Three stars from the Okanagan Rhythmic Gymnastics team sparkled at Elite Canada, the annual national team re-ranking event in Montreal.
The prestigious competition was held in the same venue as the 1976 Olympic Games, where Romania’s triple-gold medalist Nadia Comaneci became the first female gymnast ever to be awarded a perfect score of 10 in an Olympic gym.
In preparation for Quebec, seniors Kelsey Anderson and Victoria Podollan, and junior Kiah Ward competed in the Snowflake Invitational in Victoria, the Queen of Hearts Invitational competition in Vernon and an International event in Las Vegas.
“Each of these competitions helped us identify strong points and areas we needed to focus on leading up to Elite,” said Vernon coach Camille Martens, who accompanied the team.
“The level of rhythmic gymnastics in Canada is at the highest point it’s been in recent years so we knew that we would have to be truly great if we wanted to rank. The girls did so well at keeping strong focus through the four-day event and had great attitudes.”
Martens said the team goal for the first round was for all three to finish in the top-12 and advance to the all-around and apparatus finals. After completing hoop and ball on Day 1, all three girls had a good chance of advancing, with clubs and ribbon routines still ahead.
“The intensity certainly led one to understand why people call competitive sport ‘life amplified,’” said Martens.
After Day 2, Ward advanced to the junior finals in second place, while Podollan moved to the finals in sixth. A disappointed Anderson missed the all-around final and finished 16th due to a few small errors.
Added Martens: “All three athletes were dynamic fighters on that carpet doing everything in their power to deliver their best. I was proud of them on many levels as I stood beside the carpet while they did their routines.”
As expected, the finals proved to be an even stronger competition than the qualifying round.
“Victoria had a strong finals performance, and in the toughest field ever, she buckled up and rode with all her might.”
Podollan met her goal of getting a score of 22 points in her clubs (22.05, fourth) and came sixth overall on the senior national team.
Ward performed consistent, dynamic and clean routines when it counted most, said Martens. After Russian prodigy Patricia Bezzubenko (No 1 ranked junior), Ward was the shining star of the event, beating the rest of the junior field by an astonishing six points, winning six medals – silver all-round, silver in ball, clubs, ribbon and bronze in hoop.
Gymnastics Canada assigned Ward to the Pacific Rim Championships for her strong results.
Said Ward: “It felt really amazing being one of the top girls in Canada and to see all my work really paying off. Preparing for Pacific Rim Championships and getting ready to represent Canada with some of the world’s best is satisfying and a bit hard to believe.
“It’s exciting to see my goals becoming reality. I love my family and want to thank them and also my gym family for all their support.”