Hector Loiselle entered the 2022 Canadian Trampoline Championships in Calgary with questions. And despite capturing top spot in Level 5 (Novice) 14U Tumbling event, he would leave with questions as well.
Though his gold medal score of 41.100 eclipsed both provincial teammate Andrew Graham (40.860) and Alberta native Gavin Gibbs (40.600) in the field of six competitors, as well as reaching the necessary international standard, Loiselle still awaits word on whether he will be selected to the Canadian entry that will compete at Worlds in Budapest in November.
Coming off a very solid performance in securing top spot at the Ontario Championships a little over a month ago, the Sudbury Laurels GymZone representative sensed that nationals might be different, fine-tuning his passes at practice before heading off.
“I had competed with them (Ontario competitors) on two occasions,” said Loiselle, working out at the GymZone in early July. “There are competitors from other provinces that I don’t know at nationals. I have no idea what skills they can do. It would make it more exciting if I do end up winning.”
Making his first ever appearance at nationals, Loiselle had targeted even more improvement for Alberta, beyond simply eliminating the fall from one of his passes at provincials. “One of the coaches there told me that I need to hold my landings a little bit longer; I’m turning to the judges too quickly,” said Loiselle.
“I’ve been working on that.”
A former competitive speed-skater who decided in the past couple of years to focus exclusively on tumbling, Loiselle was not overly concerned about acclimating himself to a new venue. Though born in Alberta, this was still his initial taste of the setting that is The Genesis Centre in Calgary.
“The competitions are always in different venues, so I’m not too worried,” said Loiselle. “The nice thing about nationals is that there are a few training days before. We’ll get to use the track before we actually compete. That helps, especially with our track (at GymZone) being a little older so it’s not as bouncy as a lot of the other ones.”
A soft-spoken young man who has integrated a growth spurt taking him from 5’2” to 5’7”, the 14 years old student at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School was typically philosophical as he discussed his expectations prior to leaving. “I would prefer to come in second or third or fourth with a good performance than come in first and not be at my best,” he said.
Of course, if one can achieve both, all the better. And regardless of whether he is selected to his first international meet or not, Hector Loiselle is anticipating another step forward come the fall, ascending to the next level of tumbling.
“It’s still my decision, but I feel ready to move up,” he said. “You don’t have to do different skills, but you do have the opportunity to do harder stuff.”
Loiselle was not the only reason to celebrate for those involved with the GymZone Sudbury Laurels program. Overcoming a bout of injuries that would keep him out of the Ontario meet, recent high school graduate (College Notre-Dame) Connor MacDonald justified his entry to nationals by taking bronze in the men’s Level 7 grouping.
His two pass score of 43.00 ranked him behind first place finisher Isaiah Klassen from Manitoba (44.30) and Alberta native Zayden Rabie (44.00), holding off another host province entry (Mark Armstrong - 42.80) in the battle for third.
As of six weeks ago, the inclusion of the 17 year-old who will begin to tackle the Powerline Technician program at Cambrian College in the fall was anything but a given. “My knee is getting a lot better; a big shoutout to my chiropractor, Dr Kassandre Goupil,” said MacDonald.
“She helped me out with a lot of rehab exercises and I am wearing a brace now to compete.”
Where Loiselle is truly just beginning to scratch the surface of his potential on a national scale, MacDonald finds himself at a different stage of life. He’s been down this road, participating in events outside the province, not knowing exactly how much longer his run in gymnastics will continue.
“I’m pretty busy with work so I’m pretty tired during training, but I am kind of pushing through,” said the always pleasant young man. “I am pretty nervous about the competition but I am excited to get outside of Ontario and compete again.”
In fact, the trek to the Canadian Championships would mark an inaugural visit to Alberta for MacDonald, with the entire family clan (mom, dad, brother and sister) all making the drive out to take in what might be the swan song to a very impressive career in tumbling for the one-time competitive baseball talent.
Much like Loiselle, MacDonald entered the meet grounded and quite realistic as he assessed his chances of mounting the podium.
“Physically, I’m not at my best,” he conceded. “My expectations for this competition for myself are not super high. I want to do the best that I can.”
“At the very least, I want to do what I did in my last competition. I’m looking to go out and enjoy myself, not get too stressed out, get the work done that I can and see what passes I can do reasonably.”
Pinpointing that critical stage in his passes, MacDonald emphasized the earliest of his elements, the very foundation for what would culminate some 15 to 20 yards later. “The biggest thing that it’s going to come down to is my whip-fulls at the start of my passes,” he said. “If they go high, it’s going to be a little harder to get down the track.”
“If I can get those good and consistent, keep the rhythm going down the track, it will be easier to do the end skills.”
Judging by the video evidence on social media, his reaction specifically upon completing his run, safe to say that MacDonald was more than a little pleased with how things played out in Calgary - not that this makes the 2022-2023 season a whole lot more clear.
“I’m not saying I’m not excited for next year, but I really don’t know what my schedule will look like,” MacDonald acknowledged. “There are some things I want to do outside the gym.”
Still some questions to be answered, it would seem - for both Hector Loiselle and Connor MacDonald this summer.