A dozen young gymnasts from Brighton, Hove and Shoreham have been talent-spotted by Team GB and given places on a national training programme.
Eight of the girls invited to join British Gymnastics’ National Talent Development Programme are from Brighton and Hove – four from Dorothy Stringer and one each from Varndean School, Blatchington Mill, Hove Park and Brighton and Hove High.
The gymnasts – all 12, 13 or 14 years old – are Emily Austin, Rosie Cheale, Tilli Cotton, Ivy Cunningham, Amelia Dean, Amelie Deane, Alisia Killian, Isabella Mason-Iran, Aysha McCrossen, Isabella Rittman, Sasha Velicko, Eliza Woodford.
All 12 are rhythmic gymnasts from the i-star Academy in Shoreham and they have been selected in the first year that a national squad is being chosen for group rhythmic gymnastics.
Over the coming months national coaches will work intensively with the girls to prepare them to represent Great Britain at international competitions in Hungary and Bulgaria.
Group rhythmic gymnastics is an Olympic sport combining gymnastic skills and dance and incorporating apparatus such as ribbon, ball, hoop, clubs and rope.
Gymnasts perform routines with music in groups of five and train over 20 hours a week in order to gain the flexibility, strength and handling skills required to perform at elite level.
Their coach, Lynne Hutchison, who has represented Great Britain in international competition as an individual (Commonwealth, Worlds, Europeans) and in a group, said: “I am extremely happy that our young group has been selected for the GBR performance pathway programme.
“The girls are demonstrating that they have what it takes to represent our country on the international stage and I believe that this is the first step towards seeing Great Britain competing in rhythmic gymnastics again at the Olympic Games.
“The team’s passion and dedication for the sport makes them a pleasure to coach and I am very excited to continue working with these girls towards the bright future ahead.”
Maria Foster, head coach and founder of i-star Academy said: “This is an incredible achievement for the girls, the coaches and the club.
“The new national development pathway is an exciting step forwards for group rhythmic gymnastics and its development both in Great Britain and internationally.
“Since focusing on ‘group’ work at i-star Academy over the past few years, we have seen an increase of young women staying in the sport through their teenage years.
“We take pride in creating an environment for these young women to flourish in sport – creating memories, friendship and promoting positive physical and mental health.
“Now that these talented gymnasts have been selected for a national GBR squad, these positive role models will give inspiration to the next generation coming through.”