Store assistant Alex springs to glory in high energy style of gymnastics

A YOUNG Loughborough fashion store assistant is springing to glory in the energetic world of acrobatic gymnastics.

Alex Gray, 19, who works part time at the Ministry of Design fashion store in Carillon Court shopping centre, is becoming a polished performer in the highly competitive sport which sees groups of gymnasts working together on spectacular routines consisting of acrobatic moves, dance and tumbling, all set to music.

And at the end of this month he’s due to represent his region in a big national competition.

In Alex’s sport gymnasts perform three routines – ‘balance’ where the focus is on strength, poise and flexibility, ‘dynamic’ which includes throws, somersaults and catches, and, at the highest level, a ‘combined’ routine bringing together elements from the two.

Alex, who lives with his family in the village of Sutton Bonington just outside Loughborough, has been hooked on gymnastics since he watched the world’s top competitors going through their stylish paces in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

He explained: “I quite liked watching the sport and decided to try it for myself. I sent out emails to a number of gymnastic clubs in the area asking for information and the first one to reply was Loughborough Acrobatic and Gymnastic Club.

“The club only does acrobatic gymnastics, which is not yet an Olympic sport, but it looked really challenging so I decided to become a member in the autumn of 2008.”

Alex, who is currently on a gap year between leaving East Leake Academy in Loughborough and taking up a place to study for a sport and exercise degree at Loughborough University, added: “I’m aiming for a career in sport, although I don’t exactly know what at the moment.

“I’ve always been very keen on sport and keeping fit and I played tennis, basketball and rugby when I was at school.

“Since I’ve been doing acrobatic gymnastics I haven’t had much time for anything else but that’s because it takes a high level of dedication and commitment.

“I do five training sessions a week at the club, which meets in Loughborough University where there are all the facilities for elite athletes. I train after work and on Saturdays and the Ministry of Design is very good about letting me leave work earlier when necessary.”

Baljit Kooner, Carillon Court Manager, said: “It is always interesting to hear about the varied talents of the people who work at Carillon Court and Alex’s gymnastics is a brilliant example.

“It is great to hear he gets the support from his managers at Ministry of Design and I know I echo everyone from the team at Carillon Court in wishing him all the very best for his upcoming competition.”

Acrobatic gymnastics is performed by either pairs, trios or foursomes of athletes, with the pairs or partnerships being either two males, two females or mixed. There are also women’s trios and men’s fours.

When he first took up the sport Alex was in a pair with his brother Cameron, 17, but has since moved on to a mixed partnership with 13-year-old Laura Humphries from Derby.

There are also six grades of competence in acrobatic gymnastics, with Alex currently ranked in the fifth grade.

So far he hasn’t been in too many competitions because of the length of time it takes him to prepare for each appearance

But back in March he and Laura competed against other clubs in the regional championships staged in Leicester and won through to a place in the East Midlands team taking part in the Acrobatic National Development Programme (NDP) finals at Fenton Manor Leisure Centre in Stoke-on-Trent on May 31/June 1.

Alex said: “We’re training hard for the finals at the moment and will be facing the best in the sport from across the country.

“We’ll be doing two routines, balance and dynamic, which will include somersaults, tumbling and hand-stands. There will also be quite a bit of aerial stuff with me lifting Laura off the ground.

“It’s my aim to do as well as possible at Stoke-on-Trent and then go on to take part in more competitions at national and then international level.

“Although acrobatic gymnastics is not currently an Olympic sport, I am sure that as awareness of it grows it will be one day, and when it is I’d like to represent Great Britain.

“I really love the sport because it’s all about teamwork and having trust, both in yourself and your partners.

“It also looks pretty spectacular and is great for spectators to watch and is becoming more and more popular.

“I hope to be able to do it for as long as I can and be as successful as possible.”