IT is a small ambition but an ambition nonetheless.

I have always wanted to be able to perform a cartwheel. Why? Well, don't you always want to do the thing you can't?

Like the rest of the world, I watched the American gymnast Simone Biles with jaw-dropped awe as she swept up the medals at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

The Olympic individual all-around, vault and floor gold medalist, and balance-beam bronze medalist surely was the catalyst for hundreds of new young gymnasts beginning their relationship with the sport.

I watched Simone and the rest of the incredible Final Five and my only thought was how I'd never managed a cartwheel.

It's something young children have no qualms about but I've always felt a bit afraid of throwing myself upside down with no guarantee of not landing on my head.

So when Glasgow Sport gets in touch to ask if I want to try out gymnastics at the new Palace of Art Gymnastics Academy, I'm keen.

Not to try the asymmetric bars or the vaulting table, not the high bar or the beam. Definitely not the rings.

I just want to be able to do a cartwheel.


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There has been a £475,000 investment at Palace of Art, including £114,000 of that on new state-of-the-art Gymnova gymnastics equipment.

The Bellahouston building has seen two new gymnastics areas specially fitted out to accommodate different levels of gymnastics abilities: one area for pre-school, and the other for recreational gymnastics.

Classes are available for tinies aged six months, up to 16 year olds while adult classes are available at the Kelvin Hall.

Adult and child sessions cater for those aged six months to three years; Pre-Gym is for those aged three to five years; and five Gym Skills levels take pupils up to 16.

Gymnastics coach Cara Jamieson and lead gymnastics coach Tracy Bannatyne have volunteered to help me learn some gymnastics skills.

Cara has been with Glasgow Life for six years.

She started with gymnastic young after an instructor spotted her talent at a fifth birthday party where she was bouncing on a trampoline.

Cara worked her way up to the Scottish gymnastics team for trampolining and then made the 2012 Olympics team - but an injury kept her from competing.

She said: "The people we coach are very varied. You have people who have barely heard of gymnastics to people who were gymnasts wanting to get involved.

"Some people come once a week every week, others come twice a week, but it is really satisfying to see people progress and develop their skills - that's exactly what you want as a coach.

"We had one man at the age of 62 come along to classes and he ended up learning somersaults and that was dead rewarding for us, someone a bit older giving it a go and ending up with a great skill."

Despite the expertise of Cara and Tracy - and their very generous patience - I'm sure I'm not going to be impressing anyone with my gymnastics skills any time soon.

The warm up is barely over before I'm feeling the strain. After a thorough stretch, it's time to start with the very basics.

We try a handstand, made easier thanks to balancing on a mat, before moving on to the dreaded cartwheel.

Not only am I bizarrely scared of trying it out, I also have my colleague filming my indignity.

Tracy talks me through the move, step by step. We do it on a block, which Tracy assures me will be easier than on the floor, and I'm ready.

Left foot forward, balanced, arms in the air - I can do this, I can. I can't. I manage to put my hands on either side of the block and then... sit down.

The photographer is in stitches while Tracy and Cara keep very polite straight faces.

I try again. I try again after that. Eventually, I manage a close approximation to a cartwheel. I am delighted.

After this success, I feel there's nothing left in life to achieve but Tracy and Cara have other ideas. I mount and then walk along a balance beam without falling off.


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I spin round the asymmetrical bars and don't look too stupid doing it. And I do a handstand.

By the end of the hour, every muscle hurts but I feel buoyant from having been able to learn new things.

And Tracy says that's one of the reasons adults take up the sport, as well as for fitness or to fulfill a childhood ambition.

Tracy has worked in various different sports over the years - from football to basketball - after getting hooked on fitness during her degree in sports development.

She enjoys working with the wide range of people who take part in gymnastics, including tiny tots all the way to Parkour practitioners who want to learn new skills.

Tracy said: "When you see people practice and practice a skill until they can perform it to the best of their ability, it's great.

"You know you taught them that and you feel chuffed to bits.


"It's great that we work with really young children because those who keep coming, they grow up with you and grow into the sport.

"Some go on to take on the sport professionally or move into coaching themselves or go on to study sport at university and you know that you have had a positive influence on their lives."

*Registering and booking classes has been made easier with opportunities to sign up at any gymnastics venue in the city.

Those paying by Direct Debit can also take advantage of free swimming access to pools across Glasgow and an online portal allows guardians easy access to view child’s progress and performance.