Flipping Fantastic! Nelson gymnastics community jumps for joy with arrival of new springboard

24 November 2023

Jumping on the new springboard donated by Four Square Atawhai

Damian trains with his ten-year old son Keagan, who has already begun competing.

Atawhai, get ready for some high-flying action! 

Gymnastics Nelson, a beloved local gymnastics club, has just undergone a significant upgrade with the arrival of a top-of-the-line springboard thanks to the Foodstuffs South Island Community Trust

This new addition significantly enhances the athlete training experience, and the club expects it to help pave the way for a whole new generation of aspiring young gymnasts from the Nelson region. 

The springboard is a donation made possible by a Foodstuffs South Island Community Trust grant. The application was sponsored by Damian & Hayley Fernando, the owner-operators of Four Square Atawhai and local members of the Foodstuffs South Island co-operative. 

For the past year, Damian, a gymnast turned coach, has been volunteering at Gymnastics Nelson.

It’s an incredible sport for teaching discipline, resilience and confidence. All of which are really important lessons that help young people to succeed in life.” he says.

“Throughout the past year, the team has been raising money for the club for new renovations through community fundraising and grants. A few months ago, Cindy Mosey, one of the coaches, approached Hayley and I with a request for a grant towards a new springboard, as the gym didn’t quite have enough funds to replace such an essential piece of equipment every well-run gymnastics gym requires.”

“To perform a proper routine on vault, you need a good springboard. It helps you generate the momentum you need to launch yourself over the vaulting table to perform the flips and twists. 

“When you’re flipping around, 2-3 metres in the air, it’s important to have complete trust in your equipment to land yourself back on the ground safely.” 

Originally from Sri Lanka, Damian is no stranger to the world of gymnastics. Signed up at age seven by his parents, within 6 years he was competing at a national level.  

“20 years later and I’m still pretty flexible! I can even do most of the things I used to do like a handstand and flips!” he laughs.

“You don’t see those kinds of long-lasting results in other sports. It's been so fun picking up where I left off, now as a mentor and coach.”

Damian has been with Foodstuffs South Island since 2007, starting out as a retail assistant before working his way up to owner of his first store in Te Anau, before moving on to Four Square Atawhai in September last year. 

“Every Four Square is uniquely suited to the community it serves, and what excites Hayley and I the most about our role is the chance to be a part of, and make a positive impact, on the people of our community in our own distinct way.”

“Helping to restore Gymnastics Nelson seemed like another ideal way we could help give back to the wonderful place we now call home.”

Damian submitted a grant request to the Foodstuffs South Island Community Trust, which is funded by the co-operative's members like Damian & Hayley. The Trust focuses on funding projects that have a meaningful community benefit. 

Damian’s application is aligned with co-operative's commitment to be Here for NZ and help support South Island communities to thrive.

The springboard was installed on 20th of October 2023, and already, the gym has seen a surge of newcomers eager to try it out. 

Those visitors include Damian’s two sons, whom he has encouraged to take up the sport. 

"It's awesome to see my youngest just starting out with his first classes, and my ten-year-old son has already begun competing – he’s even outperforming my achievements at his age!" Damian laughs. 

"I'm delighted to see a love for gymnastics growing within the Atawhai community, and I can’t thank the Foodstuffs South Island Community Trust enough for supporting the grant application.”