Thursday 24 January 2013

Happy Birthday . . .

Becky Downie

Becky is an amazing gymnast who has already had an amazing career in British gymnastics. She is a European, World, Commonwealth and Olympic gymnast and has been 7 times All Around British Champion (2003-2009).

To celebrate her 21st Birthday here's a look at Becky through the years:

(2005 British Championships Floor Final)
(2006 British Team Championships)

(2007 World Championships All Around Final)

(2008 Olympic Games qualification)

(2009 World Championships All Around Final)

(2010 European Championships Team Final)

(2012 British Championships All Around Final)

Happy Birthday Becky, hope you have a great 21st and good luck for 2013!

Wednesday 9 January 2013

Head Over Heels About Gymnastics

Gemma Coles

Head Over Heels About Gymnastics Floor Skills is a book aimed at gymnasts wanting to practise and perfect their basic skills. It is written by Gemma Coles, a gymnastics coach and ex-gymnast, and contains detailed instructions and photographs to help with each step. It is well presented and easy and inviting to use. The book itself has an in-built stand making it easy to read and use at the same time - even if you are head over heels!

The book starts with a comprehensive warm up section, to be used at the start of any practise session. Ideas are given for activities which raise the pulse and stretches. These stretches form a key part of a gymnasts training and many are used as a base for other skills as well as stretching the different parts of the body. Examples of more challenging stretches are also given for those who feel ready to give them a try.

Posture and shapes form the first main sections of the book, essential for all aspects of gymnastics. The photographs show what the different shapes should look like and all of the instructions are given in a child-friendly way and are easy to understand: "Imagine there is a piece of string attached to the top of your head pulling you upwards." The shapes include straddle and long sit, dish and arch, tuck and star with important tips and reminders for each one, for example: "Stretch from ankles to fingers in a straight line." The next section covers jumps, building on and using the shapes from the previous part, with a reminder of how to land and finish correctly.

The next section is dedicated to skills and this includes all those elements that children love to do, such as cartwheels, handstands and bridge. Although these skills may seem daunting to start with they are all broken down incredibly well with the instructions and the pictures showing exactly how the skills need to be developed as well as performed. As well as showing how to practise and refine the skills, there are also instructions on how to build on the skills once they have been perfected: a cartwheel can developed into a one handed cartwheel and a bridge can become a back walkover.

Rolls are next and the same attention to detail is given in explaining and developing the different types of rolls. Forward and backward rolls, among others, are built up step by step and once again have examples of how to extend them. The pictures once again show exactly how the rolls should be executed and also the correct position of the body at each stage to ensure that the move is being done correctly.

As we near the end of the book, a section on different leaps is followed by ideas on how to combine some of the moves that have been covered into simple routines. Examples of two routines are given for practise with, of course, a reminder to present at the beginning and end of each routine and try to make the skills flow smoothly into each other. With the amount of skills covered in the book, there is then no limit to the amount of routines that can then be created and performed.

Throughout all of the exercises it is of course important to remember the safety aspects involved with any kind of gymnastics activity. By following the guidance at the beginning of the book, which states that these exercises should be used alongside proper gymnastics training, with adult supervision and without undue risk, budding gymnasts will be turning 'head over heels' in no time.

Head Over Heels About Gymnastics Floor Skills can be purchased direct from the author at,from Amazon or ibooks.

Friday 4 January 2013

Brits Abroad

British Gymnasts in NCAA

This year the NCAA gymnastics season will bring us three British gymnasts to watch. Marissa King is in her fourth and final (senior) year at the University of Florida, Rebecca Wing is in her second (sophomore) year at Stanford University and Danusia Francis is in her first (freshman) year at UCLA. So what can we expect to see from our three Brits abroad?

Marissa King
Marissa has had an incredibly successful three years as a 'Gator' for the University of Florida. She has worked well as an all-arounder and has posted high scores on all four apparatus. Known as an excellent vaulter, she took the title of NCAA Vault Champion in 2011. I have no doubt that Marissa is going to want to make the most of her final year as a Gator and go out on a high. I think we will be able to expect high energy routines performed with great enthusiasm and hopefully some more of those excellent high scores.

The Gators start their NCAA season on Friday 4th January at 7pm ET against Ball State. Keep up to date with all the latest news here: Gator Gymnastics

Rebecca Wing
Becky is about to start her second NCAA season as a 'Cardinal' for Stanford University. In her freshman season last year she competed on beam, bars and floor, scoring particularly well on both beam and bars. I am sure that as the new season is about to start Becky will be hoping to build on her great freshman performances and continue to perform and score as well as she did last year.

The Cardinals begin their NCAA season on Friday 4th January at 7pm PT against San Jose State, UC Davis and Sacramento State. Keep up to date with all the latest news here: Stanford University Gymnastics

Danusia Francis
Danusia is about to start her first season of collegiate gymnastics as a 'Bruin' for UCLA. She is known for her elegance and her stylish performances, especially on beam and floor. With her new floor routine choreographed by UCLA's legendary coach and floor choreographer Miss Val I am sure that Danusia will make as much of an impact in NCAA gymnastics as she has in British gymnastics. I have no doubt that she will be hoping for a solid start to her NCAA career with some great performances and some high scores to match.
The Bruins start their NCAA season on Sunday 6th January at 2pm PT against Southern Utah. Keep up to date with all the latest news here: UCLA Bruins Gymnastics


To find out more about how NCAA gymnastics works check out my 'Beginner's Guide' to NCAA Gymnastics here.