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‘Bermuda youngsters have amazing qualities’

Helping hand: Balada, the Quality Gymnastics head coach, supports Bella Stowe, eight, on the uneven bars at the old Berkeley Institute (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

It has been almost 18 months since Peter James formed Quality Gymnastics at the old Berkeley Institute as a central-island location for beginners to the sport.

The programme, which now boasts a competitive girls’ team and recreational group including boys — has swelled in that time to more than 100 youngsters aged from toddlers to 12.

Under the guidance of head coach Anna Balada, Quality Gymnastics entered two of their athletes — Tegen Laurence and Sean Lawrence — in a competition for the first time at the Abie Grossfeld Invitational in Connecticut last month.

A larger team is set to represent the programme at a competition on the East Coast of the United States in May, with James excited about the direction the group is heading in.

“The programme has really gone from strength to strength,” James said. “We’ve achieved a lot of what we set out to during the last year.

“The recreation programme is always an important foundation and when the coaches spot [someone] they give the parents a tap on the shoulder and say, ‘Are you open to the commitment to pursuing this a bit more seriously?’

“We now have two groups of ten gymnasts that we’re training for more competitive gymnastics.”

James, a former president of the Bermuda Gymnastics Association, felt it was important to have more than one gymnasium on the island and, being centrally located, believes Quality Gymnastics has helped attract more youngsters to the sport.

He envisages the Quality Gymnastics team competing in meets against the BGA in the near future.

“We’ve had many new youngsters come and try gymnastics for the first time and that’s been very rewarding,” he said.

“There were kids that didn’t get an opportunity because they couldn’t make it all of the way down to St David’s.

“Plus, it’s good for the sport to have more kids involved and maybe down the road we can have inter-island competitions that will challenge the kids. The BGA is looking forward to a bit of competition as well.”

Balada, who arrived in Bermuda in September from Barcelona, has been impressed with the natural talent, particularly the strength of the gymnasts.

“Coming to Bermuda is an exciting challenge for me and it’s been great to go away and compete in the US,” said Balada, who is a level four trained coach from the renowned International Gymnastics Camp in Pennsylvania.

“We’re working on the basics and we have pretty good material here. I’ve worked with a lot of young gymnasts and they’re pretty strong [in Bermuda].

“I think a lot of the kids have a lot other activities in the week and are sometimes tired. But when they have the commitment, I think they have qualities that are amazing.”

For more details e-mail qgym@logic.bm or visit www.qgymbda.com.