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Gedling’s Got Talent: A look at some of the amazing sporting heroes and teams from around the borough in 2023

An amazing year with world champions, British champions, community heroes, international call-ups & more

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Here are some of the amazing sporting achievements by Gedling heroes and sportspeople that Gedling Eye covered over the last year:

Zach Haynes: Another British Champion from Redhill Academy

Zach Haynes took home the Gold medal for his category at the British Taekwondo National Championship 2023 in September to add to an amazing year of success for the Redhill Academy student.

Zach is currently ranked UK number one in his weight category and is a member of the National Taekwondo Club. Zach started Taekwondo at 6 years old and his dedication to this craft means he currently commits to a three-hour training session three nights a week after school alongside a three-hour training session on Saturdays with his Taekwondo club.

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Zach finished his year of competition winning gold in November at the International Bergischer-Lowen Cup in Wuppertal, Germany.

This years achievements included:

  • Ultimate Open Barnsley GOLD
  • Ali’s Dojang Open, London SILVER
  • Midlands Open, Coventry GOLD
  • North West Open, Liverpool GOLD
  • QF European Club Championships, Sofia
  • Premier Open Huddersfield GOLD
  • British International Open Manchester SILVER
  • Scorpion Open Barnsley BRONZE
  • British National Championships Sheffield GOLD
  • Riga Open, Latvia BRONZE
  • England Open, Leeds SILVER
  • International Bergischer-Lowen Cup, Wuppertal, Germany GOLD

Willow Wanderers broke their knockout cup hoodoo in style

Formed in 2015 when the chairman Tom Turner and club secretary Neil Barrs felt their approach to kids’ football was at odds with the club they were then working with, the duo decided to go their own way. 

Their players followed them almost unanimously to create a distinctive new club with a clear philosophy of putting the enjoyment of football above the desire to win games and, unusually, a commitment to equal game time right up to U12. 

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The club however seemed to have a bit of a Cup curse hanging over them as since their inception in 2015, they’d never laid hands on a knockout trophy. 

This all changed in May when the Gedling-based youth football club finally broke their Cup duck – and then added a second less than a week later. 

Neil Barrs, Club Secretary told us that “We’ve won plenty of trophies in different league divisions, and the odd Fair Play award to boot but a knockout trophy always seemed to elude our teams.

“The U14 Lions got close last year, making it to their final before losing to a strong West Bridgford Colts side; a couple of years previously, the U9 Raptors reached Willow’s first ever final, before being pipped at the post.

“Then at last, in May, the U14 Eagles – newcomers to the club just a year previously – first won their Sunday Division 1 title, and then followed it up with a nailbiting Cup win on penalties. 

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“Not to be outdone, the following weekend their Saturday colleagues, the U14 Rockets, in contrast, one of the original Willow teams from 2015 – repeated the feat, again needing spot kicks to settle the match.  Huge congratulations to both!”


From Westdale Lane to Sicily: The Gedling athlete that took on Europe

Valerie Woodland proudly put on her Great Britain vest as she represented Great Britain on the world stage in three events at the European Masters Athletics Championships in Italy.

Valerie who only started doing triathlons in 2019 got into running as she neared fifty years of age. Only a few years after taking up running and running in her first ever 5,000m over 50s (W50) track race in Pescara, Valerie came in an amazing seventh place and the second fastest GB & NI athlete in the field. She followed this up with an even better sixth place in the 10,000m over 50s road race (W50) where she was the fastest GB & NI athlete in the field. In her third event of the championships Valerie won silver in the 10km over 35s (W35) team event.

Valerie lived on Westdale Lane in Gedling, went to school at Carlton le Willows and kept a pony on Wood Lane prior to relocating to Sicily. She also attended Arnold & Carlton college and as a student worked part-time on customer service the year Tescos on Carlton Hill opened.

Valerie competes at least once a year in the UK either running, cycling, triathlon or all 3 and does at least one charity event when in the UK to help with cancer research awareness.


Jude Irons: Redhill Academy student and 2023 British Champion gymnast made the GB Junior Squad

Redhill student Jude Irons made the Team GB U18s Junior Squad after representing Great Britain in Switzerland where the GB team placed second.

His list of achievements also include 2022 British Champion, 2023 British Champion, 2023 English champion and Wohnen Junior Champion.

