With chalky hands and sun-screened faces, nine girls from Terrace cartwheeled on a Pacific island as part of their first international competition.
The Terrace Peaks Gymnastics represented Canada in the 43rd annual Aloha Gymfest competition in Oahu, Hawaii from January 18-21.
“The goal was to be in the top half and they exceeded that,” says coach Karl McPherson. “The team did amazing, they were shocked when they all got called up for awards.”
The gymnasts competed in the Junior Olympic levels and were evaluated on four skillsets — vault, bars, beam and floor. Scores are tallied based on the difficulty of their routine, with points deducted off that total for each mistake. The perfect score is 10.0 in each category, resulting in an overall score out of 40.
In the level three category, Myka Nikitiuk came in sixth against other competitors but scored the highest in the team with a score of 35.350. In the same category, but different division, Emma Angus came in third on floor and fourth all-around, following Myka closely with a total score of 35.000.
This event was the club’s first ever international competition, which included over 450 young gymnasts from the UK, Australia, Japan, Guam and the US.
Although the hot weather was too much for some, McPherson says that they all came back with a more global perspective — which is what he was hoping they would gain.
“I think overall it was not just a sports trip but a very educational and social trip for the kids… I think it’s changed them because now they believe in their process, that being part of a national team or going to more international events is a possibility.”
He adds that alongside having the chance to enjoy the beaches and even do some snorkeling, meeting other young gymnasts with the same interests was the biggest takeaway.
“The best part is that they met other kids from different parts of the world that love to do what they do,” says McPherson. “For example, it was kind of cute to see the little ones play with the kids from Japan. They don’t speak the same language but somehow they figured out how to communicate with each other.”
Having worked towards the competition for three years, McPherson says that there definitely were some nerves for their team, especially during warm-ups, but the Terrace gymnasts just had to reframe their mindset to approach it as “just another competition” in the Northwest.
As part of their gymnastics training, he says that whenever they receive feedback on their technical issues on their competition floor, they then focus on their mental visualization to help them better perform.
“You can train it as much as you want physically, but it’s more of that mind-body connection that helps you become more aware and that’s the only way that you’re going to improve on your score.”
And for the team, that mental stamina is important, especially as their return from Hawaii is a transition into the busiest time of the season for the club as they prepare for their next event.
The Terrace Peaks Gymnastics will be hosting the Annual Invitational from Mar. 1-3, which will be a qualifier event for the BC Championships this year.
“They’re kind of tired so we’re taking it easy and going through a bit more foundation right now and try to figure out the issues we’ve had in Hawai and how we can control that.”
For some of the younger gymnasts that stayed behind, this will be their first time competing.
“The anxiety of going to championships is there sometimes for these kids, but it’s all part of becoming a better gymnast.”