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Tag Archive: olympics

  1. Why Parkour should stay out of the Olympics

    parkour olympics
    Parkour in Willand

    Parkour as an Olympic Sport?

    The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) has included Parkour as a new gymnastics discipline to be included in the Olympics. This is a concern for all those who enjoy the freedom of expression and creativity that is at the heart of Parkour.

    Young men running and jumping through the woods is at the heart of traditional gymnastics as invented by Father Jahn in the early 1800s. Gymnastics was developed to keep young men fit in the time of war.

    This Martial link was there when David Belle used the French Army’s obstacle courses to develop his fitness. His son Raymond, then applied this to the urban environment: “Parcours du combattant” became “Parcours” which is Anglicised to Parkour.

    However, the commercialisation and competition dominated modern gymnastics results in a very rigid structure that relies on early specialisation and conformity. Hardly the choice of the free wheeling Parkour enthusiasts.

    Too much too young

    Some countries like Norway avoid competing in gymnastics in the Olympics as they realise that the early specialisation and heavy training loads required at a young age lead to greater chances of burnout, injury and drop out from the sport. 

    Instead, they use gymnastics as a foundation for other sports. Every child is encouraged to train in gymnastics to develop their movement skills. They don’t compete until secondary school. This is the approach we take at Excelsior Athletic Development Club 

    But, in many countries, including the UK, the “Little Girls in Pretty Boxes” approach to gymnastics means that young people (predominantly girls) are thrust into the competitive environment at a very young age.

    The requirements to conform and practice very strict routines and look a certain way appeals to some and many “Mumagers” who can proclaim how wonderful their daughter is to other competitive parents.

    The fact that there is a huge dropout from gymnastics before the age of 13 seems of little concern to the parent of the 6 year old. British Gymnastics know about this huge dropout and are constantly trying to reinvent the wheel to retain more members.

    Freestyling, freerunning and freedom

    I don’t want rules

    One of the BG initiatives is “Freestyle Gymnastics” (which we do at our club). This was expressly marketed as “NOT PARKOUR” when launched a few years ago, in order to avoid conflict with Parkour UK

    The idea was to allow more individual expression and be less formal then the competition disciplines. It was to created to attract and retain boys who strangely enough are reluctant to be marched around like mannequins.

    Introducing a competition structure and becoming part of the Olympics will be problematic for Parkour enthusiasts. Money will become the major force dictating how Parkour develops and the athletes will soon find they will be told to conform to rules from above.

    Those of you following the Jess Varnish case against British Cycling will have read just one example. My experience of working with NGBs is that this is the norm.

    Funded athletes have to conform to the NGB rules

    Colleagues of mine who work with snowboarders, surfers and bmx riders all have talked about problems with “athlete engagement“. This is a euphemism for people who have become highly skilled at their sport through their own endeavours, resisting being told where to go, what to eat, what to wear and how to train by support staff.

    The Olympics is about money

    In case you were under any other illusion, this is all about money. Sports are losing participants left, right and centre. More people want the freedom of expression and learning that activities such as climbing, surfing and parkour allow.

    The Olympic movement realise this and are trying to “get down with the kids“. Gymnastics has a problem with numbers and is now trying to incorporate a movement which naturally wants to go outside and play!

    Let’s hope it doesn’t stop our young people from getting out and exploring. Competition comes from within. Money and organisation will change the whole ethos of the activity.

  2. Excelsior ADC Summer Update


    Summer Training and the Olympics

    Here is an overview of what is happening at Excelsior Athletic Development Club over the next 2 months, including news of 4 athletes I have coached who are competing in the Olympics. I have included links to timetables to when to watch our 3 main sports on TV.


    Excelsior athletesTraining continues every Thursday from 11th August until 1st September, with our team competing on 30th August.

    It is great to see the progress made, especially with the throws and jumps. What is more important, is that the practice transferred to a recent competition at the Exeter Arena.

    Here is the Olympics Track and Field schedule (Watch out for Long Jumper Jazmin Sawyers  ).


