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Gymnastics-mad Dagenham teenager wins award for dedication to sport

13:11 19 October 2016

Kira Taowo collecting her Young Volunteer of the Year award from Brian Everett MBE,  the president of British Gymnastics. Photo by Alan Edwards/British Gymnastics

Kira Taowo collecting her Young Volunteer of the Year award from Brian Everett MBE, the president of British Gymnastics. Photo by Alan Edwards/British Gymnastics

Alan Edwards

A hard-working teenager who inspires others has won a national award.

Kira Taiwo, 17, scooped the young volunteer of the year title at the British Gymnastics awards in recognition of her work as a coach, competition presenter and even judge.

The Robert Clack student rubbed shoulders with Team GB at the red carpet ceremony in Leicester earlier this month.

Kira, of Winmill Road in Dagenham, practices for 12 hours a week at Jay’s Gymnastics in East Tilbury and admits that it’s a huge part of her life.

“I started gymnastics in Year 3 so I have been doing it for about 10 years,” she explained.

“Now, after the success of 2012 and Rio, it’s very well-known, but it wasn’t when I first started. It’s the Olympic legacy that’s got the sport to where it is today.”

Kira’s dedication has led to her winning countless medals and competing up and down the country. – but she says winning the national volunteering award is particularly special to her.

“It was an honour to win, because thousands of people volunteer every single year,” the modest teenager said. “A lot of competitions couldn’t run without volunteers.”

Kira hopes that giving up her time to help the sport run smoothly makes others aspire to improve.

“A lot of people at recreational level do their session then they go home, but there’s so much more you can do,” she said.

“The younger kids always have time to help and it helps them to see people of a higher quality, and gives them something to aspire to.”

“Just because you don’t feel like you can compete physically, it doesn’t mean you can’t be involved in the sport.”

As well as the athletic challenge that gymnastics involves, Kira also enjoys the intellectual side.

“It’s a very mental sport as well as a physical sport,” she said. “You have to be very aware.”

Kira says the discipline of her hobby has helped her at school, and she is planning to study psychology at university after finishing her A-levels.

Naturally, she is making sure that her options have proper gymnastics facilities.

Kira’s grandmother, Mayor of Barking and Dagenham Eileen Keller, said she was “so proud”.

“To achieve that award is something good for the borough,” she added.

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