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Sports archive for April 23, 2013

Polarettes vault to victory at Yukon Championships

The territory’s top gymnasts went up before a panel of judges on Saturday to display the skills they’ve been working on since September.

The territory’s top gymnasts went up before a panel of judges on Saturday to display the skills they’ve been working on since September.

The Polarettes succeeded in spades, the majority finishing ahead of their competitors from Juneau, who visited Whitehorse to take part in the Yukon Championships at the Polarettes Gymnastics Club attached to Vanier Catholic Secondary School in Riverdale.

The young athletes competed before judges in four events – vault, bars, beam and floor – and were awarded an overall score based on their placement in each.

Polarettes finished at the top of all four categories. Bianca Berko-Malvasio placed first amongst Level 1 gymnasts, Emily King won Level 2, Anisa Albisser topped Level 3 and Fayne O’Donovan earned top honours in Level 4.

“We’re usually pretty even,” said Polarettes head coach Cat O’Donovan of the friendly competition between the Whitehorse and Juneau gymnasts. “Juneau does accommodate to our rules, so it’s a bit harder for them to make their routines match our requirements.”

The Polarettes train year-round, with their competitive season beginning in the fall. From September to June, gymnasts are required to meet a certain level of training each week: Level 1 – nine hours, Level 2 – 12 hours, and Level 3 and 4 – 16 hours.

Those hours of training culminate with the Yukon Championships. This year’s tournament was scheduled earlier than usual, however.

“Typically, the Yukon Championships would mark the end of the year, but we’re still heading to Juneau in May for a meet with them,” O’Donovan explained.

This year’s championship was moved up in the schedule to allow the senior Polarettes gymnasts to attend the Western Canadian Gymnastics Championships in Winnipeg next week.

At the Yukon Championships, Caitlyn Venasse, 15, and 13-year-olds Fayne O’Donovan and Reena Coyne were all able to practice their Level 4 routines in front of a panel of judges prior to the Western Canadians.

The meet marks the first time these athletes will attend a tournament at this level, said coach O’Donovan.

“It’s a high-level meet,” she said. “It’s the top athletes in all of western Canada, only one step below Canada Games.”

O’Donovan said the meet will serve as the “first taste” of high-level competition in preparation for the 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George, B.C.

“We’re mostly going for the experience to see what the competition is like so we know where we need to be in two years time,” O’Donovan said. “I’m not pumping them up to go and place – I’ve learned better. It’s already the biggest level meet for them.”

However, she said if her athletes perform at their best, they could surprise judges and place.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s championship in Whitehorse marked the first competition for the majority of Level 1 athletes.

“We had four first-time competitors, so we were just really impressed with how well they did,” said O’Donovan. “I’m really impressed with how they handled the pressure of their first meet. They all did very well.”

Berko-Malvasio placed first amongst Level 1 gymnasts, while Anna Gishler placed second overall in her group and took home an award for her outstanding bar routine, which earned her a first.

Seven-year-old Sasha Kozman – the youngest Polarette competing – finished fourth in her group, while fellow first-timer Alli Russell finished first on the vault and fifth overall in her group.

Nine-year-old Emily King received a trophy for all-around excellence after finishing first in each of her Level 2 competitions.

“Emily King did phenomenal,” said O’Donovan. “That was pretty exciting, because she’s quite young.”

In total, 17 Yukon gymnasts competed alongside 19 from Juneau.

Alaskan athletes Sage Walker (Level 1), Karmen Funderbuck (Level 1), Sydney Strong (Level 2) and Anna Whisenant (Level 3) each turned in strong performances.

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