Gymnasts from virtually every level at St. Albert Gymnastics Club stepped up to the podium at the club’s Spring Flip, a three-day invitational held May 27 to 29.
Several of the first all-around recipients competing in different levels included Maddie Perkins, Kaytie Maksymic, and Emma Kondro in Xcel Diamond.
“Emma placed first overall at this competition and Xcel championships. It’s the equivalent of a provincial championship for Xcel athletes,” said competitive head coach Ereinne Hall.
Although Kondro did not wish to comment on her performance, Hall said, “I know how she loves the sport so much, especially after she came back from retiring. She loves the sport and wants to maintain a level of fitness.”
Seventeen clubs across the region and from as far away as Jasper, Brazeau, Ashland, Cold Lake, and Sexsmith took part in the invitational. Overall, 317 athletes participated with 26 from St. Albert Gymnastics.
Due to the pandemic shutdown, the club’s last invitational was in 2019. The club had organized a 2020 event only to have it shut down during the provincial lockdown.
“It was a huge relief to have it go forward and to have it so successful,” said Zoe Spaans, St. Albert Gymnastic Club executive director.
After a two-year hiatus where clubs adopted creative training methods, athletes were understandably nervous as they faced several unknowns.
“All season long they felt nervous. They didn’t know how hard the situation would be. They were asking questions. Who would they be up against? What will the judges be like? It had been so long since they competed and some of the girls they knew went on to do other things. They struggled all year long. We noticed this in all the gym clubs. But they did amazingly well,” said Spaans.
Local gymnast Isabella Swallow was feeling the pressure after scoring first overall on level CCP7 at the Artistic Provincial Championships on April 8.
“I felt more pressure because of the results of the provincials. I felt less prepared. I didn’t feel ready on bars. My routine wasn’t working,” said Swallow, who placed third overall.
As a competitive coach, Hall is probably the gymnasts’ biggest booster.
“I’m very impressed with the amount of dedication and the amount of hard work. It’s a special environment. It’s like playing for the home team,” said Hall. “Improvement is the essence of our sport. All the kids are not satisfied to stay stagnant. All work hard to see how much potential they can meet. They’re always trying to build capacity.”
The invitational is traditionally a gymnastics showcase, as well as a club fundraiser.
“It was a huge success. It was the most successful fundraiser we had to date. We raised $35,000 and that’s after all the expenses were paid,” said Spaans. “We’re working to purchase significant amounts of new equipment and we have some projects in development. It will also help us recover from the pandemic.”