BEFORE the men and women of Team GB got into the swing of things at the Olympics, eight young gymnasts from Milton Keynes travelled to California to compete, and returned with plenty of silverware.
The Arabian Gymnastics girls, aged from 10 to 18 years-old, had to endure a 25-hour trip to San Diego after missing their connecting flight in Texas.
But when they did arrive they trained for 10 days before taking part in an open competition against gymnasts from the Golden State and Texas over five hours.
The team from Bletchley enjoyed six faultless balance beam routines out of eight, with amazing confidence shown in their acrobatic routines.
They also performed some excellent floor routines, with 16-year-old Hannah Bond opening up the sequences with a fantastic dance and tumble to music.
Poppy Gibbs returned to form after suffering a broken ankle at Christmas, with the 13-year-old showing off her best routine with great confidence.
Another gymnast to shine on floor was 12-year-old Tionne Cumberbatch who opened up her first tumble pass with a one and half full twisting straight somersault.
Bex Whatmore, 18, lit up the arena with her special live and let die version routine which turned heads in the large crowd, and 12-year-old Sophie Fretwell performed a new routine with precise tumble passes and dance passages.
The youngest member in the team was 10-year-old Tamzin Hill who was fearless in all areas.
The most artistic Arabian gymnast was 13-year-old Louisa Cuthbert who had everyone watching her incredible dance choreography, and Ellie Hewitt, 15, had a solid performance on floor.
All the girls performed well on bars and vault, but the clubs from Texas and California were stronger on those two pieces, but it was the team from Milton Keynes that took the honours on beam and floor.
Some of the training the young girls did was remarkable, led by one of the most famous gymnasts in the world in Cuban-born Charles Leon-Tamayo who was only prevented from a return to the USA Olympic team by injury.
He took the girls to one of the world’s most famous landmark beaches – the Coronado beach and hotel where the girls thought they were in for fun day, turning up in their swimming costumes.
But instead they were watched by hundreds of bemused tourists as they were put through a gruelling two-hour beach conditioning programme.
The Arabian girls returned home on the eve of the Olympics stronger, fitter and better than ever before, and also a little heavier with their trophies.
Head coach Alan Armitage said: “The girls worked really hard and performed as well as I could really ask.
“They also had the opportunity to visit Hollywood and LA whilst we were there, so it was an educational visit as well as a sporting opportunity.
“To be coached by a world class gymnast in Charlie was such a bonus for the group. I think the highlight was seeing them condition on the beach….white pasty English gymnasts against tanned US girls with sun glasses on!
“That really was something you don’t get here in MK. I think that memory will stay with them for a lifetime.”