FROM the days when founder Terry Sharpington ran classes at a school hall, to Louis Smith’s triumph at the London Olympics, Huntingdon Gym Club has grown from strength to strength.

To help secure its future, The Hunts Post today launches a fundraising campaign to help the Mayfield Road club raise £100,000 - money desperately needed to plug the gap in the cost of its new extension. As home to a host of elite athletes who have made their mark in championships and competitions around the world, the gym has put Huntingdon firmly on the map.

Since the Beijing Olympics, when Louis stunned the nation with his historic bronze medal, and even more since last year's overwhelming success in the capital, Huntingdon Gym Club has seen its popularity soar. Previous attempts to secure financing for an ambitious extension failed but 2013 looks set to be the year when the club will be able to realise its dream of catering for even more people.

Head coach Paul Hall said: "For The Hunts Post to get behind us, with your record of raising money, is superb," he said.

Trustees have secured a £215,000 grant from British Gymnastics but they have learned from bitter experience that the money is not guaranteed. Their project has to be viable and the cash spent within a strict timeframe or the national organisation will withdraw support.

Funds have been donated by Huntingdon Freemen and with everyone getting behind the drive to hit the £600,000 needed to complete the build, Paul is certain 2013 will be their year.

"It's going to happen," he said. "£100,000 is achievable but the community has to support any project like this - without their backing we can't do it. The community here has been so good to us in the past.

"The extension is my big mission for 2013 - and with your help, it's achievable. The more money we raise, the more we can achieve. I don't want people to think that we are nearly there and back off - the more we raise the easier it will be for us."

He added: "Since Beijing, we have seen a big upsurge in demand - not just from elite athletes but from all groups. We are at saturation point. It's extremely difficult for our elite gymnasts. We need to relieve that pressure - the extension is a much needed thing."