TALENTED gymnasts are set to say arrivederci to Hartlepool to take part in a top Italian festival.
Members of the Hartlepool-based Firebird Gymnastics Club are jumping for joy after being picked to take part in the prestigious Festival de Solle International Gymnastics Festival, near Bologna.
A group of 10 members have raised funds for the flights to the week-long event, which takes place every two years and sees performances from 120 teams from around the globe.
Gymnasts from the group, based at Brierton Sports Centre, in Brierton Lane, will fly to Italy on July 1.
They will spend a week there and perform a routine three times.
Members have been boosted further, having been hand-picked from a select group of the 120 teams to perform a separate routine in the closing ceremony, after sending off a DVD of their performance.
The club, which has been operating for five years and has members aged five to 30, is run by head coach Graham Elsley and coaches Caroline Bew and Rachael Hornsey, with help from student coach Fay Maynard and volunteer coach and event organiser Paula Elsley, who is Graham’s sister.
Graham, 30, said: “We are very excited to have been picked.
“There were that many countries that applied for it, so we are so lucky that we qualified to get in.
“And to get chosen for the closing ceremony is also a big boost.
“Considering the members only train once a week for this particular routine, compared to the length of time other clubs commit, they have done really well.”
Dawn Buglass’s 12-year-old daughter Amy, an English Martyrs School pupil, attends the club and Dawn also helps with administration and fundraising.
Dawn said: “We are delighted. “The club is in a rather deprived area of Hartlepool and we try to keep fees as low as possible.
“But the children paid for their own flights and accommodation.”
There is more good news to celebrate for the group, as members are off to Glasgow in September to take part in the Sapphire Gymnastics Festival.
The club runs four sessions a week – on Wednesdays from 4pm-5.30pm for beginners and from 5.30pm-7pm for team display practice.
A session is held on Thursdays from 4pm-7pm for intermediate and advanced level.