ONE of Stawell’s most promising young gymnasts has made the drastic decision to move to and train with a Melbourne club after the City of Ballarat announced its decision to immediately end its top level gymnastics program last Tuesday.
Mother Kirsty Brand said her daughter Adele, 14, who represented the state in gymnastics this year, was devastated when she was told her club would no longer offer high level gymnastics.
The Stawell teenager has spent three years making the three-hour round trip three times a week so she can achieve her dream of competing in United States collegiate gymnastics and perform on the international stage.
Adele, who is expected to reach level 10 next year, was offered a place in a Melbourne club which she has accepted.
Ms Brand said her daughter would move to Melbourne in coming weeks and live with the family of another gymnast.
“Gymnastics is her life, for a lot of the girls it is their life. They are really dedicated, focused girls,” Ms Brand said.
Ms Brand and Adele toured the facilities of Gymsports and Eureka Gymnastics Club – the clubs that will take on students from BALC – but claimed they simply did not have the facilities required for girls at Adele’s level.
However, Eureka Gymnastics Club, which has 400 gymnasts on the book, has vehemently denied those claims.
Senior coach Caleb Tirendale said he is advanced silver qualified and can teach gymnasts up to level 10.
He said he had coached the region’s only Australian Gymnastics Championships medal winning gymnast who had competed at level 9.
City of Ballarat Mayor Des Hudson said the council elected to cease the program because coaching practices were not in line with council’s safe work policy and posed “risks for council”.
He said the high level BALC coach was no longer employed by council.
BALC parent Craig Lightfoot criticised council’s handling of the decision saying concerned parents were reassured by councillors and executive staff at a Monday night meeting that Gymsports and Eureka would be adequately supported to ensure a smooth transition for the BALC girls when the club ceased operation in November. On Tuesday parents received a letter stating the level seven classes would end immediately.
Eureka Gymnastics Club president Steve Potter said the club would welcome BALC students with open arms and would seek out additional coaches and equipment once it knew how many extra students would be enrolling.
“It’s hard to supply coaches when we don’t know how many gymnasts we are receiving. When we know how many then we will get the coaches to suit,” Mr Potter said. He has called on The City of Ballarat to assist it and Gymsports.
“I think the council is obligated to help since they have cut their program and we have to take excess kids – I think the council has a moral obligation to help us and Gymsports,” Mr Potter said.
“We are going to have change to lot of our program and structure depends on how many kids we will get.”
Eureka Gymnastics Club secretary Melissa Brown said the club would continue to hire as many coaches needed to cater for its students if that number increases.
”We are helping as we best we can and are hoping to accommodate as many people that want to join,” Ms Brown said.
“We are all still in the transition and negotiation phase. We have had quite a few parents come and have a look. We are happy to welcome them.” Cr Hudson said council was not investigating specific assistance packages but urged any clubs to apply for seed funding grants. He said the city was investigating the possibility of completing an evaluation of gymnastics.
Gymsports did not return calls by time of publication.