TwoÂ young gymnasts from Tunbridge Wells haveÂ won silver at the World Acrobatic GymnasticsÂ Championships in China.
The boys, Sam Large, 14, and Hector Kinghorn,Â 12, who both attend the Next Dimension GymnasticÂ Academy (NDGA) in Tunbridge Wells, claimedÂ second place at the prestigious event in PutianÂ last week.
The World Championships are considered theÂ ‘Olympics’ of the acrobatic gymnastics world andÂ the boys’ achievement is all the more impressiveÂ given they’ve only been competing for just overÂ three years.
Sam, who attends Tunbridge Wells GrammarÂ School for Boys, and Hector, who is a pupil atÂ Skinners’ Kent Academy, narrowly missed out on gold medals in the 11-16 category. Their coach ChrisÂ Rogers, who travelled with Team GB to China, saidÂ they should feel very happy, despite not gettingÂ gold. The winning Russian duo scored 28,350Â points with Sam and Hector scoring 28,200.
“They maintained a high standard throughoutÂ the championships and should be proud of theirÂ combined achievement” he said.
The boys travelled to China with 15 other Team GBÂ gymnasts after discovering they had been picked toÂ compete in the event just one month ago.
“We felt very excited when we found out,” saidÂ Sam who trains 15 hours a week with Hector.
“We did two trials at Loughborough UniversityÂ and Lilleshaw National Sports Centre inÂ Shropshire,” continued Hector, “then we received aÂ letter two weeks later saying we had been picked.”
The boys’ parents had to organise visas, planeÂ tickets and accommodation, none of which isÂ funded by the British Gymnastics Association.
Their Team GB tracksuits, performance leotards,Â and competition fees all have to be covered by theÂ families, too, but the expense was worth every penny, said Hector’s mother Nyree, who works as aÂ gym instructor at Crowborough Leisure.
“I don’t like to do the maths but I would say overÂ the past three years we have each spent in theÂ region of £20,000 on the boys. After all the hotel, food and flight costs, you’ve got the costumes. TheÂ official Team GB kit is about £300 and theÂ bejewelled leotards cost £500. But it’s worthÂ every penny given what they have achieved.”
“At first I thought ‘that’s unbelievablyÂ expensive’,” said Sam’s mum Rebecca, whoÂ is a part-time teacher at Valance school inÂ Westerham. “But then you see how muchÂ work goes into it all and it is justified.”
Nyree admitted that touring to competitionsÂ held in Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands andÂ France has also been costly and racked up plentyÂ of mileage, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“To be honest we have never travelled so much butÂ it’s opened up many doors for us too as parents to seeÂ other countries. There is a lot of money involved but itÂ is priceless. I would do it all again, without a doubt.”
Both mothers try to accompany their boys onÂ most trips as they usually occur at weekend, butÂ as Rebecca is a teacher it meant that she couldn’t go to China last week.
“My husband went instead,” she said. “UsuallyÂ we get live streams of the competitions but asÂ this was in China it wasn’t possible to watchÂ online. I had to set my alarm for 2am in order toÂ receive texts about how the boys were doing.”
She also revealed that the boys were warmlyÂ welcomed by the Chinese: “They were treatedÂ like royalty.”
“Everyone was taking our picture. It was as ifÂ they had never seen an English person before.Â Even the police wanted a photo of us,” saidÂ Hector.
Nyree and Rebecca are immensely proud ofÂ their sons’ achievement.
“When you look at the podium and see RussiaÂ and the USA up there you think they are hugeÂ countries. We are just a small island and our boys are up there with the best in the world.Â They are massively overachieving,” said Nyree.
Sam said he is ‘very happy’ with his silverÂ medal but when they compete at the nextÂ event, which will most likely be the EuropeanÂ Championships in two years’ time, they want toÂ go one better: “We want to win gold, he said.”