Jude also represented Notts Gymnastics Academy at the 2023 British Gymnastics Championships. He took home Gold on the pommel horse in the men’s under 14s apparatus and won the bronze all-around medal. Jude joined the Notts Gymnastics Club aged seven and began competing regionally after taking up gymnastics at Robin Hood Gymnastics when he was just five years of age.

Notts Gymnastics Academy congratulated Jude on their social media saying “Congratulations to Jude who had a great competition out in Switzerland representing Great Britain. He helped the team achieve 2nd place! Well done Jude!”

The young athlete trains between 26 and 30 hours per week to maintain his elite level performance including after school and weekend sessions.

Pictured: Jude Irons Redhill Legend (Courtesy of Redhill Academy)

Nottinghamshire’s only kettlebell sport coach and world champion continued to deliver in Gedling

Jude Freeman has the highest rank that can be achieved in Kettlebell Sport – ‘Master of Sport World Class’ and has been lifting for England since 2017. 

This year Jude competed in two World Championships where she won bronze medal in the Double Bell Pentathlon and became a World Champion winning gold in the single bell Half Marathon (30 mins continuous lifting One Arm Long Cycle).

Jude’s amazing achievements include becoming Master of Sport World Class, two time World Champion, two time Master of Sport, four time Candidate for Master of Sport and British Record holder for the Half Marathon Two Arm Long Cycle.

Jude runs small group training and kettlebells and circuits training at her studio every week and on a Sunday morning World Champion Jude can be found running her outdoor bootcamp nearby at Onchan Park on Oakdale Road.

Jude competed in her first 10 minute GS competition in Harrogate in 2016 at the British Championships with a 12kg kettlebell and placed 2nd (silver) and after working with her coach for only 6 weeks qualified for a place on Team England at the English Championships in February 2017.

Jude added: “My first World Championships was October 2017 (just before my 47th birthday) in Loutraki, Greece. I became a World Champion at that event with Gold in Veteran Class (over 40) and also a Bronze in Open Class (age 18+). 

“This really was a defining moment for me and the real beginning of an international career in kettlebell sport. In December 2017 I competed in the British Championships lifting a 16kg kettlebell for 30 mins – half marathon and achieved the rank of Candidate for Master of Sport.

“I am so proud to have been lifting for England since 2017”.


Gedling’s Tom Parnham took the chequered flag as he became British champion

Gedling‘s Tom Parnham became British champion of ‘Hotfords’ at Buxton Raceway 2023 following the final race of the competition on October 29.

In the last year Tom also won The North and Midland cup and British cup.

Tom was crowned overall British points champion making him the new ‘Hotford’ champion following race checks where his engine was totally stripped and checked by a professional engine builder.

This was no normal victory as Tom’s points total of 310 was an amazing 99 points clear of second place in a competition that is normally won by single points.

-Tom expressed his delight on social media saying “What a year it’s been, Northern Midland champ, British champ and overall points champ. All in all, a mint season.”

Tom is one of a group of friends, mostly from Gedling and Carlton that stock car race at Buxton raceway. The formula they race in is called ‘Hotfords’.

The group have been friends since secondary school and all have a passion for cars.


Arnold’s Paviors RFC players went international with England and Wales

There was been plenty going on at Arnold’s Paviors Rugby Club as Dee McKenzie , one of the club’s Under 18’s Women’s Squad was selected to attend the England Under 18’s training camp at Wellington College, this month.

Club President Neil Kendrick told Gedling Eye that “The club is extremely proud of Dee’s achievements – she sets an amazing example to others in the club and the club is proud of her achievements.”

But its not just Dee making waves at the top level as Neil added “Four of our youngsters attended the Welsh Exiles Training Camp ( eligibility through Welsh parentage/grand parentage) recently at Trent College : Danny Mountain, Josh Kirwan-Thomas and Owen Evans were involved in the under 15 training, while Evan Griffiths was with the Under 13’s.”


Carlton Town FC carried out a great escape

What a change a couple of months made at Carlton Town FC where from almost certain relegation they fought off relegation, secured Step 4 status and reached a cup final. A Great Escape indeed.  

Tommy Brookbanks, co-manager of The Millers said “You look at it from January 7, nine games we got four points. From March 7, nine games we got 19. Now that is playoff form”. 

