- BC Games
Flicka gymnasts to fly high at BC Winter Games
North Vancouver's Flicka Gymnastics club continues to produce impressive acts of dexterity.
Many Olympic gymnasts have tumbled across these floors over the years, from Karen Kelsall to Lise Leveille, who, after graduating from Handsworth secondary, competed for Stanford University.
Today a new wave of Flicka athletes are on the Olympic path. And it starts with the BC Winter Games, this year held in Vernon from Feb. 23-26.
"For these girls the BC Winter Games is a step forward in the direction they want to go," said Cari Wilson, president of Flicka Gymnastics. "These are dedicated gymnasts who have overcome injuries and spent many hours in the gym."
Tryouts for the Zone 5 BC Winter Games team, open to 11-13-year-old gymnasts from Squamish to Vancouver, took place in December. Approximately 20 girls from around the zone competed for six spots; three North Shore gymnasts, all Flicka members, qualified: Claire Jansen, Alex Angus and Emily Hirst.
Jansen subsequently had to withdraw because of injury, and is being replaced by Kerryanne Callahan. For 11-year-old Callahan, competing in the BC Winter Games is the talk of the 6th grade at Upper Lynn elementary.
"It's kind of cool because it's a mini Olympics," Callahan said on Wednesday morning via telephone, ahead of a long day of school and gymnastics practice.
She usually medals in vault, which is no easy feat. Vault routines offer little margin for error. Callahan gains momentum as she dashes towards a springboard in front of a slightly-inclined, metal apparatus, which she will push off from, propel herself into the air and perform impressive flips and twists before landing on her feet.
"It's my stronger event," said Callahan, who also placed first all-around at a competition last year.
For 13-year-old Emily Hirst, being able to execute a level four routine, which boasts a round-off back handspring, is a career high thus far. The grade 8 Windsor secondary student was also recovering from an injury at the time. A chronic heel injury and back problems have sidelined her in the past.
"My physiotherapist told me it's overuse," explained Hirst.
Callahan can empathize about injuries. She said it takes a lot of practise to not have fear in this sport. She had a close call once when she landed on her neck during a floor routine. But she did bounce back.
"You learn from your mistakes," said Callahan. "You have to tell yourself you have done it before."
Wilson also chimed in on the injury front, saying gymnastics can be a high-risk activity, but injury is a part of any sport.
"The environment and the coaches make things as safe as they can," said Callahan. "They [the gymnasts] are only attempting tricks they are ready for."
Despite having already competed on an international scale, Hirst, who recently returned from the Lady Luck Invitational in Las Vegas, is excited about the BC Winter Games.
"I've never been at a games that big before," she said.
Angus is also looking forward to a new opportunity that awaits her in Vernon next week. The grade 6 student at Collingwood school especially enjoys the bar routines.
"I guess it's just fun to swing," said Angus.
As a team and individually for all-around medals, the girls will compete in four events at the BC Winter Games: floor exercise, beam, uneven bars and vault. The judges will be evaluating their body position, height, speed, grace and power.
Former Flicka gymnast Angie Walker, who has competed at the national level, is coaching the Zone 5 team, along with a Phoenix Gymnastics coach from Vancouver.
Founded in 1962 with only two participants, Flicka now sees 1000 gymnastics enthusiasts a month, from recreational visitors to those who are on the national high performance track.
The Harry Jerome Recreation Centre houses the Flicka gym which is a 16000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility. Gymnasts come from all over the province to train at Flicka, some even boarding with local families.
According to Wilson, there is one athlete at the club who is a strong candidate to make the Canadian gymnastics team for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
But for now the focus, for three Flicka gymnasts at least, remains closer to home on the BC Winter Games.