Nurturing gymnastic stars of the future
Peter James is dreaming of one day seeing a home-grown gymnast walk out an Olympic Games as his Quality Gymnastics Club continues to lay the foundations for the island’s young talent to fulfill their full potential.
Since its inception at the old Berkeley Institute a little over three years ago, the club has flourished, boasting a full competitive girls’ team which has already competed domestically and abroad, as well a host of new additions to the club itself, including a separate tumble floor to aid the teams progression.
The growth of the infrastructure has also been matched by the gymnasts themselves with a number of their talented youngsters working their way through the sport’s main levels, or program, as their skill-sets improve.
James, a former president of the Bermuda Gymnastics Association in St. David’s, spoke of his pride at the rapid trajectory of the growth of the club and gymnasts, as they continue to build on their burgeoning talent, which he believes could see them reach Elite level, similar to professional level in other sports, in the future.
“We really have seen our girls competitive team develop really nicely,” he said “They are making huge progress with their skills and moving up to higher and higher levels of gymnastics.
“The group that we have training here could certainly make that elite level. They definitely have that potential to become elite gymnasts.
“The ultimate goal for me would be to see a gymnasts trained from here, walking out at the Olympic Games, that would be incredibly exciting.
“We have had elite gymnasts train and be developed on island before at the Bermuda Gymnastics Association but now having two clubs on island means we have more chance to produce top gymnasts on island.
“Having two gyms is very healthy for the sport. To be able to produce top level athletes across two locations.
“The demand has certainly driven our growth and progress. As we get more and more gymnasts signed up we are required to have more equipment and space and so we have been happy to keep adding to the club.
“The aim is to continue to grow. Bermuda is not that big a place so the growth will plateau at some point, but as far as we can we will continue that growth and we are delighted with where we have come.
“For me I want to see our top level gymnasts grow in their skills and then hopefully in the future we are looking at hosting our own competition.”
One major catalyst in the development of the club’s talented youngsters has been the tireless work and dedication of head coach Anna Balada, who has been superbly supported by Caitlyn Mello, who represented Bermuda at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia in 2006, as well as dedicated boys coach Megan Outerbridge and experienced coach Nicky Price.
Balada, who has honed her coaching skills at both university and through learning at the Olympic Training Centre in her home city of Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, echoed James’s ambitions of helping the gymnasts reach their full potential as she revealed the impressive strides forward being achieved at the club.
“They definitely have the potential to make it to that Elite standard,” Balada said. “We have some really talented young gymnasts and I’m in no doubt they can achieve something in the future if they keep working hard.
“The progress over the last 18 months has been amazing. The gym itself has come a long way and the girls have really improved too.
“I’m really surprised how fast these girls have improved. Its taken two years to get these girls to where girls from my other clubs in the past took four years to reach the same level.
“In half the time these girls are already at that same point in progress and it shows how much potential they have.
“Something really interesting about these girls is they have no fear to try new things and that is amazing. Previously I’ve seen girls with a bit of apprehension to try new things but not so much here.
“Even if one of my gymnasts makes a mistake, we correct the skill, and work in a positive way. That way they don’t have a negative experience and they don’t have a fear of what they’re doing.
“It’s all about nurturing these girls. That’s a massively important part of what we do here.
“It would be incredible to have a Bermudian Olympic gymnast. I’ll do my best to try and make that dream happen one day, I’d love to have played a part in that achievement, there is no reason why that couldn’t happen in the future.
“I spent time at the Olympic gymnastics facility in Barcelona and studied everything about there. I know what happens there and so I can use what I learnt there and do my best to help these girls keep growing.
“Skills wise these girls have everything in place to reach a high level. Sometimes you know straight away that a girl has got obvious talent, then it is a case of nurturing the talent that they have. I have definitely seen that at this club.”
However, as is the case with a lot of minority sports, for all the positives, there are also negatives as the gymnasts are being hampered in their efforts to fulfil their full potential due to a lack of funding which is proving a major issue for the club, something Balada and James are keen to rectify.
“The club has made improvements but for sure if we had better facilities these girls could do more to reach that elite standard more easily,” added Balada.
“If we had the facilities I am in no doubt these girls could make it. For instance, if we had a pit for them to land in right now, they would be doing a lot more a lot quicker.
“Because we don’t have that, we have to take things a little slower because we have to be careful they don’t get hurt.
“We have little stumbling blocks in our way. That means the progression is slower than it could be, it has to step by step rather than big leaps.
“For a gymnasts to reach Olympic level it takes a good 10 years to do specific training. If we had the tools, some of these girls could certainly reach that level in the time frame.”
Meanwhile James added, “We haven’t seen any funding or sponsorship as of yet but it is certainly something I’d like to look into.
“Bermuda Youth and Sport do a lot of funding for local clubs and for gymnastics there is also the Bermuda Olympic Association and the International Gymnastics Federation, who may offer some support.
“We’re building a really strong foundation here, now we need to keep growing and helping these girls to grow their skills.”
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