The busy part of the schedule lies ahead for local gymnasts
by Randy Pascal
With Tour Selection and the first Qualifier of the year now behind them, the Women's Artistic Gymnastics (WAG) crew at the GymZone
(Home of the Sudbury Laurels) is beginning to dig in for the ultra-demanding and super busy stretch leading up to Provincials in April.
The grouping, which now numbers roughly 15 athletes or so, has grown considerably in the past couple of years, with notable and encouraging progress
demonstrated right across the board. A 12 year-old grade 7 student at MacLeod Public School, Abby Managhan is aware of some encouraging
differences as she returns for her second year of competitive provincial-level gymnastics.
“This year, I felt a lot more confident going into the competitions,” she said, just weeks after earning a pair of silver medals in Orangeville. “I am
training a lot harder than last year. I just seemed to get better, over the summer, and it just made me more confident.”
Additionally, there was the small matter of the eye-opening difference in the quality of opponents when moving from the interclub ranks to the
provincial stage. “Last year, I didn't realize how good the other girls were, so that kind of shocked me a little bit,” said Managhan. “This year, I knew
how good I needed to be to beat them.”
Recording a personal best score of 9.425 on the beam, Managhan acknowledged that there can be some mixed emotions when dealing with that particular
event. “I was probably most confident on beam, because I normally am pretty good at it. I have good balance. But going backwards and flipping around on a
beam that is only four inches wide is a little scary at times.”
And when it comes to easing the fears, calming the nerves that are such a natural part of elite athletics, Managhan admitted that each young gymnast
must travel her own unique path. “Sometimes they (the coaches) will teach us to breathe, before competitions, but some things, you just have to figure out
what makes you feel better, because everyone is different,” she stated.
Now in year four of provincial competition, Chanelle Lazure had little trouble finding her own personal positive mindset as she attended her
first ever Tour Selection meet at the end of November. “I think I could have done better, but I was just happy to do it, because it was my first time going
to Tour Selection,” said the grade nine student at Collège Notre-Dame.
“It's a bit more scary (than most meets), because you're up against a lot of people that all want to go the California, or wherever the next competition
is, so it's a bit more stressful. But I just thought it was fun, just going for the experience.”
Showing improvement right across the board as she participated in the Orangeville qualifier a few weeks later, Lazure was extra pleased with one
apparatus in particular, one which traditionally causes female artistic gymnasts plenty of headaches.
“I feel that I got way more confident with my bars, and I've been getting better marks,” she said. “I think it just took me a while to get really
comfortable. I got a bit stronger, so it's easier for me now.”
Lazure seemed to ride that wave of positive momentum right through her four-event circuit, even if she started with somewhat modest expectations on her
most challenging event. “I was happy that I stood on the beam and didn't fall off this time,” noted the 14 year old, with a laugh. “I stuck all my skills
(on the beam), so I was pretty happy about that.”
“You have to just pretend you're at a normal practice, just have fun doing it, and don't over-think what you're doing. It's really just a matter of
relying on muscle memory. You just have to go up there and do what you've been practicing.”
With the second qualifier now about a month away, Lazure is focused on fine-tuning her routines in every aspect imaginable. “I need to make my dance
bigger (on floor), stand out a bit more,” she explained. “I have trouble smiling a lot while I am doing my floor routine, because I am so focused. I want
to try and have more fun with it next time.”
Next up on the calendar for the WAG contingent is the Country Hoedown Qualifier, scheduled for January 25th to the 27th in Alliston.