Former Team Great Britain Disability Gymnast & British Champion, Holly Banks, joins the BRIT family
We are delighted that Holly has joined our BRIT Ambassador family and is championing the BRIT Challenge to support and improve young adult and student mental health and fitness throughout the UK.
Holly represented Great Britain in the British Disabilities Women’s Artistic Gymnastics Performance Squad between 2013 and 2015. She was a British Senior Champion in Competition A and won twelve British Titles during the course of her elite athlete career. Since retirement, Holly qualified as a Primary Education and Schools Sport teacher and is a Head of Physical Education Department in Southampton Schools as well as Gymnastics Academy Manager for Superstar Sports.
"Being born with learning difficulties and Health Complications, having lived with a life changing disability since I was thirteen, as a former student and through my experience as a teacher, I know that many young adults and children suffer with mental health challenges. Through my own lived experience, and as a former Great Britain gymnast, I am passionate about supporting and improving young adult mental health and fitness; we must do more now to proactively support students in order to avoid them facing long-term mental health difficulties. This is why the British Inspiration Trust (BRIT) Vision resonates with me both personally and professionally.
I am delighted that BRIT are delivering the annual BRIT Challenge as a feelgood February fundraiser for every university, college, specialist college and Students’ Union to enter teams and encourage student and staff participation. It’s great that the BRIT Challenge has been designed to be an inclusive event and enables students and staff of all abilities to participate and add their miles to their team’s 2,022 mile target by hand-cycling, cycling, wheelchair pushing, swimming, walking, jogging, running, rowing or paddling (canoeing, kayaking or paddle-boarding).
It is great to see that BRIT have forged a special relationship with NatSpec – the voice of specialist education and the membership association for organisations which offer specialist further education and training for students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities. I hope the 108 specialist colleges enter teams in the BRIT Challenge and wish all their students and staff taking part good luck!
I am thrilled to be part of the BRIT Ambassador family to promote the BRIT Challenge, destigmatise mental health and champion equality, diversity and inclusion. I would be thrilled to support and encourage students and staff at the University of Southampton and Solent University as they take on their BRIT Challenge and will gladly add miles to Glasgow Clyde College’s distance target in the hope of encouraging students and staff to take part”.
Team Great Britain Disability Gymnast and British Champion
In 2009, at the age of 13, Holly suffered a severe anaphylactic shock and a rare reaction called transverse myelitis that left her hospitalised. This caused a swelling on Holly’s spine that left her unable to walk and she was unable to put weight on her legs without them spasming for five and a half months. Holly was a wheelchair user for six months, after which time the swelling went. She was left with permanent damage, mainly on her left side, including the left side of her body having a delay, being colder in temperature than the right side and a much higher pain threshold.
Holly was determined to walk again and also made a pledge to pursue gymnastics again if her mobility improved; a sport she loved before her anaphylactic shock and hospitalisation. With her learning difficulties, delay on the left side of her body and nerve damage, Holly qualified for Disability Gymnastics.
In 2012, Holly started to train at Southampton Gymnastics. Initially very shy and lacking in confidence, Holly settled into regular training, her confidence grew and she felt comfortable in the gymnastic environment again. With a strong training ethic, and through her commitment and hard work, Holly entered her first competition at the Poole Open Disabilities Competition where she won several medals. Then at the British Open Disabilities Competition, she won gold on floor and vault and silver on beam.
Holly went to the British Squad Trials at Lilleshall and then competed at the British Open Competition A where she won gold on floor, beam, and vault and overall. Holly became British Senior Champion for Competition A and was selected for the British Disabilities Women’s Artistic Gymnastics Performance Squad.
Holly represented Great Britain and the Great Britain Performance Squad between 2013 and 2015.
Between 2012 and 2015, Holly was British Champion in the Floor, Vault and All Around.
Holly represented British Gymnastics as the Beam Representative when the Federation of International Gymnastics were hosted in Lilleshall and European Countries were briefed on inclusion and Disability Gymnastics.
Between 2015 and 2017, Holly studied Biology, Chemistry at Glasgow Clyde College. Holly later graduated with Primary Education School Sport Level 5 Qualification, UKCC WAG L2 Gymnastics Coaching Qualification.
Since 2019, Holly has been a Physical Education Teacher with Superstars Sport and Head of Department at Sinclair Primary School in Southampton. She has a passion for helping children and young adults to learn, develop and achieve the best possible versions of themselves. In 2022, Holly will become Senior lead at Mount Pleasant Junior School.
You can follow Holly on Instagram.