SOMERSAULTING skills have won a gymnast a place in the final of a French TV show.
Nineteen-year-old Jesse Heskett is one of a team of eight acrobatic gymnasts – Acropolis – competing to win 100,000 euros – about £84,300 – on The Best Le Meilleur Artiste.
The programme pitted 84 of the greatest performers in the world against each other to be crowned “the best,” and unlike many talent shows was only open to professionals.
Jesse, of Seaburn, who has been a gymnast since he was five, said it was tough.
“When we got there and got to rehearse we saw other acts practising, but didn’t get to see their full performances until the actual competition,” he said.
“When we did see them the standard was really high, so we had to put on the best performance we could.”
The TV show filmed seven different heats; the winner of each then went through to the final.
Acropolis won their heat, which was aired last night on French TV, and will feature in the final on Friday.
Jesse, who won ITV’s talent show Let’s Get Gold with three members of Acropolis last year, said keeping the outcome of the competition a secret was hard.
“We went over for five days to film the heat in July and then five days at the end of August to film the final,” he said.
“I can’t say anything about it yet because it hasn’t been aired.
“It was hard keeping quiet about how we had done in the heats for two months when we wanted to tell friends and family.
“We went to the competition not really knowing what to expect.
“It was in a different country so we didn’t know what they would want, so to get such a good reception from the audience and the judges was overwhelming.”
Acropolis, who are reigning World and British Champions, are hoping to win the prize money to keep funding the gymnastics club where they train – Deerness Gymnastics Academy, Durham, which is run as a charity.
“Acropolis compete to earn money for the club,” said Jesse, who joined Deerness 10 years ago.
“It’s one of the only high performance clubs in the North East – there aren’t many that can offer the facilities and experience that our coach can.” The troupe performs at corporate events and in competitions, and is hoping the exposure can pull in more members, as well as more money for the elite gymnastics academy.
“We hope that being in the public eye more will give us the chance of more work,” said Jesse.
“The club relies on donations and the bulk of the money comes from Acropolis.
“That’s why we do it – we don’t get any money directly ourselves – to promote it, and hopefully to get more people to join, and interested in gymnastics.”
The Best Le Meilleur Artise can be viewed online at www.tf1.fr/the-best.
For more information on Acropolis, visit www.acropolis-live.com.