Gymnastics Club marks 40 years
Having started out with just 20 gymnasts and carpets for mats, the Wexford Gymnastics Club (WGC) has grown into one of the county's most popular sporting organisations, now boasting 1,000 members and with more on its waiting list.
Some of those members were joined by the people who have helped establish the club on not just a national but an international stage at its 40th anniversary celebrations at the Farmer's Kitchen in Drinagh.
And the woman who started it all was there to greet them. Addressing the crowd, Marie Baker, founder of WGC, offered a heartfelt speech to all those in attendance.
'Tonight is all about meeting friends and catching up on the fun times we had over the past 40 years,' she said.
'The club to me is all about the gymnasts, the coaches, the staff, the parents and the facilities. And for it to work, all the different groups have to gel and work together.'
Noting that 16 of the club's present coaches are former members, Marie said this continuity ensured all those involved in the running of WGC had an innate understanding of what it meant to the gymnasts.
Reminiscing on those formative years Marie said it was only thanks to the donation of three mats from the Lions Club they were able to take part in their first competition in the Mercy Primary School.
From there, the WGC went to the County Finals in Gorey and then the Nationals in Mosney.
'Two of our gymnasts qualified for the National finals in Mosney that year and came first and third so that was the start of our winnings,' she recalled.
'Ten years later some of those same gymnasts along with their partners were competing in Poland, Russia and Germany at different European and World International Acro Competitions. Since then many of our gymnasts have competed internationally in the US, Hungary, Belgium, France, Denmark, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and Portugal.'
Marie then commended all the parents who had helped develop the club through their fundraising, before discussing some of the new projects WGC had undertaken in recent years.
'With the help of Gymnastics Ireland and the GymABLE programme, Sport Active Wexford and Wexford CAMHS programme we have had great success with several new projects, including groups with disabilities and those with limited abilities and special needs.
'Special Olympics Wexford also train in our facility and their success has gone from strength to strength, with four of their gymnasts going to World Games and returning with medals,' she said.
Contrasting the club's humble beginnings with life in its purpose-built facility in Coolcotts, Marie said that since moving to the new premises in 2016 WGC had continued to grow.
'Since moving to our own premises we have been able to add three new disciplines to the programme - trampolining and women's and men's artistic gymnastics. We have been rewarded with great results in our new disciplines and some of those gymnasts are now on national squads, going to their first international last week in Northern Ireland, coming home with an array of medals.'
The club also offer recreational gymnastics, parkour and open play sessions and relies on grants and fundraisers to improve its facilities.