Stars in the East - Suffolk’s Olympic training camps

IPSWICH Gymnastics Centre in Brazier’s Wood Road, the home of Piper’s Vale Gym Club, will play host to a starry Brazilian gym team for next summer’s London Olympics.

The Brazil squad will arrive in January for qualifying heats and return in July for the Games themselves.

The team will include Daiane dos Santos, former world champion on the floor, and Jade Barbosa, Brazil’s Sportswoman of the Year in 2007, when she was third in the World Championships.

Andy Wood MBE, centre manager and head coach, said: “The Brazilians will be here from July 1 to 21, and we’re planning a big community programme. Local schools will be invited to come and see them in training, watch them go through their routines, get autographs and so on, and they’ll also be around for our regular recreational programme. It’ll be the closest most kids will get to the Games.

“It’s great news for the club and for the town having them here, especially as Brazil will be the hosts of the next Olympics.”

Also based in Ipswich will be the Azerbaijan Olympic team, expected to comprise around 50 athletes in a variety of sports. They are sure to include Olympic judo champ Elnur Mammadli.

The former Soviet republic has sent athletes to every Games since Atlanta in 1996 and has won 16 medals, including four gold.

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The team’s main training base will be Northgate Sports Centre but a variety of other venues around Ipswich will be available to them, including the Crown Pools and Fore Street pools.

John Stebbings, operations manager for Ipswich Borough Council, said: “Not many people even know where Azerbaijan is, but they are really keen to promote themselves on the world stage.

“To them, winning the Eurovision Song Contest was huge. It gives them the chance to stage the next one in Baku, and they’ve got the world’s biggest programme of luxury hotel-building going on for that.

“Along with that, their efforts in the Olympics are massively important to them. They have thrown their hat in the ring to host the Games in 2020, which shows what it means to them.”

The Australian and Canadian men’s gymnastics teams will be based at Waveney Gymnastics Club in Lowestoft.

Centre manager Chloe McMorran said: “We have attracted a lot of interest and it’s very, very exciting. We had the Russian team contact us too but unfortunately we couldn’t cater for them – I’d be surprised if anywhere in this country could cater for their demands! But we are hoping to bring a lot of recognition to Lowestoft and Suffolk.

“People are realising there will be stuff happening on their doorstep, like open training sessions, and the prestige it will bring will be fantastic. It’s an honour for the club.

“We’ll be transporting the teams down to the Olympic village once they’re ready for the opening ceremony, so we will be right there in it.”

The Rwanda Olympic team will have its training camp at Bury Leisure Centre.

Cyclist Adrien Niyonshuti is the country’s only qualifier so far; the 24-year-old South Africa-based rider was fourth at the African Continental Championships in Stellenbosch in February. Rwandan athletes also hope to compete at swimming, boxing, tennis, table tennis, football, handball, basketball and volleyball as well as on the track.