A young acrobatic gymnast has set his sights on becoming a European and World champion after he and his partner won the National Gymnastics pairs finals in Stoke.

Sam Santhouse, 13, along with nine-year-old partner Romilly Griffiths, qualified to represent the London region at the weekend, where competing against the other regions in the UK – came out on top against 110 other finalists to secure gold, meaning Sam is now the 2017 British Gymnastics Champion, in the grade 3 mixed pair event. So impressive was his performance, he was then invited to skip a grade and go straight to competing at Level 5 (the final development level).

First taking up recreational general gymnastics when he was eight, the Year 8 Haberdashers pupil explains: “By the time I was nine, I trialled for the acrobatic squad at Hendon. At first I didn’t make the cut but several months later, I got in and have now been competing competitively for around four years. I like acrobatic gymnastics, not only because it’s a pair performance, but because there is creative dance and choreography that we learn too.”

Describing his latest win as “his most important to date”, he says: “Although it wasn’t international, it was extremely difficult to qualify and it gave me the title of National Champion.

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“My first reaction was surprise, because it was the highest score that we’d ever been given, and then I felt overwhelming relief, because I knew that Romilly and I had come first. The rest of the competition I was overwhelmed with happiness and I refused to take my gold medal off for two days.”

Just as delighted with the win were Sam’s parents, Sara and Alistair. His mum said: “They worked really hard for this and their other achievements. What really drives them is not only their passion and commitment, but also the immense support they get from their other team members and their families.

“Sam takes a lot of inspiration from older more accomplished gymnasts such as his good friend Leyla Sklar who goes to JFS and won gold in her category, as well as the other gymnasts from Hendon – Mattie and Nathan and Rex and Darya who also received medals in the competition.

“He’s also hugely grateful to his previous coach Peter and current coach Perdie for all their guidance. Lastly without the lifts from the other parents in the squad as well as his grandparents, neither him nor his brother Jacob would be able to participate in this sport that gives them so much.”

Looking ahead to what he hopes to achieve in the future, Sam adds: “We’re moving up two levels for the competitions next season. We’re training with a club in Israel this summer, then plan to compete at the Maia International Acro Cup in Portugal in March and aspire to eventually become European and World champions!”