Edinburgh’s young gymnasts are shaping up well

Tumbles is the only venue in Scotland to provide freestyle gymnastic equipment and training
Tumbles is the only venue in Scotland to provide freestyle gymnastic equipment and training
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SHE watched in awe as the British team conquered the balance beams, mastered the parallel bars and displayed the perfect acrobatic skills in front of her very eyes during London 2012.

And now young Anna Gibson is in no doubt about what her own future holds – the Commonwealth Games then the Olympics.

Whilst many a ten-year-old’s dreams remain firmly that, it’s not inconceivable that Anna’s ambitions could become a reality – especially with brand new state-of-the-art gymnastics facilities opening in the Capital.

Edinburgh Leisure, with support from sportscotland, has invested more than £500,000 in the new Portobello venue, which will offer an extra 900 places to budding young gymnasts in Edinburgh.

Aptly named Tumbles, it is being created in response to a city-wide shortage of available gymnastics spaces – currently more than 200 children are on the Edinburgh Leisure waiting list.

Tumbles, which will open on October 5, will be the only venue in Scotland to provide freestyle gymnastics equipment and training, and is likely to prove immensely popular.

Anna’s dad, Rory Gibson, is excited that his daughter will finally have somewhere local to practise, where she can benefit from the latest equipment and facilities.

A member of the City of Edinburgh Gymnastics Club and the Scottish squad, she currently trains at Meadowbank, where its facilities and equipment have seen better days.

“At the moment, because of the limited access to facilities at Meadowbank, she also has to train in various other locations,” says Rory, 52, an architect from Roseburn. “They have to go to Largs on a monthly basis, where the best facilities in Scotland are, and there are also new facilities in Lasswade.

“The Scots are the poor relations of the British gymnasts in England at the moment.

“Anna trains 24 hours a week – and that is a minimum commitment. To have these facilities in Portobello, which are going to be of a very high standard, is excellent.

“The Olympics were a great inspiration to Anna. She had to write something at school about her ambitions and the first thing she said was, ‘after the Olympics . . .’. We are not going to push her into anything, but at the moment she just enjoys doing what she’s doing and enjoys the challenge of it, so if that takes her anywhere then great.

“She thinks it would be great to do the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics, and improved facilities means that these dreams are potentially real and don’t need to just be dreams.”

Tumbles is designed to give thousands of children, from beginners to elite athletes and gymnastics clubs, the opportunity to access state-of-the-art equipment and coaching.

It will provide full facilities to support the development of gymnasts from beginners to world-class level and will include a sprung floor for the dance and acrobatic disciplines and freestyle provision.

It will also offer parallel bars, trampolines, beams, vault and tumble area and vast foam pitted areas, which are key to safe skills development for aspiring gymnasts.

Few people can claim to know more about the gymnastics scene in Edinburgh than Karen McGrath. Not only has the 29-year-old been competing since she was just five years old, she has also coached for various local clubs and is now the city’s development officer for the sport.

“I have been trying to keep calm throughout this whole process in case it fell through,” she admits. “But I am really excited about it now.”

Karen, who works for Edinburgh Leisure, says the Capital has been lacking in decent facilities for some time, leaving its gymnasts at a disadvantage. But she hopes the new venue will turn this around.

“We have been struggling because we don’t have the facilities. We have always had to travel outwith Edinburgh – and the majority of times out of Scotland – to get a decent facility to train in.

“Glasgow has an excellent facility and is producing high-level gymnasts. We will be able to keep up with that level and will also be trying hard to keep up with the level that they are producing down in England.

“Hopefully we will start to produce the gymnasts that Edinburgh should be producing.”

The popularity of gymnastics has increased since last year’s Olympics, putting even more pressure on an already popular sport.

Karen adds: “Space is becoming quite an issue in Edinburgh Leisure venues which is why this new facility is a massive addition. At the moment we are having to look at schools and community centres to keep classes going.

“Gymnastics has always been quite a popular sport, but with the Olympics and the success that Britain had, popularity has increased.

“It’s one of those sports that anyone can do and prepares you for all sorts of different social aspects as there is a lot of structure involved.”

As well as the gymnastics facilities, Tumbles, which will be located in Portobello’s recently closed indoor bowls centre, will also house a soft play for babies, toddlers and children, with each of the zones based on a sports theme.

John Comiskey, chief executive of Edinburgh Leisure, says: “There are already over 200 children currently on waiting lists for Edinburgh Leisure gymnastics programmes, which we believe demonstrates just how popular this growing sport is becoming.

“We envisage that Tumbles at Portobello will not only help Edinburgh Leisure to transform and grow our gymnastics programme overall but create a thriving destination for families from Portobello and across Edinburgh to enjoy whilst inspiring a new generation of children to get fit, have fun and stay active.”