Working through injuries and learning how to compete throughout the season, three Yukon gymnasts persevered to represent the territory at the B.C. Championships – all while participating competitively in other sports.
Three members of the Polarettes Gymnastics Club had strong showings at the Artistic Gymnastics B.C. Provincial Championships in Port Coquitlam, B.C. that ran April 5-8.
Emily King overcame a foot injury that stalled her training throughout the season to place third overall in the Junior Olympic (JO) level 8 division.
Polarettes head coach Kimberly Jones said King sustained a foot injury that forced her on crutches with little movement in a toe.
Jones said this had an impact on King’s preparation for the season and so they decided to forgo preparing for the national championships, which was the goal for King at the beginning of the season.
Instead, King’s season was focused on rehabilitation following her injury and being able to compete at the provincial competition.
For the most part, Jones said King is back in form, but she still had difficulty springing in the vault event so for the competition they prepared a modified routine that, based on difficulty, was already a full point less than the vault routines being performed by her competitors.
But King didn’t let the lower-level vault hold her back, performing it exceptionally well and earning a score of 8.66 and finishing sixth in the event out of 17 competitors.
It was her lowest placement out of all four events.
“She worked really hard,” Jones said of King’s achievement. “She trains about 22 hours a week and she’s a really dedicated athlete. It’s well-earned.”
King finished just out of the podium on the uneven bars with a fourth place finish.
She placed third on the beam, second on floor and then third overall to take home three medals from the competition.
Competing in the same division as King, Bianca Berko-Malvasio placed ninth in her first provincial championships after not competing in the sport for several years, Jones said.
“It’s about learning how to compete for her. She doesn’t have a ton of experience competing and it’s just trying to get out there and try her new routines,” Jones said.
Berko-Malvasio had her top score on the uneven bars, where she placed 5th overall – just a few points back of her teammate King.
The third Yukon competitor Maude Molgat participated in the JO 7, 2004-born division, and saw a major improvement from her last provincials.
Jones said at last year’s event, Molgat placed 27th in the overall competition and did not have a great outing, but this year due to her constant hard work she strove to a fifth place finish – and less than half a point out of the medals.
In a very close competition, Molgat did take home a medal on the uneven bars placing third and finished just off the podium on the balance beam in fourth.
“Her beam’s been a really big improvement,” Jones said. “We changed around her routine and she also got a new floor routine this season.”
Molgat has also been doing double the training throughout the season, Jones said, as she is also a member of the Yukon cross-country ski team.
“She’s trying to balance two sports at once right now. It’s taken a lot of personal discipline for her to stay focused in both sports,” Jones said.
Overall, Jones said it was a very successful competition for the three athletes against high-level competition.
“It was an amazing experience to go to B.C. champs for all of the girls and they’ve worked really hard to get to this point,” she said.
All three all-around athletes also represented the territory at the Arctic Winter Games and all took home medals – but not in the sport of gymnastics.
Because of the level of restrictions and competitiors for gymnastics at the Games, Jones said the team was only able to have four athletes compete, but 11 Polarettes members made the trip with seven others competing in different disciplines.
Berko-Malvasio and King both competed in the Arctic sports competition. Berko-Malvasio won five gold medals in the junior female events as well as a silver and bronze.
King took two silvers, including in the all-around competition, and two bronze.
Molgat took part in the cross-country ski races and won a bronze in the midget female five-kilometre classic race.
Polarette Riley Boland was the only female snowboarder for Team Yukon. Boland took home medals in every juvenile female snowboarding competition with one silver in the boardercross race and four bronze including overall competitor.
Prior to the AWG, several of the athletes went to Montreal for the high-level International Gymnix competition.
Jones said this year’s participation in the event was a different mentality for the team than last season when they just attended for the experience.
“The girls didn’t see that level and we decided to take them to the event to inspire them to take it to another level,” Jones said. “It worked and it really did inspire them. They have a real interest in higher level of gymnastics.”
At this year’s event, the team saw a major improvement in the results, Jones said, and placements that they didn’t see last year.
Young gymnast Lily Witten, who Jones said placed second to last in the all-around in 2017, placed 12th overall including seventh on the floor.
She said many members of the team set new personal bests in all four disciplines and the high-level competition gave them the encouragement to keep striving to improve their skills.
“Having placement on almost everything, for the Yukon is kind of a big win. It’s a very high-calibre competiton. Clubs only send their top athletes for Gymnix,” Jones said.
Just over two years with the Polarettes as the head coach, Jones said they have made a lot of changes over that time and the Gymnix competition showed that the team is now fully adjusting to these new techniques and styles after a long transition period.
Jones said to compete at high-calibre events, the club is not only focused on skill level, but has guidelines and stipulations for training and effort-level and these standards must be met to attend the meets.
The two level 8 athletes, King and Berko-Malvasio, will now be preparing for the Western Canadian Gymnastics Championships in Spruce Grove, Alberta.
Jones said the two athletes will be competing on April 26 and will be taking the feedback they received from the judges at the B.C. provincials and apply it to their routines.
At last year’s Western Canadians, King finished 9th in the all-around competition, which Jones said was the best result for a Yukoner in 14 years.
“She’s hoping to go out and exceed that if she can,” Jones said.
Meanwhile, Berko-Malvasio will be attending her first Westerns event as she eases back into competitive events.
Because of the early-season foot injury for King, Jones said rather than attend the Canadian Championships at the end of May in Ontario, they will focus on upgrading her skills and increase her level in preparation for the 2019 Canada Games in Red Deer.