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Cardiff Met University Helps Put Welsh Gymnastics on the Map

Cardiff Metropolitan University staff, students and alumni have brought two British National Gymnastics awards back to Wales, as part of Valleys Gymnastics Academy.

The Academy was a big winner on the night, taking home two awards – National Club Award winners (over 250 members), as well as being given the National Award for Equality and Inclusion for working consistently in the community by providing additional opportunities for underrepresented groups.

Cardiff Met continues to produce and support sport graduates who are shaping and leading community sport in Wales with many volunteering their expertise to clubs like Valleys Gymnastics Academy.

Academy Director Aled Jones began volunteering there as part of a work placement module on his BSc Hons in Sport Development at Cardiff Met back in 2010 and is now Head of Men’s Artistic Gymnastics there.

Six members and volunteers at the Academy have degrees at Cardiff Met, across Sport Development, Sport and PE and Sport Studies while some Academy staff have Masters degrees from the University and have taught or lectured there.

Elizabeth Lewis volunteers as Director of the club and is a programme director of Cardiff Met’s BSc (Hons) in Sport Management course.

She said: “I’ve been a Director of the Academy since it began nine years ago, and it’s been a pleasure to watch the youngsters there develop and grow. Likewise, our students and alumni who support and volunteer at the club really benefit from the experience.

“The University’s Syd Aaron Gymnasium is a specialist facility fully equipped to meet the needs and gymnastic specific ability levels of students within the School of Sport, Cardiff Met Gymnastics squad and the Junior Gymnastics Academy.”

Cardiff Met alumni and lecturers rubbed shoulders with the likes of BBC sport presenter Holly Hamilton and a host of Olympic medallists at the 2020 British Gymnastics National Awards, held at The International Centre, Telford, which was attended by nearly 400 people to acknowledge the outstanding achievements of gymnasts, volunteers, coaches, clubs and community members.

Managing Director Melissa Anderson studied at Cardiff Met and was then employed there as a lecturer until 2017, when she became full-time Director of Valleys Gymnastics Academy. She said: “We are absolutely delighted to win both of these awards – we have been shortlisted for the British Club of the Year Award for four years out of the last five, so believe this is absolute testament to the high quality of Valleys Gymnastics Academy and the spectrum of classes we provide.

“The community is at the heart of everything we do, and we work hard to ensure that we widen access to gymnasts within the communities in which we work through strong partnerships and up-skilled staff.

“VGA has an outstanding team of coaches, young leaders, volunteers and administrators and this has enabled us to grow and develop continually over the last five years – the club now engages with over 3,000 children and young people every week across five Welsh local authorities.”

Like Academy Directors Elizabeth Lewis and Aled Jones, Coach Kathryn Cope has a BSc Hons in Sport Development from Cardiff Met; Office Manager Sam Elliott has a BSc Hons in Sport and PE and Coach Tara Edwards has a BSc Hons in Sport Studies from the University.

Dr Nicola Bolton, Head Of Marketing and Strategy at the University’s Cardiff School of Management, is on the Board of British Gymnastics and said: “As ever, this was a great night of awards to recognise those making a real contribution to the world of gymnastics in the UK. Cardiff Metropolitan University’s contribution to this is substantial. It is fantastic to see staff, students and former students succeeding in all aspects of Welsh sport.

“There are around 1,300 clubs and 400,000 members affiliated to British Gymnastics and so these two awards represent significant achievements and it is great to see the deep connection between the University, Valleys Gymnastics Academy and British Gymnastics.”