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 area’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 – and the world – 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 club’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 GC’s make-up.
In 1988 Tony’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 women’s trio took third position.
Nikki’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 yet another important milestone when it finally landed an all-important new HQ at The Sports Shed, Armstrong Way, in the South Gloucestershire town of Yate. During that period King Eddies continued to take the world by storm on the competition front, as deadly duo Maiken Thorne and Mollie Grehan captured a bronze medal in the Taiwan World Games. Four years on and Maiken’s younger sister, Shanie-Redd, clinched a gold medal in the same World Games, this time in Colombia with the help of trusty 14-year-old partner Danielle Jones.
By then the pair were already proud owners of a bronze medal courtesy of their exploits in the World Age Group Championships in Orlando, just as their team-mates Jake Underdown and Christopher Child were, having entered the more senior 12-19 category as reigning world 11-16 champions.
These remarkable successes were officially recognised during Christmas 2012 when head coach Nikki followed in her father Tony’s footsteps by achieving a prestigious Master Coach Honorary Award by British Gymnastics. A few months , and a series of South West Championship and senior World Cup successes later, the club relocated to the new Yate International Gymnastics Centre at Yate Leisure Centre, a burgeoning membership list meaning the club had simply outgrown its Sports Shed premises.
Meanwhile the action continued unabated, and to stunning effect. As summer 2013 drew to a close not only did Shanie-Redd and Danielle produce one of the most significant and memorable moments in King Eddies’ history by achieving that World Games gold for Great Britain in Colombia, but the girls went on to claim top prize in the senior section of the European Championships in Portugal in October, where club and country comrades Christopher and Jake also performed excellently to take silver at 12-18 level.
To cap off a fabulous 2013, King Eddies were granted another major honour, winning the Active South Gloucestershire Club of the Year award for their sterling work in the local community.