THERE were two Olympic heroes at Huntingdon Gym on Saturday morning when Louis Smith was joined by Daley Thompson, the double gold medal winning decathlete, as the ‘Join In’ battle bus rolled into town as a part of its UK ‘legacy’ tour.
Smith, who won silver and bronze medals at the London 2012 Games, was welcomed home to Huntingdon by a crowd of the young gymnasts, some of whom the club hopes will be future Team GB Olympians.
It was all very exciting. Twelve-year-olds Tony Duchars and Benji Eyre even showed off their pommel horse for the Sky and BBC TV cameras while Smith and Thompson looked on.
“This gym needs people like Daniel Keatings and I to inspire the kids to get involved,” said Smith. “It’s events like this that encourage kids to get involved in sport.
“This is where it starts. They come to places like this, they get involved and enjoy themselves and then they make the choice on whether they want to take it more seriously or not.
“I think it’s important that kids can get into places like this, use the facilities, and have fun.”
Smith won a bronze medal with fellow Huntingdon Gym member Sam Oldham in the individual artistic team event at the North Greenwich Arena, and added a silver medal to his 2008 Olympic bronze on the pommel horse a week later.
Daniel Keatings, another gymnast coached by Paul Hall at the club, just missed out on Olympic selected. Luke Folwell is another talented gymnast from the club - in October 2010 he won five medals for England at the Commonwealth Games in India, becoming the most successful British gymnast in the Games history.
Thompson won his two decathlon gold medal in the 1980 Moscow Olympics and the Los Angeles Games four year later.
The London-born athlete Thompson says the temptations of modern life can distract kids from participating in sport.
“The kids have to be inspired by the likes of Louis and Jessica Ennis - kids like action, they don’t like talk.
“These days I think there are more things for kids to do. There are films, there’s music, and games consoles, so sport has to fight for kids’ attention. If sports want to be part of peoples’ lifestyles they have to go out there and bring the kids in and that’s why we are doing this ‘Join In’ campaign.
Among Louis Smith’s reception committee was Huntingdon mayor and Councillor Colin Hyams, who told The Hunts Post the Gym could be given the freedom of the town.
He said: “Louis has put the town on the map and the Gym has put the town on the map. What we put to the council the other night is that we want to give the gym the freedom of the town.
“We have climbed on the back of all the publicity that the gym has brought to Huntingdon and I believe we have to put our money where our mouth is to help the gym in some way.”