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HomeSportGymnasticsBrooky gymnasts bounce back after blaze

Brooky gymnasts bounce back after blaze

A disastrous fire in July 2023 destroyed the specialised facility that housed the Academy of Acrobatics and Gymnastics International (AAGI) in Brookvale.

Having somersaulted that major hurdle, they’ve catapulted back to strength, and, to use a well-worn adage, risen from the ashes.

Almost a year on, they have finally returned to a permanent base in Brookvale.

Gymnasts from AAGI training at their new gym in Brookvale. Photo: Alec Smart

Fire horror

On the evening of 10 July 2023, a fire broke out in Harts Automotive, a vehicle mechanic occupying one of 11 industrial units at 106 Pittwater Rd Brookvale (as reported by Manly Observer here).

Police on the scene of a fire at Brookvale 10 July 2023. Photo: Kim Smee

The fire quickly spread from its source in unit 5B, ultimately consuming four units in two neighbouring buildings that between them housed three businesses.

At AAGI in unit 5A, there were 25 gymnasts and three coaches in the midst of floor exercises when the fire broke out. They had to hastily evacuate as the smoke crept through from next door and the flames consumed the roof of the two adjacent units.

The blaze then engulfed Smooth Moves removalists and storage facilities in units 4A and 4B. Big Air Bike Park in the next building along, unit 6, sustained smoke-damaged and were forced to close and relocate.

Fire at Brookvale 10 July 2023. Photo: Kim Smee

The conflagration soon became a ‘four alarm’ fire, which, in the 5-tier categories of fires and how they’re dealt with, is defined as “catastrophic if not handled correctly”.

Agi recalled no smoke alarms were ringing in the burning auto yard, which could have led to an unimaginably tragic outcome had they not vacated quickly after sensing the danger.

In the aftermath, Superintendent Adam Dewberry of Fire and Rescue NSW told Manly Observer, “FRNSW has remained on site with more than 300 firefighters and 90 trucks attending the site to extinguish the fire.

“It was a complex situation to resolve with parts of the building requiring demolition to enable firefighters to gain access to deep seated fires that were hidden under the collapsed areas.”

Rising from the ashes

Unfortunately, the Academy was completely destroyed by the inferno, including all the gym equipment inside, and the building was demolished.

Airborne gymnasts. Photo: Agi Sajgal

In an Instagram post, dated 15 July 2023, AAGI revealed, “Devastatingly, we lost everything in the fire that broke out in Brookvale on the 10th of July at 6:30pm. Our students were evacuated from an evening training session before the fire that started in a neighbouring building engulfed our beloved gym.

“Due to the fire, we’ve lost all our equipment, space to train and subsequently had to cancel all holiday training programs and term classes. The financial impact this fire will have on our small club is profound and we cannot adequately express our sincere appreciation for any donations and support our community could provide during this time.

“Any support will mean an incredible amount to all the team at AAGI as we rebuild our special club and gym community after this devastating ordeal.”

AAGI established a GoFundMe account and hosted charity events to help get back on their feet, and rented floor space in four separate gyms over the following six months to keep going.

Agi told Manly Observer, “We can’t thank those four gym organisations enough – if they hadn’t helped, we may never have reopened on the Northern Beaches or kept the classes going”.

“We can’t thank those four gym organisations enough – if they hadn’t helped, we may never have reopened on the Northern Beaches or kept the classes going”.

However, running classes over four different sites proved challenging, especially as there were few venues with high ceilings available – necessary with acrobatic gymnasts. But thankfully, in December 2023, they secured long-term facilities just 600 metres away from the fire-ruined gym in their new premises in 27-29 Cross Street Brookvale, which has proved beneficial.

On Sunday 2 June, AAGI officially launched their new venue, which featured demonstrations by the gymnasts competing in the National Championships on the Gold Coast later this week.

The Gold Coast Sports and Leisure Centre will host the event from June 27-30.

All six gym sports will be on show at the Australian Championships: Aerobic, Acrobatic, Artistic, Rhythmic, Trampolining, and Tumbling. And this year, the event serves as a launching pad for the Paris Olympics (26 July – 11 August 2024) where Australia’s finest gymnasts will compete.

What is the AAGI about?

The AAGI program in Brookvale is run by head coach Agnes ‘Agi’ Sajgal, a former multi-award winning gymnast with the Hungarian Acrobatics Elite Squad who established the Academy in 2010.

“I’m an acrobatics expert,” Agi told Manly Observer.

“I have been coaching Acro [Acrobatic Gymnastics] in Australia since 1996. I have a high performance squad in Gladesville Gymnastics and I have a national stream squad in AAGI, Brookvale. Some of the athletes train at both clubs.

“Training on a high level requires a lot of hours of training a week. I mainly coach the acrobatics component, and I have choreographers who help create the dance routine.”

Agi Sajgal and the Australian Bronze Winning trio at the 2022 FIG ACRO World Championships in Portugal. Photo: Gymnastics Australia

Acrobatic Gymnastics are a team-based sport, incorporating balancing, aerial and tumbling skills within a choreographed routine. Acrobats use their partner’s hands, feet, shoulders or head to perform balance skills, such as handstands, or dynamic skills such as somersaults. There are five different divisions: women’s pairs, men’s pairs, mixed pairs, women’s trios and men’s fours.

Is there a significant difference between Acrobatic Gymnastics and Artistic Gymnastics?

“Yes, there is a significant difference between the two gym sports,” Agi revealed.

“Acrobatic Gymnastics is a competitive discipline of gymnastics where partnerships of gymnasts work together and perform figures consisting of acrobatic moves, dance and tumbling, set to music.

“Acrobatic gymnasts perform in pairs or groups. In each partnership, the gymnasts’ different sizes and abilities will be balanced to complement each other in order to carry out the complex moves. There are tops and bases. They get judged for artistry, difficulty of the skills and execution.”

She continued, “Women’s Artistic Gymnastics [AAGI doesn’t host men’s teams] is a discipline of gymnastics in which athletes perform short routines on four different apparatuses: bars, beam, floor and vault. This is an individual sport.”

Gymnasts from AAGI training at their new gym in Brookvale. Photo: Alec Smart

How many classes does AAGI host on a weekly basis?

“We host acrobatics, women’s gymnastics, tumbling, kinder-gym and recreational classes,” Agi added.

“We host 11 kinder-gym classes a week, six junior recreational classes a week, four advanced recreational classes a week, 16 different artistic gymnastics classes a week, and 10 different levels and type of acrobatics classes a week.”

Milly Taylor performing ‘giants’ at the Academy of Acrobatics and Gymnastics International in Brookvale. Photo: Alec Smart

Academy of Acrobatics and Gymnastics International Phone: 02 8592 1664  Email: info@aagi.com.au

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/aagigym/

Website: https://aagi.com.au/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCh4JZHg7bbb9we4RzCge40A

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gymnastics.acrobatics.kindygym.aagi/