COUNTY Durham-born TV star Matt Baker has become patron of a successful gymnastics club where he first took up the sport as a schoolboy.
The One Show, Countryfile and former Blue Peter presenter has been named patron of Deerness Gymnastics Club, whose headquarters are in Ushaw Moor, Durham.
Matt trained and represented the County Durham club as a youngster in the ’90s, becoming junior British Champion in the acro-gymnastics men’s four in 1994. He will now become the club’s patron, supporting it in its aim to develop happy, healthy and confident children through the development of sport and gymnastics in particular.
He returned to the gymnastics club last year, after sharing the stage with the club’s display team at Durham’s Olympic Torch event to record a documentary about his love of gymnastics.
Following the visit, where he spent a few hours training with the club’s current gymnasts, he was approached about taking on this new role, which he accepted without hesitation.
He said: “Gymnastics has played a massive part in my life and Deerness Gymnastics Academy, in particular, has a special place in my heart. I am really pleased that I can now play my part in helping the club grow and continue to provide great opportunities for children and young people in Durham and right across the North East.
“This club is currently home to World, European and British acrobatic and tumbling champions but also provides access to world-class training facilities to hundreds of youngsters every week taking part in recreational activities and club sessions.
“I am honoured to be the patron for this charity, and I hope I can be as valuable to them as the gymnast’s friends, families and volunteers who are so passionate about gymnastics that they run the club in their own time every day.”
Deerness Gymnastics Academy became a charitable body in 2011, after the gymnasts, parents and coaches worked together to save the club, following the announcement of the closure of Deerness Leisure Centre by Durham County Council. Now the volunteer-led club relies on the support from the families and friends of its members to ensure the club has a future.
Chief coach Karl Wharton said: “It is fantastic news for Deerness Gymnastics Academy that Matt Baker is so keen to support the club. Our gymnasts had a great time training with Matt earlier this year, and he was the obvious choice to approach to become our Patron as we celebrate our first anniversary after saving the club from closure.
“I remember coaching Matt nearly 20 years ago now and have followed his successful career since. I am very proud of the part that his club has played in his life. He always loved gymnastics and it is testament to him as a person that he is willing to support the club in any way he can.”
Over the past 20 years Deerness Gymnastics Academy has become one of Britain’s top gymnastics clubs, developing over 100 international gymnasts with more than 60 World and European medallists, including four World and six European Champions in its roll of honour.
It is not only one of the most successful clubs in Great Britain but it is also recognised on the International scene as one of the top clubs in the world.
For more information check out: www.deernessgymnastics.org.uk, find them on Facebook or follow on Twitter @deernessga.