SWINDON School of Gymnastics volunteer Wendy Payne made the exceptionally difficult decision to retire from coaching last month after 45 years.

Wendy is said to have trained thousands of children throughout her time with SSG, helping young boys and girls learn the four pieces of artistic gymnastic apparatus.

A part of the club as it moved around multiple leisure centres across Swindon, Wendy was able to coach all the way through to SSG's current premises on the Isis Trading Estate in Stratton.

Such was the affection for her, a large crowd gathered at a surprise party last weekend which was organised by Wendy's two daughters.

Wendy received a vast number of personal thank you messages and memories from past and present members as well as people from other gym clubs around the south west.

The long-serving coach, who will continue to be one of two directors at the club, will also carry on in her role as treasurer and secretary to ensure that the club continues to be successful and run smoothly.

In time, she will be looking to pass those jobs onto someone else. The club say no one volunteered to take over at the last AGM, so if there is anyone who may be interested in helping and can spare a few hours a month, please email the club at swindonschoolofgymnastics@hotmail.com.

In her youth, Wendy was a talented netball player and her interest for gymnastics only started back in the 1970’s when her own daughters took up the sport.

They both become county and regional champions before competing at national level for their age groups during the 1980/90’s.

Wendy was always a spectator during their lessons, and in time she went on training courses and obtained all of the relevant qualifications to help her gain greater knowledge within the complex sport.

SSG said: "Wendy always put others first and gave up her time to attend multiple weekly lessons, competitions, organise competitions and fund-raising events.

"She ran workshops, training camps, open days and judged events, as well as preparing programmes, personal plans, and targets for her gymnasts.

"Miraculously, Wendy also found time to help run birthday parties and help with the pre-school classes, and for 35 years this was along side having a full time job!

"For 10 years, she also ran the adult gymnastics squad who always returned from the British Veteran Championships with numerous medals and titles."