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Friday, 22 May 2015

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Beth Tweddle inspires new generation of gymnasts in Millom

A FORMER Olympian and three-time world champion hoped to inspire youngsters to be more active after it was revealed they were among the most obese in the country.

Gymnast Beth Tweddle, who won a bronze medal at London 2012, visited Millom Recreation Centre on Saturday to encourage youngsters to get involved with the sport.

Her visit came after Public Health England released statistics earlier this year which showed Copeland to be the fattest local authority in the country, with 75.9 per cent of the population categorised as overweight or obese.

Tweddle said: “There’s always more that can be done. It should be about getting kids to try sport and it doesn’t have to be at a high level.

“It’s about having fun and making new friends. For me, the most important thing is them coming out of a gym and thinking ‘I really enjoyed that’.”

Tweddle, who was following up on her last visit to see the centre’s gymnastic club in 2013, said: “I was here last year and to see the enthusiasm and how far they’ve progressed in a year is amazing.

“I remember going to big championships when I was young and seeing people I’d seen on the TV.

“If I can put a smile on just one child’s face then I’m happy.”

Millom Recreation Centre manager and gym coach Tracy Kirk has said Tweddle’s visit to the town will be an inspiration.

Mrs Kirk said: “Gymnastics is one of the most comprehensive exercises around. It uses strength, speed, agility and balance. It’s also been shown to improve the attention span of young people.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for the children to meet her.

“I think in terms of active lifestyles the town is definitely on the up and we are starting to provide more for children. We have 120 young people in the club and there are lots of sports clubs for young people.

“I just think she’s such an inspiring person and a lot of young people know who she is because of the London 2012 Olympics.”

County councillor for Millom Without, Keith Hitchen said it is vital athletes come to Millom because it encourages a healthy lifestyle, but dismissed statistics about the large percentage of the population being overweight.

He said: “It’s vital that people like that come to Millom. People tend to forget us a little bit. Anything that will raise the profile is bound to be good.

“I would like to think it would make a difference. Millom has always been a sporty community with our rugby and other teams. To get a gymnast over here is bound to be good for us.

“I’m a bit dubious about those statistics. I’m not a firm believer in statistics. I want the people who made those statistics to show me where all these overweight or obese people are in Millom because I don’t see them.”

Gemma Toman’s seven-year-old daughter Brooke Betteridge who has autism is not able to take part in gymnastic classes but had the chance to meet Tweddle.

Miss Toman said: “My daughter loves gymnastics but has autism and is unable to join in any gymnastic classes because of her lack of understanding but she loves Beth Tweddle and Tracy MRC manager is allowing her to go and watch Beth coach the children. I’m sure this will inspire my daughter to a certain extent.”

She also said she thinks it will have a positive impact on the young people of the town.

She added: “They see her as a positive role model. Since MRC set up their gymnastics club lots of children have joined. I think it’s fantastic thing they are doing for the children in our town.”

Spokesperson for Millom Health Action Group Ian Reed, 52, said they are fully behind keeping the town’s young people healthy and praised recreation centre manager Tracy Kirk and the other coaches for organising the event.

Mr Reed said: “Undoubtedly it will encourage young people to be active. I think it’s a fantastic thing they are doing. It’s a way of promoting a healthy lifestyle.”


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