“She’s the most determined kid in the gym,” said Terrace Peaks Gymnastics Club coach Karl McPherson about the budding young gymnast Carissa Nenninger.
Nenninger is heading to the gymnastics provincial championships this weekend, April 6-9, along with two other Terrace athletes Savannah Medeiros and Haayden Doyle.
It’ll be a first for all three athletes, who finished in the top two in the zone to earn their spots.
Caption: Carissa Nenninger runs in for an impressive roundoff back handspring back tuck move in a recent Terrace practice.
Competing in level six juniors at age 10, Nenninger is the youngest at that level and advanced an impressive three levels this year.
“She’s jumped three competitive levels in one year — that’s huge… it’s unheard of,” said McPherson, adding that her rapid development boils down to her work ethic.
“She’s driven… she’s just one of those kids who buckles down to get the job done… She’s got a set plan of goals and she just works towards them non-stop.”
One of those goals is elite competition, and McPherson says he thinks she had a good shot. “If any kid in the gym is going to make it to elite gymnastics within the next three to four years, she’ll be the kid,” he said
Nenninger has been in the competitive gymnastics stream for three years, and can perform moves that no one else at her level can do, such as a back handspring on the beam. It’s achievements like that which are among her chief motivations in the sport.
“I like the thrill of getting to do things that other people would think are impossible,” she said.
Caption: Savannah Medeiros leaps across the gym in a practice of a her floor routine.
Savannah Medeiros, 13, competes in the same level six division, and says what she loves most is the tricks and dance elements in the floor category.
Medeiros joined gymnastics at age six after being intrigued by the jumps and spins of the gymnasts in a Riverboat Days parade.
“They were doing back handsprings and backflips on the ground, and I thought that was really cool,” she said. Now she’s been in the competitive stream for close to five years and coach McPherson says she has a natural poise in the dance elements of her routines.
“Her artistry is amazing,” said McPherson, adding that it’s definitely a natural ability. But Medeiros has also worked hard to develop her skills, and learned self discipline and time management as she juggles training and middle school.
“To train 16 hours a week plus go to school, it takes a lot at this age… She’s had a lot of personal growth this year, and the fact that she’s going to provincials is a huge accomplishment,” McPherson said.
Caption: Haayden Doyle prepares to swing into a spin on the rings at the Terrace Peaks Gymnastics Club.
Haayden Doyle is eight years old and also excels due to hard work. Coach Ethan Dhaliwal says Doyle is enthusiastic and a hard worker and has improved a lot this year.
“We’ve been working a lot on the conditioning to get stronger (and flexibility), and it’s really been showing in all his events,” said Dhaliwal. He added that Doyle has made key strides partly because he does the exercises and stretches at home.
“I can tell when he comes back the next week, he’s made improvements since the last week that he wouldn’t have made unless he was working hard at home,” Dhaliwal said.
Doyle says he likes the competition and his favourite part is the floor routines, doing cartwheels, drive rolls, and tumbling. His favourite move is known as the roundoff back handspring back tuck.
“It’s a cartwheel, but you land with your legs together, and then you jump backwards,” Doyle explained. “You land on your hands, (flip and) land on your feet and then do a backflip.”
Heading to provincials, Doyle seemed pretty at ease, and shared that his feelings were mixed.
“I like competing, so I’m excited about that, but I’m kind of nervous too, ‘cause it’s a really big city and there will be lots of good kids,” he said.
Those same feelings were reflected by Nenninger and Medeiros, who will together compete with an estimated 700 athletes in Port Coquitlam starting April 6.