Jake is just great at gymnastics!

Jake MorgansIt has been an exciting time for 12 year old Jake Morgans because at the time of writing this talented young gymnast was eagerly anticipating the Special Disability Olympics competition in Sheffield as reward for his high skill levels alongside his determination to be a success.
Because when he started out five years ago it was almost six months before he made any real headway at the Haverfordwest Special Needs Gymnastic Club organised by Jo Summers.

Great family support – and learning the hard way!

But he received every encouragement from his mum Maria and gradually overcame his doubts and fears to become a very good gymnast who can now confidently approach all six gymnastic disciplines of floor, vault, high bar, rings, pommel horse and parallel bars - and has heaps of medallions and trophies as proof of the way things have worked out for Jake.
It's not been easy all the way, however, because one of the things that Jake had to learn from the outset was that if he fell off a piece of apparatus he had to get back on as soon as possible.
This was evident as recently as a few weeks ago when Jake, in readiness for his trip to Sheffield, was working at his routine on the high bar, which is never easy to negotiate because of how far one is off the ground, and he just missed his hold on the bar and took a real tumble!
At first it looked as if he had landed on his face but he managed to twist enough to take the full weight of impact on his shoulder - and after some conditioning work from his coach, alongside a few soothing words of encouragement, he was back on the bar and successfully completed his series of twists and turns

Loves riding horses – and another tumble in early training

Perhaps his other sporting love, of riding horses, was something of a help because it is a similar process there on his weekly visits to Bowlings Riding Stables, where his mum used to work and he still goes once a week to ride Indy, a brown pony he loves to meet up with - and from the outset he has been told, "if you fall off then you need to climb back on as quickly as possible to keep confidence levels high."
Jake started out in gymnastics at Haverfordwest Leisure Centre after being taken there to see whether he would like it - but it wasn't an easy option for him before he finally started to get into the gymnastics groove.
A measure of his struggle to adapt as someone who wasn't necessary brilliant at co-ordination came early on when he finally managed to complete a forward role but lost control and ended up taking a tumble down a few stairs and banging his face.
"He wasn't very impressed when I laughed," admitted Maria, "but again he just tried harder and we are very proud that he is now a Welsh international from such a slow start!"
"It was hard work," Jake told us, "but I enjoy it now, with my favourite exercise being the pommel horse and the one I find hardest still being the high bars."

Early start to competitive gymnastics in a family orientated club

Jake entered his first competition when he was eight in the County Disability Gymnastics Championships in Fishguard Leisure Centre and although there was to be no huge medal haul he enjoyed it - and a year later was back and doing so well that he was selected for the Welsh Disability Squad to train at the National Centre of Excellence in Sophia Gardens, Cardiff.
"I had ten out of ten for my vault," Jake told us, "and I was pleased with my special certificate for what I did.”
Now Jake's training locally takes place at the leisure centre every Friday evening and then on Saturday lunch time, each for two hours of initial warm-up and conditioning, followed by practising techniques on the individual apparatus and then a cool-down period.
It is all done in a friendly pro-active manner and from Maria's point of view it is also relaxing because she has forged friendships with other parents which are sure to endure.

National squad training – and great news about Welsh selection

Then Jake also attends training with the national squad, which is rotated between Cardiff, Penarth, Swansea and Milford Haven so that it sensibly shares around the travel load to all the squad members who benefit from the excellent coaching organised by national coach Christine Hewlett, who Jake and Maria agree does a 'brilliant' job.
It was Christine who let Jake and his family know that he had been selected for the Welsh squad to compete in the Sheffield Special Olympic Championships as reward for the progress he has made in competitions as far afield as Penarth, Sidcup and Leicester, where Jake attended for three successive years for grading sessions as he proved the improvements he had made.

Great support in top competition

So now Jake is off to Sheffield for the Special Olympics and will be travelling up on the team bus with his colleagues, some of them from Milford Haven, who are coached by Amy.
"Jake will be waved off at County Hall and the team will stay together in a hotel - and we have to travel up separately, but we will be there to cheer him on.
"He already has his kit, which he received at a special training day and includes a smart red tracksuit, hoodie, black bottoms, white polo shirt, hat, leotard, leggings and his own bag with his special competitor's number on it.

And finally . . .

The opening ceremony is on Tuesday and the team will compete Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, when the closing ceremony will also take place.
It is sure to be an exciting time for Jake which will inevitably bring about a few nerves but he will have support aplenty along the way. Whether he picks up medals is also relatively unimportant in the great scheme of things because it is about the whole experience of being chosen and taking part for Wales.
He is definitely flying the Pembrokeshire Flag and so we wish Jake Morgans every success in the Sheffield Games and much further beyond!