With the country gripped by Paralympic fever, more and more people are considering taking up a new sport – but have you ever considered gymnastics?
While it’s not a part of the Games, gymnastics is a fantastic inclusive activity, with opportunities for all.
Gymnastics clubs across the country have trained coaches who can adapt every activity around physical, sensory and learning requirements. So whatever type of gymnastics people want to try, it really couldn’t be easier to get involved – and find out what you’re capable of.
Mainstream gymnastics sessions can be adapted to include people with a physical or learning disability, sensory impairments or health conditions. But if people prefer to start with dedicated classes, that’s on offer too. There really is no limit as to how far people can go – from local challenges to elite international competitions. Of course, people can also get involved just for the fun and fitness too – you don’t have to aim for medal-winning performance!
Here, we’ve got the stories of a few Brits getting involved in gymnastics. Read on to discover how they got involved and what they enjoy about the sport…
Aged 21, Natasha, who has Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, fell in love with gymnastics aged 8. She’s now a member of the Wire Gymnastics Club, and last year was named Sport England’s Pride of Sport’s Disabled Sportsperson of the Year.
“The biggest high of my career was taking part in my first artistic Disability Gymnastics British Championships.
“I just wanted to go, do my best and show off the skills that I had been practicing in the gym but I had no idea what to expect. I came away with the gold on all 4 apparatus as well as the all-around title for my category which was a complete dream come true!
“I train alongside mainstream gymnasts so I’m coached in the same way as everyone else, but my coach adapts things slightly. I run to warm-up, like most gymnasts, but I just have to make sure that I don’t breathe too fast or too slowly, in order to maintain a healthy breathing rate and keep my oxygen levels up.
“Disability Gymnastics is a fantastic sport and I would recommend it to anyone. There are so many opportunities for disabled gymnasts of every level; it is such an inclusive sport. I’m really keen to inspire people who maybe thought that they couldn’t, that anything is possible!”
Twenty-four-year-old Alex Buesnel, who has autism, trains with Jersey Special Gymnastics Club, started out at the age of 12. He is the current British Disability Gymnastics champion – for a record ninth year in a row!
“On a personal level gymnastics has helped me to overcome many hurdles within my disability; it has given me independence to travel away from home with both my club and coaches.
“It provides an opportunity to participate in a sport where you will not be made to feel inadequate. You can compete at a level appropriate to your ability and it is a way of keeping fit.
When she was just 11 years old, sporty Tiri wanted to find a new activity – and Disability Gymnastics came into her life. With a physical disability and visual impairment, she used to struggle with some activities, but gymnastics proved to be a huge success. Now, seven years on, she’s involved in trampolining, acrobatic and artistic gymnastics.
“I enjoy the variety of gymnastics – no two sessions are the same! I love the feeling of achieving a new skill which I’ve been working towards, especially when it’s been tricky to get! I also enjoy the social side; the family feeling you get in a gymnastics club.
“I can’t see the vault from the end of the run-up, or the beam when I’m stood on it. We get around this by counting the number of steps I need in my vault run and memorising the distance of the beam from end to end. I have some physical disabilities which mean I need to take regular rest breaks, especially between repetitive strengthening exercises, but my club have always supported me to do that without separating me from other gymnasts.
“Anyone can do gymnastics, regardless of ability or disability. There is always something, or some type of gymnastics which you can take part in, as long as you are enthusiastic, committed and enjoy it!”
You can find your local gymnastics club at www.DiscoverGymnastics.uk