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Heap hopes to inspire

PUBLISHED: 08:00 26 September 2008 | UPDATED: 21:21 05 July 2010

Craig Heap and his two Commonwealth Games gold medals. Picture: Mick Howes

Craig Heap and his two Commonwealth Games gold medals. Picture: Mick Howes

Mark Boggis

A GLITTERING gathering of sports stars, officials, authorities, local businesses, sponsors and aspiring athletes descended on Lowestoft for a special sporting charity lunch.

A GLITTERING gathering of sports stars, officials, authorities, local businesses, sponsors and aspiring athletes descended on Lowestoft for a special sporting charity lunch.

Ex-Olympian and Commonwealth Games gymnast Craig Heap was guest speaker during an entertaining afternoon at The Carlton Manor, in an event organised by the Waveney Gymnastics Club and Suffolk SportsAid Foundation.

The double Commonwealth gold medallist and 14 times British champion gave an inspiring speech to those present - and also handed over special commemorative medals to the gym club's Giarnni Regini-Moran and Declan Ayers.

The two youngsters were both described as “having the potential to be up there with the best” by Chairman of Sports Academy, Chris Dyer.

The Suffolk SportsAid Foundation, who boast the tagline - helping Suffolk's sports people to succeed - are working with 50 sports to find the next generation of potential superstars.

Supporting emerging talent, Craig Heap took centre stage and described at length how a farmers son overcame childhood jibes, endless injuries and all the odds to finish his career with a “best-ever score and best-ever competition” as he realised all his dreams at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

Heap started gymnastics because his sister was doing it and he thought it would be “great to try the flips.” But disaster struck early on, when his first-attempt at a flip in his Burnley home ended “with a broken bed and six hours in casualty.”

It was then that his mother ordered him to join his sister at the local gymnastics club - and Heap never looked back.

“I did get lots of stick at school though, as it was an all-boys school and when they found out I did gymnastics they thought I wore dresses - so that was pretty tough,” Heap revealed.

But motivated by his goal to succeed - “A winner never quits, a quitter never wins,” Heap went onto become one of his countries most recognisable names.

Aged 21, Heap left his family and friends behind to take up centralised training at Lilleshall National Sports Centre, in Shropshire, to fulfil his childhood dream of competing at the Olympic Games.

In 1998, at the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, he became the first person to captain England to a gymnastics gold win.

Four years later in the Manchester games, he did it again.

In 2002, Craig retired from Gymnastics and set up his own company called Olym-fit UK, which aims to inspire young people to lead more active and healthier lives.

Speaking out about the realisation of his dreams at the Sydney Olympics, Heap said: “Even though I finished 32nd I would not swap that Olympic medallion for all the Commonwealth triumph.

“To me that was the most important thing - and my message to other aspiring athletes and those here today is to do your best in all you do…you can't ask for more than that!”

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