An old head on young shoulders: The Herald speaks to Honiton gymnast Emily Lee

Honiton gymnast Emily Lee. Picture: Callum Lawton

Honiton gymnast Emily Lee. Picture: Callum Lawton - Credit: Archant

An accomplished gmymnast of eight years, Emily Lee is currently doing a balancing act of her own - her studies and training!

Emily Lee with her training parter Sky Shute. Picture: Callum Lawton

Emily Lee with her training parter Sky Shute. Picture: Callum Lawton - Credit: Archant

The 16-year-old is the training partner of Sky Shute, another young star in the making at Honiton Gymnastics Club.

However, Emily is also acutely aware of the challenge the club is facing following its shock eviction from its Ottery Moor Lane training base last November.

The Woodroffe School student first joined the gymnastics club when she was eight, and hasn’t looked back since.

“I have been at Honiton this whole time,” she said.

Emily Lee with her training parter Sky Shute. Picture: Callum Lawton

Emily Lee with her training parter Sky Shute. Picture: Callum Lawton - Credit: Archant

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“I originally took part in a session for one hour on a Monday because my friend wanted me to come along.

“Before coming to the gymnastics club, I played rugby at Honiton Rugby Football Club but then I swapped over to gym.

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“My friend invited me to come along and try it out, and I really enjoyed it.

“I bought my first leotard at that session and joined the club.

“At that point, there were few so people, there wasn’t a waiting list.”

Emily was only one of around 50 members at the club when she joined as a youngster.

Present day, the club’s membership has swelled to more than 500, with an additional 300 people on the waiting list.

Emily said: “There were 50 people when I joined. I did a couple of Monday sessions and then my coach told me I was too keen because I wanted to learn higher-up techniques, so invited me to Wednesday classes, which is where the older groups trained.

“However, I was only at the Wednesday for a few weeks before I was moved up a class.”

Year on year, Emily continued to improve and push herself physically to master the harder techniques she watched the older gymnasts complete as a child.

However, as she grew older - more responsibilities and challenges presented themselves.

“The hardest thing about being a gymnast is probably trying to balance school and gym,” she said.

“A-level is quite a big step up from GCSE, but the amount of hours I’m training is clashing a bit with my revision.

“For example, I had to do some work on a trip to do a gymnastics show in Ivybridge, and I don’t think I would have had to do that had I been studying my GCSEs.”

However, despite the heavy study-load, Emily said gymnastics is so important to her, that she could not quit.

She added: “It’s absolutely fundamental.

“There is no way I would have been able to cope with the stress of homework without gym.

“Although gym adds pressure by removing homework time, the people here are so helpful.

“For example, my coach has helped me organise my work around gym. I have also made some great friends here as well.”

While some of the younger members may not be aware of the situation Honiton Gymnastics Club has been placed in, Emily understands the monumental task it faces to secure a long-term venue for its members present and future to safely train in.

“It’s incredibly important to save the gym club,” she said.

“There are currently more than 500 gymnasts here with a waiting list of more than 300.

“There is a lot of complaining about the youth of Honiton, but having a positive place to come and exert your energy is really important to the development of the young people. It gives them something good to do with their time instead of staying home and playing video games.

“Because there is such a large volume of people at the club, it involves probably more than half the population of Honiton.

“[As a result of the eviction] we have had to cancel a lot of recreational gym classes.

“I know a lot of parents enjoy the time to themselves after sending their kids to class, and the youngsters love it.

“They make friends and love learning new skills.

“Training in the dining hall at Honiton Community College is one of the best places to train, but it’s still not ideal as there are big metal bars on the ceiling which stops us from doing some moves.

“Ideally, I would love to secure the funding which lets us build our own training centre.

“It could be possible, as I know of the crowdfunding effort. We would need several million to build our own place, which is a lot. But if we buy an already-built place, there’s no guarantee it would be laid out like we want.”

To support Honiton Gymnastics Club or donate towards its cause, contact its board member James Reddy on 07967 835947.

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