Fantastic evening of celebration as Welsh Gymnastics National Awards return
Last night marked the long-awaited return of our Welsh Gymnastics National Awards after a three-year hiatus – and what a fantastic night of celebration it was!
For first time since January 2020, a formal awards evening was held at the Vale Resort, Hensol.
It gave us the opportunity to recognise and celebrate the achievements of our gymnasts and outstanding contributions of clubs and individuals to gymnastics in Wales from January 2020 to December 2022.
We toasted the passion, dedication and commitment of all those who have contributed to our sport and the wider community in so many different ways.
Many congratulations to all of our award winners, who were as follows:
Lockdown Heroes: Lauren Jones (Ruthin & Denbigh), Leah Whiffin (Cardiff Central), Sharon Evans (Carmarthenshire School of Gymnastics and Neath Afan Gymnastics Club.
Gym For All: St Tydfils
Community Coach: Gareth Slocombe (YMCA Barry)
Young Leader: Harrison Harris (Valleys Gymnastics Academy)
Unsung Hero: Kathy Jefferies (Welsh Schools)
Emerging Talent: Ruby Evans (Clwb Cymru Caerdydd)
Performance Coach of the Year: Paul Edwards (Olympus Gymnastics Club)
Club of the Year: Deeside Gymnastics Academy
Gymnast of the Year: Gemma Frizelle (Llanelli Rhythmic Academy)
Special Recognition: Dr Lisa Gannon
Find out more about all of our nominees and winners in the digital programme AVAILABLE HERE
The evening began with an opening address from host Sam Lloyd before a few words from our Chair, Bev Smith, and Head of Development Siwan Davies.
There was then a chance to look back and reflect on the past three years, right from the beginning of Covid, before moving on to recognise our fabulous international reps through the disciplines, who were all applauded on to the stage.
The first award, Lockdown Heroes, recognised some of those people who went above and beyond for our community during the Covid-19 lockdowns.
The panel were unable to pick a winner from the four nominees so it was decided that Lauren Jones, Leah Whiffin, Sharon Evans and Neath Afan would share the prize.
Next up was the Gym For All Award won by St Tydfils while YMCA Barry’s Gareth Slocombe picked up Community Coach of the Year.
Harrison Harris, from Valleys Gymnastics Academy, collected Young Leader of the Year while our Unsung Hero was Kathy Jefferies.
Kathy has always been an advocate for Welsh Schools and promoting gymnastics. Hundreds of school children have participated in gymnastics competitions over the past couple of decades because of Kathy.
Clwb Cymru Caerdydd’s Ruby Evans won Emerging Talent of the Year while Paul Edwards from Olympus Gymnastics Club was named Performance Coach of the Year.
We then got the opportunity to recognise our Commonwealth gymnasts who represented Team Wales at Birmingham 2022 last summer with three of them, Lauryn Carpenter, Poppy-Grace Stickler and Jacob Edwards then getting up on stage to re-live some of those memories.
Deeside were then crowned Club of the Year.
The club’s world was turned upside down at the start of the pandemic when they had to move out of their leisure centre home, which was repurposed as a COVID Nightingale hospital, at short notice.
Despite being left without a home and anxiously facing an uncertain future, the club still went above and beyond, putting on online training six days a week for all gymnasts, as well as other regular fun online events for gymnasts and their families.
In the meantime, Deeside’s coaches and directors pulled together to raise funds to secure a new home and, in June 2021, moved into their new facility – which has had a massive positive impact in the local community.
Then it was the turn of Gemma Frizelle to once again take centre stage as she was crowned Gymnast of the Year.
Gemma wrote her name into Welsh Gymnastics folklore last summer when she won a stunning gold medal in the rhythmic gymnastics hoop final at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
Competing at her second Commonwealths, it saw Gemma make history by becoming the first gymnast to win hoop gold for Team Wales at the Games. It was also only the second time a Welsh gymnast had won Commonwealth gold, following on from Frankie Jones’ ribbon gold at Glasgow 2014.
Her gold medal winning routine was played again in full with Nessun dorma reverberating around the Vale!
However the final round of warm applause of the evening belonged in special recognition of outgoing Welsh Gymnastics Board member, Dr Lisa Gannon, who is stepping away after seven years on our Board.
There was a heartfelt video tribute played out on the big screen from Lisa’s long-time friend and our former Chair, Helen Phillips before a montage of images from Lisa’s life and in the sport before she then spoke to host Sam Lloyd about her life in gymnastics, as a broadcaster and as an academic.
Current Chair Bev Smith then offered a few words to Lisa as well as a gift before one final round of applause to finish the evening’s formalities.