Relegation was avoided by virtue of North Shields failing their ground grading, but this was a very precarious situation whereby Carlton did not know if they would have to play a relegation playoff or not.  The managers were actually at the training ground when the got the call, three days before they would have had to have played said playoff. 

Tommy said: “The lads were coming in for 7:30pm, we got the call from the secretary and we stopped the lads from coming in because we wanted to give them a rest. 

But what was it that inspired The Millers to get out of their rut? For the managers, it seemed that there was not too much concrete change, but just a dressing room lift and a belief in their squad that they could do what they needed to do.  

Mark said: “After the North Shields (March 4, which they lost 2-1), we spent all weekend on the phone as we thought the only chance we had was to get a couple of lads in. And it wasn’t that we didn’t think the squad was good enough, because the squad has proved its good enough.” 

“I think the dressing room needed a lift more than anything. Following that weekend we got Charlie (Marzano) and Alex Troke in, which gave the dressing room a lift, and we went and won our next game.” 

And whilst Mark and Tommy passionately highlighted how important their dressing room cohesiveness has been in surviving, they were also quick to highlight the pivotal role the support played in keeping them on track.  

“The support has been magnificent,” said Tommy. “They could have turned on us. But they still turned out for every home game. A lot of supporters would have turned, but they’ve been brilliant.”  


Ellie’s marathon effort raises much-needed cash for medal-winning ice skating team

A Gedling youngster put in a marathon effort to raise funds for her local ice skating team.

Nine-year-old Ellie completed the Robin Hood Mini Marathon in September to bring in cash for her synchronised ice skating team.

The team had a successful competition season in 2022-2023, with Gold in London, Silver in Dumfries, Silver in Sheffield and Bronze at the British Championship Britannia Cup.

In November the team won gold in their category at Skate London 2023

Ellie, who attends Priory Junior School, in Gedling, is part of the ‘Ice Gems’ who are the Juvenile squad of the Nottingham Synchronised Skating Academy.

Ellie is the youngest member of the team that has members ranging in age from from nine to 14 years old.  The team’s ice schedule at present means the girls need to be at the rink for 5.35 am, which means an early start for members and also the parents who provide the transport.


Three award winning dads scored with Woodborough’s newest football club

Woodborough Celtic Youth FC is a new football club that started in the village of Woodborough for the 23/24 season with teams from under 7s to under 10s.

The club started when three dads, Paul Stevenson, Adam Meakin and Martin Giddy got together and decided to give up their time to coach two age groups.

Paul told Gedling Eye that “For the first ever session the coaches had planned for eight children turning up and were shocked when 24 out of a 27 person class arrived kitted out ready for training.

“The children started having regular coaching in April 2021 (at the end of the Covid restrictions) and this was a way of bringing the community together after a long period apart.”

In October 2022 Martin, Paul and Adams were nominated for the Inspirational Healthy Lifestyle Award at the Pride of Gedling awards which they deservedly won.

Paul added that “they were absolutely delighted to win at a memorable evening at The Arnold Civic Centre.”


Jack Donovan became British Ice Skating Champion

Redhill Academy lauded student, Jack Donovan as he became the Advanced Novice Boys British Ice Skating Champion.

Jack finished his competition with 117.05 points, almost 20 points ahead of his nearest competitor, Edward Solovyov with 97.75 points.

This marked Jack’s fifth win of 2023 and his third British Championship at the Advanced Novice level, having previously placed third in 2021 and second in 2022.

Mr Peters, Jack’s Head of House said: “For several years now, Jack has been balancing, early morning skating training, performing on the international stage and keeping on top of his studies. He continues to reap the rewards both with his studies and on the ice, with his latest achievement being the Advanced Novice Boys British Champion. All at Redhill are exceptionally proud of Jack’s achievements.”.

Jack’s father, Richard, told Redhill Academy that “This is a perfect end to his time in the Advanced Novice category, and although he could stay in this age bracket, he will now step up to compete in the Junior category. To prepare him for next season, Jack’s next competition will be The Robin Hood Trophy, held in January. It will be an international event which will help to prepare him for the season ahead. Thanks once again for the support you have given as a school.“.


You don’t have to be representing your country or winning European championships to be featured by Gedling Eye – we love local success stories, so please drop us a line at news@gedlingeye.co.uk if you know someone or a team that are amazing.

Spotted something? Got a story? Email our newsdesk news@gedlingeye.co.uk

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