Gymnastics star Jack (9) plans to leap at chance of Olympic gold
Meet the nine-year-old gymnastics sensation who is aiming for Olympic gold in 2028.
Jack Eakin, from Magherafelt, only took up the sport two years ago but has already been selected for the Great Britain Elite Performance squad.
His proud mum Kerry said it all started when he watched a video on YouTube.
“He turned round to me and said: ‘Mum, I’m going to the Olympics, I’m going to be a gymnast’,” she told the Belfast Telegraph.
“He had never done a day’s gymnastics in his life, so I said we’ll get you started then.”
She initially sent him to a small club in Coleraine.
“I had no idea about gymnastics — I didn’t even realise I had sent him to a girls’ club. Then within a couple of months the coach said to me, ‘Jack has got a really good talent in gymnastics and would I consider sending him to an artistic club that did men’s gymnastics’.
“He set up a trial at Salto in Lisburn, so he went there for a few months, and then a coach over the water saw Jack’s Instagram page and asked would I consider sending Jack to a high performance coach because he saw so much talent in Jack.
“Then the decision was made to move him to Rathgael in Bangor for Luke Carson, who is the national performance coach for Ireland.
“I rang Luke up and he already knew about Jack — he had seen him on Instagram too — and told me to bring him down. Eight weeks later Jack went on to win the Irish Championships, which was unheard of.”
Kerry said Jack then went over to a competition in London and lifted three medals.
She added: “From that he — and two other boys — qualified for the British Championships, and Jack won second on floor and third on two other pieces. We couldn’t believe it, to come sixth overall after only doing gymnastics for a year.
“His coach came over to us and said he had never seen anything like it. And then just before Christmas there was the British Elite Performance selection; they only chose six boys on level one from throughout the UK, and Jack was one of them.”
Jack will go on to start his training in Birmingham on January 17 in the first of eight training camps he will attend this year.
However, excelling has demanded a great deal of time and money from his family.
Jack trains six days a week at Rathgael Gymnastics, travelling from school in Magherafelt to Bangor, and eating and doing his homework in the car.
“He then trains for four hours, travels home, gets dinner, showered, bed, and does it all again the next day.
“He never complains. He doesn’t get to do the things other kids his age do, but he never once says he doesn’t want to go to gym,” his mum said.
Kerry said she worried about the impact on Jack, but as long as he wants to pursue gymnastics, she and her husband will support him.
“I work my shifts as an employment officer for Mencap around Jack’s training, they are very supportive, and Jack’s dad works as a full-time fireman so if his shifts don’t work out then his mum helps us out with the travel,” she said.
“He’s one determined little boy, he is so inspirational. The next Olympics is 2020.
“Jack won’t be ready to go until 2028 but he knows all about it. It’s in Los Angeles and he knows what he is aiming for.”
Two male gymnasts from Rathgael, Rhys McClenaghan and Ewan McAteer, were selected this week to compete in the Commonwealth Games.
Coach Luke said Rhys and Ewan have been an inspiration, adding: “As part of my job as national performance coach for Ireland, I monitor gymnasts.
“When I saw Jack’s videos it was evident he was talented.
“When he came in to the gym he wasn’t shy, he just got stuck in even though many of the Irish National Squad were there. He knew them by name so had obviously done his research.
“He is an exciting talent to watch for the future.”