    Thanks to all our lifters who continued to train around their busy exam schedules. We have also recently welcomed some new, younger, lifters who have impressed with their work ethic.

    weightlifting club

    Lifters and volunteers

    These dedicated few will be training throughout August on Monday nights. We shall also be travelling to Crystal Palace National Sports Centre to train with National Coach Keith Morgan for a special workshop.

    Here is the Olympics Weightlifting Schedule (Watch out for Devonian Sonny Webster who trained alongside James at Ivybridge for several years. They even competed against each other once!)


    The gymnasts are enjoying a well deserved break over the Summer. They finished up the term with a great display of vaulting, using the new kit we have purchased:

    The big news for us is that we are moving venues from September and opening a Satellite venue in Wellington. We shall be using the Willand Village Hall which has a sprung floor. We have also raised nearly £9ooo to buy new kit since the club opened in September which we can use with the bigger space.

    We shall be raising more funds on Sunday 14th August by packing bags for customers at Tesco’s in Cullompton.

    We shall be running Freestyle Gymnastics (FreeG) twice a month in Willand, and weekly in Wellington from September. This is a great new style and is especially popular with teenage boys. James is qualified to coach this, and recently went on a refresher course. This video gives an idea of what it entails:

    We shall be having a sign up and taster session in Willand on Saturday 3rd September in the morning.

    Here is The Olympics Gymnastics Schedule

    Other athletes to watch out for at the Olympics

    Here are 3 more athletes who I have coached and who are competing in Rio, good luck to them all.

    Modern Pentathlon: Arthur Lanigan O’ Keeffe is competing in his second Olympics for Ireland. Arthur is a very strong athlete, mentally and physically.

    Hockey: Maddie Hinch is the GB goalkeeper. A real determined young lady when I coached her, worked extremely hard.

    Wheelchair Basketball: Judith Hamer (from Exeter) is probably the most improved player and opened up our Club a few years ago. It is a true delight to see her develop and flourish as a person.

    I hope everyone has a great summer, thanks for your continued support.

  3. How to set a Guiness world record: Tommy Baker

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    bakerIn order to set a Guinness World Record you need to either have a record in mind that currently exists, or to have an idea for something totally new that is not listed as a current record. This blog is specifically focused on creating a new record that does not exist… its the difference between “setting a new record” and “breaking an existing record”.

    It is worth being aware that apart from the very popular records, only a small percentage of the records on the ‘Guinness database’ are selected to be featured in the annual book, they keep a healthy rotation of content to maintain constant interest.  This means that if you are successful in achieving “Guinness World Record” status, you will not find out if your record has been entered in the book until the following September, when the new edition is released around the world for sale.  There is always a limited number of books made each year and they sellout in the UK before Christmas.

    To develop a record that does not currently exist the idea needs to be clearly measurable by an official and sometimes with the assistance of slow motion video footage.  The various methods to measure a new record can be through time, repetitions, distance, height or weight.  Combining two of these measurements to your chosen task provides the Guinness official with the precise cross reference required to measure and set your achievement as a new record.  The task you choose must be completed in a consistently repetitive manner.  There can be no debate or interpretation applied to the measurements your chosen task generates. 

    The next thing to consider is the creativity and talent aspect.  Your idea needs to capture the imagination of an audience.  Nobody really cares if your talent is “watching the most episodes of Eastenders back-to-back”.   

    tommybakerThis is the challenging aspect… combining precise measurements to a creative idea.

    Finally, if you do have a record setting concept your best bet is to source a third party company that will sponsor your idea.  Guinness do not send their officials out to anything other than major events & clients or TV companies as the cost of an official (for one day) is £5000 plus VAT.

    Alternatively, you can send in evidence of your achievement directly to Guinness through their website: www.guinnessworldrecords.com

    However, please consider that Guinness World Record have this note on their website:

     “If your enquiry is regarding the details of an existing record and you do not intend to invite a judge to your event, we do reserve the right not to get back to you.”

     My experience with Guinness World Records over the last 10 years has been amazing.  I have been invited to numerous  venues in different countries to set 4 brand new world records within both football and basketball freestyle, I’ve then subsequently been invited back to break my own records.  I’ve been featured in the 2003, 2004, 2006 editions of the book, with three of my records currently photo featured in the 2010 edition on page 238 & 239.

    Tommy Baker: Freestyle basketball entertainer