South Essex stars Max Whitlock and Leah Hickton get engaged

Maxnset a remotely-controlled camera to capture the moment he proposed to Leah in the Lake District
Max set up a remote-controlled camera to capture the moment he proposed to Leah

SOUTH ESSEX GYMNASTICS CLUB will get the closest thing it is likely to have to a ‘royal wedding’ after its top gymnast Max Whitlock and women’s head coach Leah Hickton got engaged.

The couple met at the club 11 years ago when it was based off Cranes Farm Road, Basildon, and started dating in their early teens after getting to know each other on a summer camp for gymnasts.

And – after nine years together – Great Britain star Max, 23, got down on one knee and asked Leah, 24, to marry him on a romantic trip to the Lake District in Cumbria on Sunday (June 5).

The news has delighted everyone at the Basildon Sporting Village-based club – but perhaps not all of heartthrob Max’s growing army of adoring fans!

Leah said: “He planned a weekend away, which is not like him, and we got on the train and he would not tell me anything about it – so I did wonder what was going on!

“It was a beautiful place and we went for a walk around the grounds and he laid down a picnic blanket and asked me. It was very romantic and I cannot believe how well how he planned it.

“We had spoken about getting married before and I knew he wanted to, but I never had any idea when he might ask.

“He said after he was really nervous – the most nervous he had ever been speaking and even more than when he has had to speak on live television before.

“But it was all lovely and now I feel so lucky to be engaged  to the most perfect guy.”

The couple moved into their new home in Basildon last year and hope to have their wedding in the summer of 2017.

Max became a national star after winning two bronze medals at the London 2012 Olympics.

And this summer the world pommel champion  will hope to add to his incredible haul of international medals at the Rio 2016 Olympics.