Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Marissa Tiel

TREND-SETTER – Lily Witten, seen here at the Polarettes Gymnastics Club in Riverdale, is the first Yukon athlete to compete in the Aspire division at Westerns. The 10-year-old is performing difficult skills with style.

Pair of Polarettes make history at Western Canadian Championships

There was no rest for the Polarettes duo who competed at the Western Canadian Gymnastics Championships last weekend in Brandon, Man.

By Marissa Tiel on May 5, 2017

There was no rest for the Polarettes duo who competed at the Western Canadian Gymnastics Championships last weekend in Brandon, Man.

The day after they touched back down in Whitehorse, they were back in the gym, practising their skills.

Such is the life of the two dedicated gymnasts, the only athletes to represent Yukon at the competition.

Lily Witten, 10, and Emily King, 13, also made history at the competition, bringing more awareness to the competitiveness and potential of the Yukon’s gymnastics program.

King, who competed in the Junior Olympic 8 level, posted three top 10 results to capture ninth overall in the all-around results.

It’s the best all-around results for a Yukoner at that level since 2004, said coach Kimberly Jones.

The all-around results are an aggregate of vault, bars, beam and floor.

King’s top result – fifth– came on bars, which is a discipline the girls have been working on all season.

Getting a strong result in the all-around isn’t easy, said Jones. “You’ve got to be really consistent in all the events.”

The judging at Westerns is also as “strict as it gets,” she said. “They’re very critical.”

When she landed her routine, King had no idea how well she’d done.

She said the bars were a bit slippery, but that her routine felt solid.

“I was pretty excited,” she said.

King has competed at Westerns before, but this was her first year competing in all four events. Last year she was recovering from an injury.

She spends the longest hours in the gym of any of the Polarettes athletes, said Jones, clocking more than 20 hours each week between morning and after-school training sessions.

Her teammate, Witten, was attending her first Westerns.

She is the Yukon’s first Aspire athlete to compete at the event.

The Aspire program is set out by Gymnastics Canada and is designed for athletes who are between eight an 10-years old.

Jones described it as a national fast-tracking program, which has young athletes performing skills that older athletes are doing.

Witten, who is three years younger than King, was competing skills of a similar level of difficulty.

The program is a stream for athletes who are targeting the 2020 and 2024 Olympics and is of a style that Team Canada would like to see.

Witten finished 19th overall – vault, 19th; bars, 14th; beam, 20th; floor, 15th.

Witten said she was happy she didn’t fall on her floor routine and had a good floor routine, but with a few to many steps.

Having an athlete compete for the first time in Aspire at Westerns “reflects a change in the mentality of the girls,” said Jones.

She is hoping the club can continue to “spread awareness of Yukon gymnastics” and “really show that we can be competitive.”

Of the girls’ most recent performances, Jones said: “The gym is really proud of them.”

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