SHANIE-Redd Thorne and Danielle Jones have described their moment of elation when they discovered they had become Great Britain golden girls in Colombia, writes Simon Parkinson.
Last to go in the four-nation combined final incorporating balance and dynamic elements, the King Eddies aces knew there was little to stop them other than themselves, as they set about attempting to strike gold, a feat no other previous GB acrobatic gymnastics team had achieved at the World Games in its 32-year history.
The deadly duo were mindful too that an unfortunate fall in their opening balance routine earlier that day had so nearly cost them a place in the final, a heartbreaking prospect given the months of intense training they had undergone at the brand-new Yate International Gymnastics Centre.
Shanie-Redd, 16, revealed: “Neither of us had watched any of the three previous performances in the final but I managed to get a look at the scoreboard before we went on, and when I saw how the others had done, I felt we were in with a real chance.
“I didn’t tell Danielle what I had seen so she had no idea when it came to our turn. I felt very excited inside but I kept it to myself and managed to stay focused. I knew I had to keep my concentration because in the first performance I’d looked at the crowd and it was a distraction.
“Once we’d performed (in the final) we sat down in front of our own screen and waited for about two minutes for the verdict. When we saw we had won there was a lot of emotion.”
Danielle, 14, added: “We just jumped up and hugged each other; it was an amazing feeling. I really didn’t expect us to come first; I’d have probably settled for a medal of any type, especially after falling in our first performance. We both maybe felt deep down that was it, but we did much better in the tempo and came first and that just got us into the final in third place.
“Thankfully we tend not to get too anxious although I get a bit more nervous than Shanie.
“This is our Olympics and we’d been gearing up for it for three or four months with our Russian coach Vlad (Vladimir Makarchenko), training twice a day.
“Our school (Yate International Academy) were great, allowing us to train as much as we had to and always giving us extra time to catch up with schoolwork.”
The girls were stunned shortly into their final routine of three on an energy-sapping day to hear the auditorium rocking with a crescendo of clapping and cheering from an enthusiastic Cali crowd.
“It was about 20 seconds in and we had no idea why the crowd were reacting like that so suddenly,” Shanie grinned. “We kept going and still had no idea; we thought it was because we were wiggling our bums!
“It really helped us, though, and it was only afterwards we discovered that unbeknown to us we’d been rehearsing to Colombian music all this time.
“The whole World Games experience was completely different to anything any of us had experienced before. People were very welcoming and seemed pleased to see us, just as they were when we got back to the club and had a big celebration party!
“It would be great to think that one day one of our gymnasts, even if it’s not us, will have the opportunity to take part in the Olympics. There’s always talk about it and there’s a first European Games taking place in Azerbaijan in 2015 (organised by the European Olympic Committees) which we think will feature acrobatic gymnastics, so that would be a great start.”
Club manager Mark Thorne said of the experience: “Columbia is an interesting place and the girls had quite a lot to contend with. There was a large presence of armed polico and there are clearly some poverty-stricken parts which make you think a bit, although work seems to be taking place to improve conditions.
“We adults stayed in a basic hotel while the girls stayed in what amounted to being a four-star equivalent..
“Hopefully this will raise the profile of our King Edmund club and the sport of acrobatic gymnastics in general, and, hopefully, provide another stepping stone towards trying to achieve Olympic status.”
Meanwhile King Edmund head coach Nikki Thorne paid tribute to her protégés. “They trained for five to five-and-a-half hours a day with only one day off and that will continue to be their routine until the European Championships in Portugal in October.
“It’s been very much a team effort and all the hard work, loyalty and dedication shown by the gymnasts, parents, coaches and staff, not to mention Yate International Academy, has paid off big time.”
* BANNER OF BRITAIN: Pictured are Danielle and Shanie-Redd with overjoyed coach Nikki Thorne (left) and club director Mark Thorne