By Simon Parkinson

KING Edmund Gym Club’s jet-setting stars embarked on their most adventurous mission yet – and they weren’t in the least bit fazed by their Siberian surroundings.

The nine-strong team of acrogymnasts set off on an experience-of-a-lifetime to the vast Russian province to take part in a prestigious tournament and they didn’t let down, returning to South Gloucestershire and their Yate International Gymnastics  Centre HQ with a string of gold medals and a silver to boot thanks to some superb performances that won plenty of plaudits from their Siberian hosts.

The event, called the Black and Gold Tournament, was staged in the city of Nefteyugansk, only founded in 1967 when an oil field was discovered in a small forest clearing. It also reaped gold for recent World Championship silver medallists Dove Strachan-Wills and Millie Battensby in the women’s pairs 13-19 age category, while in the 11-16 section Grace Monchar and Nyree Williams did likewise to secure the top prize.

Not to be outdone, Finn Cochrane and Kirsten Owen produced outstanding performances and scores in the 11-16 mixed pairs to clinch gold, and there was delight too for the women’s trio of Bella Olivieri, Chloe Gunter and Paige Weeks as they managed a commendable runners-up spot in their class to carry off a silver medal.

Intriguingly the King Eddies team and their coaches provided the only foreign representation for a tournament comprising more than 20 teams entered from all over Russia.

For the South Gloucestershire party the eight-night trip incorporated some challenging travelling, which included taking a 44-hour train journey from Nefteyugansk to Moscow and a 330km road trip by coach through a forest and over uneven terrain to visit the beautiful Western Siberian city of Khenty-Mansiysk and its museum.

Club manager Mark Thorne was there along with his wife and King Eddies head coach Nikki Thorne and he said: “It was an interesting and enlightening experience for everyone.

“The city we competed in was sparsely-populated but the year-old leisure centre that staged the tournament was superb. Our gymnasts loved it and it was clear the sport of acrogymnastics is taken extremely seriously, as all types of gymnastics are in those parts. Our gymnasts were regularly asked for autographs and pictures.

“Thankfully we had translators on hand too and we were made to feel very welcome. It was amazing travelling through such barren landscapes with sand and swamps everywhere and interesting to see how much fish they consume and how self-sufficient they are with their food.

“It was cold to start with – the temperatures were minus – but it slowly warmed up as the days went by.”

Of King Eddies’ outstanding tournament results, Mark said: “Our gymnasts were fantastic and they achieved those results knowing they were the first foreign team ever to compete in that part of the world. But the hospitality and friendship the locals showed to us was first class.”

Now view the many pictures below from King Eddies’ exciting adventure in Moscow . . .