find the funding to complete the building work.

The Big Lottery, Sport England and the British Gymnastics governing board have all rejected grant applications.

Centre manager Erica Mackenzie and trustees’ chairman Tracy Crosland feel that the club gets overlooked because of its sports focus.

Mrs Mackenzie said: “You need to tick quite a few boxes to get funding and unfortunately we were not good enough. You have to think ‘Why?’ with our results. What more must we do?

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“People expected us to be involved in the Olympics [as a training camp] and I am really disappointed. Money goes to social community groups but we do a lot for young people. We keep them off the streets and give them something to be proud of. We have some fantastic role models here that the youngsters are training right next to and they absolutely love that. We don’t get rewarded for preventing kids from going off the rails in the first place.”

Mrs Crosland also feels that Huntingdon’s location played a part in the gym being overlooked.

She said: “Our location isn’t pulling people in. We’re not in a metropolitan area like the other clubs and I think that’s a problem that a lot of organisations in the town have.”

She also said that the way gymnastics is viewed in the UK causes difficulties for sports clubs up and down the country.

“It is still treated as an amateur, part-time hobby and is not given the professional status that it is in other countries but we will keep battling.

“We will re-group and have another go when new funding opportunities come along. In the meantime, we will build relationships with other sports in the town and see how we can help each other.”

She said it was disappointing that they hadn’t been able to give their athletes more space and that the pressure was now on with two qualifying events to get through before the Olympics next year.

She added: “Unfortunately, we are not allowed to be sport for the sake of sport if we want to get funding but we know it’s a great project, it’s a great club with a great future and we are not going to give up.”