Belfast Telegraph

Golden girl Holly puts competition through hoops

by Natalie Irvine

A Glengormley teenager has collected three gold medals from the GMPD Rhythmic British Championships — winning the junior title two years in a row.

Holly Hamill, 15, who has suffered from Cystic Fibrosis since birth, triumphed in rope, hoop and ribbon and collected a silver medal in ball, in the national competition that took place in Fenton Manor on Stoke-on-Trent last month.

Holly said: “Even though I did well last year, I was still very nervous at the championships. It is a difficult sport to do but it’s amazing to watch because it is so beautiful — it’s great fun too, the more flexible you become the easier it is.”

Holly’s mum Brenda said: “I am so proud of her. She trains 10 to 15 hours a week, travelling from Glengormley to her coaching sessions with the Phoenix Rhythmic Gymnastics Club in Bangor, most evenings after school. She works so hard all year round, whether or not a competition is coming up.”

GMPD stands for Gymnastics and Movement for People with a Disability. It involves the coach adapting some skills to ensure people with a disability are able to take part in gymnastic activities.

Historically people with a learning disability had access to gymnastics through the Special Olympics Movement, however there was no similar provision for those with physical or sensory disabilities. As a result GMPD was set up to develop and provide training and competitive opportunities for people with any disability.

In light of this, Holly has also been flying the flag for including Rhythmic Gymnastics in the Paralympic Games. Last year she travelled to Germany to help promote the sport.

She said: “People with disabilities have the competence to do it. It is a growing sport and I feel it should be recognised. Gymnastics is very popular in the Olympic Games, I don’t see why it can’t be a Paralympic sport either.”

For now though, the Belfast Royal Academy pupil is looking forward to going back to school, where she will be entering her GCSE exam year.

“We don’t really have gymnastics lessons as such in school, but I am allowed to show the younger classes some of the gymnastics routines I do, for them to try,” she said.

“I really enjoy doing that —when I finish competing, I hope to become a gymnast coach.”

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