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