He got gold – Sunderland gymnast wins top £100,000 prize in TV talent show

Gymnast Group Acropolis who were taking part in ITV's Lets Get Gold show. l-r are Raymond Hurst (21), Matthew Evison (19), Dorian Walker (22) and top  Jesse Heskett (17)
Gymnast Group Acropolis who were taking part in ITV's Lets Get Gold show. l-r are Raymond Hurst (21), Matthew Evison (19), Dorian Walker (22) and top Jesse Heskett (17)
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A GYMNAST told of the moment he appeared on national television at the weekend and won £100,000 for his club.

Jesse Heskett, 17, of Seaburn, Sunderland, was one of a team of four acrobatic gymnasts who won the top prize in ITV’s Let’s Get Gold, broadcast on Saturday night.

Gymnast Group Acropolis who were taking part in ITV's Lets Get Gold show. bottom to top are Matthew Evison (19),  Dorian Walker (22)  Raymond Hurst (21), Jesse Heskett (17).

Gymnast Group Acropolis who were taking part in ITV's Lets Get Gold show. bottom to top are Matthew Evison (19), Dorian Walker (22) Raymond Hurst (21), Jesse Heskett (17).

The team, from Deerness Gymnastics Academy in Ushaw Moor, wowed a panel of judges including ex-cricketer Freddie Flintoff, footballer Rio Ferdinand and actress Martine McCutcheon.

“When they said we’d won it was really a shock,” said Jesse. “We went into the competition a bit bare, not really knowing what it was all about. I was just astonished to think we’d won.

“We don’t get anything directly, but I suppose we do indirectly because all the money goes to help run the club.”

Jesse has been an acrobatic gymnast for eight years, and Let’s Get Gold was not his first success.

“As a team we are reigning British, European and World Champions,” he said. “We took the world title in March in Florida and have now decided to retire from active competition.

“Acrobatic gymnastics is not an Olympic sport, but we are hoping winning the programme will help get it a higher profile and into the Olympics.

“We are still going to be a team and hope to do a few performances at conferences and other events.”

Team member Dorian Walker, 21, was also shocked by the win.

“It was just incredible,” he said “I didn’t really believe it was happening. You were on stage and all of a sudden people were congratulating you.

“The programme was done in London, a bit like the X Factor, although the audience was only a few hundred.

“We were up against people doing other sports and the aim was to find the one with the most entertainment value, so it was a bit different to competing in a championship,”

Team coach Stuart Thompson, 37, from Langley Park, said the win meant a great deal to the club.

“It was not our greatest achievement from a sporting perspective,” he said.

“One of the motivations for taking part was, to be honest, the prize money.

“Our building is a former leisure centre which we took over from the council and now run as a charity.

“It costs about £7,000 a month to run, and while we could have managed without the prize money it will give us a handy buffer while we build the membership.

“We have about 320 young people coming here regularly, and we cater for all abilities.

“Our motto is to create healthy, happy children, and if some want to train on to a higher standard, they can.”

l Details of club activities are on its webiste: http://deernessgymnastics.org.uk/ or tel: 373 9419.

Twitter: @Sunderlandecho