Trailblazers and History Makers: British Champions.

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At posting, the majority of gyms remain under lockdown whilst the fight with COVID-19 continues. The gym doors across the UK remain firmly closed for all other than those on the Tokyo Olympic selection squad, as we wait for it to be safe to open them once more. As it is difficult just for now to look forward with any accuracy,  I thought it might be nice to look back a little while we wait.

In this first of a planned series of look back posts, British AA Champions. Those that paved the way for the senior GB gymnasts of today, who we look forward so much to seeing out there once more on the national and international stage where they belong.

I had the idea for this post, and the posts which will follow it, then realised that this first one would likely be the most difficult to research information wise, as the history of the event stretches back so far. I was fortunate then to quickly stumble across this incredible website ‘Gymnastics History’ by Meg Warren whose personal and family history is so intricately intertwined with that of British gymnastics from the 1940’s onwards. Please do click the link and take the the time to enjoy a good read, this post is much delayed due to the time I enjoyed there!

Home

From the records of British Championships I found there, it seems as though whilst the men began contesting the event in 1896, it wasn’t until after a few years past the First World War, that women also participated at the British Championships held in Swindon 1924. There is however a Champion listed for the previous year 1923, possibly an English Champion, as the men’s Championships also started off as an English as opposed to British event.

The most decorated British AA Champion is Pat Hirst (Woodhouse School of P.E. Leeds) who took the title in 1947, 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, and 1956, and who may well have taken more titles were it not for suspension of competition from 1941-1946 due to World War II. For many years at the British Championships, the Pat Hirst Memorial Plate was awarded to the gymnast with the highest bars score, recipients of course include the holder of the second most AA titles Beth Tweddle.

Beth (City of Liverpool) sits just behind Pat with seven AA titles from 2001-2007, then just behind her with six titles is Clarice Hanson (later Bell) (Bradford, then Saltaire Gymnastics Club) who took the title in 1933,1934,1935,1938 and 1939.

The most successful club to date in terms of producing British Senior AA Champions is City of Liverpool, with four of their gymnasts taking the title to date. Emma Williams in 2000, Beth Tweddle from 2001-2007, Hannah Whelan 2010, 2011, and Rebecca Tunney 2012 and 2014.

Unsurprisingly then, Current GB National Head Coach Amanda Reddin shares the honour of most successful coach in terms of producing British AA Champions, with a total of three :Emma Williams, Beth Tweddle, and Hannah Whelan.
Also coaching three gymnasts to the AA title was Eddie Hurst of Bradford, coach to inaugural Champion Dorothy Bilson, Carrie Pickles, and Clarice Hanson.

Nearly all of the British Champions made it to the Olympic Games in the year they won their title, the GB ladies first competed as Olympians in Amsterdam 1928, with Carrie Pickles the reigning British Champion of that year selected for the team. The two exceptions are Lisa Elliot missing the 1988 Games in Seoul, and Lisa Mason the 1996 Games in Atlanta. Lisa Mason of course got her Olympic experience four years later in Sydney.

There have been 42 gymnasts who have the honour of calling themselves a British Senior AA Champion in 97 years, and here they are:

If you have any photos of the gymnasts I have been unable to source, please feel free to send them to me!

1923 Dorothy Bilson – Bradford (Coach, Eddie Hurst)

1924 Dorothy Bilson – Bradford (Coach, Eddie Hurst)

1925 Dorothy Bilson – Bradford (Coach, Eddie Hurst)

1926 Dorothy Bilson – Bradford (Coach, Eddie Hurst)

1927 Dorothy Bilson – Bradford (Coach, Eddie Hurst)

1928 Carrie Pickles – Bradford (Coach Eddie Hurst)

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1930 Annie Broadbent – Halifax

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1931 Jessie Greenwood – Bootle

1932 Jessie Greenwood – Bootle

1933 Clarice Hanson – Bradford (Coach Eddie Hurst)Screenshot 2020-06-18 at 18.15.21
Clarice is pictured front centre

1934 Clarice Hanson – Bradford (Coach Eddie Hurst)

1935 Clarice Hanson – Bradford (Coach Eddie Hurst)

1936 Lillie Ridgwell – London

1937 Lillie Ridgwell – London

1938 Clarice Hanson – Saltaire Gymnastics Club (Coach Carrie Pollard Nee Pickles)

1939 Clarice Bell (Nee Hanson) – Saltaire (Coach Carrie Pollard Nee Pickles)

1940 – 1946 WWII

1947 Pat Hurst – Woodhouse School of P.E. Leeds (Coach Jim Atkinson)

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1948 Clarice Bell (Nee Hanson) – Saltaire Gymnastics Club (Coach Carrie Pollard Nee Pickles)

