Michael Talbot

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MICHAEL Talbot’s career in gymnastics left an indelible mark on the sport, both regionally and nationally.

Mr Talbot, who has died aged 74, was an inspirational guide and coach, his influence bringing into British Gymnastics (formerly the British Gymnastics Association) about half of its present staff.

He was the twin son, with his brother Peter, of the Rev Richard Talbot, vicar of St Nicholas, Sunderland.

Their father served as a chaplain during the war, and the twins and their mother Mabel, were evacuated to Kirklington, near Bedale, the boys attending near-by Greenwell Prep School.

In 1949 their father, who had ended the war as assistant chaplain general to South East Asia, became vicar of St Edmund’s, Roundhay, Leeds, and the boys went to what was then Roundhay Boys’ Grammar School.

It was there that Mr Talbot, following a family tradition – his grandfather had been a headmaster and his mother a headmistress – decided to make his career in teaching.

Sturdily built at 5ft 6in, Mr Talbot excelled on the sports field and in the gym.

He attended one of the early Outward Bound courses in the Lake District, and was one of the three participants to gain honours.

At Chester Training College, he majored in gymnastics, and after qualifying, he joined the staff of Foxwood School in Leeds.

From there, he went to Crossgates Middle School, becoming Head of Year.

His enthusiasm for gymnastics led him into setting up an out-of-school gym club, and in its first year he entered it in the Great Britain and Northern Ireland Junior Schools Gymnastics Championship.

It came nowhere – a failure that inspired rather that discouraged him. He now knew the standard to aim for, and the next year, his team won the championship, as it did the following year and the year after that.

This extraordinary success brought Mr Talbot deserved recognition when Leeds City Council appointed him development officer for gymnastics, the first in the country.

He ran the Leeds Athletic Institute based at Jack Lane, Hunslet, and after the out-of-date centre there was closed, he set up the Centre of Excellence at Carnegie College, Headingley.

His own strength and physical fitness remained a bench mark, and at 48 he climbed the Matterhorn.

He took early retirement when he was 50, and was taken on by the college as lecturer in gymnastics and bio-mechanics, which he remained into his mid 60s.

Mr Talbot was kept on by Leeds City Council to train gymnastics coaches, became an examiner, and the British Gymnastics Association appointed him master coach, named him coach of the year and made him an honorary member. He also served on the on the British Gymnastics Council.

Mr Talbot had an ability to get the best from people through encouragement and personal example.

He remained unmarried and is survived by his brother Peter and a nephew and three nieces.

His funeral will be held at St Ricarius Church, Aberford, near Leeds, on Tuesday, January 17, at 1.30pm.