SHE learnt the ropes backstage at Clacton’s West Cliff Theatre – now Gemma Friel is to take centre stage at the Winter Olympics.

Gemma, 21, was headhunted by organisers in Russia after taking part in London 2012.

Her experience at the Games has landed her a role as stage manager during the opening and closing ceremonies of the Winter Paralympics in Sochi.

Gemma said: “I can’t say anything about the performance, but it’s going to be amazing! I was surprised when I received a call from the head of stage management asking if I would like to be part of the team again. I am incredibly lucky to be part of such an amazing experience – twice!

“It is exciting to be working with my colleagues from London again.

It has also been fun getting to know fresh faces.’’ Gemma, who still has family in Clacton and Walton, headed to Russia last week.

She said: “Although I am in a different country, the sense of community and excitement is very much the same as it was in London.’’ As a teenager, Gemma was stage manager for the West Cliff's professional summer shows and touring pantos.

She was recently awarded a degree in stage management from Kent’s Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance.

The Paralympic Winter Games start on March 7 and she will be there until after the closing ceremony on March 16.

She added: “I can’t say how much I appreciate the opportunity. I can’t wait for my friends and family back home to see the ceremonies.’’