A GYMNASTICS coach who transformed the lives of hundreds of young sports enthusiasts has been honoured by the Prince of Wales.
Karl Wharton, volunteer director of Deerness Gymnastics Academy, was presented with his MBE at Buckingham Palace on Friday.
He was honoured in The Queen’s Birthday Honours List last year for services to gymnastics.
Mr Wharton said: “The whole occasion was something I will never forget.
"From arriving at Buckingham Palace and seeing the crowds of tourists outside to waiting in the ceremony and then receiving the honour from Prince Charles.
"It is a memory I will always treasure and it was great to be able to share the moment with those closest to me".
He added: “I have a great passion and love for the sport and this is a very great honour and one I have never dreamed of receiving.
"The sport of acrobatic gymnastics has developed greatly over the past few years and it has been a privilege to have been part of this development and success at a local, national and international level.
“This honour is not only for me but more so for the hundreds of volunteers, gymnasts, coaches, parents and supporters of Deerness Gymnastics Academy who have worked so hard at keeping the club open and also helping develop happy, healthy and confident children whose life opportunities and choices have been expanded because of their involvement in gymnastics.”
Every week, 800 people visit Deerness Gymnastics Academy at Ushaw Moor, near Durham, which specialises in acrobatic and tumbling disciplines of gymnastics.
Five years ago the club faced uncertainty due to the closure of its training base in a council-run leisure centre, where the club had been based since 2002.
Rather than let the club close, Mr Wharton galvanised support to take over the building and create Deerness Gymnastics Academy.
For his efforts he was named overall winner of The Northern Echo's Local Heroes Awards in 2014.
Now a full-time senior lecturer and programme leader at Northumbria University as well as a volunteer at the academy, Mr Wharton has inspired a generation of gymnasts, including more than 100 who went on to represent Great Britain and 15 World and European champions.