WHEN Kristian Thomas takes the stage at the North Greenwich Arena on Saturday, he’ll be helping to make several pieces of history.
The gymnast is the first member of Earls Gymnastics Club to ever compete at an Olympics but it’s also a big moment for the club’s Dudley-based head coach Michelle Bradley — who will become the first female coach ever to train a male gymnast for the Games.
It marks the end of an 18-year journey after Bradley began coaching Thomas when he was just five-years-old.
Bradley said: “It’s a little piece of history of my own. There are actually very few women who coach male gymnasts, to have got one to the Olympics is fantastic.
“It’s going to be a great experience for Kristian. He’s going in with a lot of confidence.”
Thomas’s Olympic selection was a new high watermark for the Furnace Lane club, which has consistently produced strong gymnasts despite often struggling with funding in the past.
Bradley’s son Ryan, now part of the coaching team, is a former Commonwealth Games bronze medalist and narrowly missed out on selection for the British team at the Beijing 2008 Games.
Thanks to the emergence of yongsters like Dominick Cunningham, the future already looks bright and though Thomas is the first Earls athlete to grace the Olympic stage, Bradley is convinced he won’t be the last.
She said: “With Kristian making the Olympics has given the other lads at the club somebody to look up to.
“We have always been a small club when looking at the amount of coaches we have to the amount of lads we have.
“It’s a good ratio and means everyone gets the attention they need.
”We’ve got Dominick coming through, who is doing ever so well. He is someone else who can help guide the youngsters.
“Ryan’s technical knowledge is second to none, he’s my right-hand man and between the two of us we make a strong team.
“Kristian is the first we’ve got to the Olympics but I know for sure he won’t be the last.”