High hopes for Fylde gymnast in European Championships

A talented Fylde gymnast is preparing to compete in the European Championships this week – after months of having her dreams put on hold due to the pandemic.

Tuesday, 8th June 2021, 4:55 am

Alice Leaper, a rhythmic gymnast from Freckleton, took up gymnastics aged five.

Now the 18-year-old former Carr Hill High School pupil has been selected to represent Britain in the prestigious competition in Varna, Bulgaria, from tomorrow.

Alice is delighted to be back on the gymnastic carpet after Covid-19 put a temporary stop to her full training schedule.

Alice Leaper, 18
Alice Leaper, 18

The teenager trains around 30 hours a week with Ana Blackburn, head coach at Fylde Coast Rhythmic Gymnastics Academy, which offers classes for recreational, development and elite

level.

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“I am on the British and England Performance squads so attend regular intensive training camps at Lilleshall National Sports Centre, home of British Gymnastics.”

Rhythmic gymnast Alice Leaper, Kev Whitsey, manager at BActive, and Ana Blackburn, head coach at Fylde Coast Rhythmic Gymnastic Academy

In 2018, Alice became England and British Junior All-Around Champion and competed at her first international competition representing Great Britain.

She moved into seniors in 2019 and became Senior English Champion and won gold and two bronze medals at the British Championships.

Alice was then selected for more internationals, including the World Challenge Cups in Guadalajara, Spain, and in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, where she competed against the best gymnasts

in the world.

In 2020, Alice had been selected to compete in Pesaro World Cup, Italy, and Sofia World Cup, Bulgaria, along with other international competitions and was going through the selection

process for the European and World Championships.

But her plans came to a halt when the pandemic caused full training to stop.

Alice said: “I was grateful to my coach, Ana Blackburn, who carried on with on-line training sessions and outdoor sessions, but it was difficult keeping motivated with no goal to work for.

“Hopes were high for a return in 2021 after being back in training through the autumn but the next lockdown brought it crashing down again.

“I was lucky enough to have elite athlete exemption to allow me to continue to train and I am thankful to BActive, Warton, for opening the sports hall for me.

“This, continued on-line sessions with Ana, travelling to Widnes twice a week to train with the England coach, along with squad camps at Lilleshall is how I prepared for the European

selections.

“After such a long absence from full training, it took a long time to get to full fitness.

“With on-line sessions, I was able to work on strength, conditioning, flexibility and ballet but was very limited with the apparatus work – such as hoop, ball, clubs and ribbon – which is a

key aspect to my routines. It has been a tough mental, physical, financial and emotional battle to continue.”

The European Championships will run until June 13.

Alice added: “It was amazing to hear that I had been selected. It’s really exciting to be part of the GBR Team and I can’t wait to get back on the carpet doing my routines.

“It will be hard as it has been such a long time to go without competition experience but I can’t wait!

“The next focus for me will be to do well in the selection events for the World Championships, Kitakyushu, Japan in October.

“And my ultimate goal is being part of Team England at the Commonwealth Games Birmingham in 2022.”

Kev Whitsey, manager of BActive, Warton, said: “It’s a pleasure and an honour to welcome Fylde Coast Gymnastics to Warton. To see Alice doing so well just shows the dedication Alice

and Ana put into the sport.

“All at Warton Sports and Social Association wish Alice and the team the best of luck, and let’s hope it’s the first of many from Fylde Coast Gymnastics to represent GB.”

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