KING Edmund Gym Club has experienced a meteoric rise over three rollercoaster decades and like all worthwhile ventures, it had to start somewhere!
It was way back in the early 1980s that the Wills family decided the Yate area and its young inhabitants could benefit from a professionally-run gymnastics centre.
Little did they know at the time that the club would flourish to become the thriving and successful set-up it is today. Thousands of children, many of whom have gone on to grace the international stage, have passed through the doors of its various outlets in South Gloucestershire, not least the local secondary school, King Edmund (now Yate International Academy), where it all began, while the areaâ€™s main leisure centres provided a stage for training sessions and competitions.
In those formative days the club concentrated on four-piece gymnastics - Beam, Bars, Floor and Vault, while its gymnasts competed in South West competitions and were soon taking the region â€“ and the world â€“ by storm.
New standards were being set and attained all the time and Nikki Thorne, a fast-emerging member of the Wills family who was later to become head coach, became the first at the club to perform a double-back somersault in competition.
As the sport developed so fresh disciplines, such as tumbling, were introduced to challenge the clubâ€™s talented young prodigies, watched by the keen and astute eye of Tony Wills, president of King Edmund Acrogymnastics.
His gymnasts entered their first sports acrobatic tumbling competition in 1985 and the club never looked back. They went on to dominate the South West gymnastics scene by taking the majority of first places in each event entered, a feat that prompted organisers of local tournaments to introduce a new rule stating that a club had to enter more than one discipline.
Undaunted, Tony again took up the challenge and as four-piece gymnastics was phased out, so tumbling and sports acrobatics grew to become an integral part of King Edmund GCâ€™s make-up.
In 1988 Tonyâ€™s daughter Nikki became British Senior tumbling champion while competing in many national and international events, including the Senior World Championships in Ausberg, Germany, in 1990.
After a successful career Nikki decided to channel her expertise into coaching, with the help of her experienced father, and together they produced many winning partnerships in various disciplines of sports acrobatics and tumbling.
Robert Barton and Cheryl Wilcox were one such duo, who became Junior World Mixed Pair Champions in 1991, while the womenâ€™s trio took third position.
Nikkiâ€™s enthusiasm and strong leadership skills won her plenty of plaudits AND the 2002 Coach of the Year award, and in January 2006 the club was officially approved as a safe, effective, child-friendly club by gaining GymMark status from British Gymnastics.
In August 2009 the club reached another important milestone when it finally landed all-important new premises at The Sports Shed, Armstrong Way, in the South Gloucestershire town of Yate (see The Sports Shed).
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