Gymnastics commentator Mitch Fenner dies aged 70

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The BBC’s veteran gymnastics commentator Mitch Fenner has died at the age of 70 after a two-year battle with cancer.

Fenner, who joined the BBC in 1979, had worked on every Olympics for the corporation since the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, working alongside Matt Baker and Christine Still in the commentary box in recent years.

Away from the microphone, he was a highly respected and renowned gymnastics coach and adviser for well over 40 years. He was considered one of the best coaches in Great Britain in the late 70s and early 80s.

He acted as a consultant to the Dutch gymnastics squad from 2010 and took over as head coach two years later.

Under the guidance of Fenner, Epke Zonderland won the Olympic gold medal on the horizontal bar at London 2012, while the Dutch men had also risen from 17th at the 2010 World Championships to 11th in Glasgow last year. 

He recently helped the Dutch team qualify for Rio 2016, the first time the full men’s team had qualified for the Olympics, but was unable to travel to the qualifying competition as he was too ill.

Tributes have been paid to Fenner from across the world of gymnastics and sports broadcasting.

Barbara Slater, director of BBC Sport and former Olympic gymnast, said: “He will be missed by all of us at BBC Sport and our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.

“For many years Mitch has used his first-hand experience of working within the sport to provide our viewers with an expertise and detailed insight that was second to none.”

In a statement, British Gymnastics said: “Mitch was a renaissance figure in the world of gymnastics known for his outstanding technical knowledge of the sport and his ability to communicate it to mass audiences.

“Mitch was a senior lecturer at the Cardiff Metropolitan University for many years and was well-known as the ‘voice of gymnastics’ as a fabulous television commentator for the BBC and FIG.

“We wish to recognise the incredible effort Mitch put into our sport over the years, he will certainly be missed but remembered with great fondness and admiration.

“On behalf of the gymnastics community we extend our sincere condolences to his family and friends.

BBC gymnastics presenter and commentator Matt Baker paid a short tribute to Fenner on The One Show (see video below).

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