A Chester toddler with special needs is set to be the youngest ever performer to represent Great Britain in an international gymnastics event.
Three-year-old Sam Rozzell-Howens from Newton, who has Down’s Syndrome, has been a keen gymnast since he was just a few months old, having followed in the footsteps of his mum Dawn, a former elite gymnast, and his grandfather Dave Rozzell, a coach at Ormskirk-based Spartac Gymnastics Club where Sam trains.
There aren’t many gymnasts of Sam’s tender age, who get to represent their country in a sport, but next summer he’ll be doing just that when he travels to Finland to perform in the World Gymnaestrada in Helsinki.
The showcase event, held every four years, is open to gymnasts of all gender, age, race, religion, culture or ability, and will welcome 25,000 gymnasts from more than 50 countries in July next year.
“For anybody this would be an impressive feat but for a three year old like Sam it’s especially great,” Dawn, 42, told The Chronicle. “I have involved Sam in gymnastics since he was just a few months old and the sport has been vital for his development.
“It’s helped immensely with his motor skills - Sam was able to walk before he was two, but activities like being on the beam, climbing and general jumping skills have also helped his development massively.
“And it’s also been great for his behaviour – gymnastics teaches you to sit and wait your turn. All gymnasts have the same ethos – you’re a gymnast and that’s that. I really believe Sam wouldn’t be the person he is today without gymnastics.”
But taking into account travel costs and uniform, the trip is costing £2,000, and Dawn, who works specifically with youngsters with a range of physical and learning difficulties, is keen to raise as much of the funds as she can.
“It is quite expensive, all things considered,” she said. I’d started thinking about doing some fundraising for some of the trip, but then Sam’s childminder Anna Marie-Owen, who has been with him since he was just a few months old, decided to organise a jumble sale in Sam’s name and has amazingly raised £536.
“I can’t stress enough how much we appreciate what Anna’s done. Now I plan to run cake decorating classes and if I make any money from the cakes, it will go towards this trip.”
To donate towards Sam’s trip to Helsinki, email Dawn at dawnrozzell@firstname.lastname@example.org or Anna at anna@email@example.com.