Sussex gymnasts to represent GB in Europe - but they need YOUR help

After months of perseverance through lockdown training and competition uncertainty, the hard work of six young gymnasts from Shoreham’s i-star Academy is paying off – they are set to compete for Great Britain on the international stage.

Young gymnasts from Shoreham’s i-star Academy are to compete for Great Britain in Bulgaria
Young gymnasts from Shoreham’s i-star Academy are to compete for Great Britain in Bulgaria

The Rhythmic Gymnastics European Championships are taking place in Varna, Bulgaria from June 10 to 13, with clubmates Emily Austin, Rosina Cheale Isabella Mason-Iran, Atanaska Kirilova, Phillipa Museva and Isabella Rittman competing in the group event. This will be the young stars’ first senior international competition, and they are relishing the chance to show what they can do.

Now they are appealing for the community to back their efforts ad help them cover the significant cost of competing and travelling.

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The team are the pride of i-star Academy, acting as inspiration for many other young gymnasts. As a team from one club, they represent much of what gymnastics stands for – collaboration, teamwork, and a supportive network to achieve your best.

The gymnasts' hard work has earned them a trip to the world event

With her club behind her, Museva is over the moon to be part of the British Gymnastics squad. She said: “To be selected for the European Championships squad feels incredible. It’s great to know that all the hard work that we’ve put into our training has led us to where we want to be and has managed to get us to our goals.”

They have the full support of their peers at i-star Academy, who are so proud to see their clubmates selected for a major competition.

Team member Cheale said: “My club has been super helpful in developing me as a gymnast over the past eight years. I am part of our club’s school Gym Academy programme which enables me to do extra training hours alongside my studies. i-star Academy is also a really group orientated club, so it’s given me great opportunities to work as a team with many other gymnasts.”

The i-star Academy coaches and fellow members see this as an exciting first step in their journey.

Coach Lynne Hutchison, who represented her country in individual and group environments at World Championships and Commonwealth Games, knows just how many benefits the sport brings for young people, not just technical proficiency and physical development, but also mental wellbeing, improved self-esteem and leadership skills.

She said: “This selection was really important for a number of reasons. It is the first time gymnasts have been selected to compete for Great Britain since the Covid pandemic began. It is so exciting to know that we will finally be back on the competitive stage again as that is what we train for!

“This is also the first time a senior group will represent Great Britain since London 2012, back when I was still competing in the group! This is a huge step forwards for group rhythmic gymnastics in the UK and the start of an ongoing journey. It is so important that the group discipline is represented at international level as we have an increasing number of young, aspiring gymnasts competing in the British group pathway. They need to see where that journey could possibly take them.

“I am excited for the group to experience this level of competition for the first time. It’s a fantastic achievement for them to be selected for the European Championships. We will of course continue to work hard so that we can continue to develop the group programme further and make more opportunities like this happen in the future!

“We would like to thank everyone who has supported the team to get to this point. Being almost entirely self-funded is extremely challenging when trying to compete against the best teams in the world. We hope that this European Championships is just the beginning of a long and successful journey for our British group but the programme can only continue with people’s kind help and support. Our next aim will be the World Championships in Japan later this year and the group are looking for support to ensure that they are able to get there. For more information about the girls you can visit their fundraising page at here or see their 'support us' page on their website.

The gymnasts are among Sussex organisations helped by the Steve Bernard Foundation, a charity set up following the death of Steve in a road accident when he was a student at the University of Chichester.

Steve’s dad Tony, who runs the foundation, said: “We have supported the gymnasts by buying them equipment needed to compete at the highest level. They have to raise all the funding required themselves to represent their country and deserve all the support they can get.”

James Thomas, British Gymnastics Performance Director, added: “Congratulations to all of the gymnasts and coaches selected for what will no doubt be a fantastic event in Bulgaria. It’s a testament to the hard work the gymnasts - supported by great coaches and clubs - have shown throughout what has been a difficult period without competitions.

“It’s great to see more events returning to the gymnastics calendar, and it provides another opportunity for British gymnasts to proudly compete at a major championship.”