Royal Recognition for Deerness Gymnastics Academy Founder

Posted on: June 11th, 2016 by Debbie No Comments


Karl Wharton, the director of Deerness Gymnastics Academy has today been honoured by The Queen as he receives an MBE in The Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

Published on Saturday June 11th, and coinciding with The Queen’s 90th Birthday Celebrations, the list recognises the achievements of a wide range of extraordinary people across the UK. Hundreds of ordinary people are recognised alongside stars of sport and showbusiness for their contribution to public life in the UK.

Karl Wharton has received the honour in recognition of his outstanding service to gymnastics, in particular, the success of Deerness Gymnastics Academy and also his role on the Federation of International Gymnastics (FIG) Acrobatic Gymnastics Technical Committee.

Karl Wharton said: “I have a great passion and love for the sport and this is a very great honour and one I have never dreamed of receiving. I am still really shocked, surprised and really, really honoured.

“The sport of acrobatic gymnastics has developed greatly over the past few years and it has been a privilege to have been part of this development and success at a local, national and international level.

“This honour is not only for me but more so for the hundreds of volunteers, gymnasts, coaches, parents and supporters of Deerness Gymnastics Academy who have worked so hard at keeping the club open and also helping develop happy, healthy and confident children whose life opportunities and choices have been expanded because of their involvement in gymnastics.”

Karl is a full-time senior lecturer and programme leader at Northumbria University but in his own time he is the volunteer director of Deerness Gymnastics Academy and oversees the day to day running of the club, which specialises in acrobatic and tumbling disciplines of gymnastics. Every week, over 800 people use the community facility, which offers daily gymnastics classes to all ages from baby gym and recreational sessions to club, elite and senior level.

Five years ago the club faced uncertainty due to the closure of its training base, a council run leisure centre, where the club had been based since 2002. Rather than let the club close as there were no other suitable facilities in the area, Karl galvanised support from gymnasts and their families, the national governing body and local councillors to take over the building and create Deerness Gymnastics Academy. He persuaded the council to let the club, operating only with volunteers, to take on the responsibility for running the entire building not just operating a club. After a six-month campaign the council agreed and the club was saved. It is now a not-for-profit organisation which has charitable status.

Thirty years ago, as a PE teacher, he started up a gymnastics club at Deerness Valley Comprehensive School in north-west County Durham, where with his support and commitment his pupils became elite gymnasts who represented their country within two years and first won an international Gold medal in 1991 and the club’s first World Champions in 1995. This was an ex-mining community and an area with high deprivation, limited community resources and opportunities and over the last 30 years the club has become increasingly important to its local community and has become one of the most successful in the world.

Karl has inspired, coached and developed hundreds of gymnasts, over 100 have represented Great Britain, over 80 winning medals and produced fifteen World and European champions. But it’s not only medals that the club has produced but also helped to develop happy, healthy and confident children whose life opportunities and choices have been expanded because of their involvement in gymnastics.

Karl Wharton is a much respected International Coach, Judge and Administrator.  Karl has also served on the sport’s international governing body FIG, the International Federation of Gymnastics since 2009, ensuring that Great Britain has representation and influence at the highest levels in the sport. A role for which he is nominated for by British Gymnastics and is about to undertake his 3rd Olympic cycle in a row.

He has been a national coach with British Gymnastics and continues to coach gymnasts, mentor, tutor coaches and judge at regional, national and international competitions.

He currently works as a Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader for the Undergraduate (BSc Hons) Sport Coaching degree at the University of Northumbria, UK, having formerly written and ran the MSc in Sport Coaching Programme. As a leading academic in coaching pedagogy, Karl has written several chapters for recent sport coaching books on athlete development, growth and maturation in young athletes and working with elite young athletes.