Club is shaping our future Olympians

KETTERING. GYMNASTS'Gymnast Claire Ward (15), Sophie Tucker (11), Emma Armitage (13), Sam Webb (14), & Lilli Beard (12).
KETTERING. GYMNASTS'Gymnast Claire Ward (15), Sophie Tucker (11), Emma Armitage (13), Sam Webb (14), & Lilli Beard (12).

This summer, Northamptonshire will be rooting for two young gymnasts hoping to do their county proud.

Rhythmic gymnast Francesca Jones, of Wellingborough, has already qualified for London 2012 and Corby’s Daniel Keatings learned last week he also stands a great chance of being part of the men’s team after the squad qualified at the Olympic testing event in London.

The two gymnasts will prove an inspiration to the hundreds of youngsters who train at Kettering Olympics Gymnastics Club.

The club already has 600 members and there is a waiting list of 150.

Coach Marie Mitchell started the club with her husband Dave 26 years ago.

She said: “My two daughters started doing gymnastics at Rushden Sports Centre when it first opened.

“We are all very sporty and my eldest daughter took a fancy to gymnastics.

“We went over to have a look and they both started doing it.

“Then me and my husband began helping out, setting the kit up, but we soon started asking ourselves, why are we travelling all the way over to Rushden?

“We got some qualifications in coaching and started the club, first at Southfield School for Girls, then Henry Gotch School and then at Kettering Leisure Village. Then we came to Northfield Avenue eight years ago.”

The club focuses on artistic gymnastics including the vault, the beam and the floor for girls, team display gymnastics, and recreational gymnastics for boys.

It also runs gym classes for pre-school children.

It has seen some major successes and currently has the reigning county champions in three age groups. But its biggest challenge looking to the future is its training facilities.

It is based in an industrial unit in Brunel Close but Marie says they really need a much bigger site.

She said: “We cope with what we have got and we go up to one of the big gymnastics centres at Loughborough University to use their facilities.

“Two years ago we were looking at having a purpose-built gym but with the economic climate we couldn’t afford it.

“We are just in an industrial unit and we would like a building twice the size of what we have now.

“But for a new building we are looking at a cost of £2.5m. There is quite a bit of money out there but we would have to fund 40 per cent ourselves.

“We did have a landowner who was very interested in helping us but things fell through.”

Despite the challenges posed by the facilities, the young gymnasts are proving that hard work does pay off.

Marie said: “It is great to see boys and girls coming into the sport and watching them gain their badges right through to winning national medals and trophies.

“To see the hard work they do pay off is amazing.”