Tips from the top as UK expert shares skills

19:52, Feb 11 2013
Southland Times photo
English Commonwealth Games gymnastics team manager Mike Weirstock gives pointers to Gabby Harrex, 8, while Carissa Maclennan, 8, and Kyla Lynch-Brown, 8, watch at the Conway Crescent Gymnastics Club.

Young southern gymnasts have learned some tips from the best, thanks to a week-long visit by a five-times Commonwealth Games instructor.

England's Commonwealth Games gymnastics team manager and veteran coach Mike Weinstock has worked with celebrity gymnasts Louis Smith and Beth Tweddle, but shared his knowledge with budding gymnasts at the Conway Crescent Gymnastic Club, as part of a tour organised by Gymsports New Zealand.

He said gymnastics had fewer resources and a much lower profile in New Zealand than in Europe, where gymnasts could become household names.

"You play rugby here, don't you, and rugby players are stars, big mega-stars. I don't know if you know the names of any New Zealand gymnasts," he said. "If you want to compete on equal terms with the rest of the world . . . it's difficult if you haven't got what the rest of world has."

He also believed the sport was treated less seriously in New Zealand, thought of as a fun after-school activity for children.

"The coaches [in Britain], they care about the kids but run a fairly tough routine. You don't come and play."


It was not Weinstock's first trip to New Zealand.

The retired school teacher was first appointed Commonwealth Games gymnastics team manager in 1990, and made the journey out for the Auckland Commonwealth Games.

This time around he had included a bit more sightseeing, visiting Riverton, Curio Bay and the Catlins along the way, he said.

Conway Crescent Gymnastic Club junior coach Tracey Maclennan said it was not just Weinstock's expertise that appealed to the club's young gymnasts, but also his top-level connections.

"They were quite rapt to know that he knows quite a lot of their idols as well."

The visit had been beneficial to everyone at the club, she said. "It's not just for the athletes - it's for us as well. It gives us lots of ideas. It's also sometimes good to see that we are doing some things right."

Weinstock, who is scheduled to visit 20 clubs across New Zealand, will travel to Queenstown before heading to the North Island.

The Southland Times