Leeds gym coach gets ready to Tumble...

"Tumble" partners John Partridge and Kat Would and fellow competitors Alex Uttley and Andrea Mclean. Photographer: Colin Bell
"Tumble" partners John Partridge and Kat Would and fellow competitors Alex Uttley and Andrea Mclean. Photographer: Colin Bell

IT’s not easy to teach a grown man gymnastics from scratch, let alone cram eight years’ training into eight weeks.

But that’s the challenge facing Leeds Gymnastics Club coach Warren Slingsby in his exciting new role on primetime BBC show Tumble, which starts next week.

Former GB junior squad coach Warren is tasked with transforming EastEnders actor John Partridge into a Cirque du Soleil style acrobat on the programme, which comes from the same stable as Strictly Come Dancing.

The 45-year-old said: “He’s never done any gymnastics, so day one was literally teaching him how to do a forward roll down a springboard as you would teach a five-year-old.

“That’s how basic it was – which was pretty scary to be honest.”

Despite John’s lack of experience, Warren is confident he has what it takes to make it to the final, saying: “I totally believe it. That was the first thing I said to him.”

The soap hunk is one of 10 stars competing in Tumble, including Girls Aloud singer Sarah Harding and Sugababe Amelle Berrabah.

And former Loose Women presenter Andrea Mclean is partnered with former Leeds Gymnastics Club member Alex Uttley – who is a former world and European acrobatic gymnast as well as leader of Britain’s Got Talent winners, acrobatic troupe Spellbound.

The celebrities have spent the past few weeks training alongside professional gymnasts, acrobats and circus performers, learning how to vault, flip and tumble ahead of six “daunting” live shows.

Warren has been coaching youngsters at Leeds Gymnastics Club since 1989 and has been involved with the progress of 18-year-old Pudsey gymnast Nile Wilson, who earlier this week helped England to a Commonwealth Games gold medal.

But he said preparing a celebrity to compete was proving “more nerve-racking and more challenging” than tutoring future world champions.

“Everything is so rushed here. We are doing in eight weeks what we’d usually do over eight years.”

As well as coping with the pressure of a film crew following every training session, Warren admitted he felt a little star-struck on meeting some of the stars, particularly world boxing champion Carl Froch and Dynasty star Emma Samms, not to mention his “hugely charismatic” student John.

The show certainly has a sprinkling of stardust, boasting Olympic champion Beth Tweddle as a mentor and fellow London 2012 medallist and Strictly winner Louis Smith as a judge.

And the BBC has said it would use its skills to provide “breath-taking performances that you’d expect from the department that also produces Strictly”.

Tumble, hosted by One Show presenter Alex Jones, starts on BBC One on August 9.