A new, albeit temporary home has been found for the Jersey Special Gym Club. The Government of Jersey, in association with Jersey Sport, have managed to relocate the club to Fort Regent.
For head coach Nikki Kirkland, a huge relief, but, as she told BBC Radio Jersey, there's no let-up in the search for a permanent home.
"It's so nice to be in a proper gym again. We're still in the hunt for a permanent home, but at least having this temporarily means we can keep training, and we keep our members. Because that was the fear, that without a home, we would lose a lot of them."
The gymnasts themselves are obviously delighted as well, as Nikki explained. "Our members are absolutely over the moon that we've finally got somewhere to train, for the time being."
Another relieved person was the Assistant Minister with responsibility for Sport, Deputy Lucy Stephenson.
"It's taken a few months to get to this point," she said, "but I'm really glad we're here now, and can see the athletes able to train again."
But she offered a note of caution, and then some positive vibes. "It's private club and government doesn't have a responsibility to find the club a new home, but since I've been appointed, and together with various ministers, we have made it clear we want to help with that progress."
So it's good new for the Jersey Special Gym Club, and all the members and coaches, but only for the rest of 2023. After that, the future is less certain.
October 19th 2022
The future has been looking extremely bleak for the club that has been operational for three decades, and one that has produced four World Champions, eleven National Champions, and has accumulated hundreds of gold medals right around the world.
They simply have no home, despite promises from the Government of Jersey.
The Jersey Special Gym Club has always provided opportunities for children with special needs to participate in gymnastics. It has also always punched well above its weight with masses of success at regional, national and international levels. The club is recognised by Special Olympics Great Britain as a Centre of Excellence and its club coaches are regarded as some of the best in Britain.
So, what has gone wrong? Why is there talk of this incredibly thriving club maybe folding in the very near future?
We need to look back at the history of the club which started its days operating from a school gym. As it continued to flourish, it became necessary for the gymnasts to move. After finding temporary facilities, the Government of Jersey placed them at the Greenfields facility; this was always supposed to be a temporary home as well. The Government of the day pledged to find the Special Gym Club a permanent home, but in spite of numerous attempts to progress this pledge, so far it has failed to do so.
But according to the Jersey Sports Association for the Disabled chairman, Paul Patterson MBE, there may be just be some better news around the corner. Following what he describes as a "positive" call with Jersey's Minister of Sport, Lucy Stephenson, it appears that there is plenty of action happening behind the scenes at government level.
"There is, at this moment confidential, a plan to find a short term home for the Special Gym Club," he said, "and I like what I am hearing. I thank the MInister for her ongoing help."
So while there are no concrete plans finalised, it does seem the Government is responding to the dilemma afflicting a club that changes so many lives for the better, and improves the health and well-being of so many vulnerable children with special needs.
Any further developments will be reported here as soon as the details become available.
It’s well done to Alex Wheatley, Chloe Russell and Jessica Viera, who all came away with well-earned medals from the Special Olympics Waveney Open Summer Series of Sport.
This was their first competition since Covid so all involved were nervous and excited to compete and catch up with all their friends.
The nerves and the heat in the gym got the better of all the girls at first but they went on to produce good routines and results. All three gymnasts medalled in each piece of apparatus.
The highlights were the gold medals won by Alex Wheatley & Chloe Russell on Floor & A-Bars respectively. Both girls were competing at Level 2.
Jessica Vieira, competing at Level 3, gained a Silver and 3 Bronze on her pieces.
Their subsequent return home was hampered by two flight cancellations by Easy Jet on the Sunday evening and the first flight on the Tuesday morning and the gymnasts and their coaches eventually arriving 48 hours late back in Jersey.
Head Coach Nicola Kirkland was delighted with the performances. “We are proud of how the girls performed, having had to learn new routines during Covid, and training in the knowledge of the imminent loss of their gym, and also for the way that they conducted themselves during the delays.”
Nicola went on to pay aanother tribute: “A special thank you must go to Tori from De Mond Gymnastics Club who let us use their facilities for the girls to train the week before the competition, following the eviction from our home of 14 years at Greenfields.”
Despite this successful trip, the Jersey Special Gymnastics Club are still looking for that new home to keep their club going, and would appreciate hearing from anyone who may have a building suitable to use.
See the original story below for more details, and scroll upwards for all the latest news in the search for a new home.
May 24th 2022
After all the trials and tribulations of the Covid-filled past two years, another sinister situation is currently being faced by the Jersey Special Gymnastics Club.
The Club have been told they must vacate their premises at Greenfields and remove all their substantial equipment from the site.
This is at a time when the club have a team participating in UK for a competition in early July, which is a qualifier for the next World Games in Berlin next year. If one or more of the gymnasts are selected for a GB team slot it will, of course, add pressure to ensure the club have some access to a gym and equipment for training. There are only three places available on the GB Team so competition will be strong.
According to the JSAD, this is a particular body-blow as there is no political leadership anywhere in the run up to the general election next month. The JSAD also say that: ”This club has produced some of the finest athletes Jersey has seen, at world level, so this situation is totally unacceptable.”
The States of Jersey’s Children, Education and Skills department have sent a “notice to vacate the sports hall” at Greenfields Secure Children’s home, citing that “due to the nature of risk associated with residents at Greenfields, we are unable to establish dual purpose.”
Four members of the Jersey Special Gym Club that performed so well at the 2019 Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi this year were invited to meet the Bailiff, with their family and friends, in recognition of their achievements representing Great Britain.
Also invited were three further gymnasts who competed at previous World Games in Los Angeles and Athens.
They all chatted to the Bailiff and some States members about their experiences, and to show them their medals.