1949 Pat Hurst – Woodhouse School of P.E. Leeds (Coach Jim Atkinson)

1950 Pat Hurst – Woodhouse School of P.E. Leeds (Coach Jim Atkinson)

1951 Cissie Davies – Swansea YMCA (Coach Walter Wlash)

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1952 Pat Hurst -Woodhouse School of P.E. Leeds (Coach Jim Atkinson)

1953 Pat Hurst -Woodhouse School of P.E. Leeds (Coach Jim Atkinson)

1954 Pat Hurst -Woodhouse School of P.E. Leeds (Coach Jim Atkinson)

1955 Pat Hurst -Woodhouse School of P.E. Leeds (Coach Jim Atkinson)

1956 Pat Hurst -Woodhouse School of P.E. Leeds (Coach Jim Atkinson)

1957 Margaret Neale – Cardiff Olympic Youth Club (Coach Walter Maidment)

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1958 Margaret Neale – Cardiff Olympic Youth Club (Coach Walter Maidment)

1959 Gwynedd Lingard – Grange Ladies’ Gymnastics Club (Penarth S Wales ) (Coach Cecil Guy)

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1960 Pat Perks – Grange Ladies’ Gymnastics Club (Penarth S Wales ) (Coach Cecil Guy)

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Pat Perks is pictured second from left, with fellow 1962 Olympians Denise Godard, Gwynedd Lingard, Dorothy Summers, and Margaret Neale

1961 Monica Rutherford – Fulwell Whitburn Gymnastics Club (Coach June Allison (later Groom))

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1962 Monica Rutherford – Fulwell Whitburn Gymnastics Club (Coach June Allison (later Groom))

1963 Monica Rutherford – Fulwell Whitburn Gymnastics Club (Coach June Allison (later Groom))

1964 Monica Rutherford – Fulwell Whitburn Gymnastics Club (Coach June Allison (later Groom))

1965 – Denise Goddard Cardiff Olympic Youth Club (Coach Walter Maidment)

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1966 – Margaret Bell – Bexley Gymnastics Club (Coach Pauline Prestige)

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1967 – Margaret Bell – Bexley Gymnastics Club (Coach Pauline Prestige)

1968 – Margaret Bell – Ladywell Gymnastics Club Lewisham (Coach Pauline Prestige)

1969 – Margaret Bell – Ladywell Gymnastics Club Lewisham (Coach Pauline Prestige)

1970 – Margaret Bell – Ladywell Gymnastics Club Lewisham (Coach Pauline Prestige)

1971 – Pamela Hopkins – Penarth Gymnastics Club South Wales (Coach Gwynedd Lingard)

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1972 Yvonne Mugridge – Ladywell Gymnastics Club Lewisham (Coach Pauline Prestige)

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1973 Ann Parkinson – Saltaire Gymnastics Club (Jill Coulton (Nee Pollard))

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1974 Avril Lennox – Charles Keene College Gymnastics Club Leicester (Coach Harold Davies)

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1975 Avril Lennox – Charles Keene College Gymnastics Club Leicester, St Mary’s College Twickenham (Coaches Harold Davies,Bill McLoughlin)

1976 Avril Lennox – Charles Keene College Gymnastics Club Leicester, St Mary’s College Twickenham (Coaches Harold Davies,Bill McLoughlin)

1977 Avril Lennox – Charles Keene College Gymnastics Club Leicester, St Mary’s College Twickenham (Coaches Harold Davies,Bill McLoughlin)

1978 Susan Cheesbrough – Tameside Gymnastics Club Stalybridge (Coaches Bill McLoughlin, Norman & Agnes Gough)

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1979 Susan Cheesbrough – Tameside Gymnastics Club Stalybridge (Coaches Bill McLoughlin, Norman & Agnes Gough)

1980 Suzanne Dando – Ladywell Gymnastics Club Lewisham (Coaches Joyce Macaulay, Brian Dewhurst)

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1981 Mandy Gornal – Fylde Gymnastics Club Blackpool (Coaches Keith & Brendene Hardy)

