The Polarettes gymnastic club took a team of five girls to L’International Gymnix competition in Montreal. The competition established in 1991 groups together the Canadian and world’s elite gymnasts.
The Gymnix meet is one of the most competitive events featuring some of the best athletes from around the world. Polarettes coach Kimberly Jones said it was inspirational for the team to be able to watch the top-level athletes compete.
“I think it is hard for kids to aspire for higher level competition if they don’t know what it looks like,” said Jones. “So we take them out to that meet to just show them. From those countries that come for that big international competition they also bring kids to compete in the lower competitions we were competing in.
“So these girls competed against girls from Mexico, the States, all over the place. It’s pretty phenomenal gymnastics.”
The Polarettes have gone to the competition for three years. Jones said the club first brought gymnasts to the Gymnix competition to give them a taste of high-level gymnastics.
“The first year that we went it was really hard because we went and came basically dead last in most categories,” said Jones. “That was my first experience at sending athletes to a competition and having that happen so that was also a learning experience for me.
“So the kids just took that and said ‘oh there is a different level of this sport out there and I think I want to strive to do that.’ And I think it really helped change our program to the path we are striving for.”
At this year’s Gymnix competition, Lily Witten, who competes in the Junior Olympic (JO) 7 level won the Yukon’s first medal ever at Gymnix. Jones said it was a pretty big moment based on the results from previous years.
“The first we were rebuilding,” said Jones. “Last year we started getting eighth place, fourth place, which I thought was huge. To medal this year that was a pretty big moment.”
Witten won the bronze medal for her bars routine. It was the team’s first session of the day and Jones said it set the tone for the rest of the competition day.
“Lily was the first session of the day and she won the medal,” said Jones. “I think it also helped the other girls understand that they belong here. When you walk into Gymnix if it is your first time going … and we had two that had never been it is very overwhelming.
“The equipment is the most expensive equipment in the industry so it looks very flashy. There is lots of media it’s a really big deal. You can be overwhelmed by that and take yourself out of the race. But when Lily won the medal in the first session it set the bar higher for the other girls.”
Witten scored an 8.85 on her uneven bars routine to secure the third place finish. Jones said having an athlete medalling in a bars competition is really a big deal.
“Bars is really one of the hardest events in gymnastics and as coaches, it’s always bars coaches want to win,” said Jones. “It shows a strong program when a lot of kids are really strong on bars.”
Maude Molgat was the lone JO 8 athlete representing the Polarettes at the competition. Jones said she had a very strong day of competition.
“Maude, come eighth all around,” said Jones. “She came in fourth on beam and eighth on bars. It was her first time competing in JO 8 so she had a really good day.”
The Polarettes were represented by two JO 6 gymnasts. Jones said JO 6 is a big jump in level from JO 5.
“JO 6 is particularly hard because the girls all compete in the exact same routines when they are in the lower levels,” said Jones. “They are called compulsory routines and they are a lot easier. JO 6 is the first level where you have the freedom to create your own routine.”
Mackenzie Tonner has been at JO 6 level since December and was competing in her second JO 6 competition. Her first being the Gym Power meet in January. Jones said she did not have a great performance in January but she had a really good showing at Gymnix.
“Mackenzie did not have a good meet at Gym Power,” said Jones. “The nerves got the better of her and she took a lot of falls. Now she went Gymnix as her second competition and she did way better.
“She made a lot of corrections from her last competition and finished middle of the pack which I thought was great. A lot of kids in her category are mastering that level but she is just entering into it. So middle of the pack is completely appropriate for where she is at in her development.”
Adria Gallina, also competed in her first competition at JO 6, as well, it was her first competition outside of the territory.
Gallina has only been a JO 6 for a month but prior she was training in a program called Tops, which is a fast-tracking program for kids that are trying for the elite stream. Jones said she is good which is why she got thrown to the fire.
“She is good which is why we threw her to the wolves a little bit,” said Jones. “She trains a lot, she is younger than the rest of them, she is only 10. She is a really cool kid. She decided that going to Gymnix was going to be her first time team travelling, so she was away from her parents, flying all the way to Quebec and competing at JO 6. It was a gutsy move.”
Gallina scored an eight on her beam routine good for 14th but if not for a last second-mistake Jones said she probably would have been in medal contention.
“On beam, man she was killing it,” said Jones. “At the very last second, I think she got excited that her routine was going so well. She competed a back handspring, she competed some very large gymnastics for her age. But then she fell off walking backward on the beam to get into her dismount.
“Honestly, I think it was one of those younger, less experienced athletes, getting excited at the end of their routine, saying ‘oh my gosh I just hit my routine’ and then fell backward. That was too bad or else I think we would have seen Adria coming back with a medal her routine was really high quality.”
Jones said the rest of Gallina’s day was good and she stayed middle of the pack, but the results were encouraging that she was able to hold her own after only a month in the JO 6 program.
In Gallina’s JO 6 category she only competed against 10-year-olds. Jones said it was a good experience for her to see where she is at with her gymnastics.
“Adria was surrounded by kids that where 10 but were just as good if not better than her,” said Jones. “So as a 10-year-old that is good to see because in Whitehorse she is the only 10-year-old working at that level. Gymnix makes them understand that there are plenty of kids across the country that are capable of doing the level of gymnastics you are doing so you are capable.”
Ava Jampolsky competed in JO 7 for the first time at Gymnix. Jones said she had some costly mistakes on some of her routines but she bounced back and showed resiliency in finishing.
“She had a good meet with costly mistakes,” said Jones. “Overall it wasn’t bad she was trying her new routines. She had some cool moments. She choreographed her own routine, which is rare, the coach usually choreographs that. It was her best score of her day scoring a 9.3, it’s a really great score.
“In beam, she did a beautiful routine and then competed a back handspring for the first time and missed her foot and ended up taking quite a hard fall on beam. She got right back up and finished the rest of her routine with grace and poise. She scored really high despite having a fall in her routine. I think if she hits it in her next competition it has really good potential to score well.”
Jones said it was a really proud moment as a coach to see her hit the beam hard but get right back up and finish her routine.
Jones said the teams weakest event throughout the competition was the vault but all the gymnasts did the best they could do.
Scores were low across the board for vault because Jones said Gymnastics Canada changed the judging format for it so coaches are still unsure of how it is being scored.
The Polarettes will be bringing in a judge from Quebec next week to learn about what the judges are looking for in vault, as well as train the coaches in judging so they can host events at the club.