Gymnasts band together after fire

Thu, 8th Jun 2017
PREVIEW

After a fire burnt its premises to the ground, Maroochy Beach Gymnastics realises its members are what matter most.

After a fire burnt its premises to the ground, Maroochy Beach Gymnastics realises its members are what matter most.

Karleigh Fraser returned from the Gymnastics National Championships in Melbourne with a swag of medals and was celebrating her selection into the Australian team when her beloved club was burned to the ground.

Maroochy Beach Gymnastics, which has more than 1000 members, caught fire during work on the club’s $2 million renovation. 

Sunshine Coast fire investigators believe the blaze was caused by sparks from welding equipment, which ignited the highly flammable floor mats. Luckily, classes had been cancelled for the day, so there were no families in the gym at the time and therefore, there were no injuries.

Fraser and the three other athletes who represented the club at the Nationals – Kobi Thompson, Harrison Williams and Hannah Dwan –  are still reeling from the fact they do not have a club to train in for upcoming competitions.

Fraser, 16, came first on vault, third on bars, all around, and beam, fourth on floor and was named third overall in Australia. Her next competition on the national team in New Zealand is going to be her most challenging yet. 

Thompson, who returned at 1am on the morning of the May 28 fire, says he openly wept when he saw the 20-metre smoke plumes coming out of his beloved gym.

The 16-year-old had just secured gold in the parallel bars and second in teams at the nationals and had yet to share his great news with fellow gymnasts before the fire took hold.

“It still doesn’t feel real, when I pull up here, I still expect to see the building as it was, I still don’t expect to see it all caved in,” he says.

Thompson is on a mission to attend the Valeri Luikin Invitational in Las Vegas early next year and says he is more determined than ever to do his best for the club.

Williams, 13, was the national champion last year and this time around, returned with a third in rings and second in teams and Dwan, 12, came seventh on the floor and fourth in teams. 

Maroochy Beach Gymnastics president Peter Dwan says the four athletes were joined by mens coach Gennadiy Tseryshenko and ladies coach Vladimir Joura to make up the largest contingent representing the club at the nationals “in a very long time.”

Dwan says the fire has come at a time when the club was reaching new heights and the raw emotion among staff and members alike was palpable as they came to grips with the long road to recovery ahead of them.

Maroochy Beach Gymnastics committee members have been in contact with other Coast clubs in order to accommodate the weekly classes. Competitive athletes who train 20 hours a week have been using home gyms and regularly visiting the High Performance Centre in Brisbane.

“One thing it has been, though, is a solidifying moment and it has really brought everyone close together. It just proves that the club is not just a building, it’s the people and we still have a really strong club.”

 Dwan says the shock of the accident was beginning to transform into a renewed energy to begin the rebuild, with continued talks with insurance companies and builders to pave a way forward.

A GoFundMe account with a $10,000 target has been set up for the club to begin to cover these costs as well as to begin to recoup some of the $500,000 worth of equipment that was lost.

Hot 91.1 have created a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to get the club back on their feet. While insurance will cover the rebuild, the money raised through the GoFundMe campaign will go towards purchasing equipment to use immediately and to cover the cost of rent for the 12 months it is expected to take to rebuild. 

To donate, visit gofundme.com and search for Maroochy Beach Gymnastics.