1982 Cheryl Wetherstone – Berks Gymnastics Academy Reading USA ( Coach Tom Mcarthy)

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1983 Hayley Price – Redditch and Bromsgrove Gymnastics Club (Coach John Reeves)

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1984 Natalie Davies – Cray Valley Gymnastics Club St Paul’s Cray Kent (Coach Joyce Macaulay)

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1985 Hayley Price – Redditch and Bromsgrove Gymnastics Club (Coach John Reeves)

1986 Lisa Elliot – Spelthorne Gymnastics Club Ashord Middlesex (Coach Gareth Davies)

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1987 Lisa Elliot – Spelthorne Gymnastics Club Ashord Middlesex (Coach Gareth Davies)

1988 Lisa Elliot – Spelthorne Gymnastics Club Ashord Middlesex (Coach Gareth Davies)

1989 Lisa Grayson – Redcar Gymnastics (Coach Jack Grey)

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1990 Sarah Mercer – Lilleshall National Sports Centre Newport (Coaches Christine and Colin Still)

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1991 Laura Timmins – Park Wrekin College Gymnastics Club (Coaches Christine and Colin Still)

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1992 Rowena Roberts – Spelthorne Gymnastics Club Ashord Middlesex (Gareth Davies)

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1993 Jackie Brady – Alderwood Gymnastics Club Eltham London (Coaches Marion & John James)

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1994 Zita Lussak – Heathrow Gymnastics Club (Coaches Vince and Michelle Walduck, Natalia Illienko Jarvis)

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1995 Annika Reeder – South Essex (Coach Rod Smith)

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1996 Lisa Mason – Huntingdon Gymnastics Club (Coach Terry Sharpington)

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1997 Lisa Mason – Huntingdon Gymnastics Club (Coach Terry Sharpington)

1998 Lisa Mason – Huntingdon Gymnastics Club (Coach Terry Sharpington)

1999 Annika Reeder – South Essex (Coach Rod Smith)

2000 Emma Williams – City of Liverpool (Coach Amanda Kirby)

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2001 Beth Tweddle – City of Liverpool (Coach Amanda Kirby)

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2002 Beth Tweddle – City of Liverpool (Coach Amanda Kirby)

2003 Beth Tweddle – City of Liverpool (Coach Amanda Kirby)

2004 Beth Tweddle – City of Liverpool (Coach Amanda Kirby)

2005 Beth Tweddle – City of Liverpool (Coach Amanda Kirby)

2006 Beth Tweddle – City of Liverpool (Coach Amanda Kirby)

2007 Beth Tweddle – City of Liverpool (Coach Amanda Kirby)

2008 Becky Downie – Notts Gymnastics Club (Coaches Claire Starkey, Ian Kime)

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2009 Becky Downie – Notts Gymnastics Club (Coaches Claire Starkey, Ian Kime)

2010 Hannah Whelan – City of Liverpool (Coach Amanda Harrison)

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2011 Hannah Whelan – City of  Liverpool (Coach Amanda Harrison)

2012 Rebecca Tunney – City of Liverpool (Coach Amanda Harrison)

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2013 Gabby Jupp – Sapphire School of Gymnastics (Coaches Steve Price, Annie Price)

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2014 Rebecca Tunney – City of Liverpool (Coach Claire Duffy)

2015 Amy Tinkler – South Durham (Coaches Nicola Preston, Rachel Wright)

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2016 Claudia Fragapane – Bristol Hawks (Caoches Helen Potter, Rory Weavers)

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2017 Ellie Downie – Notts Gymnastics Club (Coach Jo Miller)

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2018 Kelly Simm – Dynamo School of Gymnastics (Coaches Keith Richardson, Debbie Richardson)

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2019 Ellie Downie – Notts Gymnastics Club (Coach Jo Miller)

2020 Championship cancelled due to COVID-19 Corona Virus.

2 thoughts on “Trailblazers and History Makers: British Champions.

  1. Hi,
    Just to confirm…although very proud to have coached gymnasts to be AA British Champion…
    Rebecca Tunney of City of Liverpool was coached by Claire Duffy…

    Many thanx and keep up with the great articles…
    Amanda…🤸‍♂️🇬🇧🤸‍♂️

    Like

    • Thank you for the confirmation Amanda, there was a little bit of a mix up there with my source material having you listed as Rebecca’s coach for 2012, and Claire for 2014, so I’d counted her in as one of yours in the part about coaches.
      Will amend 🇬🇧❤️🇬🇧

      Like

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