Deputy Kevin Pamplin said on Twitter: "Great to catch up and celebrate the success of our brilliant medal-winning ambassadors. A wonderful reminder of what hard work, teamwork, and aiming for your dreams can bring."
Take a look at some images from the final gym competition of the year.
Four Jersey special gymnasts came home from the Echo Arena in Liverpool after earning 12 medals, at the British Disability Masters.
Alex Buesnel won four golds, including taking top position in the All-Round section. There were also medals for James Lang and Matthew Kirkland, with Aaron Bonner just missing out on bronze in the High Bar.
Full Jersey results below.
MAG DISABILITY MASTERS 2018 - ALL ROUND
|Gold Medal||Alex Buesnel||68.300|
|Bronze medal||James Lang||64.150|
|Fifth place||Matthew Kirkland||53.300|
|Sixth place||Aaron Bonnar||52.150|
MAG DISABILITY MASTERS 2018 - FLOOR
|Bronze medal||Matthew Kirkland||11.700|
|Fourth place||Alex Buesnel||11.650|
|Sixth place||Aaron Bonnar||11.200|
|Seventh place||James lang||11.200|
MAG DISABILITY MASTERS 2018 - POMMEL HORSE
|Gold Medal||Alex Buesnel||10.650|
|Silver Medal||Matthew Kirkland||10.550|
|Bronze medal||James Lang||10.300|
MAG DISABILITY MASTERS 2018 - RINGS
|Silver Medal||Alex Buesnel||11.050|
|Fourth place||James Lang||10.300|
|Fifth place||Aaron Bonnar||10.200|
MAG DISABILITY MASTERS 2018 - PARALLEL BARS
|Gold Medal||Alex Buesnel||11.900|
|Bronze medal||James Lang||10.950|
|Fifth place||Matthew Kirkland||10.500|
|Sixth place||Aaron Bonnar||10.050|
MAG DISABILITY MASTERS 2018 - BOTH VAULTS
|Silver Medal||Alex Buesnel||11.000|
|Fourth place||James Lang||10.800|
|Fifth place||Aaron Bonnar||10.500|
|Seventh place||Matthew Kirkland||10.400|
MAG DISABILITY MASTERS 2018 - HIGH BAR
|Gold Medal||Alex Buesnel||12.050|
|Bronze medal||James Lang||10.600|
|Fourth place||Aaron Bonnar||10.200|
|Fifth place||Matthew Kirkland||10.150|
10 members of the Jersey Special Gymnastics Club competed in the Poole Open Artistic Gymnastics Competition at Rossmore Leisure Centre, and all ten came back with medals.
Chloe, the senior member of the squad, travelled to compete for the first time after an 18-month break for surgery on both knees. She had an outstanding competition, coming home with three
For two of the gymnasts, Marc and Monique, it was their first tournament outside Jersey and they both had a great competition and experience.
|Chloe Russell||Level 1 - U21||Gold||Silver||Silver|
|Harry Sinclair||Level 1 - U16||Silver||Bronze||x|
|Alexandra Wheatley||Level 1 - U16||Gold||Gold||Gold|
|Anais Martin-Cellier||Level 1 - U12||Gold||Gold||Gold|
|Liam Timothy||Level B - U12||Silver||Bronze||x|
|Talia Racjan||Level B - U12||Gold||Bronze||x|
|Marc Silvester||Level B - U12||Silver||x||x|
|Isabella Mendes||Level A - U9||Silver||Bronze||x|
|Monique Gueguen||Level 1 - U9||Gold||Bronze||Gold|
|Isabella Doucet||Level 1 - U9||x||Silver||Bronze|
Jersey Special Gymnastic Club’s superstar Alex Buesnel has won the 2017 British Disability Championships Men's Open Title for an unbelievable tenth consecutive year at the National Sports Centre in Lilleshall.
His four team mates at the event also did the club proud. Matthew Kirkland and Aaron Bonnar made it a 1-2-3 with Alex in the Men’s Open, Cailiegh Quail was second overall in the Women’s Senior, while at the ripe old age of 42, Rui Reis won overall Gold in the Senior Men’s B Competition.
In the Men’s Open, Alex secured Gold medals on all the apparatus, (vault, pommel, rings, floor, high bar and parallel bars) to take the overall title for the tenth consecutive time.
Alex’s dad Gary did not hide his pride, saying: “To win one national title is fantastic, to win ten back to back is nothing short of phenomenal!”
Matthew Kirkland took second place with three Silvers and two Bronze medals, with Aaron Bonnar, who was equal second with only the high bar left, taking third place overall with two Silvers and two Bronze.
Head coach Yana Vibert thought that those second and third positions were well deserved. “Both boys have worked really hard this year with both putting many more new skills into their routines.”
|MEN'S OPEN||Floor||Pom||Ring||Vault||P Bar||H Bar||Total|
|1 Alex Buesnel||12.400||10.850||11.100||11.150||10.950||10.900||67.350|
|2 Matthew Kirkland||10.950||10.500||8.750||10.650||10.500||8.700||60.050|
|3 Aaron Bonnar||11.350||10.000||9.700||10.650||9.650||7.550||58.900|
In taking second place overall in the Women’s Senior Open, Cailiegh Quail won six silvers against a long standing competitor from Glasgow, Georgia Carslow.
Rui Reis competed in the Senior Men's Competition B and amassed a really impressive five Golds and two Silvers. At 42 years old, Rui was competing against men half his age but he showed his dominance winning overall Gold.
Please note that all previous Special Gymnastics stories are now in the two Special Gymnastics Archives section. Click on the appropriate link from the list of sections on the left hand side of this page.
For further details please contact:
Paul Patterson MBE
5, Le Clos des Chenolles
Tel (01534) 872855