FAST-EMERGING gymnast Robert Bates swept to a fourth-place finish in tandem with Christopher Child at the World Acrogymnastics Age Group Championships – to the delight of the duo and their King Edmund GC comrades, writes Simon Parkinson.
Katharine Lady Berkeley's School pupil Bates, 15, and his more experienced team-mate Child, 19, were competing for Great Britain at 13-19 age-group level for the first time on the world circuit in the prestigious Paris tournament.
Despite having to battle every inch of the way to qualify for the finals in sixth position over three intense days of competition, the pair, who only forged their partnership around a year ago, stepped it up to finish a fraction outside the prizes behind overall winners Russia, second-placed United States and bronze medallists Portugal.
Head coach of Yate-based King Edmund GC, Nikki Thorne, said: “Chris and Rob are all but brand-new as a partnership so to finish fourth at such a high-level of international gymnastics was a tremendous achievement.
“Chris has competed very successfully in world and European competition since 2010 with his previous partner Jake Underdown, but for all his experience he hadn’t competed at the higher 13-19 standard at this level before and in all honesty, none of us knew how they would fare.
“We knew they were capable of good things because they’d won the British Championships as a twosome in March and they won gold as well at an international event in Switzerland, which gave Rob in particular a little taste of what it was like to compete abroad.
“Rob is demonstrating that he has the ability and drive to go on and be as successful as Chris and Jake were together and we have high hopes for both of them going forward.”
Bates, from Wotton-under-Edge, first joined King Edmund around the age of four as a gym tot but soon left to pursue different sports before returning only three years ago after admitting he was “missing gymnastics”.
The rest, as they say, is history and of his World Championships exploits he enthused: “It was a bit nerve-racking to begin with but very exciting. I went into it with no real expectations, just wanting to do my best, and although it was a bit disappointing not to get a bronze I was still happy with a fourth.”
And Child’s mother Sarah, a King Edmund GC coach who watched every move of the French event, added: “Given this was Rob’s first big competition, and that the standard among the eight other countries in their class was so high, the boys did extremely well. To pull it around from sixth position in qualifying to fourth and go so close to a medal was fantastic.”
The pair are now gearing up for a series of World Cup events over the next few months, starting at Fenton Manor, Stoke, in November, and next year’s European Championships.