A young Derry man who recently won multiple medals at a prestigious international gymnastics meeting has told the Derry News of his plans of his ultimate aim to compete at the Olympic Games.

Such is the dedication of 18-year-old Fintan Kelly to his chosen sport that he managed to persuade his parents to let him move to County Antrim two years ago to train at a higher grade as well as continuing his studies.

The former Foyle College student is in the midst of completing A Levels in Maths, Chemistry and Physics at Friends’ School in Lisburn and has applied to take a degree in Electrical Engineering at a variety of universities including Queen’s, Ulster University, Trinity College and University College Dublin.

However, while the Derry born athlete, who hails from the Limavady Road, is working hard at his academic pursuits it is clear from even a quick conversation with him that gymnastics is his true passion.

Fintan told the Derry News: “I started gymnastics when I was 11 at Shooting Starz in Eglinton. It was for fun to begin with but when I was around 14 I began to take it more seriously.

“I was then asked to attend a trial session at Rathgael Gym in Bangor and I travelled there from Derry four days a week for around eight months.”

It was while studying for his GCSE’s that a conversation with his mother set in motion Fintan’s plans to move away from home aged just 16 to pursue a much more intense training regime with Team Salto in Lisburn.

Mum, Grainne Kelly is a well known businesswoman in Northern Ireland and the inventor of the innovative child car seat ‘Bubblebum’.

“Fintan basically asked that if he did well in his GCSE’s if he could move to Lisburn. He was only 16 and of course we were reluctant to agree. But, he is very academic and mature.

“When his GCSE results came in he achieved A stars, As and Bs across the board so his proposal had to be taken seriously then and we said yes he could go.

"We are incredibly proud not just of his talent but also of his dedication to everything he puts his mind to."

A normal day for Fintan consists of a 7am start, some studying before heading to college and four hours of training.

“There’s no specific diet. I just try and eat healthily,” said Fintan.

The athletic regime takes place six days a week. The fact that he travels home on a Saturday means six hours training on Sunday’s to make up for his day off.

Fintan fully admits that without the support of his mother and father that following his sporting ambitions would not be possible.

“Without them I definitely couldn’t have done it. They’ve always been supportive and still are,” he said.

Male gymnasts are required to train in the sports six different disciplines-the floor, pommel horse, rings, vault, the parallel bars and the high bars. It is not until their career advances that they tend to specialise in one particular aspect of the sport.

“Gymnasts keep their options open as long as possible. It’s not unusual for us not to specialise until our late 20s. Age then can become a factor for competing in the all round disciplines or injury,” Fintan said.

The pathway to international competition comes through attaining a level of scoring set by each country’s governing gymnastics bodies.

Fintan Kelly hopes to be competing at world championship level within the next three to four years.

"Hopefully I will have met the scores to be on the Irish National Team soon. They set the standard and then invite you to be part of the set-up. This will be achieved with the help of my coaches at Team Salto, Kirsty Mullan and Conor McGovern. They are dedicated, enthusiastic and they live for the sport," said Fintan.

A huge step towards the international gymnastics scene was taken by Fintan Kelly in recent weeks when Team Salto competed at the Reykjavik International Games.

As well as the team taking overall gold, Fintan himself captured silver medals in the floor exercise, the rings and the high bars as well as a bronze on the parallel bars.

The standard at the games in the Icelandic capital included world championship grade competitors from Russia and Norway. Undoubtedly, the feat will have not escaped the selection panel of the Irish National Team.

But, despite recent achievements Fintan Kelly is unlikely to rest on his laurels.

He told the Derry News: "The next goals are the Commonwealth Games in 2022 and then the Olympics in 2024.'

CAPTION: Fintan Kelly has set his sights on competing at the Olympic Games in 2024.

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