AN “INSPIRATIONAL” gymnast from Melksham has achieved her childhood dream of winning a gold medal at a national competition.

Hannah West, from Bowerhill, came first in the Adult Gymnastics British Championships at the Lilleshall National Sports Centre in Telford this month.

She took gold in the over-18s intermediate category after scoring the highest points across a challenging routine which included performances on the bars, beam, floor and vault.

Her achievement was all the more remarkable because she stopped competing almost a decade ago after suffering a complication with her knee. Now she hopes her own experience will encourage other people to achieve their personal goals.

Hannah, 22, said: “I started pre-school gymnastics when I was just two years old because I was always upside down, and originally it was just for fun. However, my coaches said that I had a talent for the sport so I started competitive gymnastics when I was five.

“I became a regional champion and a national finalist but I had to give it all up after a problem with my knee resulted in an operation at the age of 13, leaving me in regular pain. I was devastated at the time but I never gave up on my dream.”

Today, Hannah is a director and squad head coach at Chippenham Moonraker Gymnastics Club, which meets at The Olympiad Leisure Centre and has scores of young gymnasts in training.

Earlier this year she decided to start competing again and was supported by the club who helped with her training.

Hannah said: “The training was very tough on my body as I hadn’t performed at this level in a very long time, and I still suffer pain in my knee.

“It was a shock to the system and mentally challenging because I was performing moves that I wasn’t even capable of when I was at my peak before the operation.

“I was extremely nervous as the competition approached and didn’t sleep very well, but on the day itself I had so much support from family and friends, and the adrenaline helped to numb the pain.

“I didn’t want to know where I was placed throughout the whole day of the competition as I didn’t want to get my hopes up, so I was over the moon when my name was called as the national winner. It didn’t seem real.

“Every young gymnast dreams of being a national gold medallist. It didn’t happen when I was younger but I tried again and now I’ve fulfilled that dream.”

Proud father Steve, the owner and head coach of Chippenham Moonraker Gymnastics Club, said: “I was very nervous for Hannah when I saw her compete but delighted with what she’s accomplished.

“She wasn’t aware that she’d come first on every piece of equipment so it was a joy to see her face when her name was called for the gold medal.

“All of the younger gymnasts from the club are thrilled with her achievements. She’s an inspirational figure to them all.”