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Base in gymnastics helps in track - and life
2020-09-10
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Jenny Drane was seven, maybe eight, when she first made her move to competitive gymnastics, stepping beyond the more recreational base that she had built over the course of the five previous years.

Her fall ritual would remain relatively unchanged right through under the completion of a year of Kinesiology at Laurentian University. It would also become the very foundation upon which so many aspects of the life of the now 23 year-old registered nurse would develop, creating an array of memories and experiences that leaves Drane understandably excited about what is still to come.

"The dedication that it takes, for sure, that ability to just stick with it - you have to be willing to put other stuff aside and just be in the gym," said Drane. "I think you really build a strong body and a strong mind, and I think that really helps you after gymnastics."

A mainstay of the Sudbury Laurels program for more than a decade, Drane was not destined for national glory in her sport. The truth is that also applies to the overwhelming majority of young gymnasts.

But if representing your country in international competitions were the only measure of an athlete's success, there would be a lot of highly disappointed young adults ushering in the next generation of the Canadian workforce.

Drane has few misgivings about the time that she devoted to gymnastics. "I was there every single year, and I loved working hard," she said. "It was something that I always wanted to do."

"It wasn't easy. I had a lot of mental blocks and stuff, a lot of fears. I am really glad that I stuck with it and found a way to work around those." And for as much as the very nature of competitive gymnastics lies in that ability to impress the judges, that critical feedback that is received tends to meld together over the years, according to Drane, and so many others.

"It's funny, because when we're competing, we make such a big deal about it, but looking back, I honestly don't remember what scores I got in a competition; I don't remember any of that."

"I remember hanging out with my friends, the training, all of the goofy stuff that we used to do."

Of course, the final gymnastics meet that Drane would attend could easily qualify under the heading of "goofy stuff". During her first year of her post-secondary studies, the current resident of London (ON) opted to remain involved as a masters athlete.

"It was definitely a lot harder, just because you're training so much less," said Drane. "There's a lot more stressful things going on with life, with university and stuff. I felt like a little bit of an old lady."

"I think it was a lot more fun, because we just relaxed and enjoyed it. I don't even think we wanted to do awards. It was nice to do that after so many competitive events."

Now, Drane was prepared to move on. The certainty of a winter of gymnastics had allowed for a natural comfort blanket, throughout the years. It was time for the Sudbury gymnast to map out her choice of careers.

"I was very indecisive in high-school," she said. "There were so many things that I wanted to do, so many things that I thought I could be successful at. Initially, I felt like I wasn't ready to take that big leap and give everything up, my training and coaching with staying in Sudbury."

Applying to the nursing program at Western University, Drane was poised to tackle a different challenge - or more. "It was going to be a new adventure, to see what else what out there - and I really wanted to do track and field."

Though the former Viking had established herself as one of the top female pole vaulters in the city, cracking the roster of the Mustangs indoor track and field team is another matter altogether.

"It's a lot more competitive down south, even to just get on the team," said Drane. She would find her way to practicing, competing with some of the very best athletes in the country, with the likes of Caroline Ehrhardt and Damien Warner would simply drop in for workouts with the university crew.

She would spend two and a half years, competing initially in both triple jump and long jump, flirting with the pentathlon, before making her way back to the pits.

"I was really proud of myself for that accomplishment, making the team. I was really glad that I went for it. I feel that I would have regretted it if I did not give it a chance."

Beyond the natural physicality by which training for gymnastics had empowered Drane came the mental toughness to persevere and conquer. "You can't rely on anyone else to do the work for you, you have to rely on yourself," she said.

"That's also what gymnastics is like - you get out of it what you put into it."

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