Harefield Academy’s junior acrobatic gymnastics trio Ciara McGrath (Year 12), Sophie Burfield (Year 11) and Katie Smith (Year 10) won Silver in the 5th World Age Group Championships at the Kelvin Hall, Glasgow on October 5th. Sophie, 15, from Ruislip, was competing for Great Britain for the first time, but refused to be overawed by the occasion. ‘I have gone in a year from 11-16 class to a Junior World Silver! It’s amazing.’
In the qualifying rounds Ciara, Sophie and Katie qualified second on 57.3 behind Russia on 57.5, and ahead of Belarus’s 57.25. The Harefield trio began their exciting Dynamic routine with a double straight full-in backout, a somersault attempted by no other Junior trio in the competition, and scored 28.5. In the Balance round, tension was high as the British trio entered, wearing a flame design leotard. They performed a series of perfect balances to score another 28.8, leaving them second overall after two routines.
The final Combined routines included both Balance and Dynamic moves. The crowd gave a huge cheer for the British trio who executed all their skills perfectly, including a completely flat planche on handstand skill, to end with a brilliant score of 28.85. One of the Russians stumbled in their routine, but despite this the judges awarded them 29.0. Ciara, Sophie and Katie from Harefield had won Silver for Great Britain!
A relieved Ciara said, ‘All the hard work paid off. There is so much difference being at the Harefield Academy — we wouldn’t have got to trials without them and there was tough competition for the British squad place.’ Katie said, ‘I’m really, really happy. We did the best we could.’
GB Squad High Performance Coach Natasha Maxwell commented: ‘Well done to the girls. We knew we were up against all the Russian-speaking nations in the judging, but our gymnasts had the skills. All they needed to do was to hold it together mentally, and they did it! The school has put a lot of time and effort into their education as well as to their gymnastics.’
Principal Lynn Gadd, Director of Sport Pat Cottis, and Monica Cotteral as well as Academy Governor and Sponsor Haig Oundjian were in the Glasgow audience to support the girls.
Interviewed after the medal presentation, Haig Oundjian commented, ‘This is a huge achievement. The gymnasts have overcome so many obstacles to reach this point. From my point of view as a sponsor, I want the Academy to create a canvas on which people can draw their lives.’
Great Britain came away from Glasgow with 3 Golds, 4 Silver and 1 Bronze, achieving a medal position in 8 out of 10 categories and second only to Russia.