LISBURN City Council was delighted to welcome China's top two gymnastics coaches, Jingbin Xiong and Weiguo Jin, to the city recently to view the state-of-the-art Salto City of Lisburn National Gymnastics Centre.
Mr Xiong and Mr Jin were met at Salto by Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin; the Mayor of Lisburn, Councillor Brian Heading; the Chairman of the Council's Leisure Services Committee, Councillor Thomas Beckett, and representatives of Sport NI.
Councillor Heading, speaking at the reception said: "On behalf of the Council I was delighted to welcome the Chinese coaches to Lisburn and I hope they were very impressed by Salto. The Gymnova equipment within Salto is of Olympic class and it is great that this facility is a contender for pre-games training by the male and female Chinese gymnastics squads.
"During my Mayoral Term I have been able to watch the gymnastic talent within Lisburn and in May we had Great Britain's 2012 Men's Gymnastics Squad training here in Lisburn. I am sure that the local talent has benefited from the coaching offered by these Chinese coaches.
"I would like to thank Jingbin Xiong and Weiguo Jin for coming over to Lisburn; and I hope they will return with their respective squads before the forthcoming London 2012 Olympics," he concluded.
Councillor Thomas Beckett, Chairman of the Council's Leisure Services Committee was at the training facility to meet the coaches. He said: "It was great to meet the two Chinese coaches and I am sure they were suitably impressed by the facilities offered at Salto. This national gymnastics centre is of strategic sporting importance to the City of Lisburn and it is regularly used by local gymnastics talent of all ages. The facility has a number of international coaches on hand including Chinese coach, Sun Jie.
"Lisburn has excellent facilities to offer athletes in a variety of disciplines and it is hoped that other teams will come to the city to train prior to the London 2012 Olympics."
Sports Minister, Caral NI Chuilín also welcomed the two former gold medallists at the Olympic Games to the Salto. She said: "This is a proud day for the Salto Club and it gives me great pleasure to welcome Xiong Jingbin and Jin Weiguo. The facilities here are world class and I'm sure Mr Jin and Mr Xiong will be impressed.
"China is renowned for excellence in gymnastics, topping the medals table in the sport with an amazing 18 medals at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
"It is wonderful to welcome two of their most successful coaches to the North and have them work with and inspire our young people which will contribute to our plans to deliver a local legacy from the London2012 Games.
"Mr Jin and Mr Xiong will also have the opportunity to experience a true taste of the North of Ireland and sample what is on offer; to understand our total passion for sport, and not least our warm and genuine welcome."
Eamonn McCartan, Chief Executive of Sport Northern Ireland added: "Sport Northern Ireland is delighted to welcome two of the most successful coaches of the Chinese team to these excellent facilities, and to sample the hospitality Northern Ireland has to offer. It is great to see representatives from a team of such high calibre considering Salto as their base for pre-games training. This will act as a great catalyst to encourage and inspire all of our young people to participate in sport, which will be an important legacy from the London Olympic and Paralympic Games."
Tony Byrne, Director of the Salto Gymnastics Centre commented: "Salto has an international reputation for fantastic facilities and for a professional approach to gymnastics. Salto has produced many championship winning athletes who have competed around the world including in China, and we are very fortunate to have equipment of the same high technical spec as that which will be' used in London 2012. I'm hopeful that this visit will convince the Chinese National Team that Northern Ireland is the best place to train and prepare in advance of their 2012 Olympic competition. Thanks to the great itinerary for the visit provided by Lisburn City Council, I'm sure our guests will find it to be a very fruitful weekend of engagements.
Welcoming China's top two gymnastics coaches, Jingbin Xiong and Weiguo Jin, to Salto City of Lisburn National Gymnastics Centre are: (l-r) Councillor Thomas Beckett, Chairman of the Council's Leisure Services Committee; the Mayor of Lisburn, Councillor Brian Heading; Dame Mary Peters DBE, President of Salto and Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin.