A stream of gymnastics success thanks to succession planning
by Randy Pascal
When it comes to the world of competitive gymnastics, a program on the upswing is always a good thing.
After sending just three athletes to the provincial championships last April, the GymZone – Sudbury Laurels have quadrupled their total in the
women's artistic sector, following completion of the third and final qualifying meet last month in Mississauga.
With success also being enjoyed within the tumbling and trampoline grouping, the folks in charge at the New Sudbury facility are thankful to see their
collective efforts paying dividends. “There are many different factors, and it's been a few years in the making,” noted Competitive Program Director
and WAG head coach, Terra Davidson.
“We've gotten really good at succession planning. Having great mentors in our recreational programs to help develop our athletes at the grassroots level
is key. We've also been able to identify key strengths within all of our coaches and use those skills to help develop other coaches. We have a lot of great
coaches who are passionate and are all-about the long-term development of the athletes,” Davidson summarized.
At the competitive level, that has certainly helped everything come together this year. Every single qualifying meet would feature a healthy
cross-section of medals for the local contingent, highlighting the depth of talent in an array of young gymnasts ranging in age from ten to eighteen.
Perhaps even more important was the individual progress that was noted, with every passing competition.
Led in part by the veteran presence of the likes of Brooklyn Lavallee (gold on vault and floor), Brielle Charlebois (gold on bars, silver
on vault and floor) and Rachel Uguccioni (silver on vault, bronze on floor), the elder club statesmen also welcomed a breakthrough year from Renée
Blais (gold all-around, silver on floor, bars and beam).
A grade 11 student at Collège Notre-Dame, Charlebois is thankful for an aligning of the stars that has helped her to reach scores that were
previously unattainable throughout her lengthy career at the GymZone. “I actually run faster and have more power heading into my vaults now, and I've
learned to stick my landings a lot,” she said. “That makes a huge difference.”
“On floor, I've put in a new front tumbling pass. I'm sticking my landings, and my back tumbling is cleaner. I can run really fast and have a powerful
back tumbling line, so that I can see the floor and stick it.” And still the same motivating push that has allowed her to reach new heights continues,
constantly striving for improvement, in spite of the fact that this might well be her final year with the team, opting to focus on her studies.
“On high bar, I need a horizontal cast, and I always seem to go 45 (degrees) or lower,” said Charlebois. “On the odd days, it will be really good – it's
just not consistent.” That mindset is contagious, helping to set the standard for those in the group that have not yet reached high school. It's all part
and parcel of the succession planning that Davidson points to with pride.
“We've kind of groomed these kids from the Laurelettes program,” she stated. “We've been watching and following them, waiting for these talented
kids to come up.” The names are not new to those who follow competitive gymnastics closely.
Though a little younger in age, Marin O'Malley (bronze on vault), Brooklyn Basso (bronze on beam), Charlotte Eberlein (bronze on
vault and floor), Abigail Dumontelle (gold on floor, silver on vault) and Madysen Mulligan (gold on vault, silver on bars, gold all-around)
are not new to the spotlight.
Just twelve years old, Mulligan did not solely look to her older teammates for inspiration as she targeted a berth at provincials this winter. “I felt
good because my gramma, who always encourages me, well she's in the hospital right now,” noted the grade seven student at Félix Ricard earlier this
year. “My parents told me to do it for her. I think I did really good to make her happy.”
With nine years of gymnastics experience behind her, including six seasons in the competitive ranks, Mulligan displays that same tenacity that is shared
by the older Laurels, that drive that is evident right through the ranks, up to and including national level gymnast, Kayla Folz.
“We're just trying to keep the routines at least as good as they were, and improve them,” said Mulligan. “I might bring one new skill, on floor or bars –
maybe my giants on bars. I can do them, sometimes, but I haven't put them on a real bar.”
Chatting with the young ladies, one gets the sense that the internal competition can be both friendly and fierce. Proudly supportive of their teammates,
each of the girls helps to raise the standard, each in her own way. Squeezed right in the middle of the club vets and the up and comers, Abbygayle
Dupuis (gold and bronze on floor) and Chloe Pitura (silver on floor, bronze on vault, bronze all-around) round out the listing of local medal
winners at qualifiers.
This, however, is hardly the end of the list of GymZone athletes pushing their personal limits. Whether it be within the interclub segment that ramps up
their meet season in April and May, or those who still dream of the day when they put their skills to the test, the flow of talent shows no signs of drying
up any time soon.
And that, understandably, brings a smile to the face of Davidson and her colleagues. “Really, it's about everyone being a great team,” she stated.
“We've really worked for that, and it's paid off.”