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Whips and Baranis land Hector Loiselle in Bulgaria
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Following a series of whips and baranis, local tumbler Hector Loiselle will culminate a typical training pass with an attempt to stick his landing at the far end of the track at GymZone Gymnastics & Athletics.

Depending on the particular skill that is requiring his focus, said landing might even lead him to float gently into a foam pit, with a stuck landing the priority for another day at the New Sudbury venue that the 14 year old has called home for more than a few years now.

To plant that landing in the middle of Bulgaria, however – well, that’s an entirely new experience for the grade nine student at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School.

Yet that is exactly the opportunity the talented teen recently enjoyed, part of a 30-35 Canadian delegation that would compete at the T & T (Tumbling & Trampoline) World Championships in late November in Europe.

The only competitor to hit both the difficulty and score requirements at the Canadian Championships during the summer, Loiselle was preparing to handle a variety of new challenges, both sport specific and otherwise, as he completed his training sessions in the weeks leading up to his ten hour flight from Toronto to Istanbul, with a much shorter jaunt from the latter to Sofia following a brief layover.

“There’s a big time change – seven hours, I think – so that will take a little time to get used to,” Loiselle noted last month. “We’ve been working a lot on my full-in tuck and pike, working on getting that more consistent – and also working on my whip-fulls and baranis.”

“I start my pass with a whip-full and barani and finish it with a full-in tuck and pike – so it’s important to clean those up.”

Loiselle has now likely tackled a run at a pass at the GymZone more than a thousand times, the bi-product of training sessions several times a week to fine-tune his craft. That said, a typical workout session involves a whole lot more than just a series of spectacular physical contortions, one right after the other.

“When I come to the gym, I usually warm-up for 20 to 30 minutes,” he said. “Then I typically will go to land three of my tumbling lines, three of each pass. Then I might go to the “fast track” and do some full-ins because it’s a little easier on my body. I can do them with less energy.”

“Then I will do some strength stuff at the end.”

With Loiselle having become the first member of the Sudbury Laurels / GymZone to be named to Team Canada and having the chance to attend the World Age Group meet, it only stands to reason that the well-established local organization is pulling out all stops in terms of the pre-event preparation, with local star Denis Vachon providing advice and helpful tips thanks to his array of international experience.

With Worlds just over two weeks away, Loiselle was cautiously optimistic.

“I am pretty good at getting to the end of my pass and my landings have been pretty good,” he said. “Before, I was having issues with falling a lot but these, now, I’ve been able to land maybe 70% or 80% of the time, so that makes me happy.”

With his grandmother in attendance, Loiselle will take it all in, soaking up so much of what is not necessarily part and parcel of the gymnastics segment of what makes this entire adventure so special.

“I am excited to go to Europe; I’ve never gone before,” he said. “I know that the weather is similar to Canada right now – not cold but not warm-warm. The population (of Sofia) is about the same as Toronto. And I am excited to practice with some of the best coaches in Canada, to get some of their advice.”

As for the travel, thankfully, there are a handful of folks around the gym in Sudbury more than capable of giving him helpful hints.

“I was told to bring a lot of entertainment, pre-download a lot of shows or movies, more than you think you need, just so you don’t run out,” said Loiselle. “And if you have an aisle seat, go to the bathroom a lot, just to make sure you are moving regularly.”

The goal coming out of the first international competition that he has attended is to work towards mobilizing to the junior level, a pretty significant step considering his status coming out of the pandemic in the summer-fall of 2021. “I am surprised,” said Loiselle. “At this time last year, I was working on double flips, just starting to get them.”

“Now, I am doing doubles with a full twist. A lot of improvement has happened.”

This latest competition is simply part of the process, albeit a part which is brand new to the former competitive speed-skater. “I’ve never gone to a competition like this before so I don’t know if we can talk with the other teams, make friends with them,” he said.

“We’ll have to figure that out.”

(Loiselle made sure to pass along his sincere thanks to his many supporters – parents, coaches, teammates and others – who helped make this dream become a reality)