By Simon Parkinson
KING Edmund Gym Club have hit the European Championships trail running by presenting their largest-ever collection of triallists for Great Britain selection consideration.
The Euros, one of the most prestigious and competitive tournaments on the international acrogymnastics calendar, are to take place in the city of Holon, near Tel Aviv, in Israel over a fortnight starting from October 21.
Trials have already been taking place in earnest at Lilleshall in Shropshire involving no fewer than 16 King Edmund GC gymnasts forming seven partnerships of various ages and categories.
Those athlete evaluations, conducted under the watchful eye of GB selectors, culminate in the big and hopeful King Eddies contingent competing in the British Championships in Liverpool held over three days from July 26.
The ever-thriving and immensely popular Yate-based club have been operating in South Gloucestershire and globally for almost 40 years and their manager Mark Thorne revealed: “Never before have we had as many as 16 people involved in the Great Britain selection process for the European Championships.
“Once the British Championships are over later this month we’ll face an anxious few-days wait to find out just how many of our gymnasts will be boarding the plane for Israel.
“Our club has enjoyed good representation for GB in the Euros in the past but there’s a strong possibility that we’ll have more of our members involved representing their country there than any other British club, which confirms our status as one of the strongest clubs of our type in the land.
“That is testament to the great coaching team we have here; the support we get from the gymnasts’ families and, of course, the way our boys, girls and young adults conduct themselves on and off the gym floor.
“We’ve also been fortunate over the past few years to have fantastic ultra-modern and progressive facilities at Yate International Gymnastics Centre at the heart of our town.”
Thorne said of a successful spell for King Eddies on the domestic and intercontinental acrogym scene: “Our results this year have shown the club is in very good hands, both now and for the future.
“We dominated the South West Prelims here at the centre in March when lots of our developmental competitors claimed a whole stack of medals.
“From that, six of our members qualified to take part in the national finals at Fenton Manor in Stoke representing the South West region.
“That led to Polly Maggs and Chloe Hopkins winning gold in the IDP (International Development Plan) women’s pair category; George Hunter and Adam Nicholl taking gold as a grade two men’s disability duo and Sam Biddle and Andrew Williams gaining a bronze in the youth men’s pair class. And there were other great performances by the club besides.
“We’ve also done well in international competitions in Albershausen (southern Germany), Las Vegas and Maia in Portugal, those latter two venues providing the stage for two of our rising stars, Finn Cochrane and Kirsten Owen, to finish a commendable sixth in a World Cup series in their first time out together at a senior event.”
Indeed, there were gold medal celebrations for George Paget and Harry Hole, and silvers for partnerships Dove Strachan-Wills and Nyree Williams, and Dylan Howells and Lola Sady, in the Vegas event.
The German tournament did reap first spot this time for Strachan-Wills and Williams along with gold medals for Owen and Cochrane, Biddle and Andrew Williams and Hopkins and Maggs in their respective classes, whilst Howells and Sady settled for runners-up status in theirs.
Meanwhile four members of King Eddies – Pete Grehan, Louis Stinchcombe, Kev Owen and Thorne himself – are to take part in a Yate to Liverpool cycle challenge to coincide with those forthcoming British Championships on Merseyside.
Thorne explained: “We’ll be doing it over four days; stopping overnight at Worcester, Telford and Chester.
“We’re doing it to raise awareness about sepsis, a horrible life-threatening condition which unfortunately our popular and talented young gymnast Lucy Ellis unexpectedly and tragically died of at the age of only 16 in May last year.
“The Lucy Ellis Foundation has since been set up in her name and the cycle challenge will be looking to generate as much money for the cause as possible.”