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Friday 23 October 2015
Farnham-based Stellar Gymnastics Club enjoyed the privilege of officially opening the 2015 World Gymnastics Championships in Glasgow as winners of a competition run in conjunction by event organisers and British Gymnastics.
The Surrey club pressed the button to launch the ‘Worlds’ after successfully being drawn from hundreds of entries invited as part of British Gymnastics ‘Be Part of It’ campaign, designed to put clubs at the heart of the championships and give them the opportunity to engage and interact with the event.
Each gymnastics club across Britain received an official supporters’ pack, containing a series of letters. Clubs were encouraged to submit a photograph of the club displaying these in support of the event.
Joining Head Coach, Hannah Fox, to mark the grand occasion were club members, Tegan Cobley and Abbie Jacobsen, and her second in command, Sophie Thomas.
Having themselves been drawn at random to travel to Glasgow from among Stellar’s 100-strong membership, both budding gymnasts were delighted to join a vocal SSE Hydro crowd for the opening ceremony and first day of competition.
Tegan, 12, said: “I found out I had won the competition about a month or two ago. My mum told me when I was in bed that night and I couldn’t sleep. I screamed so loud, I was so excited. I think the other girls in the club were quite jealous I was going.
“It’s really great to be here because we have a competition on Sunday, so I am looking for some pointers – the gymnasts are so good! I’ll be looking for tips on my floor routine because I have never had gold on that apparatus, although my favourite is vault.”
At the prospect of witnessing Great Britain’s women take one step closer to qualification for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, a privilege earned by the top eight nations progressing to the Team Finals in Glasgow, Abbie said: “I am going to be supporting the British team as a whole, because I know expectations for them will be high.
“It was amazing to get the chance to open the Championships. I remember coming home from school and my mum telling me to come into the front room - I thought I was in trouble! I asked my mum what was wrong and I looked at the computer and saw I had won, so I was really excited. I was screaming.”
For Head Coach Hannah Fox, who launched Stellar less than a year ago, watching Britain’s elite gymnasts, including quadruple 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Claudia Fragapane, as well as world star Simone Biles, will provide invaluable inspiration for the club’s young athletes.
She said: “The World Championships is in opportunity for them to see one day where they could be. It’s an aspiration for them and gets them massively engaged. It is the same as football. There are lots of little lads who watch the FA Cup or the World Cup and that’s where they want to be and it is the same for this sport.
“We have a few members here in the audience but I know that ones that couldn’t be here are so excited and can’t wait for us to come back on Sunday with all the pictures and stories. Our Instagram page has been liked continuously by all of our gymnasts.”
Assistant coach Sophie Thomas welcomed the opportunity for clubs consisting of gymnasts of all ages and abilities to become involved in the championships and praised British Gymnastics for the inclusive nature of the ‘Be Part of It’ campaign.
Initiatives like this, she believes, have contributed to Great Britain’s surge in the sport in recent years, resulting in the very real possibility that Claudia Fragapane, Becky and Ellie Downie, Kelly Simm, Ruby Harrold and Amy Tinkler will emerge from today’s qualification stage as real medal hopes for Tuesday’s Women’s Team Finals.
“When I was younger, there was a tendency for coaches to focus on elite athletes at a young age within clubs,” she commented. “But there has been a culture shift in British Gymnastics to be more inclusive. Disability gymnastics is growing and we have adult competitions that didn’t happen long ago.
“I think that has allowed gymnastics in the UK to develop, so now we are a country at the top of the world, challenging at the World Gymnastics Championships and the Olympic Games for medals.”