Huntingdon Gymnastics Club going for gold

WITH one year to go until London 2012, the heat is on for Huntingdon Gymnastics Club.

WITH one year to go until London 2012, the heat is on for Huntingdon Gymnastics Club.

The Mayfield Road facility is home to three of the country’s most successful ever gymnasts, as well as the national men’s coach, and the next 12 months will be crammed with the World, European and British championships, as well as the Olympic selection process – not to mention the gruelling training sessions required to compete at professional level.

Olympic qualification, at this stage, isn’t assured and being the host nation only entitles Great Britain to one guaranteed competitor in the men’s and women’s competitions. If Team GB qualifies, the pressure is then on individual athletes to secure a coveted spot on the five-man (or five-woman) team.

Paul Hall is head coach in Huntingdon and the Great Britain men’s artistic coach and he is preparing for the busy year ahead with the club’s shining stars: Olympic bronze medallist Louis Smith, world silver medallist Daniel Keatings and commonwealth champion Luke Folwell.

He explained: “Great Britain needs to finish in the top eight at the Worlds to qualify for the Olympics. If we can manage that, the selection process for the Olympics will take place in June. If we don’t, there will be a test event in January where teams who placed nine to 16 compete for a further four places – we don’t want to have to do that.

“There’s lots of work to do and we will be working our way through the summer in earnest.

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“Qualification is never a given. The British team finished seventh last time and we are hoping to do the same this year. It’s not easy. There are six exercises, six apparatus, but just one or two mistakes can ruin your chances. We’ve done it before though so we can hopefully do it again – and maybe improve on our performance.”

He said Beijing and Louis’s historic bronze was a turning point in the history of British gymnastics – as well as having local effect.

“Generally, gymnastics isn’t as popular with boys as girls but here we have a big interest because of Louis, Daniel and Luke’s successes.

“There are three keys to success: a good team, hard work and belief. There is a national belief now that we can win medals and there’s a momentum that can’t be stopped. Beijing was the turning point. It is an amazing time to be a part of British gymnastics. London 2012 will be a tremendous competition – it’s very exciting.”

Paul is justifiably proud of his club’s incredible achievements and said: “The biggest feeling is relief when you see the success. You spend a lifetime practising to deliver one routine and if it goes right it’s fantastic but if it goes wrong…”

The potential for success close to home continues long after the London Olympics, with the club already looking ahead to the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Scotland and the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow. Beyond that, the club is hoping its legacy will continue with talent already being nurtured for

Profiles of Huntingdon’s Olympic Hopefuls

Name: Luke Folwell

Age: 24

Biggest achievement: Five at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, including two gold medals (all-round and vault), and three silver (parallel bars, rings and a team medal).

Fact: Luke is the most successful British gymnast in Commonwealth Games history.

Name: Louis Smith

Age: 21

Biggest achievement: Olympic bronze (pommel horse) in Beijing, 2008.

Fact: Louis was the first Briton in 100 years to win an Olympic medal in individual gymnastics and the first Briton to win a medal in gymnastics at the Olympic games since 1928.

Name: Daniel Keatings

Age: 21

Biggest achievement: Silver medal in the all-around competition at the World Championships in 2009 - the first ever world all-around medal for GB.

Fact: Daniel won Britain’s first ever gold medal at a major championships by claiming gold on the pommel horse at the European championships last year.