Leeds in growing love affair with gymnastics

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Energetic individuals aged three to 53 are leaping at the chance to train with one of the country’s fastest growing gymnastics clubs.

Since moving into its new state-of-the-art premises in Seacroft last summer, Leeds Gymnastics Club has seen its membership soar from around 200 to around 900.

ROLLING WITH LAUGHTER: Benjamin Milner with a hoop. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

ROLLING WITH LAUGHTER: Benjamin Milner with a hoop. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

It now boasts waiting lists for its array of recreational classes, with sessions aimed at everyone from tumbling tots to adventurous adults seeking an alternative to the treadmill.

The centre is also a training hub for Leeds’ own world-class athletes who regularly compete alongside Team GB heroes such as Louis Smith.

Chris Low, director of gymnastics, put the dramatic rise in interest down to a combination of factors.

“We’ve got fantastic facilities, a great gym and we are able to do classes now all the way through the day and evening, which we weren’t able to do before.

“Also, coming off the back of the Olympics, I think that definitely helped.

“It was good timing for us to be opening around that time.”

The club, which is more than 40 years old, was based at Leeds Carnegie Regional Gymnastics Centre – part of Leeds Metropolitan University for more than 20 years, and was run by Leeds City Council.

It relocated to the 17,500 sq ft former industrial unit last June – one of the largest facilities in Yorkshire – with funding from British Gymnastics and the council.

And although the club is still supported by the local authority, it is now independent and has “massively expanded the disciplines” it offers.

Chris, who has been with the club for around 25 years – first as a competitor, now as a coach – said the pre-school classes had proved a huge hit with parents and children.

He said: “Gymnastics is really good for toddlers – it’s brilliant for building up their courage and spatial awareness.”

And he said one of the club’s key aims was to nurture the city’s home-grown stars and enable talented youngsters to go for gold.

He said: “If we’ve got gymnasts with the potential to reach the Olympic Games we want to support them and get them to fulfil their potential.”

Leeds lads Ashley Watson, 20, and Matthew Firth, 21, are members of Great Britain men’s team – the 12-man squad from which the bronze-medal-winning London 2012 team was picked.

And Leeds teen Nile Wilson, 16, was part of the Great Britain team that won gold at the Junior European Championships last year as well as taking individual silver.

The club is always looking for new coaches to meet the huge demand for training.

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