Sapphire set for sparkling new base as club builds for the future

Sapphire trio from left, Gabby Jupp, Teal Grindle and Eleanor Thompson at the British Gymnastics Championships 2013
Sapphire trio from left, Gabby Jupp, Teal Grindle and Eleanor Thompson at the British Gymnastics Championships 2013

With the success of Team GB stars Louis Smith, Beth Tweddle and our very own London 2012 hero Max Whitlock, it is clear to see that British gymnastics is currently riding the crest of an Olympic-powered wave.

Never before has the sport enjoyed such popularity, with more and more youngsters looking to take up the sport and follow in the footsteps of their front flipping idols.

“As a whole team we are trying to inspire a generation,” Max said after his exploits at London 2012. “Gymnastics is a really well known sport now compared to how it was a few years ago and hopefully we can carry that on.

“We will all keep training hard and trying to build on that.”

While Max and his fellow gymnastics stars are at the forefront of the resurgence, the ever-growing popularity if the sport means that grass roots clubs are experiencing an unprecedented demand for places.

One of these is Hemel Hempstead-based Sapphire School of Gymnastics, which has been producing an abundance of homegrown talent over the past four decades.

The club has been running since the early 1970s at Hemel Hempstead Sports Centre and moved into its own purpose built facility in 1996.

Alongside the recreational program is the elite squad of 65 boys and girls – one of whom is current senior British champion Gabby Jupp, who is also a double World Cup medallist and won a bronze at the European Championships in 2012.

Sapphire currently boasts five gymnasts in the GB national squad, eight in the east region squad and 10 in the Herts County Squad.

Over the years, Sapphire’s waiting list has steadily increased but following the 2012 Olympics it exploded to more than 800 children waiting for spaces to become available.

It therefore comes as no surprise that the club has decided to embark on a £70,000 project to expand their facilities.

As well as continuing to train at their current base at Sportspace, they will also develop a training facility at the Maylands Industrial Estate in Hemel Hempstead.

Planning permission is yet to be confirmed, but the club is confident that the plans will be approved and officials have set a target of January 2014 for all the work to be completed.

Activities included at the new site will include pre-school and school age gymnastics classes, GymFusion – a festival based gymnastics program – martial arts, and street dance.

And Sapphire manager Annie Price says that the new facility will help the club to continue to grow, as well as attracting more youngsters to gymnastics.

“Firstly, it will help us to clear our waiting list and it will mean lots more people will be able to participate in gymnastics,” she said.

“It will provide us with an excellent training environment and will really help us to develop the grass roots side of things, not just focussing on the elite.”

Sapphire have now raised £50,000 of the £70,000 needed to build the new facility, and Annie believes the state-of-the-art project will reflect the standard of training available at the club.

“I think the success of Sapphire is purely down to the quality of coaching,” she said. “We haven’t had better facilities than other clubs, and haven’t had more children coming through our doors, but our coaching sets us apart.”

Anyone wishing to take up gymnastics with Sapphire should visit the club website