Tees

Olympic gymnast Amy Tinkler given hero's welcome

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Media captionBronze-winning gymnast Amy Tinkler receives a warm welcome home

She went to Rio a hopeful but came back an Olympic medal holder.

And Team GB's youngest star, bronze-winning gymnast Amy Tinkler, who last week was wowing global sports fans but tomorrow collects her GCSE results, was given the welcome home of a sporting hero.

There were several false starts as friends, coaches and fans waited at her gymnastics club to welcome her back after her Rio exploits.

Twice the motivational music was started on the loud speaker as twice someone who was not the 16-year-old came in the door.

But on the third go (you might say in the bronze medal place), the real deal arrived and the welcome was emotional to say the least.

She was quickly at the centre of a huddle of young girls for whom she represents the reality that dreams can come true.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Amy Tinkler started gymnastics when she was two years old

And then there were cuddles from her coaches, who have spent hours in the South Durham Gymnastics Club helping Amy hone her skills for the Olympic Games.

Finally there was the media scrum. Local newspapers who had reported on Amy's various championship successes for years, radio stations and TV journalists all waited for their chance to talk to County Durham's newest Olympian.

Amy said: "To see everyone back here is overwhelming.

"It's incredible, it's starting to sink in but it still seems crazy that it actually has happened.

"(The medal) has been very close to me all the time. I was sat on the plane and the whole way back I had it on, it's just so special to me."

Image caption Amy was also greeted by members of the media

For someone who the day before had flown the best part of 5,800 miles (9,300km), she looked remarkably refreshed.

"I didn't get much sleep on the plane to be honest," she said.

"I was sat near the hockey girls (the gold-winning women's hockey team were the ones filmed singing God Save the Queen), then we had like a six-hour drive to get home, but once I finally got home yesterday evening I slept really well.

"I've got a busy week with interviews and media, next week I'll have time chilling with family and friends, then the week after that I'll get back into training."

And on top of all that, tomorrow she gets her GCSE results, not that she's worried.

"It is what it is, I have to get them," she said.

Image caption Nicola Preston has coached Amy Tinkler for 14 years

The welcome-home party started as soon as she returned to her housing estate on the edge of Bishop Auckland, with neighbours ready to greet her.

Young fans got autographs, older ones told Amy how proud they were of her.

But it was at the gymnastics club, a large pink sports hall with a £30,000 floor and various beams, balance bars, trampolines and foam-filled pits, that she was really able to celebrate her success.

"She started here when she was two-years-old" said Nicola Preston, her coach for the past 14 years.

Image caption The gymnast was hugged by her friends upon her return

"She is one of the family, we are all just so proud of her, we are pleased to have her home, we've really missed."

Barely 20 minutes after Amy's arrival, the next generation of gymnasts were back to training on the various pieces of equipment.

One young girl said: "Amy is an inspiration, she's shown us what can be done. She worked really hard, she deserves what she's got."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Amy Tinkler finished third in the women's floor at the Rio 2016 games

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