After more than 40 years of providing gymnastics opportunities for young people in Swansea, Dorothy Neyland MBE has been honoured with a commmuity lifetime achievement award at the Wales Sport Awards this evening (Monday, December 7).
Having seen Olga Korbut’s Olympic triumphs in 1972, Dorothy’s children wanted to take up gymnastics, so she started a small after school group called Gowerton Gymnastics Club all the time juggling this with looking after her six children and the running of a playgroup from her home.
Little did she know back then that her services to gymnastics and the community of Swansea would be so great that she would be awarded an MBE and a diploma from the International Olympic Committee.
The club, now called West Street Gymnastics – is still flourishing and due to celebrate its 40th anniversary in January. It soon outgrew Gowerton School in the mid-1980s and set up shop in a former bus garage. It boasts a large catchment area and its members compete at international level.
“I haven’t got a gymnastics background,” explains Dorothy, who lives in Gowerton. “But I’ve always been a sports fanatic. I was never interested in coaching or judging but I have always loved the administration and the running of a club. I do a bit of scoring too, mind you, it used to be different then. It was always with pen and paper and now it’s all on computers.”
At 81 years of age, Dorothy’s commitment to the club remains as unwavering as ever as she devotes 10 to 12 hours a week to the organisation of classes and competitions. She is also Secretary of the West area and organises national and regional competitions. She has only very recently stepped down as Membership Director of Welsh Gymnastics.
“I’m retired but volunteering really keeps me going. It keeps my mind active. I love the camaraderie and I’ve even been to America with the West Wales Academy. I love everything about it. If gymnastics disappeared from my life, it would leave such a massive hole.”
“It’s so rewarding to see the children rushing in and enjoying the sport. They won’t all become a high level gymnast, and we’ve had quite a few, but what matters is that they come in happy and they go home happy.”
Dorothy’s countless hours of volunteering, commitment and passion has provided thousands of children across Wales with the opportunity to participate in gymnastics.
She credits the support of her wonderful husband, Terry who passed away seven years ago:
“He let me do what I wanted. Plus I can’t stand housework! That’s got a lot to do with it! I decided very quickly that if I could get someone in to clean, I could run the playgroup and the gymnastics club so I was happy!”