Gold-medal oldies off to battle in Norway

By Freyla Ferguson

Anne-Marie Barbour, Sharon Jackson, Mark Collins, Laurel Loftus and Bob Loftus. Photo by Andrew Finch

Anne-Marie Barbour, Sharon Jackson, Mark Collins, Laurel Loftus and Bob Loftus. Photo by Andrew Finch

THEY can cartwheel, tumble, juggle and swing from ropes – and some of them are in their 70s. And now the Woden Valley Gymnastics Club’s Groove and Move performance team – who are aged from 60s to early 70s – are gymnastic champions after recently taking home gold at the Gymnastics Australia Gym4Life Challenge on the Gold Coast where they competed against gymnasts of all ages.

And the win has qualified the team to represent Australia at the International Gym4Life Challenge in Vestfold, Norway, in July.

Naomi Nye, Gymnastics For All program manager at the Woden Valley Gymnastics Club, says the winning team is an extension of Woden Valley Gymnastics Club’s Groove and Move program, which is aimed at people aged 50 plus.

“The program incorporates all the benefits of basic gymnastics into a movement program for older adults, which is achievable fun and provides ongoing physical and psychological stimulation,” she says.

“Participants serve to benefit from this multi-faceted program by developing flexibility, strength balance and co-ordination. It is presented in a stimulating gymnastics club environment by highly qualified coaches.”

She says program participants then have the opportunity to participate in the performance team, which performs at public events as well as travels to national and international competitions, such as the National and International Gym For Life events and Gymnaestrada.

From left, Bob Loftus, Anne-Marie Barbour, Sharon Jackson, Mark Collins and Laurel Loftus. Photo by Andrew Finch

From left, Bob Loftus, Anne-Marie Barbour, Sharon Jackson, Mark Collins and Laurel Loftus. Photo by Andrew Finch

For team members Sharon, 70, and Bob Jackson, 72, their journey into gymnastics started two years ago when they spotted a notice for a new over-50s gymnastics group while dropping their grandchildren off to the gymnastics club for practice.

“We went there feeling tentative,” Sharon says.

“But Naomi is a marvelous coach she made us feel like we would get the benefits.

“We just wish we started years earlier. What surprised me was that we haven’t reached our limits yet, we’re always learning new skills.

“We’re learning things that never crossed my mind; learning to juggle or taking part in a competition.”

The Gym4Life Challenge is categorised by group size, not age.

Naomi says the team performed a five-minute routine to music that incorporated basic dance, juggling, gymnastics skills and skipping.

“The participants help create the performance, from music, outfits and choreography through to presentation of the finished product,” she says.

“Many hours of practice go into creating the performance as well as a large financial commitment.

“The participants gain an immense amount of personal development from being part of the performance team – social, physical, psychological and cultural.

“The sense of achievement and pride in what they have achieved is palpable and is a joy to witness.”

Sharon says the team entered the Gym4Life Challenge hoping to qualify for the Australian team but never expecting to take home a gold.

“Naomi had told us we needed a gold or silver to qualify and we were hoping to get one of those,” she says.

“Our goal was to do our best and have fun.”

As part of the the International Gym for Life Challenge in Norway, teams from around the world will compete in the contest, take part in show performances and a gala performance.

Woden Valley Gymnastics Club, 27 Mulley Street, Holder. Email office@wodenvalley.net or call 6287 4121.

 

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