Behind the scenes with the elite gymnasts training in Ipswich through lockdown

Gymnasts at Pipers Vale Gymnastics Club in Ipswich. Ellie Cornforth

Ellie Cornforth at Pipers Vale Gymnastics Club in Ipswich - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Gymnastics coaches from the top facility in Ipswich have revealed what it has been like training their elite athletes through lockdown in hopes of Olympic qualification.

Becky Hambling and Will Banthorpe have been coaching three elite gymnasts at the Pipers Vale Gymnastics Centre, in a space which holds up to 120 athletes in peak times, during the third national lockdown on a special license from the government.

Will coaches the men, Adam Steele and Cameron Lister, while Becky has been working one-to-one with under-16 athlete Ellie Cornforth, aged 12.

Gymnasts at Pipers Vale Gymnastics Club in Ipswich. Cameron Lister

Cameron Lister at Pipers Vale Gymnastics Club in Ipswich - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Both coaches were part of the recent baby boom where four instructors welcomed new additions to their families since the first lockdown in March 2020.

"It does feel very empty just the five of us in there," Becky said. "There are benefits to it as we can access all the equipment we want compared to normal times where it's very busy and Ellie will have to wait her turn to use different kit.

Gymnasts at Pipers Vale Gymnastics Club in Ipswich. Adam Steel

Adam Steele in action - Credit: Sonya Duncan

"One-to-one working is very intense, she's gone from 24 hours of training a week to 12 and that time is used so much more efficiently, however she's missing out on the encouragement from friends and the whole atmosphere and noise. 

"I have to give her time to go off on her own and do her own thing, when she'd usually be having some downtime waiting at the back of a line or something."

Ellie is on the Great Britain development squad, while Adam and Cameron represent Ireland and Scotland respectively on their national teams.

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"There have been around three or four competitions this past year which have been postponed or cancelled, or told we're not going because of safety requirements," coach Will said.

Gymnasts at Pipers Vale Gymnastics Club in Ipswich. Adam Steel

Gymnasts at Pipers Vale Gymnastics Club in Ipswich. Adam Steele - Credit: Sonya Duncan

"It's been really hard to plan and keep motivated as we get through about four weeks of an eight week training block before being told to start again.

"The goal is Olympic qualification and Adam is working towards the Euros in Switzerland later this year. Obviously it's been a very lonely atmosphere and we can't wait to have everyone else back when we can."

Gymnasts at Pipers Vale Gymnastics Club in Ipswich. Adam Steel

Adam Steele training at Pipers Vale Gymnastics Club in Ipswich - Credit: Sonya Duncan

The team are incredibly impressed with their other athletes who have been working hard on Zoom to stay strong, fit and flexible, and are grateful to members who have continued to pay fees to support them through lockdown closures.

The club has a funding page for donations to support the club here.

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