GYMNASTICS is the quintessential Olympic sport: a pure demonstration of the strength, suppleness and agility of the human body.

Well-trained gymnasts, it is said, have the skills to do any other sport.

The Carterton Gymnastics Club has been running at full capacity – now 100 boys and girls – out of the Carterton Community College gymnasium for the past 20 years.

From that school gym, members have gone on to compete in national and international competitions.

In 2002, club member Katie Slader, then 14, came 14th at the Commonwealth Games.

She later competed in the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, before retiring aged 19.

Head coach Debra Courtenay-Crane said the sport helped people become more well-rounded individuals.

She added: “Ninety of our children come once a week and believe they are super stars, and they are.

“We give children life confidence, self esteem and it improves their school ability.

“Teachers recognise it as well – the children learn to see a problem like a handstand and break it down into achievable chunks. My job is to develop each individual to the best of their ability.”

Mrs Courtenay-Crane, 47, started gymnastics aged four and was coaching others by the age of 14.

The club members are aged between five and 16 and almost all are girls, although, according to Mrs Courtenay-Crane, the boys who do join tend to stay a long time.

Gymnasts use five pieces of apparatus – the floor, the vault, the bars, the beam and the tumble track, and everything revolves around those.

Doing somersaults, cartwheels and backflips off a four-inch-wide vault board quickly develops co-ordination, strength and suppleness.

“People have always told me gymnastics is probably the most important sport,” said Mrs Courtenay-Crane.

“If athletes have a good grounding in gymnastics they can put those skills to almost any other sport – football, tennis, diving and synchronised swimming, because it develops the motor functions.”

Coach Georgina Money said: “I’ve been doing gymnastics for about 14 years, since I was three.

“It’s given me many opportunities including to travel and teach, and I’m now taking my level one coaching exam.”

Like so many sports clubs, the Carterton Gymnastics Club has seen a huge rise in interest since the Olympics.

l For more information, go to or the official governing body