Sunday, November 15, 2009


You have to wonder what will happen to British gymnastics now.  Beth Tweddle Worlds gold has done a lot, it seems by the media reaction, to lift gymnastics' profile, but is it enough to bring more money to the sport?  I hope so.
A recent Guardian article by Anna Kessel spoke of the incremental rise in funding since Louis Smith's Olympic gold last yeat.  She also mentioned that at the bottom end of gymnastics, where the kids do club gymnastics, the situation is far more dire.

Apparently gyms like Huntingdon have huge waiting lists.  Huntingdon's is supposed to have up to a four year waiting period before some kids can see inside of a club.  But then, Huntingdon's has a track record for producing great elites.  I wonder if similar clubs down the road have the same problem?  The problem is, that these gym are probably far less equipped to produce well-trained gymnasts, and, I am guessing, lack the funding to do anything about it.

It's funny, because the thing that always struck me about British gymnastics was that I knew they had a very high participation rate in gymnastics, and that it is a very popular sport over there, but somehow, the talent pool at the elite level was never that great.  But that is probably more to do with funding than talent.

Obviously things has changed quite a bit in recent year.  The men have made themselves know and Tweds is no longer a lone star, but a star among a team of talented gymnasts.  And this is great.  I hope that funding is increased to get more of the kids who want to do gymnastic, wether for fun, or seriously.

And I have a question for my British readers.  I know that the USA received so many migrating Eastern European coaches and their Soviet-style training methods.  Did the same happen in Britain too?  Are there a lot of Eastern European coaches working in Britain?



  1. Yes, there are a few Eastern European coaches here, like Natalia Ilienko etc.

    I'm not sure you could really say gymnastics is 'very popular' in the UK as it doesn't have that high a profile and there's generally very little media coverage. The participation rate is quite good, as you said, though. When I was at school, which was well before Tweddle and Smith appeared, I knew quite a number of girls who did gymnastics, although only low level.

  2. Ah yes, that's what I meant. I had heard it was popular participation-wise, not as in that it was popular in the media. I am not sure it gets good media coverage anywhere really!
    But i remember hearing in the past that there were lots of kids in clubs but a comparative dearth of successful elites.

  3. I know we've had some Romanian coaches, but most of the eastern coaches seem to go elsewhere. There isn't a lot of money in gymnastics in Britain, unlike places like the USA. If we're honest Amanda Kirby is one of our best coaches, and she's far from eastern european.

  4. Natalia Illienko is the only one I know of coaching in the UK, she coaches at Heathrow (one of our biggest clubs) where she coaches 08 olympian and 09 world aa finalist Becky Wing. Currently the two most promising juniors, Danusia Francis and Nicole Hibbert are both at Heathrow too.

  5. The facilities at lower levels are really bad. My son had to wait a year to get into the nearest club and even though they have a boys class they have no boys equipment (this is a really low level club). The nearest club with facilities for boys is a 2 hour drive and not even in the same county. The situation in Scotland is really poor too with practically no Gyms South of the Central belt.

  6. All the clubs in london have long waiting lists. the small local club that my daughter started at operates out of a school hall 3 times a week and has over 200 children on its waiting list. as they can only accomodate around that number, including pre-school, that is quite a list.

  7. As far as easten european coaches, in what I have seen there were more than a couple around 10 years ago. They seem to have disappeared.

    There are difficulties with funding here. Leisure centre classes are more common and easier to get into but the level is very low and in many cases talented gymnasts are not recognised or encouraged to take their gymnastics further. Well equipped gymnastics centres are becoming more common as more clubs relocate to purpose-built facilities, but we are still behind other countries by a long way.
    Something else to take into consideration is the buisness aspect of clubs. Many clubs run a lot of recreational and preschool classes to pay the bills which may impact on the time for competitive teams. Some clubs rely on volunteer coaches.
    The current juniors and espoires have such talent and are looking so promising that we have to hope that there will be increased funding as a result.