By Simon Parkinson
AWARD-WINNING coach Nikki Thorne acclaimed the dawn of a bright new age for her King Edmund Gym Club starlets after watching them take the British Tournament at Stoke’s Fenton Manor venue by storm.
King Eddies have enjoyed staggering success over some 35 memorable years competing for honours at home and abroad, not least in more recent times when Shanie-Redd Thorne and Danielle Jones combined to become the first Great Britain acrobatic gymnastics performers to win a gold medal at the prestigious World Games, in Colombia, last year.
Not content with that in 2013, the super-duo took top prize as senior women entrants at the European Championships in Portugal, where club comrades Jake Underdown and Christopher Child also excelled to clinch silver in the 12-18 age category.
Now, following on from those feats and many more down the decades, all eyes are on the future and Thorne, who has just been awarded an honorary life membership with British Gymnastics, could scarcely conceal her enthusiasm after seeing a party of 19 King Eddies hopefuls return from the annual Stoke event, these days known as the Pat Wade Classic, brimming with ‘hardware’.
There were gold collections for senior pair Beth Dix and Chloe Gunter, and junior trio Shanie-Redd Thorne, Jess Howard and Tiana McClurg, while Abi Hipkiss, Emily Dix and Izzy Davey did likewise in the 12-18 class as a threesome, as did Marcus Flint and Harry Hole in the same age bracket as a duo.
Mixed pair Finlay Cochrane and Kirsten Owen teamed up to claim silver in the 11-16 competition, while Dove Strachan-Wills and Millie Battensby turned on the style again to also sweep to silver medal success, as a 12-18 partnership.
Women’s team Grace Monchar, Chelsea Kent and Paige Weeks produced promising performances in a big and competitive section for trios to finish sixth overall in the 11-16 event after maturely making their way through to the final, while the youngest competitor in the entire competition, nine-year-old Jayden Howard, linked-up brilliantly with Connor O’Keeffe to earn a fifth-spot placing in the boys’ section.
Thorne expressed “enormous satisfaction” at what she witnessed at a competition comprising 25 of the nation’s elite acro clubs, and cited the King Edmund club’s impressive new facilities at Yate International Gymnastics Centre as a major factor in the success, with the promise of much more to come.
She said: “The facilities have really helped with our progress but our young gymnasts worked so hard in the 11 weeks leading up to the tournament, putting in five-and-a-half hours of training a day to make certain they hit the floor running going into it.
“As a result all of them put themselves in good positions to be selected for the European Championship trials next year.
“We’ve always had top-class performers at King Eddies but having a state-of-the-art gym centre means we can properly prepare the next generation for the big step up.
“The fact we have 187 competing gymnasts – the most we’ve ever had – and around 1,200 members at the club, which is more than some regions have altogether, shows just how much King Edmund Gym Club is thriving and these really are exciting times.”
Coach Thorne, meanwhile, joined her daughter Shanie-Redd and Danielle Jones for an evening at the British Gymnastics national awards presentations at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, where all three were awarded honorary life membership of British Gymnastics to mark their World Games triumph, as Great Britain coach and performing pair respectively.
“It is a very prestigious award to get and we’re all thrilled and honoured to have received it,” Thorne Snr said.